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the exams if they follow the guidelines that I believe are important for anyone preparing to take the Comptia exams. These are things that I personally have applied in High School, College, and Self Study to help me pass my exams and I believe if followed and applied can help everyone also. I see a lot of people asking if they should attend a formal class or go by method of self study, well let us examine a few pros and cons for each. Formal Schooling Pros1. By attending a formal school it will give you the opportunity to obtain a degree and a general well rounded knowledge base such as mathmatics, english, writing composition, grammer, etc. 2. You get a structured learning environment. 3. Formal school training courses often allow students to get some hands on experience. 4. Attending a formal institute you will be able to have a professor/instructor to help answer questions you might have and be able to explain things more clearly. 5. Most school institutes have a career counsler on hand to help guide you through the deceisions on what career path you want to take. 6. Some larger learning institutions may have job placement programs. 7. Most institutes have financial aid programs and people there to help guide you. Cons1. Formal training have a large cost attached paying for tuition, books, supplies, project material, etc. 2. You can easily rack up large loans that you will have to pay back as soon as you obtain a job or graduate if you do not qualify for grants. 3. You will have to learn at a preset time frame, meaning that the instructors only have a certain amount of time to allow students to complete the chapter/section before they must move onto the next learning block. 4. Formal schooling will also put you on a semi flexible schedule, meaning that you will either have to attend 4 or 8 hours daily leaving you with less time for work, family, etc. 5. Transportation issues can also be difficult especially if you live a long distance from the learning institute or your family has only one vehicle to share. 6. A problem with some of the different learning institutes is if you want to change schools, some of the credits that you have earned may not be accepted at another school you want to attend (this varies between learning institutes). Self Learning Pros1. It is way less expensive because you generally do not have to pay a large amount of money for your books or supplies you need.
2. You can learn at a pace that is comfortable to you. 3. You can set your learning and study schedule to fit your needs for work or family. 4. You do not get yourself into debt because you do not have to take out large loans. 5. You do not have to worry about transportation issues because your home is your school basically. 6. You do not have to worry about maintaining a certain grade point average. 7. You do not have to overload your brain trying to study and learn multiple subjects at one time. Cons1. You do not have an instructor there to explain something if you donot understand the subject. 2. You do not get hands on practice like you might if you attend a school. 3. You will not obtain a degree like you would through a learning institute. 4. You have to have good study habbits and be motivated enough to learn the material on your own (in other word you can not be lazy). 5. Your family might be a distraction, meaning the kids are being noisy, the wife/husband is yelling or asking you to do some task like take out the garbage or cook dinner, etc. 6. You do not have a career counsler there to help guide you in your career choice. In the end you have to deceide which works better for you. If you are the type of person that learns better with a structured learning environment, then attend a school. If you have a full time job and can not afford to pay for school then use self learning. Both of these situations have pros and cons and must be looked at carefully to determine which one best meets your needs. In either case, there is no quick and easy way to learn the material, you have to have the motivation, dedication, and self discipline to devote time to learning the material and choosing the easy route is not always the better way to go. Learning is an individual effort and everyone has different learning paces, some learn and retain certain things more easily than others. I may have missed some pros and cons but these are the major ones from my own personal experience. BOOKS AND STUDY GUIDES Another big question asked is "what are the best books/study guides to use". The key to knowing which are the best books or study guides can be broken down into a few simple areas. 1. Always use the most current/updated version of a book or guide that is available. That means you need to do some research either online or at a local book store to find what the latest version was released for a specific book you are wanting to use. 2. The book or study guide you choose MUST contain and cover the exam objectives for the specific exam you are going to be taking, that means you need to take the
time and look through the book at each section to make sure the content is explained. 3. A good study resource should fit you, meaning that you must feel comfortable with how the content is written, explained, and illustrated. It does you no good to buy a book or guide that just rattles off information that you can not understand or does not have pictures to show you what is what. 4. It is also important to realise every book or guide is written differently. Authors vary greatly in how they present, organize, explain, and illustrate the content of their study resources. You should try and choose a study resource written by a well known and respected author and one who has a great deal of credibility. 5. When looking over the exam objectives you must also take into consideration that Comptia has thousands of questions to choose from and no two exams are ever exactly alike. Does this mean you have to learn the entire book? almost. It means that you need to pay attention to each section and make notes of the important information. 6. You might want to consider obtaining multiple study resources, because one book or guide might not cover a specific section as indepth as another. I would suggest at least two good study resources that compliment each other. For example: I wanted to learn more about creating web pages, I was familiar with hypertext markup language, but not totally functional with it. I bought two books, The HTML complete course (which had great illustrations with lots of information and software), The Complete Idiots Guide to Web Pages and Blogs (it contained easy to understand information on the important key points but did not go into great depth and had software). So you can see I bought a book that covered the information in depth and had good illustrations and I bought a book that explained key information in an easy to understand way for me to learn it so the books compliment each other. Books and study guides are as individual as the author who created them as are the individual who study them. You just have to pick the right one for you and that takes some shopping around, do not settle for just one resource. The internet is probably the greatest tool man has ever invented, because you can find tons of information with just a few simple clicks. The pitfall to the internet is that you sometimes can not always see what exactly it is you are getting for the money you pay, that is why it is important to use your local book store or library in conjunction with the internet. ONLINE RESOURCES Now that we have discussed books and mentioned using the internet, there are some things that you need to know about using some of these resources. While the internet can be a helpful tool in guiding you to information and helpful websites, it can also be a danger. The biggest danger is that when you type in the keywords in the search engine it does not determine if a site is legitimate offering good quality content or information or if it might offer illegal content such as braindump material. The following are some things to look out for when using web resources. To check to see if a site is a braindump or safe you can check the following website
http://www.certguard.com/search.asp before you use any site I would strongly suggest you checking certguard first. 1. Braindumps- Are sites that offer actual exam questions for a fee, they may claim to be a ligitimate business or website but what they are doing is illegal. You might be asking "well if they are illegal why are they allowed to still operate"? That is a very good question I have asked to which I have never received any answers for. If you use the illegal content of these sites can potentially cause you to loose your certifications or any chance of getting future certifications if you are caught. They also deminish the respectablility of the certification, meaning that employers know about these sites also and even though you may have worked hard and obtained your certification legally, employers might be skeptical in hiring you because they know people can get certified by basically cheating using braindump content. If you use these resources you are not really learning what you need to, you are basically just memorizing answers to questions and do you honestly think that is going to help you when you do get a job? The answer is no. I can almost bet that once your empooyer finds out you do not know what you are doing, you will not be working there long. 2. Check to make sure the website is reputable and well established and only use resources from a site that is legitimate. 3. Be careful when using sites that want to charge you a lot of money for software, downloads, access, etc because you do not always know what you are getting and it is very easy to get ripped off. This applies to every thing you want to buy online not just certifications or exams. PRACTICE EXAMS Practice exams are just tools that you can use to help you judge where your knowledge strengths and weaknesses are. They are not designed for you to memorize the answers to questions as that would be braindumping. You need to utilize practice exams to help you find those areas you might be weakest in so you can focus your studies a bit more in that area. There is a lot of misconception that people expect practice exams to be like the real exams and this is not true. A good practice exam should use the same format the real exams do like multiple answers, the same time line, and the same number of questions that will be presented on the real exams. Real exam questions on a practice test would still be considered a braindump and is cheating. Anyone can memorize answers to questions and pass an exam, but what people need to understand is that practice exams are just tools used for learning and to gage where your strenghs and weaknesses are. I personally think that using even the old 2003 standards practice exams can help in building your knowledge. You should take full advantage of these resources when available. You will find that when you purchase study guides a lot of them include software with practice exams on them to help gage what you have studied in from the book. LEARN THE MATERIAL Like I have mentioned earlier there is not fast and easy route to take when preparing for your exam. You must LEARN the material because if you don't you will pay for it in
the long run either by failing your exams or loosing your job you just got hired for. It seems like everyone wants to know how long it takes to study for the exams. The answer is that it TOTALLY depends on you. You are the only person who can say with 100% accuracy how long it will take to learn the material to pass your exams. I have read many posts where people stated they are going to study for a week or two or a month. The fact of the matter is that obtaining your certifications is not a race, you are only in compitition with yourself. Take as much time as you need to learn the material. If it takes you a month or three or even a year then take the time. I personally take months to prepare for my exams because I truely want to learn what I need learn so I will be a better employee, give customers better service, be proficient at my job, earn the respect and trust of my customers, etc. When and only when you feel totally comfortable with the fact that you have learned the material should you schedule the exams.
GOOD STUDY HABBITS You must have good study habbits if you are using self study or attending a school. You must take the time to study everyday for as long as you need until you have learned what it is you are studying. I suggest that you create study goals for yourself, this means breaking the what might seem like overwhelming content to learn and breaking it down into small blocks of information so your brain can digest it more easily. An example of this is say you want to learn chapter 2 and 3 in your book in two weeks. You write down on paper what your goals are "to learn chapter 2 and 3 in two weeks". Then you break it down even further for studying and learning chapter 2 one week and chapter 3 the next. You again break that down into sub categories like you want to spend 2 or 3 days on learning what cpu goes in what socket and you continue to do this until everyday is filled with a block of information you want to study and learn. The key is to make realistic study goals, ones that you can reach without compromising the knowledge. You need to write down everything and keep good records of your progress. Here are some things you need to keep a good written record of. 1. What your goals are. 2. How you plan to acheive your goals. 3. What time frames do you plan on reaching your goals in. 4. The progress you have made for each of your sub goals. 5. Keep a journal of things that have gone well in your studies, things that have gone badly, changes you have had to make, ideas for future goals, plans, daily activites that you have done with your studies, etc. This journal will help you take a look back at what went well, what didn't, how your changes effected your goals, etc. This is a very valuable tool to use. 6. Write down dates, times, places of when you reached a goal, when you plan to
take the exams, when you scheduled the exams, when you passed or failed the exams, where you took them, what times you took them, when you reached your first goals, when you plan to complete your goals, etc. You need to also include this in your journal. You also need to pick a place that you can concentrate on your studies. Some place that is quiet and where distractions are eliminated or at the very least reduced. If you do not have a place at home where you can do this you might want to consider going to a labrary in your area. You need to write your own notes and cram sheets. Writing things down has statistically been proven to help people retain what they have learned or are in the process of learning. It is like going with a hands on approach, if you work on it you will retain more of the knowledge. You may not like writing or reading a lot, but if you are going to be serious about your preparation and learning you need to quit being lazy and devote yourself to doing what it takes to learn and prepare for the exams (this applies to all aspects of life). You also need to have or develop good organizational skills. It does not help you when you have papers and notes in different places. Get yourself a good notebook that has various pockets for folders and things so you can keep all your writen work in one well organized spot. I might also suggest getting a planner to help you keep track of dates, events, etc. If you are really that into organization you can also get a small filing cabinet to help keep track of all your important files. Organization will not only help you prepare for your exams, but it will help make your every day life and work easier. You also need to take small breaks when you are studying, this will help reenergize your brain and keep that feeling of being burned out to a minimum. Get up and do some stretching, move around, or whatever will keep you from getting bored.
ATTITUDE You need to do your very best to maintain a positive attitude. You also need to stay focused on your goals. If you fail an exam, so what, study more and harder and ace it the next time around. You can not go through life and pick and choose things that are easy or quit everytime something is hard for you. If everyone had this mentallity nothing would ever get done, not to mention we would not have all this wonderful technology that we currently have. The main thing is to go into it with the attitude that you are going to learn the material and that you are going to pass the exam the first time. If you fail and constantly dwell on that fact, you will not do much better on your retake. You have to look at all the things that you have accomplished, like the fact that you have learned new things and that you are a more informed person than you were before. Some of you might feel scared or nervous about taking the exams. That is totally
natural and to some degree we all feel that way. You can not let the fear of doing something new stand in the way of you succeeding in life. The exams cost a good bit of money and we all do not want to just throw money away, so it is up to you to make sure when you take them you pass them on the first attempt, so you know what that means "study, study, study and then study some more". THE EXAMS The Comptia exams are designed to test your knowledge in different areas. You must take the 601 (Essentials) exam as a requirement and then you have a choice between the 602 (technician) which in many peoples oppinion is similiar in knowledge base to the 601 but with more troubleshooting and customer service related questions. Then you have the 603 (Remote desktop assistant) which gears you towards a career working in a remote desktop related field so you will basically be troubleshooting and helping customers over the phone or online. The 604 (Depot technician) concentrates mostly on indepth hardware and operating system aspects than any of the other exams. For more indepth details about these exams or other Comptia exams you can visit their website at http://www.comptia.org where you will find the exam objectives for download in pdf for all of the exams they offer, plus detailed information about each certification. You must complete the Essentials and the elective exam you choose in order to complete the certification process. When taking the exams you need to pay close attention to what the questions is asking in relation to the possible answers. Some of the questions are really tricky with the way they are worded, so read each of them carefully and always choose the best possible answer. If you do not know an answer or have doubts about it you can mark the question so that you can revisit it BEFORE you click out of the exam. It is always best to mark any questions you have concerns about then go back to them later after you have completed all of the questions you know. The A+ exams allot you 90 minutes for each exam with 100 questions to answer. Each question may have a point value awarded to it, some questions my be worth more points than others, so it is important to answer all of them. If you are totally lost on a question an do not know the answer then use deductive reasoning, there are usually 2 answers that are way off leaving you with two possible correct answers. Read the question multiple times and then out of the two choose the one answer that you believe to be the MOST correct one. Remember that each exam is different and may have a higher percentage of questions in a certain area than others. Some exams may consist of more questions on networking than others, while yet others may have more security or dos commands. That is why it is important to pay close attention to all the areas in your studies, because they could be on your exam. Comptia usually updates or revises their exams on average about every 2 to 3 years. They will usually give several months notifiaction that they will be doing this, so you will have time to prepare for the change. There is no time period between exams, that means if you take the essetials you will not have to take your next exam right away, but if Comptia revises their exams and you have not finished your certification process you will more than likely have to start all over again. You might want to consider buying exam vouchers which will lower the cost of the exams and save you money. Exam vouchers vary in price ranges so you will have to
do some shopping around to find the best possible price. When you schedule your exams there are two companies that are contracted to do this Prometric and Vue. They will give you information on where the nearest testing center is nearest to your location. When you schedule your exams you will have to pay for them at that time either by credit card, debit card, or give them a voucher number. If for some reason you can not take the exam on your scheduled date, you must contact the company you scheduled your exam through no later than 24 hours before your exam because if you don't you will lose your money. Comptia customer service number is 1-630-678-8300 and Prometric contact number is 1-800-776-4276 and Vue contact number is 1-877-551-7587 both Prometric and Vue are toll free, but Comtpia's customer service number is not and that is the only phone number I have for them. After you have completed the exams you will know your results immediately. You will be given information about your grade and areas you missed, etc. Your certifications will be mailed to the address you supplied in about 4 to 6 weeks on average, in some cases it has taken a bit longer so just be patient. You can log onto the Comptia official site to track your information, confirm your information, mailing address, etc.
CHOOSING A CAREER The A+ certifications are designed for entry level positions and are great stepping stones when choosing a career in the IT field. They give you the knowledge foundation to help further your career if you so choose. Some of the certification like Networking + or Security + can be used as electives for some of the Microsoft certifications if you wish to go that route. They also demonstrate to future employers and customers that you have the knowledge to do the job and you will find that you gain more trust from customers if you have the certifications. The IT field is vast and there are numerous routes to choose from. All you have to do is deceide which path you want to take and then move forward from there. If you are new to the IT field and really do not know that much about it, you might want to start with A+ and then work in the field for some time and deceide if it is something you want to do. Created by Bobby1234 2/23/08 uploaded on http://www.ProProf.com
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