Preparing for CompTIA’s A+ Exams

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Editor’s Note: This post is outdated. For an updated guide see Jed Reisner’s A+ 220-801 and 220-802 guide.

With roughly 700,000 certificants, CompTIA’s A+ credential is one of the most popular IT certifications in the world, and there’s little doubt that this vendor-neutral technician certification will continue to grow in number. Yet with the organization’s recent announcement about revisions to the credential’s exams, many current A+ candidates might be wondering to what degree their studying efforts could be impacted as a result of the change. Hardly at all, as it turns out.


The English-language versions of the old exams will stay in place until the end of this year, while the new tests won’t be launched for another few weeks, said Neill Hopkins, CompTIA’s vice president of skills development. “We are not pushing people to begin studying for these new exams because the current ones are very much relevant. We want to make sure the message that goes out is that if you are preparing for the current A+ credential, we encourage you to continue to do that.”


The first of the new exams will cover many of the same fundamental IT concepts, along with added content in areas such as soft skills, IT security, and safety and environmental issues. The second will deal with the application of these principles on the job, Hopkins said. “We’ve combined hardware and software on both exams, and what we’re going to be validating on the first exam is a lot of technical skills like security as well as customer service skills. The second exam will validate how to implement those skills—in other words, whether you’re capable of being a certain type of technician, as opposed to simply validating technical knowledge.”


CompTIA actually mulled over changing the format of the exams and considered offering one test with several small modules around it or two medium- to low-stakes exams instead of the current arrangement. However, various surveys conducted showed this was one aspect of the certification that didn’t need a change. “One of the things that came back very strong was that (respondents) did not want us to change the format that the exams are currently written in or the delivery methods that we use,” Hopkins said. He added that CompTIA got the message loud and clear. “Under no circumstances are we going to be reducing the level of the exams. They’re going to remain very high-stakes, proctored exams.”


In spite of the differences between the previous version, which covered hardware in one exam and software in the other, and the soon-to-be-released redesigned edition of CompTIA’s A+, the training offerings and methodologies available to candidates will not change a great deal, even after the former is retired. “As the new ones roll out, new (training) materials will be available, but we don’t foresee much of a change for people in preparing to take the exams,” Hopkins said. “Because of that, we’d probably tell the population who’s going to be embarking on these exams to continue using your current methodologies to learn and pass the exams. If you’re capable of doing self-study, great. If you’re very familiar and comfortable with a certain training or academic provider, we’d encourage you to continue doing that.


“There are going to certain elements of the second exam that will probably involve some self-study types of materials,” he added. “That has yet to be fully fleshed out in terms of our content providers. However, we do believe that the current methodology of learning and preparing to take A+ will remain pretty much the same.”


Under the organization’s current standards, both the new and old versions of the CompTIA A+ certification will be good for life with no recertification requirements.


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