What you need to know about the CompTIA A+ exam

Student taking the Computing Technology Industry Association A+ Certification exam.

The certification actually requires a passing score on two separate tests, currently numbered 901 and 902. The CompTIA A+ test undergoes almost constant revision, due to frequent innovations in the technology industry. The previously used test series (801 and 802) is no longer valid and may not be combined with a 900 series score to achieve certification.

The CompTIA A+ test content is driven by industry, not vendors. If a specific identifying word of a device or system is not mentioned in study materials, it does not mean you won’t be tested on that system or device. It just means that questions won’t cover things unique to that device.The two tests and the competencies they cover are:

901:
Hardware (34%)
Networking (21%)
Mobile Devices (17%)
Hardware and Network Troubleshooting (28%)

902:
Windows Operating Systems (29%)
Other Operating Systems and Technologies (12%)
Security (22%)
Software Troubleshooting (24%)
Operational Procedures (13%)

The percentages above indicate the portion of questions on that topic that usually appear on the CompTIA A+ 901 and 902 tests. You should note, however, that the questions within each test are not presented by topic in each section but are, rather, mixed.

Types of test items are multiple-choice (some with multiple responses possible), “drag and drop,” fill-in-the-blank (capital letters may count), questions that include an “exhibit,” and performance-based questions. Performance-based items include a given situation for which you need to find a solution. Most of these are near the beginning of the test.

CompTIA A+ certification is valid for 3 years from the test date and may be renewed by submitting proof of 20 continuing education credit hours in the field.

What are the costs?

Before you can schedule a CompTIA A+ testing session, you must purchase a test voucher for $199.00. This price covers the cost of one exam: either the 901 or 902. You must take and pass both of these to become certified. Purchase may be done online, through the CompTIA Marketplace or from a Pearson VUE test center.

What should I bring?

On the day of your test, you need to bring a valid form of identification. A complete explanation of this policy is available here.

You will also need the voucher you purchased to take the test. Voucher guidelines are very specific and can be accessed here.

Most items are not allowed in CompTIA A+ testing rooms, including any electronic device, writing instruments, paper, books, food and drink, and personal property, such as purses or backpacks.

How is it scored?

You will be able to see your score upon completion of the test. Passing scores are 675 of a possible 900 points for the 901 test and 700 out of 900 possible points for the 902 test. Some questions may have partial credit given, but information on this has not been released yet.

What kind of job can I get?

A career in Information Technology (IT) can make you a vital part of a business or most any other organization. In today’s world, a large number of daily activities require reliable computer systems for contact and information. And when something goes wrong with a system, it requires an immediate “fix” to avoid revenue loss. This is where the IT professional, or “tech support,” often comes in. As an IT professional, you must be up-to-date on all of the latest innovations in hardware and software, as well as being adept in problem-solving and customer relations. You may find yourself handling everything IT-related, from system security to mobile device management.

Am I eligible?

You must be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the country in which you take the CompTIA A+ test. If you do not fall into one of these categories, you may apply for permission to take the test. Address email correspondence to examsecurity@comptia.org and your application will be evaluated by a security team.

While taking the CompTIA A+ certification test has no age requirement, there is a strong recommendation that candidates be at least 13 years old. It is also recommended that you have 6-12 months of experience, either in the field or in a lab before attempting your CompTIA A+ certification.

Candidates who do not pass the CompTIA A+ test the first time may retake it with no waiting period. If a candidate fails the second time, there is a 14-day waiting period before the exam may be attempted again.

Why does it matter?

Obtaining CompTIA A+ certification is the first step in proving your competence to a prospective employer. There are more advanced and specialty certifications available from CompTIA, but this one covers basic level competencies. It shows that you are proficient in the IT basics and have the knowledge and skills necessary to be an asset to that employer.

What salary can I expect?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average annual salary for IT occupations in 2015 was over $81,000. That compares to an average salary for all occupations of just over $36,000 for the same year. While these figures probably won’t match an entry level salary, it’s good to keep them in mind when evaluating IT as a career option. Glass Door reports anonymous quotes of entry level IT salaries are in the range of $24 to $26 per hour for an hourly contractor and annual salaries that range between $27,000 and $46,000.

When is it available?

You can take the CompTIA A+ exams at any Pearson VUE testing center. Many of these are located at technical colleges, colleges, and universities. You can locate the one nearest you through the Pearson VUE site.

This test is given in several languages, with others being considered. At present, the 900 series is available in English. Languages that may be available in the future are: Japanese, Spanish, German, and French.

Time Allowed

For each test, there is a maximum of 90 questions in 90 minutes. You will also have 28 minutes prior to the testing session to read and sign the “CompTIA Candidate Agreement.” You are highly encouraged to read this agreement before test day. You can see a copy of it here.

You will be able to see an on-screen clock during all but the “performance-based” questions. If you need to come back to a question, that is possible by designating it for “review.” You will be able to move an instruction window on-screen, but not close it. The Reset button only resets the question on which you are working.

Practice using our expertly crafted questions!