The CompTIA A+ certification guide (2023)
What is the CompTIA A+ certification?
The CompTIA A+ certification is a globally recognized credential and one of the oldest and most widely recognized credentials in IT. It is:
A foundational stepstone for numerous IT careers
Recognized by top tech companies worldwide
A preferred credential for technical support and IT operational roles
CompTIA A+ exam overview
The A+ certification validates your foundational IT skills, covering critical areas such as mobile devices, networking technology, hardware, virtualization, cloud computing and network troubleshooting. The CompTIA A+ Core Series requires candidates to pass two exams: Core 1 (220-1101) and Core 2 (220-1102). Both tests focus on the technologies and skills IT professionals need to support a hybrid workforce.
The A+ Core 1 exam has five domains, and the A+ Core 2 exam has four domains, outlined below.
Domain 1: Mobile Devices (15%) | Core 1
Domain 1 covers installing and configuring laptop components, understanding display types and setting up accessories such as USB interfaces and docking stations. It also covers mobile-device network connectivity, from cellular data to Bluetooth.
Domain 2: Networking (20%) | Core 1
Domain 2 covers understanding network communications via protocols, hardware and configurations. Includes TCP and UDP, used in services like HTTP and HTTPS. Know how to configure essential hardware, comprising routers, switches and access points, and be familiar with wireless standards, such as 802.11 and its variants.
Domain 3: Hardware (25%) | Core 1
Domain 3 covers cables (like USB and HDMI), RAM types, storage devices and configurations like RAID, motherboards, CPUs and add-ons. Power supplies' voltage inputs and outputs are understood — printer setup involving drivers, connectivity options (USB, Ethernet) and configurations like duplex settings.
Domain 4: Virtualization and cloud computing (11%) | Core 1
Domain 4 covers cloud models like private, public, hybrid and community clouds, including IaaS, SaaS and PaaS. Desktop virtualization includes on-premises and cloud VDI. Client-side virtualization involves VMs for testing, sandboxing and application compatibility with security considerations.
Domain 5: Hardware and network troubleshooting (29%) | Core 1
Domain 5 emphasizes a systematic approach to problem-solving while adhering to corporate policies, covering motherboards, RAM, CPU, power, storage, video, mobile devices, printers and wired/wireless networks.
Domain 1: Operating Systems (31%) | Core 2
Domain 1 topics include Windows 10 features, command-line tools, control panel utilities, settings, networking, application concepts, OS types, installation methods, and macOS and Linux features. It emphasizes installation, management and troubleshooting.
Domain 2: Security (25%) | Core 2
Domain 2 covers physical and logical security measures, wireless security protocols, malware prevention, social-engineering threats and workstation security best practices. Includes familiarity with Windows OS security configurations, mobile device security, data destruction, SOHO network and browser security settings.
Domain 3: Software Troubleshooting (22%) | Core 2
Domain 3 covers diagnosing and resolving common Windows OS, PC security, malware and mobile OS issues, emphasizing best practices for malware removal, application and mobile security concerns.
Domain 4: Operational Procedures (22%) | Core 2
Domain 4 emphasizes best practices in documentation, support systems, change management, backup strategies, safety and environmental concerns. It also covers communication techniques, professionalism, scripting basics and remote access technologies.
CompTIA A+ exam details
|Exam codes:||CompTIA A+ 220-1101 (Core 1)
220-1102 (Core 2)
|A+ exam cost||$246 each|
|Launch date:||1983||Last update:||April 2022|
|Number of questions:||Maximum of 90 questions per exam||Type of questions:||Multiple-choice questions (single and multiple response), drag and drops and performance-based|
|Length of test:||90 minutes per exam||Passing score:||220-1101: 675 (on a scale of 900)
220-1102: 700 (on a scale of 900)
|Recommended experience:||Nine to 12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field||Languages:||English, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Thai and Spanish|
|Validity duration:||Three years from the date earned||CEUs needed for renewal:||20|
CompTIA A+ exam additional resources
A+ study guides and A+ books
Books and study guides provide strategies and tips to help you prepare for the CompTIA A+ exam. You can find many at your local library, bookstore or online retailers like Amazon. A few of the most popular are:
- CompTIA A+ Complete Study Guide: Core 1 Exam 220-1101 and Core 2 Exam 220-1102 by Quentin Docter and Jon Buhagiar
- Official CompTIA A+ Core 1 (220-1101) Certification Study Guide
- Official CompTIA A+ Core 2 (220-1102) Certification Study Guide
- CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, Tenth Edition (Exams 220-1001 & 220-1002) 10th Edition by Mike Meyers
CompTIA A+ practice exams
It's against CompTIA policy to disclose actual exam questions. However, many CompTIA A+ practice exams have questions like those on the actual test, making them a good way to determine if you're ready for the real thing. Below are some of the most popular CompTIA A+ practice exams:
- CompTIA A+ Complete Practice Tests: Core 1 Exam 220-1101 and Core 2 Exam 220-1102 by Audrey O'Shea and Jeff T. Parker
- CompTIA A+ Practice Questions Exam Cram Core 1 (220-1101) and Core 2 (220-1102) Part of CompTIA Exam Cram (22 books) by Dave Prowse
- CompTIA A+ Complete Practice Tests: Exam Core 1 220-1001 and Exam Core 2 220-1002 by Jeff T. Parker and Quentin Docter
Other free CompTIA A+ training resources
- Forums: TechExams, Reddit and similar forums commonly include posts by people preparing for the A+ certification exam or who have already taken it.
- Podcasts: The A+ exam is designed to help advance your career in cybersecurity. Learn more about career and training journeys with podcasts like Cyber Work.
- Other social media: The CompTIA A+ is a popular exam, and many people have created free training videos on YouTube, TikTok, Twitch and other platforms.
Explore more ways to prepare for the exam with our CompTIA A+ resources.
CompTIA A+ jobs and careers
According to CompTIA, employer job postings for tech positions are quickly on the rise, making an A+ certification a beneficial addition to your resume.
Common A+ jobs
Some of the more commonly held positions for people who have an A+ certification are:
- Help desk tech
- Field service technician
- Associate network engineer
- Junior systems administrator
- Desktop support specialist
- System support technician
To obtain any of these positions, you often must earn a CompTIA A+ certification to help validate your knowledge and skills to employers. Check out Infosec's CompTIA A+ Learning Path to help you prepare for the exams.
CompTIA A+ live boot camps and self-paced training
Infosec offers a CompTIA A+ Training Boot Camp and self-paced training. Both have benefits, and you may find one that suits you and your schedule better. Below is a breakdown of what each includes:
A+ Boot Camp
A live online or in-person A+ Boot Camp provides five days of in-depth training. Instructors with real-world experience guide you through the material, ensuring you grasp the complex concepts needed to pass the two exams.
Advantages of enrolling in a boot camp include:
- Direct interaction: Learn with expert instructors, facilitating better understanding.
- Comprehensive training package: Instruction, exam vouchers, books, practice exams and labs.
- Enhanced pass rates: Infosec offers an Exam Pass Guarantee and allows a second free attempt if the first is unsuccessful.
Learn more about the live A+ Boot Camp.
Self-paced A+ training
If you can’t schedule a time for a live boot camp, self-paced training may be a better option. The self-paced A+ model allows you to learn at your own speed through a series of 11 courses as well as in-depth practice exams.
The advantages of the self-study approach include:
- Flexible scheduling: Train on your own time and schedule.
- Tailored learning: Focus on areas you need the most help.
- Learn at your own speed: No need to rush or slow down based on others. However, regular review is essential to retain information.
Learn more about the self-paced A+ training.
CompTIA A+ certification comparisons and alternatives
While CompTIA A+ certified professionals are in demand, it is just one of the many credentials in cybersecurity. Below are some alternatives:
CompTIA A+ vs. CompTIA Network+
Both certifications come from CompTIA and serve as foundational certs for IT professionals. CompTIA A+ is focused on IT operational roles and technical support, encompassing topics like hardware, software and basic troubleshooting. CompTIA Network+ delves deeper into networking concepts, design, and operations. While A+ gives you foundational IT knowledge, Network+ is tailored for those who want to specialize in networking. Often, IT professionals start with A+ and then progress to Network+ as they advance their careers.
CompTIA A+ vs. CompTIA Security+
Again, both are CompTIA certs but with different emphases. A+ offers broad foundational knowledge for entry-level IT roles, touching everything from PCs to mobile devices. In contrast, Security+ is dedicated to cybersecurity topics such as threat management, cryptography and identity management. While A+ might set you on a path to a technical support or IT operations role, Security+ is geared towards those aiming for security-based roles like security analysts or systems administrators with a security focus.
CompTIA A+ vs. CompTIA Server+
Both certifications cater to foundational IT knowledge, but their focus areas differ. A+ centers on general IT support and troubleshooting for a wide array of devices, whereas Server+ zones in on server support and administration. If you're aiming for a career path that leads to roles involving server management, Server+ would be more beneficial, but A+ is an excellent starting point for broad IT knowledge.
CompTIA A+ vs. Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
MTA is Microsoft's entry-level certification and provides foundational IT knowledge similar to A+. However, while A+ is vendor-neutral and covers a broad range of introductory IT topics, MTA has multiple tracks (like IT Infrastructure, Database, and Developer) and delves into Microsoft-specific technologies and tools. A+ prepares you for general IT support roles, while MTA, depending on the track, sets you on paths specific to Microsoft environments or solutions.
CompTIA A+ vs. Cisco CCT (Cisco Certified Technician)
A+ is a general, vendor-neutral IT certification, while CCT is specific to Cisco's products and technologies. A+ provides a comprehensive overview of IT support and operational roles, covering a broad scope of devices and systems. In contrast, CCT focuses on diagnosing, restoring, repairing, and replacing critical Cisco networking and system devices at customer sites. While A+ might be for those looking at a wide array of IT support roles, CCT is specifically for technicians working with Cisco products.
Explore Infosec certifications to find the best fit for your career goals.