Reader John Turningpin asked for more info on the CompTIA A+ IT qualification I passed recently, so I’ve put together a list of resources I used and more info on actually taking the test.
The CompTIA A+ is an entry-level qualification that proves you are able to repair, upgrade, diagnose, and torubleshoot Windows computers. It consists of 2 tests. The first is a basic computer repair and troubleshooting skills test. For your 2nd test, you can choose from different options: (1) A higher-level but still general “IT technician” test (2) A customer focussed test for helpdesk roles (3) A hardware focus for depot / no-customer contact roles. I had originally planned to take the hardware test since I hate dealing with customers, but from the advice I had gotten it seemed like the general technician test would be more useful in getting a job.
As a general indicator for if you think this qualification is for you, I’d take the quick 10 question practice test over at CompTIA site (quick form filling in required) – anything below 5, and this probably isn’t for you; 5-7 and you have a good chance of passing with a few months of good study; above 8 and you can probably just go ahead and take the test immediatly, or find out the exact topics you need work on and focus on those for a week maybe.
Experience: The best way to learn how to repair PCs is to get a hold of some hardware and play with it. Here’s an off the top of my head list of things you need to have experience of doing at least a couple of times:
- Change the video card out, and know the difference between PCI and AGP, and the newer PCI-e slots.
- Add 2 extra hard drives to your computer, and figure out how to partition them. I say 2 drives in order for you to understand the concept of primary and secondary drives on an IDE chain.
- Strip the processor and fan from the motherboard and then put it all back again.
- Format the drive and reinstall from scratch. If the idea of re-installing Windows XP doesn’t sound like a thoroughly riveting Sunday afternoon, this test maybe isn’t for you.
- Go to Sofmap and check out all the hardware – would it fit in your computer? Look at all the motherboards, figure out what kind of processor slots they are.
- Try connecting your computer to your TV. Most laptops and decent gfx cards support this just fine.
- Try setting up a home network manually. DO NOT just plug your computers into your broadband router – that’s cheating.
That’s all I can think of right now, but if you think of anything else, please add them in the comments.
Online learning: Going the legal route, ProProfs is a fantastic free resource with online practice tests, flashcard, tutorials on specific tough topics (like the laser printing process, which *will* be on your test) etc.
Videos: If you have money to burn or have no moral qualms about piracy, I thoroughly recommend the CBT Nuggets training course or VTC series. They cover everything in the exam rather comprehensively.
Taking the exam in Japan:
You’ll need to register at Pearson Vue first, then find a test centre near you using their locator. The process of actually booking a test is very easy using their online booking system, and just make sure you select the English version of the test (there is a dropbox that allows you to choose – it defaults to English). During the booking you will also need to select the test centre and an available time slot, so be sure to have chosen your test centre using the locator before you book. Simple!
Hope that was useful to you John, and anyone else interested in getting their first IT qualification.