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CompTIA A+ Certification updates and you Discover what's new about the forthcoming CompTIA A+ Certification tests. Should you make your move to be A+ Certified now?

CompTIA A+ Certification updates and you
Discover what's new about the forthcoming CompTIA A+ Certification tests. Should you make your move to be A+ Certified now?

A+ Certification Overview

The CompTIA A+ Certification has become one of the most popular entry-level computer certifications since the first exams were available in 1993. A+ Certification measures baseline skills for an entry-level computer technician, and can also be used as an elective towards Microsoft MCSA certification in Windows 2000 Server or Windows Server 2003. A+ Certification is required or preferred by many employers, and is required by A+ Authorized Service Centers. Whether your primary interest is hardware or software, A+ Certification is a useful stepping-stone towards further success in technology.

A+ Certification Exams

You must pass two separate A+ Certification exams to become A+ Certified:

  • A+ Core Hardware measures your knowledge of hardware
  • A+ Operating Systems measure your knowledge of operating systems

While there is generally little overlap in test objectives, some topics, such as Networks, are covered in both exams. For example, the Core Hardware exam focuses on hardware such as cabling and network cards, while the Operating Systems exam focuses on network protocols and configuration.

A+ Certification and the State of the Art

Traditionally, A+ Certification has lagged behind the current state of technology. For example, the 1998 exam objectives ignored Windows NT 4.0; DOS, Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 were the only operating systems covered. The 2001 exam dropped coverage of DOS and Windows 3.1, substituting Windows 98 and Windows 2000. Hardware coverage also lagged behind what was actually showing up on the corporate and small-office desktop.

However, by late this year, A+ Certification will leap forwards and backwards at the same time when the 2003 objectives become current and the 2001 objectives are retired. The 2003 changes are described as minor by CompTIA, but a careful examination of the 2001 and 2003 objectives reveals that the changes are more significant.

How The 2003 Tests Compare to the 2001 Tests

These are some of the major changes in the Core Hardware portion of the test:

  • The weighting of domains (the different subject areas covered by the exams) is different, as Table 1 demonstrates
  • New types of hardware, including popular peripherals such as digital cameras, PDAs, and new drive types such as rewritable DVD and Serial ATA drives are covered
  • Theres more emphasis on system cooling and upgrading system performance
  • The latest processor sockets and motherboard technologies are now covered, including AGP 8x and Socket 478
  • New types of printers (solid ink and dye-sublimation) are now covered
  • The networking domain has been expanded to reflect new cabling types, Internet access, and basic protocol information

Table 1. 2001 and 2003 Core Hardware Exam Domains and Weightings


% of exam 2001

% of exam 2003

1.0 Installation, Configuration and Upgrading



2.0 Diagnosing and Troubleshooting



3.0 Preventive Maintenance



4.0 Motherboard/Processors/Memory



5.0 Printers



6.0 Basic Networking



The changes are also significant in the Operating Systems portion of the test:

  • The weighting of domains (the different subject areas covered by the exams) is different, as Table 2 demonstrates.
  • Operating systems covered include all 32-bit desktop versions of Windows from Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 up through Windows Me and Windows XP. This reflects the increasing diversity of the desktop: some companies continue to run older Windows versions because they work better with existing software and hardware, while others adopt the new versions as they arrive preloaded on new hardware.
  • The objectives include both installing the operating system and upgrading to newer operating systems, including installing patches and service packs.

Table 2. 2001 and 2003 Operating System Exam Domains and Weightings


% of Exam 2001

% of Exam 2003

1.0 OS Fundamentals



2.0 Installation, Configuration and Upgrading



3.0 Diagnosing and Troubleshooting



4.0 Networks



As you can see from Tables 1 and 2 and my comments, the forthcoming 2003 revision of the A+ Certification exams reflects the state of the art better than any previous revision.

Decision Time

Because A+ Certification opens the doors to advancement in the technology field, the best time to become certified is always as soon as you can. This continues to be true with A+ Certification. Once you become A+ Certified, you are always A+ Certified. So, if youve been preparing for the 2001 exams, go ahead and take them. My book Upgrading and Repairing PCs: A+ Certification Study Guide, Second Edition covers all the topics on the 2001 A+ Certification exams, and includes practice questions and study aids on the bundled CD-ROM.

However, if youre still months away from being ready to take the A+ Certification exams, you now know that the new exams will be more up-to-date and more challenging. You might want to prepare for the 2001 exams, and take at least one of them as soon as you are ready. You can become A+ Certified by taking both of the 2001 exams, one of the 2001 and one of the 2003 exams when the 2003 revisions take effect, or by taking both of the 2003 exams. Its your choice, and your future.

For More Information

Learn more about A+ Certification at the CompTIA A+ Certification website:

Study the objectives covered on both the current 2001 A+ Certification exams and the 2003 revisions at the CompTIA A+ Certification Objectives web site:

See how A+ Certification fits into the Microsoft MCSA requirements at: http://www.microsoft.com/TrainCert/mcp/mcsa/requirements.asp

Copyright©2003 Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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