9 Steps To Pass Your Exams: CompTIA A+ Study Guide
- 27th September 2017
- Posted by: Juan van Niekerk
- Category: Technology
So you’ve signed up for your online CompTIA A+ course? That’s great! So… what’s next?
Studying (Verb): The act of texting, Facebooking, eating, and watching TV with study material nearby.
Part of the joy of online learning is that you get to study from the comfort of home. However this added element of comfort, means that you don’t have the luxury of passing a note in class to your fellow student asking, “Did you understand that?”. Just like experiencing anything for the first time, online learning can seem daunting, frustrating and overwhelming.
You may even feel like your alone in your online learning journey. If you do, I’m here to tell you that you’re not. From now on, let this post be your study guide. Let’s work together so that you can pass your A+ exam first time. Say goodbye to cramming, panic and stress with 9 simple steps to guide you through your CompTIA A+ course. Before I go through the 9 steps, let’s clarify what is A+ for those that are still not sure about this certification.
CompTIA or Computing Technology Industry Association, is a trade organisation which is best known for its IT training courses and the associated certification exams. They offer many certifications, one of the most popular being CompTIA A+. Held by over 1 million IT professionals world-wide, this is a great certification for those establishing an IT career.
CompTIA A+ Certification
The CompTIA A+ Certification is an entry-level certification for those who would like to start a career in IT, or would like to validate their existing IT knowledge.
CompTIA A+ Exams
In order to obtain your CompTIA A+ certification it’s advised to do the respective training that will prepare you for the A+ exams. Once you have passed the exams you will receive a certification and will be eligible for the next course in the certification track. CompTIA A+ consists of two exams, namely 220-901 and 220-902.
- CompTIA A+ 220-901
This is the first exam that you need to complete and is a pre-requisite for the 220-902 exam (the next exam). The 220-901 exam covers PC hardware and peripherals, mobile device hardware, networking and more.
- CompTIA A+ 220-902
This is the second exam you need to complete and is also the last step you need to take in order to receive your A+ certification. The exam covers installing and configuring operating systems, security, the fundamentals of cloud computing and operational procedures.
CompTIA A+ is considered to be the first step towards an IT career. Once you have signed up for this certification, this is when the real hard work begins. Studying takes sacrifice, commitment and a master plan. The key to passing this certification lies with 9 simple steps. Easy to follow, and easy to implement into your learning experience, here are 9 steps that are sure to guide you through your A+ exam preparation.
- Get familiar with your course content
Whenever you start a new course it’s always a good idea to get familiar with what exactly it is that you are studying. When I say get familiar, I mean start off by quickly skimming through what is included in the course. When you sign up for your A+ course through ITonlinelearning you get:
- Course content in the form of videos
- A workbook
- Educational Games
- Short tests after each module
The reason why it’s a good idea to check out what’s included in the course before actually studying, is so that you can get an idea of the workload. If you know how much work you need to get through, you can then come up with a plan as to roughly how long it will take you to complete the course. When you know how long it will take you to get through all the course content, you can start planning when it will be that you will write your exams. It’s also a good idea to assess whether the resources available to you throughout the course will be enough for you to pass the exam, or whether the course is suited to your career goals.
New IT Technician
For those that are new to IT and would like more than just a CompTIA A+ course, you can sign up for ITonlinelearning’s New IT Technician Courses. If you sign up for this, you get access to the A+ course, as well as more courses such as Cisco courses and Microsoft courses. This New IT Technician bundle also grants you access to :
- Live Lab Access
- Tutor Support
- CV Review
If however you chose to sign up for only the A+ course, you may gain access to these services, at an extra cost. Therefore it’s important to see what your course offers and to check whether this will suffice for exam preparation.
- Book your Exam
Thinking about final exams can be gut-wrenching for some. One of the most important steps to take regarding your CompTIA certification, is to decide on a date for your final exams. After you have signed up for your CompTIA A+ course, the next step is to consider when will be the best time to write your A+ exams. There appears to be two schools of thought when it comes to the timing of booking an exam. Depending on what kind of student you are, how busy your life is and what your approach to exams are, you may have conflicting ideas as to when to book your exam. I’ve listed the pro’s and con’s of each so that you can decide which is the best approach for you.
Option 1: Book your exam right after signing up for your course
- It allows you to plan your studying into small, bite-size chunks.
- Deadlines may encourage you to study over a longer period of time, which results in less cramming.
- If you experience an unforeseen crisis that prevents you from writing the exam, it will result in you having to reschedule the exams.
- Some online learning providers only give you access to the course for one year, which means that if you book your exam for a much later date and then fail, you may not have access to the course again without paying again.
Option 2: When you are ready to write, book your exam
- This will result in you learning at your own pace, with no sense of urgency. For some this a less stressful approach.
- May be difficult to create a study plan when you are not sure of your exam deadline.
Speaking from my own experience of studying, I can say that booking the exam date sooner rather than later, is my recommended approach. This involves considering the workload you need to complete, and then setting a realistic date for completion. Setting goals, such as an exam date, is a great way to plan your studying which could result in less last-minute cramming.
How Do I Book My CompTIA A+ Exams?
When you decide to book your CompTIA A+ exams, there are two options you can choose from.
- Through Your Online Learning Provider
Some online learning providers offer online proctoring. Online proctoring allows students to take their exams online, from home. If the learning provider does not provide this service, they will often assist you with the exam booking process through a different avenue.
- Through Pearson VUE
Pearson VUE offers secure testing environments for students around the world. CompTIA provides a step by step guide to scheduling an in-person exam through Pearson VUE. There are 3 steps to scheduling:
- Create an account
- Find a Pearson Vue test centre
- Book your exam
- Review The Exam Format and Objectives
It’s always a good idea to get familiar with what you are training for. This gives you an idea of what to expect and what the focus of your studies should be. There’s nothing worse than arriving at the exam, flipping through the questions, and realising you didn’t spend enough time studying a specific section.
By looking at the percentage of each section in the exam, this will give you a good idea as to how much time you should spend on each section. For example, in terms of the A+ 901 exam, 34% of the questions cover hardware. This means you should spend about 1/3 of your study time on that section for the A+ 901 exam.
Let’s look at the CompTIA A+ exam specifics so that you can structure your studying accordingly.
Comptia A+ Exam Specifics
In order to obtain the CompTIA A+ Certification, you need to pass the following exams:
CompTIA A+ 220-901 Exam
Amount of Questions: Maximum of 90
Types of Questions: Multiple Choice and Performance-Based
Amount of Time Allocated: 90 minutes
The topics covered include:
- Hardware: 34%
- Networking: 21%
- Mobile Devices: 17%
- Hardware and Network Troubleshooting: 28%
If you would like more information on the CompTIA A+ 220-901 exam objectives, you can click here to download the official PDF.
CompTIA A+ 220-902 Exam
Amount of Questions: Maximum of 90
Types of Questions: Multiple Choice and Performance-Based
Amount of Time Allocated: 90 minutes
The topics covered include:
- Windows Operating Systems: 29%
- Other Operating Systems And Technologies: 12%
- Security: 22%
- Software Troubleshooting: 24%
- Operational Procedures: 13%
If you would like more information on the CompTIA A+ 220-902 exam objectives, you can click here to download the official PDF.
- Manage Your Time
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The key to a stress free learning experience is to manage your time and plan ahead. It may be tempting to watch another episode of your favourite series, or scroll through the endless pages of social media, but passing your exams requires sacrifice and commitment. Don’t fool yourself with the famous last words of “I’ll start studying tomorrow”.
Now that you know what to expect in the exam, you can start to come up with a plan. Getting through the course content is easier said than done. However, if you can split your work up into small, bite-size chunks, not only will you be able to retain more, it won’t be a stressful learning experience. We’ve all been there, and there’s nothing worse than leaving something for the last minute. Last minute cramming can make the task of studying seem impossible to complete.
To avoid this I suggest creating a study schedule (one that you actually stick to!). A study schedule or timetable, is an organised plan that outlines study times and learning goals. There are many timetable templates available online that you can use to create your own timetable. Here is an example of a template that you can use to create your own.
This specific timetable can be downloaded and edited (free) from Calenderpedia.co.uk. If you’re looking to make your own timetable, Wikihow also offers great information for creating a study schedule.
- Work Out Your Own Method Of Studying
Everybody has a different learning style. The three main learning styles include Auditory, Visual and Tactile. By figuring out which kind of learner you are, this can influence the way in which you learn, and which approach to take to learning.
– Someone who learns by hearing and listening
– Someone who learns by reading or seeing pictures
– Someone who learns by touching and doing
The great thing about learning online is that it appeals to all three learning styles. With online video content and access to live labs, you get to hear, see and do!
Finding a way to retain the information will however require honing in on one of these styles. After four years of studying, I found I was a visual learner. This means that I study best and remember things by sight. If you’re a visual learner like me, then here are some methods you can use to get through your A+ course content:
- Try to visualise new concepts or ideas
- Write down new information
- Draw pictures to get a better understanding
- Create mind-maps or spider diagrams
- Colour code your notes
- Practise in a Live Lab
When you sign up with an online learning provider such as ITonlinelearning, you get access to practise labs, or what we call Live Labs. A Live Lab or Practise Lab is real computer equipment networked together and conveniently accessed over the internet. If you have signed up for the A+ course only, you can still access the Live Labs, however at an additional cost. A Live Lab is one of the best ways to get real experience, and after all, practise makes perfect.
How will a Live Lab help me pass my CompTIA A+ exams?
A Live Lab provides a way for students to gain real experience on routers and switches without having to go out and buy any real equipment. CompTIA A+ is a certification that focuses on the installation and maintenance of hardware, as well as the customisation and operation of various platforms. What this means in plain English, is that with this certification you will be able to work on and maintain devices such as computers, mobiles and more. This implies that there is a practical element to the A+ certification.In order to pass the CompTIA A+ exams it is therefore recommended that students gain practical experience to further reinforce what they already know.
The benefits of Live Labs are numerous.
- Mistakes made in a Live Lab cause no real damage to hardware as you have the option to reset.
- Making a mistake in a Live Lab gives you the opportunity to go back to your course notes to find out how to fix the error. This is a luxury you won’t have in the working world.
- Live Labs are sometimes considered part of work experience and can be referenced in your CV.
- Live Labs reinforce the knowledge that you already possess, which will give you the confidence you need to ace the final exams.
- Live Labs are a cheaper alternative to buying physical hardware (routers and switches).
- Access Additional materials
If you’re new to IT and have decided on the CompTIA A+ as a first step into the working world of IT, the information can be a little overwhelming at the beginning. Thanks to the internet, when we don’t know something, we just Google it. There are a whole host of good samaritans out there that post study guides (*gives self five*), practise tests, free cram-guides and forums for A+ noobs.
When you’re studying something that is new, it’s often advised to do some additional reading. Supporting material can reinforce what you already know and give your learning an added dimension through further reading. Here is some additional material to help you pass your CompTIA A+ exams:
Comptia A+ Complete Study Guide
This may be a bit ‘over-kill’ for some, as your online learning provider should provide all that you need to pass the exam in the course content. However it wouldn’t hurt to do some additional reading. You can buy the textbook (Comptia A+ Complete Study Guide) online or check out your local library for a hard-cover copy.
Practise tests are very popular amongst those who are preparing for their A+ exam. Check out Itonlinelearning’s 5 Best CompTIA A+ Practice Test Resources.
- Chat To Student Care
Student Care is a service that is available to students who opt for online learning. Student Care employees are staff members who you can communicate with when you have a query surrounding your A+ course. These are experienced mentors as well as course and career advisors, that you can communicate with via telephone, email or live chat during UK business hours.
When you sign up for the A+ course only
When you sign up for the CompTIA A+ course with an online learning provider such as ITonlinelearning, you are provided with access to Student Care. Whether your query is A+ related, or whether you need a little encouragement, student care are the cheerleaders you’ve been looking for.
When you sign up for the New IT Technician bundle
The New IT Technician bundle offers access to Student Care and more. This bundle goes one step further by offering you access to your very own online tutor! An online tutor is your very own tech guru who’s advanced knowledge knows no bounds. These are the experts who can help you solve complex course related problems and give you the heads up you need to fly through your exams.
CompTIA A+ is a course which is suited to entry-level students. This means that it can be expected that you will have lot’s of questions, as this will be a completely new experience. Don’t forget that even the most successful people had to start somewhere. The expert in anything was once a beginner. If you have any questions relating to your CompTIA A+ course, or any other course offered by ITonlinelearning, don’t be afraid to contact our Student Care. These are people that could make the difference between passing and failing.
When should I reach out to Student Care?
- If you’re not clear on how to use some of the online services available
- If you’re concerned about your upcoming exam-objectives
- If you need help booking your exam
- If you would like some career advice regarding how the course will affect your future
- If there is something in the course that you don’t quite understand
- Keep Your Health in Check
Studies show that students who get enough sleep, exercise and eat a healthy diet, outperform those who don’t. It’s important to remember this when studying for your CompTIA A+ exam.
Get Enough Sleep
It may be tempting to burn the midnight oil, however not getting enough sleep can significantly affect how well you do in an exam. According to Dr. Stijn Baert, a researcher at Ghent University, students who generally get a good night’s sleep perform better in exams. The reason is two fold. Firstly, new information is processed while we sleep. Meaning that once we study, then sleep, we are more likely to retain what we studied. Secondly, adequate sleep is also linked to thinking ability.
Studying for your A+ exam doesn’t have to mean sitting in front of a desk all day/night. According to lifehacker.com, 20 minutes of exercise before an exam can boost your scores.
Maintaining a good exercise routine can not only act as a stress reliever, it can help you perform better too. We’re not talking about smashing 200kgs at the gym. Just a casual 20min walk around the block will suffice.
What you put in, is what you get out. If you only fuel your body with unhealthy food, you can’t expect it to perform at it’s optimum. This article from BBC outlines which foods to eat to help you focus, improve your grades and get a good nights sleep.
From now on, it’s time to count on yourself and your mad multi-tasking skills to manage work life, social life and online learning life. The trick is also not to study hard, it’s to study smart. Studying smart means using the resources you have available, as well as managing your time, to make the most of your studying experience. Passing your A+ exams is your first step in the direction of a rewarding IT career. Take this time to prepare for your exams, not only to pass, but as preparation for the industry that you’re heading in to.
If you think there’s a step or two that I’ve left out, drop me a comment and let us know. We’d love to hear about your studying tips and tricks!