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So you have decided to take the first steps towards getting your CompTIA A+ certification. Certifications of this kind can open many doors for your professionally but knowing the best route to take to get certification can be a daunting task. It is my hope that this blog post will help point you in the right direction.

Of course, it would be optimal if you already had the knowledge required to pass the certification exam but for most of us, that just isn’t the case. There will be many hours of studying in preparation for the exam. There are many good options for books you can purchase to assist you but here is a list of the three that I have found come the most highly recommended:

CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide 8th Edition – ISBN 978-0071795128
CompTIA A+ Certification Study Guide, 8th Edition – ISBN 0071795804
A+ Guide to Managing and Maintaining Your PC, 7th Edition – ISBN 1435497783

All of these books are good options but you will want to do your research and decide which best fits your goals and personality. Also, keep in mind that these books are massive, one of them comes in at over 1,400 pages, but if you already know of particular areas where you are already strong, you won’t necessarily need to read the entire book. When I was preparing for my exam, I found that I was able to skip entire chapters due to the knowledge I had already accumulated through other means.

You will also want to consider the amount of time that you have and are willing to dedicate to studying the material, particularly if you aren’t taking a class to prepare you for certification. You will want to take a good look at your current schedule and decide when you will study. For some people, it may take 3 months. For others, 6 months or even a year. It all depends on the amount of time you can dedicate and how quickly you absorb the material. Just remember not to rush it and take the exam when you feel like you’re ready. You have to pay for the exam regardless of whether or not you pass and there is nothing worse than paying out and then not getting the certification. Personally, I took at class at MATC that prepared me for the exam. I spent roughly 6 hours a week studying outside of class and, at the end of the semester, passed the exam and got my certification.

Something else that I found to be very helpful in preparing for the exam was practice tests. These are very helpful with not only giving you an idea of what to expect on the exam but also identifying areas where you may need to study more. A quick Google search for “free A+ practice tests” will yield hundreds of results. However, if you want it to be comprehensive and truly give you a feel for the areas on which you need to focus, my recommendation would be to use a site such as http://www.testout.com. They do charge a fee for their practice exams, payable by credit card, but their tests are very thorough and will help you hone in on problem areas.

I also found when preparing for the exam that speaking with others who had recently taken the exam was helpful. They could give insight into the test that I couldn’t find elsewhere. For instance, CompTIA recently revamped their exam to exclude some of the older areas of focus, such as obsolete technology or RAM, and replaced it with newer information regarding recent technological advancements. They also broadened their section pertaining to laptops. Had I not known that, I wouldn’t have been able to adjust my course of study and would have been less prepared than I ended up being.

Now that you have fully prepared for the exam and are ready to take it, you may be asking yourself where you should take it. Thankfully, I’m here to help you with that. There are several locations in the Milwaukee area where the A+ exam may be taken including at the MATC Mequon and downtown campuses, the YWCA, and New Horizons of Brookfield. A complete list can be found at https://wsr.pearsonvue.com/testtaker/registration/SelectTestCenterProximity/COMPTIA/2197293. Which location you choose is entirely up to. Me? I live in Glendale so the Mequon campus was the closest location to me but you can choose whichever test site works best for you. Just make sure to call ahead and get further information before going.

You’re probably asking yourself how much this is all going to cost and, believe me, certification doesn’t come cheap. Even after passing the initial exam, you have years of renewal testing and fees to “look forward to.” Without any discounts or vouchers, you can expect to pay roughly $199.00 to take the A+ exam. If you are a student at MATC, UWM, or MSOE, you most likely will qualify for discounted exams. You will want to speak with your instructor or department head for more information. Also, a Google search for “discounted A+ exam vouchers” also produced a 10% off discount code via Pearson’s web site.

So, to summarize, here is a list of the steps to take when deciding to pursue you’re A+ certification:

  1. Research and purchase a study guide that fits your knowledge set and studying habits
  2. Decide how much time you have to dedicate to preparing for the exam
  3. Take optional practice exams to determine which areas you are strong in and which ones you need to focus more on
  4. Find and speak with classmates or friends who have recently taken the exam to get their thoughts on how to best prepare
  5. Locate a testing site and call for more information
  6. Purchase a voucher to take the exam through CompTIA’s web site or through your instructor
  7. Get your certification!

The A+ exam can be daunting but as long as you follow these steps, I am confident that you will be successful in obtaining your certification. I wish you the best of luck!

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