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History of A+ Certification and the Roll of Certification in today’s Job Market

0 May 2, 2013 in Uncategorized by

Holding an up-to-date A+ Certification is vital to modern-day IT technicians. The computer era was once driven by seat-of-the-pants self-taught IT groundbreakers. However, technology began to advance at an almost incomprehensible pace. The early age of computer programming and repair vanished beneath a demand for organized methods of training. Company employed technicians struggled to keep pace, and something had to give.

The roots of the change began in 1982 when five major vendors created the Association of Better Computer Dealers (ABCD). The group came together under a single goal: Find the means for enhanced IT services for vendors and consumers.

In 1993, a revolutionary change healed the riff. It came about through the hands of suggestions and actions of CompTIA, a renamed and expanded version of the ABCD.

Prior to the significant A+ Certification programs introduced by CompTIA, IT educational documentations were company related and company regulated. Most major manufacturers including IBM and Dell required prospective employees to participate in precision training programs specific to their brand name. Corporations that had shaped an IT department around the skills of self-taught individuals remained outside the loop. They were vulnerable to the introduction of new technologies that may have reached beyond the scope of their self-taught IT employees.

Strategies introduced through the 1993 CompTIA certification programs leveled the technical playing field. The vendor-neutral CompTIA training programs ensured every company of graduates that were competent in a broad range of computer operating systems, skills and technologies.

Changes Along the Way and for Today

Unless specifically studying old forms of production, repair or creation, no training program can linger in the past. Since 1993, the CompTIA exam has undergone various major changes. For example:

  • 2003 introduced a division of the process that separated hardware exams from software exams
  • 2007 heralded in the prestige of accreditation from the American National Standards Institute
  • 2009 presented new challenges due to a demand for technicians with the skills for adapting to real world IT complications

To remain relevant with current needs in the IT industry, CompTIA continues to update the specs of the program. Employers expect prospective IT administrators and computer repair techs to maintain an ongoing education. Keeping up to date is easier now than it was in the pre-1993 days, but it still requires dedication to education.

2012 A+ Certification exam updates include the following changes and more:

  • Disposal of Windows 2000
  • In-depth SOHO security
  • Handling mobile devices and wireless network connections
  • Full support for the Windows 7 OS.

(Note that August 31, 2013 is earmarked for retirement of exams 220-701 and 220-702.)

Graduate job opportunities are not limited to computer manufacturers and corporate environments. For example: According to USAJOBS Working For American, basic requirements for a recent Federal Bureau of Investigation job posting for a Forensic Examiner included A+ Certification for personal computer hardware services and others.

Certified technicians can expect to receive a 5 to 15 percent income increase over employees who lack the documentation. Currently, documented educational evidence remains a preferred method of entry into the IT field. Now is a good time for you to open your windows to opportunity.

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A+ Certification is Essential for Prospective IT Professionals

0 April 30, 2013 in Uncategorized by

The A+ Certification was created by a non-profit, vendor-neutral organization called CompTIA. This certification tests one’s competency as a computer technician, primarily focusing on the Windows operating system, however, questions regarding the Apple and Android operating systems have been added in recent years. The A+ test is a natural gateway toward other CompTIA certifications, although it is not required. Earning this certification is typically necessary to be considered for an entry-level IT position. The A+ Certification tests a broad range of topics and is divided into two parts.

The first part of the A+ Certification tests knowledge of networking, assembling, and configuring PCs, laptops, and related hardware, and the fundamentals of computer technology.

The second part of the test determines if the applicant is capable of installing and configuring operating systems and configuring standard features such as email, printers, scanners, etc. The exam also covers configuring standard settings such as email and networking on mobile operating systems such as the Android or Apple iOS.

Jobs that require the A+ Certification

According to CompTIA, an A+ Certification is a standard requirement for those seeking employment in positions such as technical support specialist, field service technician, and IT support technician, administrator, or specialist. It shows employers that the applicant has a solid understanding of assembling computers, configuring software, operating systems, and hardware. Government IT jobs usually have stricter requirements regarding certificates and education than the public sector, which only adds to the value that an A+ certification can provide.

How Much Value Does the A+ Certification Provide?

A recent survey conducted by Certification Magazine states that the average salary of someone that holds an A+ Certification is about $65K. This figure includes many people who have worked their way up from an entry-level position and have years of experience; someone just starting off should expect to make somewhere around half of that. The A+ Certification is also a starting point to numerous other certifications offered by CompTIA that can lead to an increase in earning power.

The A+ Certification by itself may not be enough to secure employment. Employers will often want to see experience and other educational credentials on an applicant’s resume. However, the certification can mean the difference between whether an applicant is even called in for an interview. Many employers will screen résumés looking for people with particular certificates. As previously mentioned, government jobs place a high emphasis on their employees being certified.

Other Information

The A+ Certification exam is a 90-minute test and requires a score of 75% to pass. It tests basic computer understanding, regarding hardware and software, which means that it will show employers that you have a good understanding of basic computer skills. The A+ Certifications used to be good for life once an applicant passed and received the certification. As of January 2010, CompTIA made a change and added a 3-year expiration policy on A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications. Certificate holders are required to retest every 3 years. Technology is rapidly changing and it is necessary to ensure that one’s knowledge remains current, which is the purpose of requiring retesting. If one holds more than one certificate, they are only required to retest for the highest level certificate held.

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Save Money Studying with a Network+ Practice Test

0 April 25, 2013 in CompTIA Network+ by

[Posted 25 Apr 2013 by Kathy Yale]

You need IT certification – maybe you’re starting a new job, or you just switched positions within a business, or company policy just changed, or you want to give yourself an edge over your competitors and add something extra to your résumé. Whatever the reason is, CompTIA offers a variety of certification exams for your career needs. As one of the leading certification providers in the world, CompTIA provides high quality, vendor-neutral – or non-proprietary – certifications that set the standards in essential industry skills. Passing a CompTIA qualification exam requires a thorough understanding of the material you need to know to do your job well, and one of the best ways to prepare for an examination is with a Network+ practice test.

Certifications Available

CompTIA provides sixteen certifications on a variety of topics and two basic computer skills certifications, along with associated courses, textbooks, and practice exams that teach the material. These range from the Strata IT Fundamentals, which covers elementary PC functions and technology, to the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner, which teaches and tests risk management, analysis, and enterprise security. The Professional series of tests deals with the technical skills needed for various information technology, or IT, jobs; it includes networking, troubleshooting, installation, maintenance, sales, communication, security, printer technology, and disaster recovery. The Specialty series is intended for people in niche markets and includes certifications for cloud computing, environmentally friendly IT, and healthcare systems. All of the material on the Network+ practice test is useful for various careers in the IT industry whether or not your employer requires certification.

The Network+ Test

The Network+ test “covers managing, maintaining, troubleshooting, operating, and configuring basic network infrastructure”. It is intended for network technicians, installers, and administrators; help desk technicians; and cable installers. Some companies require Network+ qualifications (these include Dell, HP, and Xerox), while others merely recommend it (Apple). The test has a maximum of one hundred multiple choice and performance-based (in which a simulated task must be solved) questions that must be completed within ninety minutes. The test is graded on a scale of 100 to 900 points, with a score of 720 required to pass. You can learn the material and prepare for the exam in a variety of ways: CompTIA offers books and study guides; in-person training, if you feel more comfortable learning in a classroom setting; and an online “E-learning Center”.


The costs of CompTIA’s study materials, classes, and exams can really add up. The required exam voucher for the Network+ certification costs $261 and study packs can range in price from $32 to $315. Your career’s important, but it can still be a pain to pay for all of that. Luckily, an alternative option exists: the Network+ practice test from Total Seminars.

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Why is Network+ a Pre-Requisite for Many Technical Positions?

0 April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized by

CompTIA’s Network+ certification covers the basics of routing and switching without emphasis on any particular product lines. A Network+ certification shows that an IT professional has the knowledge that is necessary for a position as a network administrator or network engineer. It’s important for many positions, because it shows prospective employers that the IT professional has working knowledge and not just an education. Because many schools don’t emphasize practical knowledge and instead focus on higher level concepts, this can be very important.

The Importance of Network+ Certification

Network+ certification in particular is requested by many employers as a general test of skills. Specifically, government and military contracts tend to request Network+ certification above other types of certification. This is because Network+ certification is vendor neutral, which means that it applies to all types of systems. Cisco certification only applies to Cisco technology, and Microsoft certification is similar. A technician with Network+ certification will therefore have a more diverse set of knowledge and be able to work with varying systems. Because the government and military have very rigid standards, those without the required certifications may not be considered for hire.

Even private enterprises often require either a Network+ or Cisco certification. While some companies may ask for Cisco certification specifically, many companies are willing to take other similar certifications such as Network+. Network+ also prepares a potential IT professional to gain other certifications such as the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification, which is often considered more rigorous than Network+.

Preparing For Network+ Certification

There are many ways to prepare for the CompTIA Network+ certification, including live classes, textbooks, videos, and online lessons. Which method is best for the test taker depends on the way the test taker learns best, but many people who are going for certifications find that it’s easier to learn when using multiple methods at once, such as a textbook and a video course. Practice tests are also available for the Network+ certification and many find them very valuable, especially those who have been out of school for a while and are no longer accustomed to taking tests.

The Network+ certification does test entry-level knowledge, which means that it’s easier for people to take when they have had a year or more of experience with networking. Any hands on experience with a live network should help an IT professional with their Network+ certification.

What Comes After CompTIA Network+ Certification

After achieving their Network+ certification an IT professional has a lot of options to continue their certification paths. Network+ certification can be followed by Cisco networking certifications for those who want to focus primarily on network engineering and administration. Those who want to branch out to other areas of the IT industry can consider getting certificates like Server+ for server administration, or Security+ to specialize in computer securities. Security+ in particular is very useful for those who want to claim military or other government contracts because it’s a prerequisite for many of them.

CompTIA certification needs to be renewed every 3 years, so those who are CompTIA certified will have to keep this in mind if they want to remain certified. Certification renewal doesn’t necessarily cost the full amount of the tests, and it needs to be done if the certifications are to remain valid. Many employers will pay for their IT professionals to receive and keep their certifications, and there are also many discounted test vouchers available through websites and vendors.

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What Makes A+ Certfication Such a Popular Credential?

0 April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized by

[Posted 18 Apr 2013 by Kathy Yale]

The Role of Certifications in the IT Industry

While education is of primary importance to IT professionals, certifications also play an important role for both employees and employers. Employers prefer to see prospective employees with certifications because this validates that they have the skills necessary to do the job, and they know how to use these skills. For employees, it allows them to test themselves on industry standards and to compare themselves with other professionals in the business. Many jobs on the market today require specific certifications to even be considered. Government and military jobs specifically put a high premium on these certifications, with one of the most notably being the A+ Certification.

The CompTIA A+ Certification

This CompTIA certification is geared to the maintenance of desktop computers, laptops, mobile devices, and printers. This means that the A+ certification is valuable for anyone who is interested in the user-support aspect of computer technology. Many large corporations require that their technicians have A+ certification for precisely this reason. While the CompTIA A+ certification focuses on general technology, the emphasis is more on PC computers running Windows systems than Apple operating systems or Linux operating systems.

The CompTIA A+ certification is an entry-level certification for IT professionals with about a year of experience in the field. However, that does not mean it’s not a valuable certification for those with more experience. Because many government jobs require it as a prerequisite, it can be absolutely necessary for someone, even with years of experience, to get this certification simply to qualify. Because the certification is geared toward entry-level technicians, it should be easy for a more experienced technician to pass.

While CompTIA certifications used to be lifetime certifications, this has changed in recent years. CompTIA certifications now expire within three years, which means that professionals that wish to keep these certifications need to re-certify every few years. This re-certification costs only a fraction of the original exam and can still be highly beneficial.

The Difference between CompTIA and Other Certifications

CompTIA, Microsoft, and Cisco form the three main certificate vendors in the IT industry. CompTIA is different from the other certificate agencies because it is vendor neutral. Microsoft certifications only test the IT professional in Microsoft products, and Cisco only tests the IT professional in Cisco products. While Microsoft and Cisco products do make up the majority of the infrastructure for many companies, prospective employers want to see that employees have a diverse skill set and an understanding of the basics.

Because CompTIA is such a general certification it has become the certification of choice for military and government contracts. However, for networking in private industries, Cisco certifications are still considered more important. Because Cisco certification is more in depth than CompTIA certification, many IT professionals get their CompTIA certification first and then later move on to the Cisco certification path.

After the CompTIA A+ Certification

After taking the CompTIA A+ certification, many IT professionals progress to either Network+ or Server+ certifications. These certifications are more advanced than the A+ certification and can demand higher salaries. Those who have successfully completed A+ certification may also advance to Microsoft’s MCSA certification or Cisco’s CCNA certification paths. Because CompTIA only offers entry-level certifications, professionals that are more experienced may find it necessary to continue with other vendors.

Which certifications an IT professional chooses depends on the trajectory they want their career to take. Those who are interested in server administration can move from A+ to Server+ or from A+ to MCSA. For those who are interested in desktop support and troubleshooting, an A+ will usually be enough. IT professionals who want to focus on networking can move from A+ to Network+, and finally to their CCNA, though Network+ alone is often enough to secure a solid entry-level position.

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Showcase Your Computer Skills with an IC3 Certification

0 April 11, 2013 in Uncategorized by

The IC3 certification, short for Internet and Computing Core certification, is a certification designed to test general knowledge of computer and Internet skills that might be useful in a typical office setting. It was developed by Utah-based Certiport, Inc. in 2000 to help potential employers screen hiring candidates for computer literacy. Since then it has continued to be an industry respected certification.

Who the IC3 Certification Benefits

The IC3 certification is designed for mainstream office employees, not just IT personnel. It is aimed at measuring fairly basic computer skills such as using email, word processing, and spreadsheet software. It also covers general knowledge items relating to computer hardware, operating systems, and networks. A basic training course should be able to prepare people for the course and students will likely already be familiar with much of the material.

As technology pervasiveness has increased over the past couple of decades, computer literacy has increased. With that, however, has also come an increase in the need for businessmen and women to be technologically competent. No office worker is now free from the need to use email, social networking, and other forms of instant communication in day-to-day activities. A lack of these skills can render any office employee virtually useless and is a detriment to anyone’s career. Mastering these basic computing skills, however, will boost productivity and perceived value by employers.

Boost Résumé Appeal and the Job Search

Obtaining this certification carries a great benefit for the job hunter. While many applicants may simply mention that they have computer skills on their résumé, the IC3 certification shows employers that you have the necessary computer skills for a job as objectively measured by an industry standard program. The IC3 was the first computing certification to be formally recognized by the now-defunct National Skill Standards Board and continues to be an important measurement of computer competency. This certification might just be the thing your résumé needs to stand out from the competition. We know that overworked hiring managers tend to quickly sort through résumés based on initial impression, and this could be the thing that puts your résumé into the pile to be considered for hire.

Prove to Employers You’re up to the Task

Getting a certification like this also shows potential employers that you are willing to take the time to learn new skills and master any concepts necessary for the position for which you’re applying. While other candidates may be just as skilled or even more so with computers, your IC3 certification shows that you have taken the time to master one skill, and builds employer’s faith that you can learn any other necessary skills. Technology will continue to change and improve in the future, and showing you can keep up is important for your long-term prospects with a company.

Whether you are already computer savvy and want the credentials to prove it, or need to develop computer skills to get a new job, the IC3 certification is perfect for you. Both groups will find a preparation course in the certification instructive, as it will prepare the student for the specifics of this certification. The IC3 certification is a great way to showcase your computer skills and get the job you’ve been looking for.

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0 April 2, 2013 in CompTIA A+ by

It seems that every time I think it’s safe to ditch content from my CompTIA A+ classes, CompTIA resurrects a zinger. One of my students recently (on the 801 exam) got a question on parallel ports, or more specifically, on LPT1. Here’s the scoop on these long-dead ports.

Early PCs offered only one built-in port, a round DIN connector for a keyboard. All other expansion devices (mouse, printer, joystick, speakers, etc.) plugged into ports of various types installed via expansion cards. The two most common ports were serial ports and parallel ports.

We used serial ports for mice and modems, primarily, and parallel ports for just about everything else. Both types of ports required assignment of specific system resources that were standardized throughout the IBM PC universe and thus got names associated with them.

It was assumed that each PC would have up to two serial and two parallel ports that would get assigned resources as COM1 and COM2, and LPT1 and LPT2, respectively. Most technicians and users called the serial ports and parallel ports by their resource names, so “serial port 1” was “COM1,” for example.

Both serial ports and parallel ports have gone away from modern PCs, but a few old devices that need them refuse to die. My office still has an HP LaserJet 4, for example, that was made before printer companies realized the money was in toner and ink. It just keeps working. And it connects to a parallel port.

If you find yourself with a legacy device that needs a parallel port, you can find a few expansion cards at my favorite store, Chances are you’ll assign LPT1 resources for the port. (Just in case you get asked about such things on a CompTIA exam in your near future.)

Technical details:
• Parallel port = 25 pin female D-sub
• LPT1 = I/O address 378 and IRQ 7
• 8-bit

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CompTIA to Add DOS Questions in A+ Update

0 April 1, 2013 in CompTIA A+ by

CompTIA announced today that they would be adding questions covering Microsoft’s famed Disk Operating System, released in 1981. “After much internal deliberation, we at CompTIA decided that the way forward is backwards. There are literally twos or threes of situations where an extensive knowledge of DOS would be vital for a modern PC technician.”

The spokesperson then continued, “For example, what if an A+ technician fell into a wormhole in the time/space continuum and had to find work fixing computers in the mid-80s? We at CompTIA strive to prepare our students for the unpredictable temporal topology that they’ll have to deal with every day as a certified technician.”

CompTIA also pointed out that DOS, a command-line operating system, is still used today in many businesses that have been cut off from communication with the outside world for the past 30 years. “It may surprise you, but a significant portion of our client base is in what we like to call ‘chronologically isolated communities,’ such as North Korea and Alaskan fishing villages surrounded by impassable glaciers. Also: survivalists who have been living in underground bunkers since the Cold War.”

This move, in addition to affecting current A+ students, may point the way towards a shift in CompTIA’s future plans for A+. At the press conference, CompTIA stated that they were also working closely with the Amish community to see how their technology needs could be addressed. Again, the CompTIA spokesperson, “We feel that an important part of studying technology is learning that technology is viewed by many as an immoral conceit condemned by God. While it’s impossible to know whether or not using technology is a sin, we at CompTIA are increasingly of the opinion that the chance is not worth taking. Future A+ updates will reflect this changing philosophy.”

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What Does a Network+ Practice Test Cover?

0 March 29, 2013 in Uncategorized by

[Posted 29 Mar 2013 by Kathy Yale]

When you are someone who is invested in getting a job in the Information Technology field, you will find that certifications allow you to get your foot in the door.  When you are considering what certifications will do you the most good, the CompTIA Network + certification, also commonly known as the Network+, is a great place to get started. What do you need to know about the Network+ and the Network+ Practice Test?

What Does the Test Cover?

Unlike the A+ certification that is administered by the same company, the Network+ presupposes a fair amount of prior knowledge about computers. Before you even start studying for the test, you are expected to have a fairly thorough grasp about basic computer hardware, basic computer safety and basic software needs. A Network+ Practice Test takes that basic knowledge and tests on you on networking in specific. You will be asked to explain what networks are and how they work. You will be tested on things like installation and configuration, and on top of that, you will also be tested on network management and security.

Who Requires the Network+?

There are many companies that find the Network+ desirable for their employees. Not only do they need to make sure that the prospective employee has a fair amount of experience in the field, the certification also shows them that you are capable of learning and being trained. Some companies that preferentially look for a Network+ certification include Dell, Sharp and Xerox.

Where Can I Go With Network+?

If you are looking at improving your job prospects in the technology field, the Network+ is definitely one important thing for you to investigate. It will help you get a foot in the door, and will show you know what you are talking about. Some positions which commonly hold Network+ certifications include: network administrators, help desk technicians, IT officers, cable installers and network maintenance technicians.

Network+ Itself

When you are thinking about taking the Network+ certification test, there are a few factors that you should be aware of. First, there are always 100 questions. The questions are divided up between simple multiple choice questions and performance-based questions. The performance-based questions require that the person being tested perform a specific task in a simulated environment. This is the practical end of the test, which tells the certification board that the person in question knowledgeable about networking. Every person is given 90 minutes for entire test, and a passing grade is to receive at least 720 out of 900 possible points.


If you are thinking about getting Network+ certification, CompTIA does have a few recommendations for making sure that you pass. First, the A+ exam, also offered by CompTIA, gives you a solid background for a great deal of the information. Second, the company also recommends nine months in the networking field before you proceed. While these are only recommendations before you take the test, following them will insure you have a leg up come test time. If need be, there are also prep classes and practice tests.

If you are someone who is invested in making sure that you have the right certifications that will allow you to move forward, in the technical field, see what Network+ can offer you.

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Zombie RAM: SIMM Sticks Linger

0 March 28, 2013 in CompTIA A+, RAM by

One of my students ran into a question on the CompTIA A+ Certification 801 exam the other day that had me scrambling for a Web search. The question asked about the type of memory used on a SIMM. What? SIMM? I haven’t talked about SIMMs in class or in print for a decade.

Historical scoop: We used single inline memory modules (SIMMs) back in the days when the fastest processor was an Intel 486 running at a whopping 66 MHz. Seriously. Today (read: since Intel came out with the Pentium CPU) every computer uses some kind of dual inline memory module (DIMM). A SIMM has identical electrical contacts on both sides of the stick; a DIMM has contacts that are unique on each side.

When my student mentioned the SIMM question, my response was historical: fast page mode (FPM) or extended data out (EDO). Those were the two memory technologies used on SIMMs. He just shook his head.

The SIMM question gave as possible answers only modern RAM types, like DDR or RDRAM.

An extensive Google session later revealed an obscure (to me) printer-only memory module on a SIMM . . . and it uses SDRAM. Here’s a link, in case you’re curious:

Don’t miss this question when you take the CompTIA A+ exams!

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