Exam Profile: CompTIA A+ 220-901 & 220-902
Date: Jun 15, 2016
The CompTIA A+ certification is globally recognized, industry-supported, and trusted by governments, businesses, and many potential employers. It is designed to prove that an exam candidate has competency with PC hardware and peripherals, mobile device hardware, networking and troubleshooting hardware and network connectivity issues, installing and configuring operating systems including Windows, iOS, Android, Apple OS X and Linux, security, cloud computing fundamentals, operational procedures, and communication skills. The exams are comprehensive and vendor-neutral, which means that the certification does not focus on just one company's products. Instead, the certification objectives range across many technologies, services, hardware and software ranging from traditional devices and operating systems to the plethora of mobile devices and technology in use today. It has great value in the marketplace as an indicator of a prospective employee's skill level, proving to employers that a job seeker has the necessary computer knowledge and communication skills to complete their tasks with minimal supervision.
In order to become CompTIA A+ certified, you must pass two exams: the 220-901 and the 220-902. (Note: The CompTIA A+ 220-801 and 220-802 exams (English versions) retire on June 30, 2016). Details listed here are accurate as of December 15, 2015, and are subject to change. Please verify these details at the CompTIA website.
- CompTIA A+ 220-901 Exam Description: The CompTIA A+ 220-901 exam covers PC hardware and peripherals, mobile device hardware, networking and troubleshooting hardware and network connectivity issues.
- CompTIA A+ 220-902 Exam Description: The CompTIA A+ 220-902 exam covers installing and configuring operating systems including Windows, iOS, Android, Apple OS X and Linux. It also addresses security, cloud computing fundamentals, operational procedures and communication skills.
- Number of Questions: Maximum of 90 questions for each exam
The exams each consist of a maximum of 90 questions and are known as "linear exams." This means that you can go backward or forward within the exam, mark items, and change answers if necessary. You can also review your answers when you are finished with all 90 questions, as long as there is time left on the exam clock.
- Types of Questions: Performance-based and multiple-choice
The exams consist of multiple-choice questions where you will simply click the letter of the corresponding correct answer, and performance based questions (CompTIA calls these PBQs) where the test requires you to click your way through a simulated environment. CompTIA recommends these tips for handling the PBQs:
- Manage your time wisely. A clock will be visible when working on multiple choice questions but cannot be seen during performance-based questions.
- If you don't feel confident about answering a performance-based question, move to the next question. Click the “done” box if you have completed any work toward the answer, then mark the question for review and come back later. Your work will be saved.
- Many performance-based questions appear at the beginning of the test. Use this knowledge to help manage the amount of time you spend on each item.
- Learn more about PBQs and try a sample PBQ at the CompTIA site.
- CompTIA reserves the right to change the bank of questions, while still adhering to the objectives. The tests are administered on a computer within a very easy-to-use program. The exams can be taken in many languages including English, Spanish, German, French, and Japanese.
- Passing scores: 675 for 220-901, and 700 for 220-902
The passing score for the 220-901 exam is 675 (on a scale of 900). The passing score for the 220-902 exam is 700 (on a scale of 900). This equates roughly to a required passing score of 72% and 75% respectively, though it is difficult to compute the exact worth of each question. Many candidates will prepare with practice exams and attempt to score 85% or higher in order to be ready for the real exams.
- Time Limit: 90 minutes for each exam
You have a full hour and a half to take each exam. If you finish early, you can (and should) return to the questions and review your answers. Although it is possible, it is not recommended to take both exams on the same day.
- Pricing: $199 USD per exam (subject to change)
- How to Register: All CompTIA certification exam testing is provided by Pearson VUE. After you have completed your training and are ready to take your exam(s), visit the Pearson VUE website at pearsonvue.com/comptia to schedule your exam(s) with the nearest authorized testing center.
- More details: For more information including exam details, preparation, renewal, and other CompTIA certifications, visit www.comptia.org.
Many examinees find the following topics to be more difficult portions of the exams:
- CPU architecture, motherboard components, and RAM: Topics such as CPU speeds and types of processors can be difficult to remember accurately for some examinees. The same can be said for motherboards components and RAM types. Focus on the specifics listed in the 220-901 objectives for hardware. Be sure to take notes on these topics and quiz yourself often to help memorize them.
- Mobile Devices: The 220-900 series exams now focus very heavily on mobile devices. Because there are many various types of mobile devices and so many details to remember, this can be a troublesome area for some when testing. Understand the various laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other mobile device components and be sure you are very familiar with using and troubleshooting Android, iOS, and Windows mobile operating systems. Examinees should practice on all platforms and know how to configure and secure them.
- Command-line usage: The exam can test you on a dozen or so different commands. Seeing as how many of these commands have different switches (options), it would behoove the examinee to write down each command, its description, and an example, in an attempt to memorize each of them.
- Mac OS and Linux: The 220-902 exam now includes Mac OS (OS X) and Linux under the 2.0 Other Operating Systems and Technologies domain. This makes up 12% of the exam. To pass the exam you will need to understand the common features and functionality of both of these operating systems as listed in the objectives. Practice with the listed Mac OS tools and features and install a version of Linux and practice with the basic Linux commands.
- Security: The 220-900 series exams have an increased the amount of security coverage. In fact, the 220-902 3.0 Security domain encompasses 22% of the exam! Examinees should spend time researching how to secure their individual computer, wireless router, and mobile devices. Being able to identify and mitigate security threats and vulnerabilities is an extremely desirable skill. Know the security related domains and objectives very well!
- Troubleshooting: The exams will question an examinee on how to troubleshoot Windows—especially the second exam. Due to the sheer volume of troubleshooting scenarios, it is recommended that the examinee install operating systems on a separate computer (or within a virtual machine), and practice breaking and fixing. The exam will use performance based questions to ensure you know where to go and how to troubleshoot specific issues. There are several types of printers, and many things that can go wrong with each. An examinee should study the various print technologies, components, and associated printer processes such as the steps included in the imaging process. Apply the CompTIA 6-step troubleshooting theory listed in 220-902 objectives, and really spend a lot of time memorizing the various reasons a printer could fail (especially laser printers) and how to fix those issues. 28% of the 220-901 exam is based on hardware and network troubleshooting. 24% of the 220-902 exam is based on software troubleshooting. Practice your troubleshooting skills with all kinds of hardware, printers, mobile devices, Windows, OS X, and Linux.
A person who wishes to take the A+ exams should have at least the equivalent knowledge of 12 months hands-on experience in the lab or in the field. CompTIA and the exam questions expect candidates to be able to:
- Assemble components based on customer requirements
- Install, configure and maintain devices, PCs and software for end users
- Understand the basics of networking and security/forensics
- Properly and safely diagnose, resolve and document common hardware and software issues
- Apply troubleshooting skills
- Provide appropriate customer support
- Understand the basics of virtualization, desktop imaging, and deployment
Every examinee should first look at the CompTIA objectives for the A+ exams, which are listed later in this article. (They can also be downloaded from CompTIA's website). In a nutshell, the A+ objectives are divided into two exams. Each exam is then broken up into sections known as domains. They include:
|Domain||Percentage of Examination|
|3.0 Mobile Devices||17%|
|4.0 Hardware & Network Troubleshooting||28%|
|Domain||Percentage of Examination|
|1.0 Windows Operating Systems||29%|
|2.0 Other Operating Systems & Technologies||12%|
|4.0 Software Troubleshooting||24%|
|5.0 Operational Procedures||13%|
When preparing for the A+ exam, it is wise to use more than one study resource. Using just one study guide might provide you with a narrow view of the concepts. By using various forms of study materials, including books, videos, and practice questions, you will become a much more well-rounded examinee, and increase your chances of passing the exam greatly.
Recommended Study Resources
- CompTIA A+ 220-901 and 220-902 Exam Cram, ISBN: 9780789756312
- CompTIA A+ 220-901 and 220-902 Practice Questions Exam Cram, ISBN: 9780789756305
- CompTIA A+ 220-901 and 220-902 Cert Guide, ISBN: 9780789756527
- CompTIA A+ 220-901 Complete Video Course, ISBN: 9780789756466
- CompTIA A+ 220-902 Complete Video Course, ISBN: 9780789757302
- CompTIA A+ 220-901 and 220-902 Complete Video Course Library, ISBN: 9780789758095
- CompTIA A+ 220-901 and 220-902 Cert Guide, Academic Edition, ISBN: 9780789756534
- Complete CompTIA A+ Guide to IT Hardware and Software, ISBN: 9780789756459
Where to Go from Here
Generally, the CompTIA A+ certified technician will move on to the CompTIA Network+ exam. These are part of what many technicians call "the CompTIA triad" which includes the A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications. For valuable resources and tools regarding these certifications, please feel free to visit the author's website at davidlprowse.com.
With the A+ certification under your belt, it is possible to start engaging in a job search. Many A+ certified techs become Technical Support Specialists, Field Service Technicians, IT Support Technicians, and IT Support Administrators with companies such as Microsoft, Dell, HP, Intel, Canon, the U.S. Department of Defense, and many others.
Good luck on your exams!