The CompTIA A+ certification is a very valuable tool in becoming or advancing as an IT professional. The certification validates a person's skills in several general computer software and hardware related areas. The certification can go a long way in finding a job or improving your job position. Researching, preparing for, and completing the required exam can be a very complex and multi-layered task. From studying the exam material and practicing to finding an exam location and scheduling, there is a lot to take into consideration. In this report, I will outline and discuss in detail the required tasks for each step, and apply the tasks to my personal timetable.

As with any project, detailed research is a very important first step towards success. I believe that beginning with a solid foundation of studying and training is key. There are many tools available, both on and offline, that can prepare you for the journey. For this particular certification there is a vast assortment of books and practice tests available. Using internet search, you can find many retailers both locally and online that carry study guides. There is also a wealth of information online in blogs and forum post by people who have already taken the exams. The input from those who have passed and failed the exam can be very informative throughout this entire process.

Using the information from the above mentioned web findings, you can find a vast array of books and study guides to prepare for the A+ Certification exams. Of these books, there are three that were very highly recommended and well reviewed. The first is CompTIA All-in-One Exam Guide 8th Edition, written by Mike Meyers ($37.99). The second is CompTIA Certification for Dummies, written by Glen Clark ($20.79). The third well-reviewed book was CompTIA Certification Study Guide with Enhanced E-book, that is available electronically from Google Books ($39.99). These books were all similar in that they received rave reviews for being informative, clear, and easy to read / understand. Many of the users that had already passed the exams cited these books as being instrumental in their success.

In addition to the available study materials, practice exams are a great way to prepare for the certification exam. Practice exams come in many different formats, both on and offline. How in-depth the exams are and the material provided can vary greatly, similar to the cost. There are simple online exams such as the one found at www.aplus-certification-training.com. This site offers a simple assessment aimed at gauging overall knowledge of the exam. This can be taken without so much as even signing in or registering, however they also offer additional services. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the CertBlaster.com website has a much more in-depth offering, that includes a number off different exam sims, questions, answers, explanations, and custom feedback. This package is not free, and is offered at a cost of $159.00. The different exams should be thoroughly researched in order to chose one that most closely fits your particular needs.

Following the preparatory steps, the focus then turns to the specifics of the exam, and how, when, and where to take it. A huge factor to consider is cost. Beyond the costs already incurred for preparation, there are two exams needed for certification, and the cost of an exam is $199.00. Some companies do however offer discounted vouchers. GetCertified4Less.com, for example, offers vouchers at the discounted price of $179,00. While a coupon can be found at RetailMeNot.com for a 10% discount as well. The cost aside, the process of finding a specific location to take the exam is generally very easy. The CompTIA website has a exam location finder tool on their website. By simply providing an address, city and state, or zip code, you can obtain a list of the nearest exam locations.

When the research is completed, the steps of preparing for, scheduling, and completing the exam can be planned and executed. This may seem like the most straightforward part of the process, but there are still many variables and things to consider. At this step, laying out a detailed schedule and plan of action is key. Not only do you have to consider the steps directly tied into the completion of the exam, but also things outside of the process have to be considered and planned for. Outlining the details of preparing for and taking the exam in a specific schedule must be done. One must consider each step in sequence, as well as the cost, effort, and time each step will require.

The majority of the user reviews and tips mentioned how studying specifically for the exam is the key to passing. Personally I would place a great amount of time and energy preparing. I would allow myself a week's time of moderate effort to research the study guides in detail, to discover which would be the best purchase. The recommendations of study time varied from those who crammed the information in a weekend, to those who studied for four or more weeks. Considering my experience and familiarity, I feel that I could allow myself a period of three weeks to study and be prepared, setting aside a few hours each evening.

I would then turn my focus toward taking practice exams. Depending on my level of confidence, I would begin with some of the free practice exams to get an overall assessment of my knowledge at that point. If deemed necessary, I would look to some of the more intricate, and more costly practice exams, and use the included material to bolster my knowledge. In addition to the three week allowance for studying, I would allow myself an additional week to find and take practice exams, as well as study and reflect on the results.

In researching the local exam locations, I discovered that the exams are offered at a lot of different places. Milwaukee Area Technical College offers the exam in their testing center. The local chapter of the YMCA offers CompTIA exams as well. Even the non-profit community advocacy center UMOS, offers certification testing for the local area. Each location has certain days and times when testing is offered, but you must register in advance, no matter where you plan on testing. From the research I gathered, it is difficult to ascertain specifically how far in advance the exam must be scheduled. It is all dependent on when the exam is offered and how many people have registered at each specific location. Once I have obtained the financial considerations of the project, I would expect to schedule the exam within a five week window. That would allow a week to obtain study materials, three weeks to study, and an additional week for practice exams and related activities.