Before investing time and money into this new endeavor, you’ll want to equip yourself with accurate information that will inform your study habits.
In this article, we’ll address concerns you may have regarding the difficulty of CompTIA A+ as well as discuss what the test will look like, the content covered, and what information you need to know prior to the test. We’ll also offer helpful study tips to best prepare you for this potentially life-changing certification.
What Is CompTIA A+?
CompTIA’s A+ is an entry-level IT certification comprised of two exams, Core 1 and Core 2. To obtain the certification, you must pass both exams.
As a two-exam entry-level IT certification, A+ will test you on a range of foundational IT topics ranging from mobile devices to networking technology. Still, it will not drill down into any single topic. Each exam has a maximum of 90 questions.
A+ is vendor-neutral, meaning you will not be quizzed on company-specific technology or hardware.
What Is CompTIA A+ About?
With a combined maximum of 180 questions in total, A+ will test you on a spectrum of foundational IT knowledge.
Core 1 will test you on mobile devices, networking technology, hardware, virtualization, and cloud computing.
Core 2 will test your knowledge of operating systems, security, software, and operational procedures.
Each knowledge domain is represented by a percentage, so you know how much of each exam is dedicated to a certain topic. Before taking the exam, we highly recommend downloading CompTIA’s list of exam objectives and familiarizing yourself with each objective.
There are two styles of questions you’ll encounter when taking the exam.
The majority of the questions you’ll see are multiple-choice. Here you’ll be asked to choose the best answer or answers from a list of options. While most multiple-choice questions only have four possible answers to choose from, some will have more than four options. An example of a typical A+ exam question can be seen below.
Question: In a TCP/IP network, which protocol is responsible for assigning IP addresses to devices on the network?
The second type of question you’ll have to answer are performance-based questions (PBQs). These hands-on questions will test your critical thinking skills and technical understanding of foundational IT. They will simulate a problem you might encounter as an entry-level IT professional.
While you may be asked up to 10 PBQs on each exam, it’s more likely that you only have to answer between three-to-six. As PBQs are weighted heavier than multiple-choice questions, the more PBQs you answer, the fewer multiple-choice questions you will receive.
How hard the CompTIA A+ exam will be, in part, dependant on the ratio of PBQs to multiple choice questions you receive. There is no way to know how many PBQs you will receive until the day of the test.
What Should I Know Before Starting CompTIA A+?
CompTIA A+ is a beginner certification that anyone can pass after studying the material covered on the exam.
If you have a basic understanding of IT and leverage the right resources, you can reasonably expect to be prepared to take A+ within a couple of months of studying. This, however, depends on your current understanding of the knowledge tested on the exam.
You don’t need an in-depth understanding or mastery of an array of IT topics prior to beginning your studies. So long as you are an everyday user of the technology you’ll be tested on, you should have a solid foundation to begin your studies.
How Hard Is the CompTIA A+ Material?
The question, “How hard is the CompTIA A+ exam?" is relative. If you’re a Luddite who eschews all forms of technology, this exam will be difficult for you (of course, you wouldn’t be taking these exams in that case, would you?). However, if you already have a professional understanding of a variety of IT topics, this exam might be a breeze for you. It all depends on your current knowledge base.
To better understand the difficulty level of A+ let’s talk about the complexity of the material covered.
As a reminder, the A+ certification is comprised of two tests and a combined 180 questions. This is a lot of material to cover. Due to the sheer volume of topics covered, this test could pose a challenge to some test takers. While the test covers a lot of ground, it treads lightly on a range of subjects. You are expected to have high-level knowledge of various topics but be a master of none.
Along with the wealth of material covered, an issue the test poses is that it often uses acronyms instead of spelling things out for you. If you look at the exam objectives page we mentioned earlier and scroll down, you will see over a hundred acronyms CompTIA may refer to in the exams. To ensure you pass, it’s vital that you memorize each of these acronyms.
One more hurdle CompTIA puts in your way of passing the exams is that questions are not asked in any logical order. Questions will bounce from one knowledge domain to another. This could trip up test takers who are expecting the test questions to build on one another and for the exam to gradually become more difficult.
On a positive note, the fact that the certification is split into two exams, each with different knowledge domains, can make it easier to prepare for. You don’t need to enter knowing everything - just half now and half later.
How Hard Is the CompTIA A+ Exam?
CompTIA A+ is designed for those with broad but shallow working knowledge of foundational IT subject matter. Of all the CompTIA tests, A+ is probably the easiest. That being said, you should not underestimate it. Here are some of the test features that could make your life difficult.
CompTIA doesn’t give out any freebies. This organization has earned its respect by designing rigorous tests that verify a test taker's IT or cyber security prowess. This is demonstrated in how CompTIA crafts its questions. Far from being softballs, CompTIA will purposefully try to confuse you with certain questions.
We advise taking your time and reading each question twice before answering. Try to think of the answer prior to reading the multiple choices.
Performance Based Questions (PBQs)
Ask anyone who has taken any CompTIA exam, and they’ll tell you the hardest part was answering the performance-based questions. These questions simulate a task you might perform as an entry-level IT professional. PBQs will most likely center around troubleshooting basic IT issues.
This is where hands-on experience with programs like Bash and PowerShell will come in handy. When answering a PBQ, take your time. It’s okay to dedicate a few minutes to answering these questions. If you feel you’re taking too long on a PBQ, you can always flag it and return to it later.
Each exam lasts just 90 minutes. That means you have 90 minutes to answer a maximum of 90 questions on each exam. For most people, this is adequate time. However, considering how PBQs will require a few minutes each, you may find yourself scrambling to finish should you answer the PBQs first.
Each A+ exam has its own passing score.
- Core 1 has a passing score of 75%.
- Core 2 has a passing score of 77%.
While A+ doesn't share official stats on the passing rate of each exam, in our research, we found that most test takers pass each exam on the first try. At the end of the exam, you will be provided with your test score.
Tips to Prepare for CompTIA A+
Here are five tips that will help you pass CompTIA A+.
1. Use the A+ exam objectives to help you study for the exam. The exam objectives are a comprehensive list of everything you might be tested on. Remember that there are two exams, Core 1 and Core 2, meaning there are two exam objectives. Don’t forget to download and study both when preparing for these exams. We recommend meticulously crossing off each exam objective only once you understand it.
2. Use multiple study resources. Using StationX courses, practice exams, and other resources will ensure you have a well-rounded test preparation. We also have an A+ cheat sheet to help you quickly understand the many IT concepts you’ll be tested on. When choosing resources, be sure to choose resources from legitimate websites and study materials that complement your preferred study style.
If you prefer learning by reading, try a book from our recommended reading list.
3. Give yourself adequate time to prepare and study. Chances are you are the only person dictating when you take the exam. CompTIA offers the opportunity to take the exams at virtually any time on any day of the week. This means you only need to decide when works best for you. After examining the exam objectives and gauging how much you already know, create a study plan.
Carry out this study plan for a couple of weeks and then determine how long you will need to study to prepare for these tests. Once you have that magic number, go ahead and book your test dates.
Remember you can reschedule your exam up to 24 hours before your exam time with no fee.
4. Decide whether you want to take the tests online or in person. CompTIA allows you to take the test in person at a Pearson VUE center or online via a proctored exam. Choose to take the exam in the setting that feels more comfortable for you. For most people, this means taking it at home. If you do decide to take the exams at home, take them in the same place you’ve been studying. This will provide you with the familiarity and comfort you need to ace the exam.
5. Take practice tests on a regular basis as a way to gauge your understanding of the material A+ covers. If you’re unsure of what you already know, take a test prior to studying. Then continue to take practice exams every week as your studies progress. This will quantify how ready you are to take the certification.
Is CompTIA A+ hard?
As we have discussed, this all depends on your prior knowledge as well as your study habits. That being said, the test itself is an entry-level IT certification that, with proper studying, anyone can pass. Regardless of your experience in IT, by studying the right resources, you can adequately prepare yourself for these exams.