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Differences between CompTIA A+ 220-701 / 220-702 and 220-801 / 220-802

Note: We have some free CompTIA materials posted an we'll be posting some for both the 220-801 / 220-802. With the release of the new exam objectives for their hugely popular A+ certification, CompTIA substantially updated them for a more mobile and security-conscious business environment. Expected to be released in October 2012, the new A+ objectives imply higher expectations for the entry level IT-professional, reflecting the more competitive atmosphere of a tight job market. Overall, the objectives are more detailed and more rigorous, now expecting a full year of hands on experience, up from a mere 500 hours, though there are no explicit prerequisites. Laptops and mobile devices have their own categories now, the latter being a wholly new area of support. Virtualization support is now also an emphasized skill, as is configuring and troubleshooting network connections, and greater security. The exams have been reorganized as well. 220-801, the successor to 220-701: Essentials, now focuses on hardware and networking, while 802 focuses on OS support, troubleshooting, and security. Let’s take a look at a domain-by-domain breakdown:  

CompTIA A+ 220-801

220-801 Hardware consolidates both the Hardware section from 801 and 802 and comprises 40% of the exam. In 701, the emphasis was on identification and comparison of parts, where here the focus is on configuration and installation, with a larger emphasis on BIOS configuration. The types of hardware the exam taker is expected to be familiar with has expanded as well. Partly is the obvious inclusion of new technologies  - ITX and PCI-X motherboards, micro- and mini-SDs, and new displays - LED, OLED, and projectors. But also included is gaming equipment, including GPUs, joysticks, and gamepads. Furthermore, the examinee will be expected to evaluate hardware for customer needs, including gaming arrays, graphic workstations, home theater PCs, standard thick and thin clients, and virtualization workstations. 220-801 Network again consolidates the Networking categories of 701 and 702. The number of protocols, network types, and topologies covered has increased. Now included are  LDAP, SNMP, SMB, SSH, SFTP protocols; UDP; PAN and MAN networks; and mesh, ring, bus, star, and hybrid topologies. Router installation is now an explicit domain task. 220-801 Laptops reads a lot like the hardware categories, with the examinee needing to identify, compare, install, and configure components. But this time, they are all specific to laptop setups, with an emphasis on displays and expansion media. 220-801 Printers consolidates the Printers subsections from the 701 and 702 Hardware domains. 220-801 Operational Procedures consolidates the section of the same name from 701 along with miscellaneous operational and safety procedures found throughout 701 and 702. A greater emphasis is placed on environmental impact and controls, and maintaining a safe operating environment.  

CompTIA A+ 220-802

220-802 Operating Systems again consolidates from both 701 and 702. Windows 2000 is no longer explicitly supported, with XP, Vista, and 7 being the primary focus, including 7 Enterprise for the first time.. It is unclear when Windows 8, due to be released in October will be included in CompTIA exams. Several more command line tools are added, including ROBOCOPY, TASKKILL, NBTSTAT, BOOTREC, SHUTDOWN, TASKLIST, DEL, FDISK, DISKPART, Fixboot, and Fixmbr. The examinee should expect to be thoroughly familiar with all OS features, tools, and control panel options, including those unique to the three explicitly supported OSes. A greater emphasis is placed on security configuration, and virtualization is a new topic to this section as well. 220-802 Security is more comprehensive than the sections found in 701 and 702. It emphasizes physical security of devices, as well as proper disposal of sensitive hardware. The examinee will be familiar with common security threats, as well as be able to educate the user on best practices. Given a scenario, the examinee will be able to secure a small office/home office network. 220-802 Mobile Devices contains completely new material, though it only represents 9% of the exam contents. This domain covers both the iOS and Android operating system, and the examinee is expected to identify and explain device features, compare and contrast security features and hardware, and configure basic connectivity setup, including establishing a network connection, e-mail, and data synchronization.  The hardware lists explicitly include iPad and Android tablets as training devices. 220-802 Troubleshooting both consolidates from 701 and 702 and expands upon them. Scenario-based questions are the core here, along with some theory of troubleshooting. New topics include network issues, both hardware and software, security issues such as viruses and malware and system recovery, and laptop issues, including disassembly for repair. Hardware issues, including RAID arrays, operating system issues, video/display issues, and printer issues make up the remainder. Besides the standard multiple choice questions, CompTIA is planning on including scenario simulation questions, performing tasks using a command line shell or other simulated software. If you’ve been studying for 701 and 702, don’t worry - those tests will still be offered until August 2013.  

The Biggest Differences Between 701/702 and 801/802

To summarize, the CompTIA A+ 220-801 and 220-802 exams:

    • Are more rigorous
    • Focus more on mobile devices and networking.
    • Include support for tablets and cell phones
    • Have a greater emphasis on Winodws 7
    • Expect 1 year of hands on experience (up from 500 hours - 12.5 weeks)

Additionally, hardware and networking are now concentrated in 801, while security and OS/software troubleshooting are concentrated in 802.

The Differences Between CompTIA A+ 220-701 and 220-801

The CompTIA 220-801 exam:

    • Contains new categories: Laptops and Printers
    • No longer covers Security, OS, and Troubleshooting

Hardware now focuses more on configuration than identification, so it contains material that was once in 702. Additionally, this exam covers:

    • A lot of BIOS information
    • support for gaming machines
    • Evaluating hardware for customer needs/configuration, including both home and office and virtualization
    • Virtualization support

New Terms: ITX and PCI-X motherboards, north bridge/south bridge chipsets; BD-R/BD-RE, micro-SD, mini-SD, xD, and DL DVD storage media, GPU, Bluetooth, plasma, LED, projector, and OLED monitors; joysticks and gamepads

Networking is now more of a mini Network+ and consolidates content from 702. It covers:

    • Router installation
    • Use of hardware networking tools (crimper, multimeters, &c) shifted here from
    • Laptops (a new category - like hardware, but laptop specific)
    • Installing, comparing/contrasting,  and configuring basic components

New Terms: LDAP, SNMP, SMB, SSH, SFTP protocols; UDP; PAN and MAN networks; mesh, ring, bus, star, hybrid topologies

Printers is now similar to the printer content in the 701 Hardware section. Additionally, this section tests:

    • Printer maintenance (formerly part of 702)
    • Operational Procedure
    • Safety procedures previously tested in both 701 and 702
    • Environmental impact and control  (greater emphasis than in previous CompTIA A+ exams)


The Differences Between CompTIA A+ 220-702 and 220-802

The CompTIA 220-802 exam:

    • Contains new categories: Troubleshooting and Mobile Devices
    • No longer covers Networking and Hardware

OS consolidates material from 701. This section no longer supports Windows 2000 or ME and has a greater emphasis on Windows 7, security, and command line tools, including ROBOCOPY, TASKKILL, NBTSTAT, BOOTREC, SHUTDOWN, TASKLIST, DEL, FDISK, DISKPART, Fixboot, and Fixmbr. Additionally, the section covers:

    • More OS features/tools: device manager, local security policy, data sources, memory diagnostics, USMT, Transwers
    • Regedit, services.msc, mmc, mstsc, dxdiag (formerly in 701)
    • The use of control panel utilities (all - from 701)
    • "Unique to OS” features for XP, Vista, and Windows 7
    • Preventative maintenance
    • Client-side virtualization

Security now covers:

    • Physical security and disposal
    • Permissions, user education of best practices
    • Common security threats (social engineering, malware, phishing, spyware, shoulder surfing, viruses)
    • Securing SOHO networks

Mobile Devices is a completely new category covering:

    • iOS & android - no blackberry or WP7
    • The ability to explain basic features, establish network connectivity, configure email, data sync
    • C/c security methods, hardware differences (wrt laptops, tablets)

Troubleshooting is also a new category, covering lots of stuff from 701, but with more “theory” and scenario-based questions. It covers:

    • Common hardware issues (motherboard, ram, cpu, &c) - from 701
    • Harddrives
    • RAID arrays
    • Video/display
    • Wired and wireless network issues (both physical and software- new)
    • OS
    • Security issues (antivirus, recovery, system restore, malware removal, etc. - new)
    • Laptop (new - including disassembly)
    • Printer mainteance