Home > Articles

What's New and What's Changed in the CompTIA A+ 220-901 Exam

  • Print
  • + Share This
Timothy Warner, a CompTIA A+ certified professional for over a decade, has seen a lot of changes in the A+ exams over the years. Tune in to learn how CompTIA has improved on its 220-801 exam, giving the new 220-901 replacement a sharper focus on the breadth of today's computing technology.
Like this article? We recommend

CompTIA released a new version of its A+ computer repair certification (see Figure 1) on December 15, 2015. Whether you're currently preparing to pass the old 220-801 test or you're considering the new 220-901 version, you probably want to know what's new and what's changed in the exam. Let me help you with that!

Figure 1 The CompTIA A+ logo is displayed on all approved courseware.

What's Stayed the Same

Let's begin by considering what hasn't changed between the 220-801 and 220-901 tests. First of all, you still need to pass two exams to earn your A+ credential. Here's the breakdown:

  • The 220-801/901 exam is colloquially called the "hardware" exam because its objectives deal primarily with computer hardware identification and troubleshooting.
  • The 220-802/902 exam is affectionately referred to as the "software" exam because its content centers on operating system support.

In this article, we'll cover the hardware exam, and Part 2 of this series will discuss the 220-902 software test.

You'll find generous A+ exam details on CompTIA's A+ website, so I'll just give you a quick-and-dirty "punch list" here of some of the main points:

  • The A+ certification expires after three years. But CompTIA gives certification recipients many ways to renew their credentials.
  • You register for your A+ exams through Pearson VUE. CompTIA has an exclusive relationship with Pearson VUE; you can't register for CompTIA tests with Prometric.
  • The A+ exams include performance-based items. In addition to the traditional multiple-choice items, you can expect to see interactive items that require you to perform a given configuration or troubleshooting task in a simulated environment. For example, you may be required to configure a Windows 8.1 computer with a static IPv6 address, as shown in Figure 2.
  • Figure 2 The CompTIA A+ exams include performance-based items.

801 Versus 901: High-Level Differences

You can (and should) download the CompTIA A+ 220-801 and 220-901 objective blueprints and study them thoroughly. Figure 3 compares the objective domains from the two exam versions.

Figure 3 Comparing the old and new A+ hardware exams.

One aspect that stands out immediately is that CompTIA has reduced the number of content domains from five to four. The exam still has big sections for hardware and networking, but the 901 exam adds a new domain for mobile devices and includes a separate troubleshooting domain. In previous A+ versions, troubleshooting theory and practice appeared only in the software test objectives.

Here's what I identify as the high-level trends in the 220-901 certification exam blueprint:

  • The coverage of computer hardware is now much broader, taking into account laptops and mobile devices such as phablets, tablets, and smartphones.
  • CompTIA made a concerted effort to remove references to antiquated technology; you won't see content related to SDRAM, CRT displays, floppy drives, PCMCIA cards, or IDE interfaces.
  • Computer hardware is framed in a 21st-century context; in other words, the objectives deal not only with on-premises equipment but also virtualized and cloud-based systems and services.
  • Printing as a subject is interwoven more uniformly across both new A+ exams. For instance, you need to understand how to manage printing from mobile devices as well as how to deploy Internet-based printing.

I'm really pleased with how CompTIA has updated these exams. As an A+ certified professional since 1999, I've seen the tests evolve over time. In my experience, the CompTIA A+ exams held on to legacy hardware and software for much too long. Kudos for not forcing us to memorize IRQ IDs anymore!

Next, let's spend a bit of time looking at the details of each 220-901 content domain.

Domain 1.0: Hardware

The change in name from "PC Hardware" to "Hardware" should raise some red flags for you. Sure enough, you'll need to go beyond desktop computer motherboards and hardware components to embrace laptops, sub-notebooks, ultrabooks, phablets, tablets, and smartphones.

The main emphasis remains on full-sized computers, but CompTIA realizes that many of its A+ candidates will work in "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) environments that require them to perform warranty repair on mobile devices.

This domain also sneaks in the printing process and printer components. A+ veterans already know that the laser printing process has been a long-standing A+ objective, and that's still true. However, don't forget about other types of printers, including thermal, inkjet, and dot matrix (yes, they're still around).

In keeping with contemporary computer-hardware trends, you'll see lots of UEFI firmware coverage, and not so much of the legacy BIOS. Old bus architectures like AGP have also (blissfully) gone the way of the dodo.

Domain 2.0: Networking

CompTIA no longer requires certification candidates to know the IPv4 address classes and traditional network topologies. After all, CompTIA offers the Network+ credential for entry-level network specialists. I think CompTIA now wants A+ professionals to focus not on the network as a whole, but rather on the "care and feeding" of individual networked devices.

The new exam also dispenses with older, unpopular protocols such as WiMAX and adds coverage of current standards like the IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi protocol. You'll also need to understand and apply the latest-and-greatest Ethernet cable standards such as Category 6e and 7a in real-world network support situations.

Domain 3.0: Mobile Devices

The Mobile Devices domain is brand new in the 901 exam and contains the bulk of the new content. To earn your A+ certification, you'll need to become a power user of mobile devices running the following operating systems:

  • Apple iOS
  • Google Android
  • Windows Phone

I'll have more to say on mobile operating systems when we cover the 220-902 exam in Part 2 of this series. For the 901 exam, you'll need to identify a blistering array of mobile hardware, including but not limited to the following devices:

  • Tablets, phablets, and smartphones
  • Wearable tech (smart watches, fitness bands)
  • Home and vehicle automation devices (smart cameras, GPS)

You'll also need to know how mobile devices interact with their owners as well as with other hardware; namely, the use of Bluetooth, infrared, and IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi, with and without tethering.

Domain 4.0: Hardware & Network Troubleshooting

As mentioned earlier, CompTIA finally recognized that its six-step troubleshooting model should be part of both the hardware and software exams. This is a big domain, with a lot to understand. Your starting point is understanding the CompTIA troubleshooting model itself, but you'll also be required to apply those steps in the context of computer- and network-related problems.

CompTIA added a bunch of command-line utilities to the exam objectives. You need to get up to speed with working from the command line, not only in Windows, but in Linux and Apple OS X. (For instance, do you use ipconfig or ifconfig to view the TCP/IP configuration of a Windows-based computer? How about an iMac?)

Next Steps

The 220-801 exam retires on June 30, 2016 for the English test and on December 31, 2016 for all other languages. My advice: If you're at least 50% prepared for the 800-series exams, go ahead and certify with the old objectives. Both the 800 and 900 A+ versions expire after three years, and I seriously doubt that any IT hiring manager will ask, "Do you have the 800- or 900-series A+ certification?"

On the other hand, if you're just beginning your A+ certification preparation, I suggest that you focus on the 900-series tests to ensure that your technology knowledge is current.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Pearson IT Certification Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Pearson IT Certification and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Pearson IT Certification products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.pearsonitcertification.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020