Getting certified. It’s a rite of passage in Information Technology and gives you the confidence and skills to solve the most complex IT problems out there. Taking the exam is a challenge most people even after intensive study and there are a few things that you can learn the hard way. We’ve made a guide of things to know before taking the CompTIA A+ Exam so you don’t have to look back with regret come exam day. In this article, we will show you some common mistakes people make when getting certified and help make the journey to certification a bit easier.
For many looking back at that time of preparing for the A+ comes with a mixture of nostalgia, regret, and joy. What should have been an easy straight-forward path to certification was undermined by stubbornness or a simple lack of knowledge. Many people have walked in confident only to fail the first exam. It isn’t usually intellect, or even passion for technology that gets them, they simply overestimate their own ability and underestimate the difficulty of the 200-901 and 200-902 exams.
Why do I want to get certified?
The first hurdle you face is simply deciding whether or not you should take the test to get certified. Your employer might offer to pay for it or you might be considering certification for perspective career choices. A+ gives you the foundational knowledge to be confident with an entry level IT job. These jobs though can pay on average over $50,000 a year making the time and financial investment required to get certified well worth it. CompTIA is an advantage over those without it and an excellent investment. You should heavily consider getting certified, especially if you are entering IT because it will help build a strong foundation for future success.
CompTIA A+ is well-respected but online they say some disparaging things
Many begin to be wary about taking CompTIA after doing all the initial research. On paper it seems like it teaches a killer skillset and you can get jobs that you’d LOVE to do. But with a cursory reading through message boards you’ll hear things like this,
“CompTIA mostly just means you know how to study for a test”
“A+ doesn’t teach you any real skills.”
“I never went to school and I’m in an exciting Tech career. Certs are a waste of time.”
The conflicting signals can make you hesitant to even pursue certification at all! But don’t listen to the naysayers! The training and studying it takes to pass the 220-901 and 220-902 exams is a mixture of practical hands on experience (Such as setting up a lab up in the garage for study) and USEFUL head knowledge. Many older IT professionals worked in the wildwest of Information Technology. Skills were rare, everything was self-taught, and education wasn’t through formal training. Times have changed though. There is so much value in a formal educational experience that teaches you professional terms, the history of technology, and why so many things do what they do. Without an intensive education it is easy to get stumped by networking hierarchy or the difference between a Printer port and a VGA port. While it feels laughable to mix those things up, it happens. When fixing a customers computer, you may walk into a set-up over 15 years old and be astounded by what you come across. A good grasp of tech history makes the situations you encounter manageable.
You may have bad Tech habits you need to get rid of
On test day you might forget the answer to a staggeringly easy test question.
“What is the name of this object?”
For instance, let’s say the picture is an RJ-45 jack. You may think though, due to a bad habit of calling cords ethernet, that it’s an ethernet port. But… ethernet port isn’t even a possible answer. So then you guess. And miss a point. Bad habits alone cost may cost you several points on an exam.
If you learned your tech information informally through practical experience or working at a Mom and Pop shop, you probably have some terminology wrong. When you notice a bad habit in the months prior to test day, practice eliminating it as if you are taking a real test. Not only will this help you learn terms better, you won’t sound infantile when you are fixing someone’s computer and use a ridiculous term for something they know the name of. Many common day names for tech items are useful but wrong. This doesn’t mean you have to speak in another language but it’ll make a world of difference in your career too. Often professionals use layered terminology that is confounding to an everyday listener. Eliminating your weird bad tech habits makes you a far more professional worker.
No need to rush: You can schedule the CompTIA A+ exams on different days
CompTIA A+ has two exams but they do not need to be taken very close together. In fact they can be taken weeks or months apart. The amount of knowledge required between 901 and 902 can be intimidating. It’s easy to go in guns blazing and forget the names of things you use every day. Whether it’s knowing all the subsets of relevant Motherboard sockets, system requirements of an OS, or the proper names for cords, there is a ton of rote memorization. Don’t overestimate yourself. Focus on one exam at a time and give yourself at least a week, ideally a month, before the second part of the A+ exam. This insures that you can study up on things you forgot. While it is only 90 minutes, the amount of information involved can be staggering and it’s easier to study in chunks. This also gives you a chance to gauge whether or not to move onto the second part if you happened to fail the first exam.
You can learn and practice everything you need to know with free online exams
Online exams are a risk-free way to hone your craft and make sure you are ready on exam day. Online exam websites such as certlibrary.com are incredible resources that give you real life solutions and practical experience. You can find 901 and 902 tests here and here! It’s easy to assume that by reading through the source material, you’d EASILY pass the test. Nothing can compare with using online practice exams as a way to study. It just works. The repeat answering of tough questions helps you drill some key concepts into your head. After a few weeks it’ll click. All of a sudden you’ll remember new things because you were practicing with the information regularly. Those who fail exams often wish they had known the value in practice exams. It saves money, time, and frustration. There are even some courses you can purchase that have great simulations such as those offered by Mike Meyers.
Instead of being over-confident try to learn new skills and become an expert in what you know
Nothing is worse than failing the first portion of certification while an employer is paying for it. If you think, “I build computers for a hobby. This will be easy.” It might be time for a reality check.
CompTIA is hard! Building computers is great but the A+ is comprehensive and covers everything from printers to the massive variety of ports you’ll encounter. That’s why when people say disparaging things about the A+ certification, you know they are wrong. It’s not easy. It’s not so challenging that you will lose your mind studying, but you need to know a lot of information. Information that isn’t learned just by being “Good at computers.”
You want to over study anyways. If you need to know this stuff for a career, its better to learn now then flop around and make mistakes later on. Instead of thinking, “Oh I can do this already,” strive to be an expert in your field. There is nothing wrong with knowing the information so well it is second-nature.
Take it seriously. It’s a tough test but you’ll do fine if you practice and read a bit everyday. Over confidence will cost you money and time but by studying instead you walk our with new skills and a better outlook.
You should know that getting certified will make working in tech a lot more enjoyable
One of the things you should know before taking the CompTIA A+ exam is that you will love getting certified. Really the test is designed to get you thinking like an IT professional and skilled enough to get some awesome high paying gigs. Employers love tech workers with demonstrable measurable skill.
Go study. Put your heart and soul into learning all the concepts and necessary parts of getting certified. It’ll be a lot of work. We recommend more than a month for most people. When its over you might even realize you should have done this so much earlier in your life. Every single day you encounter little things that A+ training can help you overcome. You may even have been encountering issues for years and stumbling through the dark. With training you can finally know how to diagnose issues and why those issues occur! You can even fix them! Work gets easier, more enjoyable, and in a few months you may even think about other certs. They are a gateway to success and numerous promotions. Life is far easier in the tech world when you have the skills and confidence of certification. So go do it!
Thanks for joining us and listening to our advice!
We hope you’ve learned some things about the exam and we wish you luck with continuing your education in IT. If this article has helped you, share it with some friends! And as always, keep coming back for more blogs on the IT Cert Industry. Studying for a certification can be intimidating but you have so many modern resources available today. It’s worth it and the path has never been more enjoyable! There are always things to know before taking the CompTIA A+ exam that you’ll look back on and think, “Oh I could’ve learned that!” but that’s whats so great about tech. You can always be learning, growing, and improving. A+ is a foundation for an incredible journey and we wish you luck as you pursue getting certified.