Resource Review: CompTIA A+ Complete Review Guide Second Edition by Emmett Dulaney and Troy McMillan

September 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA | Leave a comment
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The latest version of the A+ exams (220-801 and 220-802) are due out in October. Many of us…ok, maybe just me….anxiously await this latest release from CompTIA.

With this latest iteration, CompTIA has dropped the test naming structures we saw in the past (220-701 A+ Essentials and 220-702 A+ Practical Application) and is just going with a number naming convention (A+ 220-801 and A+ 220-802). But that is not all that has changed: CompTIA has announced that the new exams will include performance-based testing (PBT) items. Think of these items as answering a question by DOING instead of answering a question by selecting from options. I imagine these items will involve running commands, configuring dialog boxes, and matching concepts, but I truly don’t know what they are like. Although Transcender is a CompTIA partner, the details I have about these items are few and far between. I’ll see the questions on the same day that you will, when they go live.

Now back to our resource review. The latest A+ release has been choreographed with the content publishers in a much better manner than in the past. I have been very impressed with the way publishers have hustled to meet the training world’s needs when it comes to these exams. In the past, books and study guides were often released weeks or months after an exam was released. This meant that test candidates did not always jump on the bandwagon early in the certification lifecycle. Often candidates were waiting for a book to help them prepare for the exam, which meant that certification popularity was influenced by the publication of study materials.

With the 800-series A+, trainers and early adopters don’t have the same issues. By the time these exams are released to the public, there will be several references available to choose from. Today I’ll share my thoughts on Sybex’s CompTIA A+ Complete Review Guide, Second Edition, by Emmett Dulaney and Troy McMillan.

Review Guide versus Study Guide: What’s the Difference?

I want to point out that Sybex also released the CompTIA A+Complete Study Guide, Exams 220-801 and 220-802, 2nd Edition by Quentin Docter, Emmett Dulaney, and Toby Skandier this month. Where the Review Guide is 496 pages, the Study Guide rings in at 1100 pages and provides much more background knowledge to help bring the beginner up to speed. Review Guides are better suited for experienced techs wanting to catch up on the latest A+ changes, or those who need a refresher course. Where the Study Guide may be better for self-paced instruction, the Complete Review Guide is more test-prep oriented.

CompTIA A+ Complete Review Guide, Second Edition by Wiley / Sybex

First, I have to share the feature I love the most about this book – its structure. Have you ever downloaded an Objective List from CompTIA? While it makes sense on the exam, it usually does not correspond well to an independent book reference. Often you spend time flipping from chapter to chapter just to find all the information on a particular topic that may be applicable to one exam objective. With Sybex’s Complete Review Guide, the flipping is over. This book is arranged according to the exam objecitves. Each chapter corresponds with a unique exam objective from the Objective List, and each section within a chapter corresponds to a subobjective from the Objective List. This translates into easy, targeted studying. It  also makes it easy to find information about the latest new topics (Virtualization!! Mobile Devices?!?) So if you know that your knowledge is deficient in a particular area (did I mention mobile devices?), then you can go right to that chapter and section to find what you need. (BTW, mobile devices are covered in Chapter 8, pages 363-377.)

Secondly, I love that they give you just the facts you need. This guide is very exam focused. For example, they don’t spend a lot of time explaining the history of computer hardware. If you are looking for a resource that gets straight to the point, then this guide is your choice. It guides you into a focused mode of study to help you learn the information needed to pass the exam.

Finally, the book has plenty of charts, graphics, and bullet points (charts, graphics, and bullets, oh my!) If you have read any of my resource reviews in the past, you know I am a big fan of these study aids. When you have knowledge that you just need to know for an exam, it is often easier to study if this information is in a chart or listed in bullet points. Pictures always help you to recognize hardware, ports, connectors, and the like, which is VERY important for an A+ technician.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I played a small part in the publication of this book. As you may  have noticed, Troy McMillan, a fellow member of Transcender’s Content Development team, is one of the authors of this book. Through my connection with Troy, I was able to participate as a technical editor of this book. I can attest to the effort that these authors put into its development. Because there are so many facts that you must know, covering the A+ content in a concise manner can be quite daunting. But after sharing the process with Emmet and Troy, I can tell you that these guys have done a great job!

Keep this book in mind when you decide to start preparing for the new A+ exam. It’s a great resource for getting up to speed! And watch in the coming days for my post regarding upcoming changes to the Network+ and Security+ exams.


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