Help revise the A+ certification exam. Maybe.

Your experience can help CompTIA shape the A+ certification, if you fill out their feedback survey. One problem: the survey is poorly written. Will you take one for the team and help out?

Your experience can help CompTIA shape the A+ certification, if you fill out their feedback survey. One problem: the survey is poorly written. Will you take one for the team and help out?


CompTIA, the IT industry organization responsible for various vendor-neutral technology certifications, is preparing to reorganize their A+ exam for computer support professionals. The process to revise the test involves gathering feedback from experienced technicians as to how well the exam objectives test for skills that will be needed in the field.

I was pleased to learn that CompTIA is asking for feedback on their certification objectives. Opening the process to external review should help ensure that the certification remains relevant and current. I decided to follow the links to the surveys in hopes of contributing. Also, upon completing a feedback survey, one can register for a prize drawing. Hey, I'm concerned about the integrity of the A+ certification, but prizes are nice, too.

It's a good thing that the exam revision does not rely entirely on the survey process, because I think the questionnaire is kind of absurd. Here's an example of one of the early questions from the IT Tech job analysis survey:

Please rate the importance of the tasks, knowledge and/or skills sets of the following objective for the borderline qualified candidate.

Objective 1.1 - Given a scenario, install, configure and maintain personal computer components. Storage devices: HDD (SATA, PATA, solid state), FDD, optical drives (CD/DVD/RW/Blu-Ray), removable, external. Motherboards: jumper settings, CMOS battery, advanced bios settings, Bus speeds, chipsets, firmware updates, socket types, expansion slots, memory slots, front panel connectors, I/O ports (sound, video, USB, serial, IEEE 1394/firewire, parallel, NIC, modem, PS/2), Power supplies: wattages and capacity, connector types and quantity, output voltages. Processors/CPUs: socket type, speed, number of cores, power consumption, cache, front side bus, 32bit vs. 64bit. Memory. Adapter cards: graphic cards, sound cards, storage controllers: RAID cards, eSATA cards, (RAID Array: levels 0, 1,5), I/O cards: Firewire, USB, Parallel, serial. Wired and wireless network cards, capture cards (TV, video), media reader. Cooling systems: heat sinks, thermal compound, CPU fans, case fans.

Please rate on a 1-5 scale, with 1 meaning "Not Important," 2 meaning "Of Little Importance," 3 meaning "Somewhat Important," 4 meaning "Important," and 5 meaning "Very Important."

Um, yeah. Lots of the questions are written like that. In every case, something in the laundry list is definitely "very important," even in a "borderline qualified" candidate. 5's all around.

Seriously, though: how is anyone expected to answer a question that's written that broadly?

Upon reflection, it is clear that such broad survey questions are not intended to determine the relevance of any specific item of technical knowledge. CompTIA is using these surveys instead to determine what proportion of the exam should be devoted to each of their existing objective areas. That's important, certainly, but why make the process difficult by using poorly written surveys? CompTIA should have edited each survey down to its final question, where respondents simply fill in the percentage of the A+ test they think should be devoted to each subject area. Done and done. Easy-peasy. Instead, their surveys were designed poorly, and I came away feeling like CompTIA had wasted my time.

If you like the idea of contributing to the development of the A+ certification exam — in whatever minuscule way these surveys may offer — you can follow the links below to give your feedback. Do you think the A+ certification is useful? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

CompTIA A+ Essentials job analysis survey

CompTIA A+ IT Technician job analysis survey

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