The CompTIA A + certification is made up of two exams, 220-901 and 220-902, you need to pass both exams in order to gain the certification. I sat both exams on Friday, and am happy to say I passed!
The 220-901 exam covers general knowledge of IT – PC hardware, mobile devices, printers, networking and troubleshooting. The 220-902 exam focuses on installing and configuring operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, IOS and Android.
I have a history of working in IT, so I decided to only use test prep resources to brush up on my recall skills. I think this worked in my favour as a lot of the questions weren’t too difficult. I also passed the Network + a few weeks ago so some of that knowledge was transferable to this exam.
In my blog post about the Network + exam, I complained about the performance-based testing elements – they literally had no relevance. The PBT’s in this exam were really good and quite fun, most of all they actually tested my performance! I had to complete a task that an IT technician would actually have to do in real life, on the job. I think I only had 4 PBT questions in total, but it would be good to see more of this type of testing. As usual however, there were some bugs with the PBT’s and the page did keep opening and closing erratically. I also found 3 spelling mistakes in the exam, which is poor show considering the questions are only a couple of sentences each.
I found the 220-902 slightly easier than 220-901, but I think that’s probably to do with my experience in industry. I thought the 220-902 exam focused more on troubleshooting and customer interaction. In the 220-901 exam, there were a lot of questions on printers, which is not a strong subject area for me, so if I were to resit the exam I’d definitely brush up on my printer knowledge. I think the printer questions should probably be reduced, in my IT career most of our printers were managed by external suppliers, very rarely did I change a drum or a set of rollers, and these days a lot of companies are trying to cut down on their use of paper. I suppose the focus of the 220-901 exam is hardware, but as hardware gets smaller, IT techs are less likely to be opening up bits of tin. Maybe the exam needs a slight shift, maybe towards more datacentre and networking hardware? Or telecommunications?
I think this exam could potentially be difficult for someone with experience – a lot of the questions revolved around asking “What is the BEST solution?” or “What should you do FIRST?” and sometimes you need to think right back to being a newbie e.g. what is the simplest thing to do? A lot of IT technicians I’ve met tend to have developed bad habits after about a year on the job, so in my opinion I would say that taking this exam early in your career is the best approach.
As a side note, when you pass the CompTIA A + and Network + exams, the certifications become stackable! So you also become a CompTIA IT Operations Specialist.
My advice for this exam? As with the Network +, read and reread the question. Sometimes there is a clue to the answer in the question! Don’t feel the need to take both exams on the same day unless you’re confident; it’s pretty intense and I was in the test centre for nearly three hours. For a newbie, some great free videos can be found on the Professor Messer website, definitely worth the time.