Welcome to earning a CompTIA certification from A to Z. Think of this earning a CompTIA certification guide as a roadmap or playbook to getting your first or next CompTIA cert.
I’ve always felt weird about reading study tips or career advice, mostly because I’ve always been able to spot bad advice and seemingly able to find “good” advice and follow it to no avail.
If you feel like that, just know that you are cutting your learning curve and avoiding “gotchas” and other rookie mistakes by learning from someone who’s been there before.
Table of Contents
1. Look at Job Requirements and Your Future Goals
I love CompTIA. I think they are doing great things. With that being said, I don’t recommend you start collecting their certs just because. Don’t get a certification because it’s available. Get it because it helps you meet your career goals. This will make earning a CompTIA certification that much more meaningful.
If you get a recommendation to get a certification, be sure to verify that it can actually help achieve your goals. Yes, I mean that even if the advice to get a cert comes from me.
If you’re wanting to enter the cybersecurity arena, use sites like Cyber Seek to see the supply and demand of security certs such as the picture below.
2. Choose a Certification That’s Right for You
If you are just getting started in IT, a certification could literally be the difference maker in getting an interview or not. It makes you competitive and shows how far you are willing to go to learn. The A+ certification and how I was able to translate that knowledge to my own experiences helped me get my first corporate IT job out of college.
Besides seeing what’s needed to progress in your career, go to CompTIA’s Certifications page to see what the current offering is.
Don’t be surprised that you discover multiple certs are needed or required in this phase. None of them require each other but they do build on each other.
3. Look at Expected Knowledge and Experience
Look at the exam structure and see what and how much information is involved.
After reviewing the expected requirements and knowledge levels, check out the exam objectives.
Don’t slouch on the exam objectives. Everyone will tell you to use them as a study guide, even if it’s a simple checklist to make sure you have learned all the material. If you never look at them, you are making the certification process much harder than it needs to be.
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4. Make a Decision
Is this something you really want to do? Is this something that will help you in the long run?
If so, make a commitment to learn what you need to move forward. Set a target exam date and put it in your calendar. It will be challenging at first, but eventually, it won’t be a hard decision to study. It will be automatic.
5. Make a Study Plan
There’s no singular perfect source of information for exam study materials. It’s generally recommended to have multiple sources for studying. I usually stayed at 3 or under for each CompTIA exam I took, not including practice questions and note reviews.
After looking at a few good study materials, it’s time to create a study plan. What you’ll learn, what the chapter goal is for the day/week, and what else needs to be done in order to move on to the next thing.
You know how you learn so plan accordingly. If you don’t know what your best learning style is, check out this Learning Style test through Education Planner. This short 20 question test will give you some insight on which of the 3 major learning styles you fall under – Audio, Visual, and Kinesthetic.
Also, make it interesting. Not only set a goal to implement the studying but also set a reward for following through and passing the exam. It can be as simple as going out to eat at your favorite restaurant with those you care about.
6. Commit to Study Plan and Schedule the Exam
That’s right, before you begin studying, show your commitment. No more thinking about it or dabbling, it’s time to purchase and schedule that test!
Go ahead and buy an exam voucher. You can usually find small discounts with the book publisher of the exam guide you purchased but the best discount is through the CompTIA Academic Store. You’ll need to prove you’re a student by using a .edu email address for purchasing.
After that, CompTIA tests through Pearson Vue so you’ll need to schedule an exam at an authorized testing center near you.
This may make you nervous, especially if you are fitting the bill for the certification. If you adequately prepare and take lots of practice quizzes, you’ll have a great chance of passing.
Believe in yourself and put in the work to guarantee your passing.
7. Study, Study, Study
Before you start training for the day be sure to exercise. Get your brain activity up before you start studying. Go for a walk, do deep breathing exercises, or just exercise in general.
This is very important. Don’t train while too relaxed. You don’t want to be lying down.
Be intentional with your studying, even if you have to do it in bursts and take breaks. You want to completely immerse yourself. Learn how to make your own study materials so you have something quick to review.
When you’re done reading, studying, or learning in general, TAKE LOTS OF PRACTICE TESTS.
I’d recommend using premium test questions (those you pay for). Here are a couple of free ones to get you started though:
- Free A+ Practice Tests by Exam Compass
- Free Network+ Practice Tests by Exam Compass
- Free Security+ Practice Tests by Exam Compass
8. TEST DAY
Be sure to get plenty of sleep the day before. This is incredibly important. Depending on your brain chemistry, this will be anywhere from 6 to 9 hours.
Don’t do any heavy reading or learning. That time is over. Instead, refresh your memory by looking at your notes and quick scans to jog your memory.
Nervous about your upcoming exam day? That’s pretty normal, especially if you’re fitting the bill yourself. Remove doubt and trust your preparation. You are earning a CompTIA certification this day. Don’t entertain the idea of anything else.
When you start the exam, you’ll most likely get performance-based questions right upfront. Flag these and return to them later. Take care of the multiple-choice questions first, unless you feel good about the performance-based questions upfront. I think I always did mine first.
As you go through the exam and have second guesses on certain questions, flag them for review and move on.
When you get to the end, you’ll be able to review your flagged questions.
Man, that survey at the end of the exam when you’re hastily waiting for your results is enough to make anyone go crazy. In the moment it feels as long as the exam you just finished.
So, how did it go? Did you see a lot of questions that weren’t in your study guides? Ha, it happens to everyone. Don’t worry, there are always a few beta questions that don’t count against your score.
After you finish the exam proctor will give you a summary printout that confirms how well you did as well as improvement areas based on the exam objectives. You will not get specific questions or answers for review.
If you passed, CONGRATULATIONS! Time to take the rest of the day off work and celebrate.
Side Note If You Failed
If you failed, it probably feels like someone punched you in the gut. If you made it this far in this process, it means that you wanted to pass this exam but didn’t adequately prepare, no matter how much time you spent.
Look at the specific areas you were weak in from the summary printout. Make it a priority to get good at these areas. Look into tutoring or classes if you’re not sure you can be self-taught.
Don’t beat yourself up and don’t give up. Make a better study plan and schedule the next exam. You get it next time.
9. Getting Certificate Packet
Roughly 2 weeks from passing your exam, you’ll get an envelope in the mail with your certificate print out. You’ll also get a follow up via email.
Within 2 days or so from passing the exam, you can see your new status in the Cert Metrics student portal.
You can also create and view transcripts that officially show your certificate dates and pass status. This will create a sharable link you can give to employers. The link will look something like this:
When you earn your CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, CompTIA Cloud+, CompTIA PenTest+, CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+), or CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certifications, the certification and the ones below it are automatically enrolled in Continuing Education (CE) Program.
10. Planning for CEUs or New Certifications
You have three years from the date your certification was earned or renewed to complete the CE Program requirements to remain certified.
I’ve never bothered with this as I simply renewed with a higher certification. Renewing your highest-level CompTIA certification will automatically renew lower-level certifications.
Which CompTIA Certs Don’t Expire
Anything before 2010 doesn’t expire and the following below:
Also retired CompTIA certs don’t expire as well:
- CompTIA IT for Sales FC0-TS1
- Mobile App Security+ ADR
- Mobile App Security+ iOS
- and more
Source: Retired CompTIA Certifications page.
11. Showcasing Your Certifications to Employers
Besides using the transcript feature in the CompTIA Cert Metrics student portal, you can use a service called Acclaim. You’ll most likely get emails from Acclaim stating that you have badges available for claiming.
There’s also nothing stopping you from listing them yourself on your profiles in LinkedIn, Upwork, and other professional social media sites.
I wrote this earning a CompTIA certification guide from memory so let me know in the comments below if I missed something or if you need clarification on something. In a future update, I’ll describe more of my experiences.