Thursday, June 20, 2013

Using the A+ Training Kit

Using the A+ Training Kit

I recently received an email from a reader asking how to use the CompTIA A+ Training Kit (Exam 220-801 and Exam 220-802) book.  The two CompTIA A+ exams include pages and pages of objectives and the CompTIA A+ Training Kit (Exam 220-801 and Exam 220-802) book includes 26 chapters so it is a good question.
The book includes a CD with the following contents:
  • A fully functioning test engine with practice tests for the 220-801 and 220-802 exams. The engine includes study mode where you can immediately see the correct answer and explanation, and certification mode where the answers only show at the end of the test.
  • 196 realistic practice test questions for the 220-801 exam.
  • 200 realistic practice test questions for the 220-802 exam.
  • A fully searchable copy of the book in a PDF format.
  • A list of links to other content including multiple videos available on Microsoft sites and elsewhere.

What Type of Reader Are You?

While writing this book, I had three types of readers in mind. I expected each of these three readers would approach the book differently, but I also wanted to make sure it was useful to them.

1) Relatively New to Computers

If this is you, you can read the book from page 1 to the last page, mastering the concepts as you go.
Once you finish it, break open the CD and start doing practice test questions for the 220-801 exam. Each question has in-depth explanations and identifies the chapter where the concept is covered. At this point, you should ensure you know why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

After passing the 220-801 exam, start doing the practice test questions for the 220-802 exam.

2) Very Familiar with Computers

If you've been working in an IT job for years but are taking the A+ exams to fulfill an employer requirement, you can use this method. Look at the 220-801 objectives to see what is clear and what isn't. For any concepts that aren't clear, use the objective map at the very beginning of the book, the table of contents, and the index to identify where the concepts are covered. You can also break open the CD and use the searchable PDF to find topics.

Next, start doing practice test questions for the 220-801 exam. The goal isn't to get all the questions correct. The goal is to ensure you understand the concepts. Ideally, you should be able to look at any question and know why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect. This way, no matter how CompTIA words the questions, you'll be able to answer them correctly.

Finish the 220-801 exam and repeat this process with the 220-802 objectives.

3) Using the Book as a Secondary Source

It is common to use more than one source to study for any certification exam. If a topic isn't clear, you can use the second book to get another author's perspective. Use the objective map, the table of contents, the index, and the searchable PDF to identify where any topic is covered.
You can also use the practice test questions on the CD to help you prepare.

How is the A+ Training Kit Organized?

When I first started planning the book, my primary goal was to present the material in a logical order so that they made sense to just about any reader. Of course, I covered all the objectives, but for this book I didn't follow the order of the objectives. Topics in Domain 1 covered BIOS, motherboards, RAM, CPUs, chipsets, power, fans, front panel connectors, bus speeds, expansion cards, storage devices, cooling methods, interfaces, and custom configurations.

Instead, I outlined four major sections of the based on the A+ objectives for both exams. My section labels were helpful to me as I created the chapters and organized the book, but the section labels were cut somewhere in the editing process. Here are the four sections:

A+ Training Kit Section 1 - Hardware

The first ten chapters are focused on hardware components and troubleshooting them. These topics are heavily tested in the 220-801 exam, and advanced concepts are tested in the 220-802 exam. For example, the Troubleshooting domain in the 220-802 exam comprises 36% of the exam and expects you to know how to troubleshoot almost all of the hardware covered in the 220-801 exam.
  • Chapter 1 Introduction to Computers
  • Chapter 2 Understanding Motherboards and BIOS
  • Chapter 3 Understanding RA M and CPUs
  • Chapter 4 Comparing Storage Devices
  • Chapter 5 Exploring Peripherals and Expansion Cards
  • Chapter 6 Exploring Video and Display Devices
  • Chapter 7 Exploring Printers
  • Chapter 8 Working with Laptops
  • Chapter 9 Understanding Mobile Devices
  • Chapter 10 Working with Customers

A+ Training Kit Section 2 - Operating Systems

The next seven chapters focuses on Windows operating system topics. The 220-802 exam includes the Operating Systems domain which is 33% of the exam.
  • Chapter 11 Introducing Windows Operating Systems
  • Chapter 12 Installing and Updating Windows Operating Systems
  • Chapter 13 Using Windows Operating Systems
  • Chapter 14 Using the Command Prompt
  • Chapter 15 Configuring Windows Operating Systems
  • Chapter 16 Understanding Disks and File Systems
  • Chapter 17 Troubleshooting Windows Operating Systems

A+ Training Kit Section 3 - Networking

Section 3 includes seven chapters on networking topics.  Networking is 27 percent of the 220-801 exam. These topics are also interspersed in various objectives in the 220-802 exam.
  • Chapter 18 Introducing Networking Components
  • Chapter 19 Exploring Cables and Connectivity
  • Chapter 20 Understanding Protocols
  • Chapter 21 Comparing IPv4 and IPv6
  • Chapter 22 Network Security Devices
  • Chapter 23 Exploring Wireless Networking
  • Chapter 24 Connecting and Troubleshooting a Network

A+ Training Kit Section 4 - Security

The last section includes two chapters on security. The 220-802 has a heavy focus on security. The security domain is 22 percent of that exam, and security topics are sprinkled throughout the objectives.
  • Chapter 25 Understanding IT Security
  • Chapter 26 Recognizing Malware and Other Threats

Practice Test Questions for your Mobile Device

If desired, you can also complement the A+Training Kit with additional practice test questions. Learnzapp has published some great apps for most mobile devices to help people study practice test questions while on the go. Search the app store with "Learnzapp A+".