Notable Changes to the Printing Domain for A+ Certification
- By Emmett Dulaney
- May 01, 2012
CompTIA’s A+ is an entry-level certification intended to measure core competencies of IT professionals. Because of this, it is one of the most popular certifications in the industry and a requirement for many entry-level positions. At one point in the past, those who earned the certification were certified for life, but with the ISO 17024 accreditation, lifetime certification went by the wayside. Now, approximately every three years, CompTIA updates the A+ certification exams with a new version, and the latest entries are scheduled to go live in the third quarter of 2012. Of particular focus in this article are the changes in the topic of printing.
;In order to become certified via the tests that come out later this year, candidates will be required to pass two exams: 220-801 and 220-802. The topics on the exams are intended to be mutually exclusive, so printing does not appear on the latter exam but is a domain of its own on 220-801 and is weighted as 11 percent of the exam. We will look at what topics are covered in this 11 percent later.
The retiring versions of the certification exams are: 220-701 (known as A+ Essentials) and 220-702 (known as A+ Practical Applications). An update to each was done in the past three years, and while each is still in the “2009 Edition,” they are also in “Version 2.0.” In this series of exams, the topics are anything but mutually exclusive: The first exam is intended to cover the basics, while the second focuses on the application of what you should know. Because of that, there is a great deal of overlap between them. Printing is not a standalone domain but appears in three locations, as the table at the bottom of the page illustrates.
Preceding that (approximately three years ago), candidates took the 220-60x series of exams. In this iteration of the certification, there were four exams. One of the exams (known as Essentials) was required, and then candidates had to choose which other exam they wanted to take from the three electives. The topic of printers was combined with scanners to create a standalone domain on every one of the four exams, and there were very few questions on scanners, so you had to know printing fairly well, as the following table illustrates:
It is possible to go back even further and look at the history of the exams, but the salient point lies in these three iterations: Printing was a standalone domain; it stopped being such in the current versions of the exams but is now going back to standing alone in upcoming versions. It will now be worth 11 percent of one of the two required exams.
Before leaving the topic altogether, it is worth noting that A+ is not the only CompTIA entry that relates to printing. They do have their own certification and exam on printing and document imaging (PDI+) for those who specialize in the field (see http://certification.comptia.org/getCertified/certifications/pdi.aspx for more information).
On the new exam
The following table lists the objectives beneath the Printers domain and the topics and elaboration currently existing on the Objective list:
There are three things within the table that merit focusing on: terminology, operating systems and the pairing of the words “scenario” and either “install” or “perform.” In terms of terminology, some readers, no doubt, could not make it through the table without getting their ire up. “Print head alignment,” one might argue, is the process that should be beneath inkjet printers and not “calibration.”
CompTIA exam objectives are historically poorly written. It is important to look at them from the standpoint of what they are trying to accomplish as opposed to what they literally say. One key to success is to always think of the questions on the exams in terms of what they want you to broadly know and not on the lack of meticulous phrasing.
The second item of note is that to know the “Operating System settings,” you need to know three different versions of the Windows operating systems and a number of editions for each. During updates (which can happen during the three-year span between exam changes), the operating systems can change, but the following table shows those you will need to know when the exam goes live:
There are quite a few changes in the Control Panel applets between these versions, and it would pay to run through them a few times before taking the exam. As an example, Windows XP alone has the “Printers and Faxes” applet; in Windows Vista, it is “Printers”; and in Windows 7, it is “Devices and Printers.” Be familiar with where the sharing configuration for the printer in each operating system is, etc.
Lastly, two of the three objectives are phrased using the words “Given a scenario” and then a verb (“install” or “perform”). This is meaningful because the A+ exams historically have always been multiple-choice, but that is changing. A short while ago, CompTIA rolled out a new certification/exam combination called the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) that differed from other entries in that it contains performance-based questions. It has been announced that this new (at least to CompTIA) format of questions will be incorporated into other certification exams they offer, and A+ is the next one in line. Instead of just asking you to choose the correct answer from A through D, you are told to perform an action in a simulation engine and are then evaluated on whether you performed the right action and did so following the right procedures. Purely hypothetically, you could be told to turn on sharing for a locally installed printer in Windows Vista, for example, and then be expected to do so by specifically opening the Printers applet in the Control Panel, right-clicking on the printer in question, choosing Sharing from the pop-up menu and making the configuration changes specified in the scenario.
The A+ certification from CompTIA authenticates necessary competencies at an entry level for those in the IT field. With the latest version of the two required exams coming out in the third quarter of this year, the topic of printing has once again been elevated to a standalone domain. When preparing for the exam, expect questions on printing to include more than just multiple-choice ones, and be sure to know three versions of the Windows operating system well.
This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Recharger.