July 24, 2009

783 words 4 mins read

A+ Testing Experience

A little while back I, with the help of some friendly competition with Lauren, finally got my A+ certification. Well, more importantly I finally got off my rear to study for it and take the test. I thought I’d briefly share the material I used to study and what the test was like.

I read Mike Meyers’ A+ Certification Passport. I’ve got to say this is not the world’s most exciting book. The chapters get progressively longer (and seemingly more insurmountable) as the book goes on. It isn’t as dry as some technical books I’ve read, but it will test your patience and sanity to read this book. Lauren had much the same experience and we both took much longer to get through it than we expected. Truth be told, this book covers a lot of stuff that is useful to know for a first time IT Technician, but most of it isn’t on the A+ test. A lot of material on the test was never covered in this book at all. That realization (after the testing was over) displeased me greatly.

The second study aid was practice questions, which I initially got to supplement the book. I’ll tell you this, these practice questions are great; they are damn close to what is actually on the test as compared to the ones in the book, which were no where close. I’d be willing to say that mastering these practice questions will do you better than the book. Granted, while it may let you pass the test, you won’t be good for shit in the real world. Then again it is my belief that the A+ Certification is not a very good indicator of real world skill.

The test itself? Basically, you sign up to take the test at any authorized testing center by Pearson VUE or Thompson Prometric center and simply show up a little bit before your allotted time. Lauren and I were doing the testing together, so we decided to take a Friday and do both tests (You need 220-601 and one of 220-602/ 603/ 604). We scheduled one test (90 minutes long), time for lunch (another 90 minutes) and then the second test (a final 90 minutes). One thing I want to make clear: you’re allotted 90 minutes for the test itself. You can use as little or as much of that 90 minutes as you need; there is about 15 minutes worth of “other stuff” before and after. Before is mostly laying down how things work, agreeing to their NDA, etc. After is a bunch of demographic questions (who are you, why did you take the test, who’s paying for it, etc).

I took and completed the first test (220-601) in 22 minutes. I was free to leave at that point, or the proctor offered to let me take the next test right then and there. The location we went to was not busy, so this may not be the case for all locations or times. Obviously, since Lauren was still working, it wasn’t worth it, so I played around outside a bit. When we left, the proctor informed Lauren that we could come back and do the next test at any time that day, so we took her up on it. We had a quick lunch and came right back, better to get it over with.

The second test (220-602) took me 28 minutes (An entire extra 6 minutes! I had to slow down!) and was MUCH harder than we expected. I don’t remember much (if any) of it being covered in the A+ book. In addition, to screw with your confidence, they ask you questions that aren’t scored. Basically, they are “trial” questions that they want to see how people do on, for possible inclusion in the next version. I remember they asked about a specification that hadn’t even been created when this version of the test was released. Again, I finished in under half an hour (though not by much), which just goes to show how cautious I was being on the questions (Note: I’ve been doing IT stuff for 15+ years). While I passed, Lauren, unfortunately, didn’t do nearly as well.

After taking a few days off, Lauren really went to work on the practice questions I had previously gotten. After a serious study of them, she retook and passed the second test (220-602) with flying colors. We both decided that the book was less than helpful and the practice questions were the way to go. Which is sad, of course, because simply memorizing questions/answers doesn’t “teach” you anything.

Any other A+ test takers out there? How does this compare to your own testing experience?