Predicting the next CompTIA A+ Exam

Predicting what might be new, improved, or omitted from the next round of CompTIA A+ Certification exams.

Windows 8.1 Start menu; motherboard detail

CompTIA A+ Certification includes hardware, operating systems, and networking domains

Credit: Mark Edward Soper

Inevitably, CompTIA A+ Certification, the vendor-neutral certification for entry-level computer technicians, has always provided a rear-view-mirror image of computer and network technology. It takes time to determine which operating systems, products, and procedures are necessary for technicians to learn and master, and which ones are doomed to become Jeopardy questions (“Tech Fads for $200, Alex”), such as Microsoft BOB or CueCat. With the next iteration of the CompTIA A+ Certification exams expected in late 2015 or early 2016, it’s anyone’s guess what the exams will look for. However, it’s a useful exercise, so here goes.

What Should Be Added?

 In the next generation of exams, I hope to see the following. Let’s start with an easy one:

Coverage of Windows 8.1 or possibly Windows “Threshold”/9

win81 privacy settings Mark Edward Soper

Windows 8.1’s PC Settings menus can be used to configure many (but not all) of the operating systems’s settings.

Windows 8/8.1 present new challenges for tech support, and even though you can still use the Control Panel, anyone working the Help Desk for Windows 8/8.1 has to handle a lot of questions that revolve around the Start screen and its system management features.

Will Windows 9 make the cut? If it is released in the spring of 2015 as expected, there might be enough time. Otherwise, I’d expect it to show up in a refresh of the next exam, much as Windows 7 content was added in a refresh of the 220-701/702 exams a few years ago.

Now, let’s kick it up a notch:

Coverage of Bootable CDs for Troubleshooting

rescue cd creation Mark Edward Soper

Bypassing an infected operating system with a rescue CD is an important skill that deserves to be covered in the next release of CompTIA A+ Certification exams.

With malware infections capable of preventing computer access to the Internet and installed anti-malware apps, techs frequently need to create and use boot CDs or DVDs that can be used for malware removal, file copying, and disk partitioning. With the number of vendors on the market, it might make the most sense to cover basic features and generalized usage rather than specific step-by-step procedures.

Hands-on Virtualization

Virtual machine (VM) Oracle VM VirtualBox Mark Edward Soper

Creating a virtual machine (VM) using Oracle VM VirtualBox

Virtualization is barely touched upon in the current generation of CompTIA A+ Certification objectives. However, whether a tech is working a help desk, testing apps, or testing an operating system, understanding the basic process of setting up a virtualization environment and installing an OS and common apps in a virtual machine is increasingly important. I think it’s time to add to this topic.

Beyond Printing – Scan, Fax, and Copy Features of Multifunction Devices

Epson photo printer menu Mark Edward Soper

The current CompTIA A+ Certification exams ignore multifunction device functions other than printing.

Although multifunction devices (print, scan, copy, fax) devices are much more common than print-only devices, the current CompTIA A+ Certification Printing domain ignores these other features. It’s time to expect certification candidates to have a basic grasp of scanning and copying resolutions and how to set up fax services.

Cross-Platform Networking

Wi-Fi menu Android smartphone Mark Edward Soper

Selecting a Wi-Fi network with an Android smartphone

The current Networking domain has a strong hardware component, but needs more depth in configuration issues, especially given the greater popularity of MacOS, Android, and iOS devices on SOHO and corporate networks. The exams need objectives covering networks supporting multiple OSes, including basic setup, file sharing, and device sharing.

Missing Objectives in Mobile Devices

ios tshoot rev Mark Edward Soper

With the proliferation of mobile devices in corporations, expect to see more iOS content in the next CompTIA A+ Certification exams

Mobile devices occupy an entire domain in the current tests. Unfortunately, the current test objectives miss two of the most significant issues with mobile devices: BYOD (“bring your own device”) security and mobile device troubleshooting. With tablets starting to outsell laptops and the laptop market splitting into three parts (iOS, Android, and Windows 8.x/9), the mobile device domain badly needs a makeover.

So, those are my nominees for new and improved coverage. Is it time to cut anything loose?

Now Departing…?

xp vista rev Mark Edward Soper

Will Windows XP and Windows Vista continue to be covered in the next release of CompTIA A+ Certification exams?

Although Windows XP is “officially” no longer supported by Microsoft, some large companies are continuing to pay for support for their vast fleets of XP-based desktop, laptop, and embedded systems. Windows XP is also the base OS for many financial institutions’ ATM machines. CompTIA has never been in a hurry to discontinue coverage of older operating systems, so I’m on the fence about this one. However, it’s probably safe to say that if XP makes the cut for the next test round, that test will probably be the last time XP appears.

What about Windows Vista? Usage-share stats from organizations such as Net Applications, StatCounter, and others show Windows Vista with usage of under 5%, so if CompTIA feels it’s necessary to cut loose an older OS, Vista is a clear candidate.

Now It’s Your Turn

CompTIA A+ Certification is designed to be the first step for IT careerists. What do you think should be on the next generation of tests? Like my suggestions? Think they’re crazy? Sound off in the comments.

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