New CompTIA A+ 800 Series Exam Reflects Change in Entry-Level IT Roles

by Janet Pinkerton | Oct 09, 2012

Today, CompTIA launches the CompTIA A+ 800 exam series, which adds performance-based questions, new objectives for mobile devices and virtualization, and an increased emphasis on troubleshooting. The changes reflect new demands being placed on the entry-level IT technician, who must now help integrate and manage computer networks interfacing with a wide range of devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

The current CompTIA A+ 701 and 702 exams, which focus on assembling, fixing and troubleshooting computers and feature only multiple-choice questions, will be available until August 31, 2013. IT professionals can take either series to become CompTIA A+ certified.

Exam objectives for the CompTIA A+ 700 series and the 800 series exams can be downloaded from the CompTIA website. Educational materials and training resources to support the new CompTIA A+ exams are available from a number of CompTIA Authorized Partners, including: ExamForce, gtslearning, Kaplan, Logical Operations, McGraw Hill, MeasureUp, Pearson, uCertify and Wiley. Many are available on the CompTIA Marketplace.

Latest Testing Methods

We're making sure the test itself stays current, so that the candidates who pass it are current as well.

Phil Norton
Systems Analyst, Elmhurst (Ill.) Memorial Hospital and CSTAC member

CompTIA revised the new CompTIA A+ 800 series exams to contain a mix of multiple choice questions and performance-based questions to reflect the latest in testing methodologies. The performance-based questions require exam candidates to perform a task or solve a problem within a simulated IT environment to demonstrate specific knowledge or skills.

"It's one thing to take a written driver’s license exam," says Lee Myers, a member of the CompTIA Subject Matter Expert Technical Advisory Committee (CSTAC), who helped develop the 800 series performance-based questions. "It's another thing to actually drive the car."

"The performance-based questions are a great way to show that not only can you critically analyze a problem during a test, but you can also actually do the work," adds Myers, chief technology officer and associate CIO for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

As a result of industry feedback and Subject Matter Expert input during the Job Task Analysis, CompTIA increased the recommended experience level for candidates taking the new 800 series CompTIA A+ exam to 12 months—up from 500 hours or six months recommended for the 700 series CompTIA A+ exams.

"That experience factor is extremely important," says Carol Balkcom, CompTIA director of product management. "CompTIA's authorized content partners are updating training materials to address the new objectives and approach of the CompTIA A+ 800 series exams, and the courseware and training community have a big job to do. But these 800 series exams are testing for experience, in addition to knowledge. Successful candidates will have had significant hands-on experience in the lab or in the field. "

Updated Objectives

To earn the CompTIA A+ credential, candidates must pass two exams. The objectives for the two 800 series CompTIA A+ exams have significantly changed compared to the 700 series exams.

The first 800 series CompTIA A+ exam (exam code 220-801) will cover PC hardware, networking, laptops, printers and operational procedures. The second new CompTIA A+ exam, exam code 220-802, will cover operating systems, security, Android and iOS mobile devices, and troubleshooting.

The 800 series CompTIA A+ exams drop references to Windows 2000 while adding full coverage for Windows 7. Mobile devices and virtualization are both new subject matter domains. Troubleshooting objectives are more extensive, organized by specific hardware/software areas and include new troubleshooting objectives for wireless. In addition, the security domain now includes Small Office/Home Office-specific objectives.

Why The Exam Changed

The vendor-neutral CompTIA A+ exam is evaluated and updated every three years to maintain the exam's globally recognized ISO/ANSI accreditation status. The objectives were changed in consultation with the CompTIA A+ Certification Advisory Committee, which includes industry representatives from companies such as Lenovo, Dell, Ricoh and Sharp; system integrators; and the U.S. military. CompTIA also surveyed certified IT professionals to confirm the value and relevance of the new objectives added to the exam.

"We're making sure the test itself stays current, so that the candidates who pass it are current as well," says Phil Norton, a systems analyst with Elmhurst (Ill.) Memorial Hospital who serves on the CompTIA Subject Matter Expert Technical Advisory Committee (CSTAC).

“The changes in the exam objectives track with changes in technology,” explains advisory committee member Kelly Thompson, owner of the technology services company PC Express in Ava, Mo.

"Everyone and their grandmother have smartphones now," says Thompson, who worked on the job task analysis mapping the new CompTIA A+ exam objectives to current job roles and responsibilities. "Many of my help desk technicians with only one year of experience are fielding an increasing number of calls about smartphones, tablets and voice over IP questions."

Adds Norton: "The new objectives attest to the trends in the marketplace, and with the deeper-level, performance-based questions, we are making sure the exam is the benchmark we want it to be."

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