Is CompTIA A+ Hard? My first cert
Confession: I have never lost hair while studying for any IT certifications. But I have gone through worthwhile frustrations being a pizza driver to becoming a highly paid technologist. It all started with studying for the CompTIA A+. Like many of you, I also wondered then, is CompTIA A+ Hard?
CompTIA A+ is difficult for first time certification takers, but easier if they have had a working interest in computer technologies. Regardless, the general consensus of Reddit, Quora, and InfoSecInstitute, CompTIA A+ is the easiest to understand as the wide breadth of topics are covered at a surface level.
When I first started studying for the A+, I had just started transitioning out of being a pizza delivery driver. I remember it being less complicated, and more of ‘there’s so much to study!’ So that’s what I did. A lot of A+ reading, watching videos, and taking notes followed months after.
Memorizing Questions Enough to Pass the A+?
Yes. Maybe. No.
The real answer is, it depends. Let’s say you have had years of IT experience. You could probably get away with studying by way of memorizing flash cards. There are so many practice exams you can get. Chances are, once you memorize 500 questions you’ll have an intuitive idea of how things piece together. So, the CompTIA A+ may not be the most difficult thing for you.
On the other hand, if you’re totally new to the IT world, or the certification game, memorizing questions will not be enough. Largely because you will not have a fundamental understanding to build intuition from brute force practice exam question memorization. For you, you will need to put more effort. Just like me.
That’s not to say that memorizing questions is something you shouldn’t do. For a new person, it’s just something you should pick up later. My suggestion would be, finish the first video course or book that goes through an A+ test in it’s entirety. Then, you can start studying by memorizing questions as a supplement.
Memorizing A+ questions can be enough for those with experience, but those without will need to use the memorization approach as a supplement.
A+ Can be Harder than the Network+ or Security+
I remember the A+ being one of the hardest certification I had to get. Again, like I said earlier, it’s not because of the complexity. It was the hardest certification to get because it was one of my very first certifications and it had two parts to it!
Unlike the Network+ or Security+, the CompTIA A+ is a two part exam. In order to become certified you’ll have to go into your testing center at least twice to obtain the certificate.
If it’s your very first certificate, the whole process is so new that it feels difficult. That’s how it was for me. I was not used to taking certifications or studying for them. It was a meta muscle I had to build. I think that’s why I remember Network+ and Security+ as easier tests to take. I was already used to the process.
A good approach to taking the A+ if it’s overwhelming to you, is to see it as a mental muscle you’re building. You’re getting stronger in the length and depth of your studies. You’re able to improve on your patience for the weeks and months it takes to study. Once you’ve developed this muscle, there is a point where you’ll see more complex topics like the Security+ and Network+ easier to study and easier to take.
A+ Exam Objectives – Gauge the Difficulty
You can gauge the difficulty of your A+ studies by taking a look at the objectives. It’s a good place to dip your toes in to gauge the exam. It will help limit the intimidation factor since you have a more specific idea of what will be in it.
First off, you will notice that the exam covers a lot of topics. Some topics you’ve heard of before, and others not so much. Don’t worry about the ones you haven’t heard of before. Every single objective on the exam is not a thorough dive into that topic.
Like myself and people posting their experiences on forums like Reddit, you will begin to notice that the A+ is a mile wide and an inch deep. The purpose of the exam is not to make you an expert in each objective, but rather prime you for it.
So without further adieu, below is what you can expect.
- Hardware Knowledge
- Network Technology Devices
- Mobile Devices
- Network Troubleshooting
- Cloud Computing
- Software Knowledge
- Installing OS
- Configuring OS
- Technology operations and procedures
- Technical Security
Study Materials that Doesn’t Cause Hair Loss
You probably just read the objectives and ready to pull your hair out because of the overwhelm. Don’t do that. It’s not going to help. Besides, it really isn’t as bad as it seems.
Have a plan, and you’ll get through it. After all the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
First step is figure out how you like to learn. Are you a reader? Or are you more inclined to watch videos when you study? Most people find it easier to study with video based learning. You should then spend most of your time doing that.
Whether you prefer to watch videos or read books for your studies, you will need to interact with the material. You can do that best by taking notes for your future review.
That brings me to step two: get a notebook to take notes with. When I’m in study mode I initially like to take notes about what I’m reading or watching. Here’s how I take notes, feel free to copy:
- Take notes while I’m reading or watching
- After finishing my study session, I’ll review my notes
- I then write one or two sentences in sections I expand on
- Then I’ll highlight what I find important
- Wait a week, or more. I then go back and review the notes, and write a paragraph for each section
This note taking system is pretty flexible. But the idea behind it is to enforce what you’ve learned into long term memory. Having a space of time to review the material again helps ingrain this.
Step three is to choose your study materials. Depending on how you like to learn, you’ll need to get at least two study courses (ie two books for readers, or two video courses for the other). You can’t rely solely on one material.
Step four is to using practice exams. This brings us back to learning by memorization. You will need to fail your practice exams until you have memorized it. This will harden and create intuitions for you from the study materials you’ve been learning.
Career Climbing with the A+ (And a Plug)
After you get the A+ certificate, it’s a good idea to transition into an IT job if you haven’t already. It may not be the career you’ll stick to, but it’s a place where you can start getting experience.
For me, I transitioned from delivering pizzas. Any technology experience would be useful for my future.
Here are some opportunities you can get with the A+:
- Help Desk
- Field Service Technician
- Desktop Support
- A+ Tutor
If you already have some experience in IT or have other certifications under your belt, then why not begin to hone the craft that will take you to your next job hop. Will it be for the same company? Better. Else, it’s okay to find another employer more aligned with your goals.
If you’re interested in career climbing, please consider my e-book “6-Figure Guide to Info Tech.” It’s one way you can support my writing. I’ve put years of IT insight into this e-book for the price of a coffee.