What does the upcoming CompTIA A+ update mean for you?

What does the upcoming CompTIA A+ update mean for you?


With the New Year just gone, we are only a day away from the hotly anticipated release of the new CompTIA A+ syllabus. Split into Core 1 (220-1001) and Core 2 (220-1002), 220-100x will be going live on the 15th January 2019 as an update to the current 220-90x series.

However, do not fret! You can still take the exam for the 220-90x series, but it will be retired on the 15th July. This there will be six months where it is possible to take either of the exams to be certified.

What does this mean for those who have already passed the exams for 220-901 and 220-902? A CompTIA A+ certificate lasts three years from the time of certification regardless, so there is no need to renew. However, if your certification is coming to an end, this can be done in the following four ways:

  • Take the new exam (the 220-100x series)

  • Take an exam from a higher tier (e.g. CompTIA Net+, CompTIA Security+)

  • Submit the required number of CEUs

  • Take the Certmaster program

If this all seems complicated and you are wondering which exam to take, there will be more on this later, but in the meantime, here is a rundown of what has changed with the update.

CompTIA A+ 220-901 vs 220-1001

Mobile Devices: Students will be required to know more than just adding laptop components or replacing them. They will be tested on installing and configuring video cellular cards, and Bluetooth cards for mobile devices. Students need to know capabilities to do with USB-C cable and connector specification. They will also now need to know about port replicators in addition to docking stations. However, the largest change is the inclusion of methods of mobile device synchronisation, previously located in 220-902.

Networking: In terms of hardware, students will need to know about cloud-based network controllers, along with managed, unmanaged, and PoE switches. Controlled devices are included under the installation and configuration of IoT devices, including voice-enabled devices. There are new wireless networking protocol topics (e.g. RFID, 5G, etc.). DHCP reservations have been added and knowledge of VLAN configuration and syslog is now a requirement.

Hardware: DDR4 is now included under RAM installation and cabling and connector for knowledge now requires USB-C, RS-232, and SCSI. Solid-state drives have been added along with 15000rpm speed has been added, with examinees requiring knowledge of selection, installation, and configuration. Students will also be tested on installing and configuring an eSATA card. In terms of peripherals, examinees must be able to explain the purposes and uses of QR scanners, VR headsets, and signature pads. 3D printers and plastic filament are new additions to the printer section. The greatest change can be found in section 3.9, with students now required to apply knowledge of application installations and configurations, synchronisation settings, account setup/settings, and wireless settings.

Virtualisation and Cloud Computing: While nothing new to the CompTIA A+ syllabus, virtualisation and cloud computing now fall under their own dedicated domain. The changes in terms of content, however, are minor, with a focus on shared resources and internal against external cloud computing.

Hardware and Network Troubleshooting: Troubleshooting objectives have also undergone minimal change. However, students are now required to be able to interpret log entries and error messages and apply their knowledge.

CompTIA A+ 220-902 vs 220-1002

Operating Systems: With 220-1002, what used to be two different domains on operating systems (Windows and Other), is now one domain under the title “Operating Systems”. It has been updated to include the Windows 10 OS, as well as ChomeOS, while Windows Vista has been removed. BranchCache has also been added to the list of features for comparison between Microsoft Windows versions. Eight new command line tools have been added for network access and utilisation. These are ipconfig, ping, tracert, netstat, nslookup, net use, net user, dism. Control Panel utilities now include Credential Manager and Sync Center. The kill command has been added to the list of basic Linux commands. Overall, systems will make up less of the exam (down from 31% total to 27%), but with a greater focus on understanding, the questions will likely be tougher.

Security: There aren’t too many changes here, but more physical security measures have been added (security guards, server locks, USB locks). Basic active directory functions are new under the section on workstation best practices.

Software Troubleshooting: CompTIA A+ examinees must be able to troubleshoot Microsoft Windows OS. Meanwhile, best practices for malware removal is now its own exam objective section. Mobile OS and application issues also now includes app log errors, with an emphasis on being able to use log files for problem diagnosis, again the focus being on understanding the material examined.

Operational Procedures: This is where most of the changes for 220-1002 are. This section used to make up only 13% of the exam, but will now take up 23% of the paper. The first new exam objective concerns types of documentation and best practices, including network topology diagrams, incident documentation, and password policy. There are sections on best practices for implementing basic change management, as well as implementing basic disaster prevention and recovery methods. Examinees must now be able to explain processes for regulated data pertaining to current data protection legislation, such as GDPR. They must also be able to use remote access technologies and apply their knowledge to a scenario. Finally, examinees must be able to identify basic scripting and the difference between script types (e.g. Python versus Shell).

What does this mean for me?

As mentioned before, from the 15th there is a period where the exams for both series crossover. But if there is a new version, shouldn’t I take the updated exam? If I have been studying the 220-90x series, is it still worth taking the 90x exam? Will my studying for 220-90x carry over to 220-100x?

First and foremost, if you have already started studying 220-90x, take the 90x tests. There is much more study material available while 220-100x is still fresh. It will take time for any training company or educational body to create study material of worthwhile quality. Moreover, the syllabus may still be subject to changes or teething problems. Finally, with 85% required to pass, the difference in exam objectives between the old and new material means any study for 220-90x will not be transferable enough to pass.

If you have no yet started studying for the A+ exam, take a long, hard look at both versions and decide for yourself. Which one plays to your strengths? Which do you have more knowledge in? Can I make the 15th July cut-off point?

Ah, but won’t employers care which version you are certified for? The answer: not really. Most employers will only be looking for the certification rather than the version number. Certification lasts three years, so there is no harm in going for the 220-90x series. If you believe that you can study and pass before the 15th July, then go for it. After all, in a choice between two evils, it is better to choose the known one (with study guides).


James Franklin

Content Writer


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