Learn What to Study for the CompTIA A+ Examination

In order to earn the CompTIA (Computer Technology Industry Association) A+ certification, candidates must pass two exams. These two exams include the 220-901 and 220-902. Both exams measure one’s readiness for entry-level IT positions. Typically, candidates have 6 to 12 months of relevant experience prior to taking the exams. Candidates with the CompTIA A+ certification are recognized by their colleagues as able to assemble components based on customer requirements; install, configure and maintain devices, PCs and software; troubleshoot common IT problems; and provide appropriate customer support.

The CompTIA A+ 220-901 is comprised of four content areas and each area carries a different weight:

• Hardware 34%
• Networking 21%
• Mobile Devices 17%
• Hardware & Network Troubleshooting 28%

The CompTIA A+ 220-902 is comprised of five content areas. Once again, each content area carries a different weight:

• Windows Operating Systems 29%
• Other Operating Systems & Technologies 12%
• Security 22%
• Software Troubleshooting 24%
• Operational Procedures 13%

Both exams can be completed in 90 minutes and are comprised of 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions. Like many professional exams, results for the CompTIA A+ 220-901/220-902 are converted into a scaled score, and 700 is considered a passing score on a scale that goes up to 900. Below, we provide a comprehensive blueprint for both the CompTIA A+ 220-901 and CompTIA A+ 220-902 exams and tips on how best to prepare.

CompTIA A+ 220-901

Content Area 1: Hardware (34%)

The first and most heavily weighted content area on the CompTIA A+ 220-901 is designed to test candidates’ general knowledge of IT hardware. Specifically, questions on this part of the exam probe candidates’ capacity to:

• Configure settings and use BIOS/UEFI tools on a PC (e.g., Firmware upgrades, diagnostics and monitoring).
• Explain the importance of motherboard components, their purpose and properties (e.g., expansion and RAM slots).
• Configure settings and use BIOS/UEFI tools on a PC.
• Compare and contrast various RAM types and their features.
• Install and configure PC expansion cards (e.g., storage, video and network cards).
• Install and configure storage devices and use appropriate media.
• Install various types of CPUs and apply the appropriate cooling methods.
• Compare and contrast various PC connection interfaces, their characteristics and purpose (e.g., wireless connections).
• Install a power supply based on given specifications.
• Given a scenario, select the appropriate components for a custom PC configuration to meet customer specifications or needs.
• Compare and contrast types of display devices and their features.
• Identify common PC connector types and associated cables.
• Install and configure common peripheral devices (e.g., input and output devices).
• Install SOHO multifunction device/printers and configure appropriate settings.
• Compare and contrast differences between the various print technologies and the associated imaging process.
• Given a scenario, perform appropriate printer maintenance (e.g., laser and inkjet).

Content Area 2: Networking (21%)

While no entry-level IT position requires one to already possess the depth of expertise carried by most network architects and engineers, a basic understanding of networks is required. Specifically, candidates should possess a strong background in network logic and understand how to set up and troubleshoot basic networks. Candidates should also be able to complete the following tasks:

• Identify the various types of network cables and connectors.
• Compare and contrast the characteristics of connectors and cabling.
• Explain the properties and characteristics of TCP/IP.
• Explain common TCP and UDP ports, protocols and their purpose.
• Compare different WiFi networking standards and types of encryption.
• Given a scenario, install and configure SOHO wireless/wired router and apply appropriate settings.
• Compare and contrast Internet connection and network types, as well as their features.
• Compare and contrast network architecture devices along with their functions and features.
• Use appropriate networking tools in response to a given scenario.

Content Area 3: Mobile Devices (17%)

IT experts also need to be mobile experts. For this reason, Content Area 3 focuses specifically on mobile devices, which include laptops, smart phones and tablets. Specific questions on this part of the exam probe the CompTIA A+ candidate’s ability to:

• Install and configure laptop hardware and components.
• Explain the function of components within the display of a laptop.
• Use appropriate laptop features in the context of specific scenarios.
• Explain the characteristics of different types of other mobile devices (e.g., GPS).
• Compare and contrast accessories and ports on a range of mobile devices (e.g., game pads, speakers and docking stations).

Content Area 4: Hardware & Network Troubleshooting (28%)

The final and second most heavily weighted section on the CompTIA A+ 220-901 exam tests candidates’ readiness to troubleshoot an entire range of hardware and network problems. On this part of the exam, questions focus on some of the most common problems IT professionals face on a daily basis, including how to troubleshoot:

• Motherboards
• Hard drives
• Video, projectors and displays
• Wired and wireless networks
• Mobile devices
• Printers with appropriate tools

CompTIA A+ 220-902

Content Area 1: Windows Operating Systems (29%)

The most heavily weighted section on the CompTIA A+ 220-902 focuses on Windows. To ace this part of the exam, candidates must demonstrate a readiness to:

• Compare and contrast various features and requirements of Microsoft operating systems (e.g., Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1).
• Install Windows PC operating systems using appropriate methods.
• Apply appropriate Microsoft command line tools.
• Use appropriate Microsoft operating system features and tools in response to specific given scenarios.
• Use the Windows Control Panel utilities.
• Given a scenario, install and configure Windows networking on client/desktop.
• Perform common preventive maintenance procedures using the appropriate Windows OS tools.

Content Area 2: Other Operating Systems & Technologies (12%)

Worth only 12% of the exam, Content Area 2 is the least heavily weighted section of the CompTIA A+ 220-902. Nevertheless, it is a key part of the exam. While most of the questions on the CompTIA A+ 220-901 and 220-902 exams focus on the Windows Operating System, this part of the exam probes candidates’ readiness to work with other operating systems, including Linux and Mac OS. Tasks assessed on this part of the exam include the ability to:

• Identify common features and functionality of the Mac OS and Linux operating systems.
• Set up and use client-side virtualization.
• Identify basic cloud concepts.
• Summarize the properties and purpose of services provided by networked hosts.
• Identify basic features of mobile operating systems.
• Install and configure basic mobile device network connectivity and email.
• Summarize methods and data related to mobile device synchronization.

Content Area 3: Security (22%)

Whether or not one is engaged in network security work, all IT professionals now require at least a basic knowledge of network security protocols. Content Area 3 of the CompTIA A+ 220-902 aims to ensure that anyone with the CompTIA A+ certification is at the very least able to:

• Identify common security threats and vulnerabilities.
• Compare and contrast common prevention methods.
• Compare and contrast differences of basic Windows security settings.
• Given a scenario, deploy and enforce security best practices to secure a workstation.
• Compare and contrast various methods for securing mobile devices.
• Given a scenario, use appropriate data destruction and disposal methods.
• Given a scenario, secure SOHO wireless and wired networks.

Content Area 4: Software Troubleshooting (24%)

All IT professionals are expected to troubleshoot software on a regular basis, and this is the focus of the fourth content area on the CompTIA A+ 220-902 exam. Given various scenarios, test takers are asked to respond to questions that probe their ability to select appropriate tools to troubleshoot:

• PC operating system problems
• PC security issues
• Mobile OS and application issues
• Mobile OS and application security issues

Content Area 5: Operational Procedures (13%)

The final content area on the CompTIA A+ 220-902 exam focuses on operational procedures. In the context of the exam, “operational procedures” include an entire range of work-related practices that extend above and beyond troubleshooting software, hardware and network problems (e.g., how to communicate with clients or work with third-party vendors). Specific questions on this section of the exam include those designed to test a candidate’s capacity to:

• Use appropriate safety procedures (e.g., the ability to ground equipment or dispose of toxic materials).
• Apply the appropriate controls when working in different environments (e.g., exceptionally dusty or humid environments).
• Summarize the process of addressing prohibited content/activity, and explain privacy, licensing and policy concepts.
• Demonstrate proper communication techniques and professionalism (e.g., the ability to communicate with clients in a jargon-free manner).
• Explain the troubleshooting theory (e.g., the ability to articulate why a plan of action to fix an IT problem is most appropriate and cost effective under the circumstances).

Need some practice before taking the CompTIA A+ exam? Download Pocket Prep’s CompTIA A+ Exam Prep App to study anywhere, anytime on your mobile device. We also highly recommend purchasing the CompTIA A+ Complete Study Guide: Exams 220-901 and 220-902, 3rd Edition for additional reference.