CompTIA’s new A+ exams, 220-1001 and 220-1002, went live on January 15. It’s been four years since the 900-series took over the 800-series — about a year longer than usual. So, there was plenty of anticipation about what the new exam would look like.
Here’s the lowdown: There are new objectives, an increased focus on cybersecurity, and a lot more OSes you need to know.
With these new exams come surprising changes to both material and expectations. Let’s take a look at several common reactions to the new exams — and break down what they mean for you.
Reaction #1: The new exams are harder.
It’s true, there are added objectives on the new tests. One big addition comes to the 1001 test in the form of a new set of “Virtualization and Cloud Computing” objectives. They cover topics such as cloud models (IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, etc.), cloud resource terminology (elasticity, pooling, etc.) virtual applications and desktops, cloud file storage, and hypervisors.
This is actually a welcome change — and adds sophistication to the A+. Historically, the cert was much more “desktop support engineer-focused.” It emphasized replacing hard drives and reinstalling operating systems.
It’s encouraging to see CompTIA introducing cloud knowledge as an entry-level skill. It also leads us to wonder if this could help increase the value of A+ certification. We all know that the cloud has encompassed a growing list of IT sectors. So, cloud knowledge being emphasized more on the new A+ exams should make the certification more desirable to IT professionals and employers.
Another content shift lies with cybersecurity. It’s not a new objective, but there is a greater emphasis on security for the new tests. Now, you need to know how to remove and prevent threats, not just recognize them. Again, we applaud expanding the scope of what is considered entry-level. There’s even a whole section devoted to best practices surrounding malware removal and prevention.
Reaction #2: These are wide and deep exams
We loved one Redditor’s reaction to the CompTIA A+ 220-1001 and 220-1002 beta exams. They called the second exam crazy because the questions felt like they were pulled from a Microsoft or Linux exam.
Some exams go wide, like CISSP. Other exams go deep, like the MCSA. Taking a look at the 220-1002 exam objectives, the new A+ seems to go both directions in the context of foundational knowledge.
The 220-1002 exam really drills down into Microsoft products.
For instance, Section 1.0 starts with comparing Windows version and then takes a deep dive into command line scenarios, utilities, and permissions. We took a look side-by-side at the course objectives for A+ and the Microsoft Exam 70-698. The MCSA exam goes into much greater detail about Windows 10 minutiae, but it does look familiar.
As for Linux LPIC, the Redditor was likely referring to Section 1.9 of the 220-1002 exam. It’s no longer enough to know that Linux is an open source OS that’s a viable alternative to Windows. CompTIA expects test takers to understand Linux-specific features and commands.
You’ll encounter a lot of that same content on the Linux LPIC-1 exam. A quick example, Topic 103 of the LPIC-1 exam objectives covers GNU and Unix Commands. Several of the commands you’re expected to know how to use: pwd and cp. Guess what? The CompTIA A+ 220-1002 exam demands the exact same. It’s worth noting the LPIC-1: Linux Administrator certification isn’t even Linux’s entry-level cert.
There’s more material to cover, no doubt about it. The new CompTIA A+ exams are not surface-level; they go deep — and you need to be prepared for that.
Reaction #3: No real difference between the old and new exams
This is a common reaction to a new exam dropping — and there are similarities. The passing scores are still the same for the exam series — 675 and 700, respectively. But we’d argue that quite a bit has changed. Just look at the course objectives for the CompTIA 220-901:
Mobile Devices 17%
Hardware & Networking Troubleshooting 28%
Now take a look at the Core 1 (220-1001).
Mobile Devices 14%
Virtualization and Cloud Computing 12%
Hardware & Networking Troubleshooting 27%
Yes, there is quite a bit of overlap in content. However, these are clearly different exams with the inclusion of the virtualization and cloud computing domain. Since the exams are still 90 questions, CompTIA had to do some shuffling to go both deeper and wider.
To pass these exams, you’ll need to do more than just memorize concepts and terms. You’ll need to be able to successfully apply your knowledge to real-life scenarios.
Reaction #4: I’m already studying for old exams, I am staying the course.
Everyone currently studying for the A+ is asking whether they should take to old tests before they retire. Seriously. Take a look at the new exam announcement from CompTIA. About 90 percent of commenters ask this question.
There are two options here: Take the new exams or take the old exams.
Stay the course. The 900-series exams retire on July 15, 2019. In our recent survey, we found that more than half of test takers spent longer than two months studying for each of the two A+ exams. Since you have to pass both exams to earn the certification, you still have time. But it might be close. If you’ve already completed one exam, then you should be good — as long as you pass.
Take the new exams. The new exams are available, but the best training material might not be. Training providers learn about course retirements with everyone else, and it takes a little while to develop quality training. The 900-series tests (and study material) have been around for years, including CBT Nuggets courses here and here. If you’re in a hurry, stick with the old tests for now.
With either option, you’ll end up A+ certified — and its valid for three years. For all the reasons we’ve looked at, the new CompTIA A+ exams are a welcome and valuable change to the certification landscape. But don’t kid yourself, finding time to study can be hard. If you’ve already started with the old material, stick with it.
Our Reaction: Just go for it!
Don’t freak out about this change-up to the CompTIA A+ certification. Certifications are updated constantly. Pick which exams to take, get your study materials, set a test date, and just do it.