Need help mastering your CompTIA exam? These 12 tips will help you show up on test day confident and ready to pass your test.
Taking tests is no fun. There’s a reason it’s a common nightmare for anyone that’s ever been in school, even briefly. This goes double for CompTIA exams which are a big investment in terms of time and preparation.
But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. People pass and get their CompTIA certifications every day. While nothing will ever replace diligent studying, these 12 tricks and secrets to help you pass your test are sure to help you show up for test day confident and ready.
1. Avoid “Brain Dumps”
Sometimes it’s not about how much you study, but where you’re getting your materials. Using official CompTIA textbooks or materials from well-established industry pros is a great way to ensure you’re getting quality materials.
As for what to avoid, two words: brain dumps. A brain dump is when someone posts test questions after taking an exam. They often include the answers. While this might seem like the best place to get knowledge, be careful. There’s no quality control, you have no idea if you’re actually getting the right answer, and, while it might help you pass the test, it won’t do you any favors when you’re trying to use the knowledge in the real world.
Worst of all, brain dumps can get the person posting them in legal trouble since CompTIA exam takers have to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This Reddit thread gives a great summary of why they should be avoided.
2. Memorize the Test Objectives
Let’s start at the beginning. Each test comes with an explanation of the test objectives. While this might seem like a no-brainer, studying the objectives means you’re more prepared to take and pass your test in general. It helps you organize and structure the information you’re learning as you learn it.
The other benefit of having this roadmap is it lets you know how fast or slowly you’re moving through the test. Knowing where you are in the test and how much you have left is vital for managing your time. You can adjust how much time you’re spending on each question to make sure you finish the test. Alternatively, you might be rushing because of nerves and need a reminder to take your time.
3. Know What Type of Learner You Are
Everyone studies differently. Maybe you need to write things down or use flashcards. Maybe you need light music or silence. Maybe reading voraciously helps you retain knowledge, or maybe you need to explain the concepts to someone out loud. It's more of an art form than an exact science.
Figuring out what works best for you is the best exam trick when you have to do a ton of studying. This article gives you an idea of some of the best ways to study while this quiz can tell you if you’re an auditory, visual, or kinetic learner. It can make all the difference when you’re on your tenth hour of studying.
4. Build a Computer or Set up a Network
This is especially important for the CompTIA A+ exam and the Network+ exam. The CompTIA A+ 901 exam covers hardware while 902 covers software. While it might sound daunting, building an actual computer is a great way to prepare. It will be essential in understanding not just the theory, but the actual practice. The same goes for the CompTIA Network+ exam. There’s no better way to understand networks than to actually set one up yourself.
It comes down to this: It’s easier to remember which port is which if you just finished interacting with them in real life. If this just isn’t possible, finding a virtual lab is the next best thing. The ACI Learning CompTIA A+ classroom course includes hands-on experience with building computers, a great component of any IT education. When the course is delivered online, ACI Learning provides a virtual environment for students to get the experience they need.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
CompTIA provides practice questions for almost every exam including Security+, and more. (Scroll down to see the form where you can request a CompTIA practice test, objectives, and more.) In addition to giving you an idea of how ready you are overall, you can hyper focus on the areas you’re having problems with.
When you’re reviewing your answers, figure out what you keep getting wrong and then redouble your study efforts in those areas. Try out the ABC method for improving your scores before moving on to the actual test.
6. Skip Strange Exam Questions
Again, these tests are about managing time and are graded on a pass-fail basis. So, if a question seems too hard, skip it! On a test like Security+, there are actually seemingly random questions which are being tried out for a future version of the test. They are not graded, which is good, though it’s hard to tell what is and isn’t a beta question so don't skip TOO many questions without answering.
While beta questions aren’t a feature of all CompTIA exams, skipping a confusing question will give you more time to answer the questions you do understand. By the time you return to the question, you may see it in a whole new light or have the confidence to answer.
7. Be Prepared for CompTIA's Performance-Based Questions
Performance-based questions (aka PBQs) ask the taker to perform a task or solve a problem in a simulation. More complex than your standard multiple-choice, these questions take time and can be intimidating if you’re not prepared. However, they don’t have to bring your test to a screeching halt.
First, it’s important to know that most PBQs will come toward the beginning of the test and, while they are a little more complex, they aren’t impossible. The best defense is a good offense and preparing for these questions with online labs will make it much easier. However, if you reach the question and don’t feel confident, it’s okay to skip it for the moment and come back to it.
8. BEST, MOST, LEAST
One of the simplest exam tricks is if a question contains capitalized words like “BEST,” “MOST,” or “LEAST,” pay attention! This gives you a hint as to what the question is really asking. There could be a number of answers that seem to fit, but only one that corresponds with the capitalized word and will help you pass your test.
9. Join an Online Community for CompTIA Exam Tricks
Finding a CompTIA study group online is a great way to work out your brain. They are a lot of great resources, study suggestions, and more in the CompTIA subreddit, which is full of people who have either passed their certifications or who are deep in the process. If you need extra help with a tricky section, ask! They're always happy to share the secrets to their success and give all the information about the tests you could want. (Without breaking the non-disclosure agreement, of course.)
10. Create a Study Plan to Pass that Test
If you were planning on running a 10K, you wouldn't start training a week before. Studying for a CompTIA exam is no different. Plan out the time between now and when you're going to take your test.
Be sure to allow more time for difficult subjects or areas you might need some extra help on. Set aside an amount of time each day to dedicate to different objectives. Then, study, study, study.
11. Know the Multiple-Choice Tricks
While multiple-choice questions can cause you to tear your hair out (all of the above? WHY WHY!?) there are a few ways to even the odds. Always eliminate answers that are obviously wrong. Think of, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” The odds are always better when you cut it down to 50/50.
Second, recall information related to the question. This can be a surprisingly effective method for remembering the right answer. If two of the answers are related, that probably means that one of them is correct. If all of the answers seem wrong, you might want to re-read the question to figure out what they’re really asking.
And lastly, skipping a question and coming back to it can be helpful. A question later in the test might key you into an answer the question earlier. For more tricks, check out this article on multiple-choice questions. You'll be glad you did and made this portion of the test a little less daunting when you finally schedule your exam12. Treat Yourself Well the Day of Your CompTIA Exam.
Last, but certainly not least, you'll want to show up well-rested, fed, hydrated, caffeinated, and de-stressed (at least, as stress-free as possible). While last-minute cramming can be important, you need to leave yourself enough time to get a full eight hours of sleep. Be sure to eat some protein in the morning (oatmeal is always good brain food).
Making sure you know the testing location is especially important (which is why ACI Learning offers a Pearson VUE testing center for you to take the exam on-site). If you do have to travel to a new location, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time in case you get lost. Finally, build up your confidence to prepare for the test. Give yourself a pep talk. You've done the hard work. You've got this.
12. Study with a Professional
It can be easy to get discouraged, especially if you’ve tried once or even twice without passing. With the CompTIA A+ exam cost at $232 for 220-1001 and 220-1002 each, it's clear that this is an investment you want to make wisely.
While self-study is important, it’s okay to need a little extra help. That’s why ACI Learning offers tech industry training with expert instructors to help you pass your CompTIA courses, get your certification, and prepare you for your career in IT.
With classes offered during the day, at night, online, or on campus, any schedule and learning style can be accommodated. First, you’ll get help along your certification career path. Then, you’ll work with a team that specializes in career services to assist ACI Learning graduates in getting hired. That includes helping you optimizing your resume and even setting you up with our employer partners.
As the skills gap in IT grows more and more every day, the industry is in desperate need of professionals who are ready to tackle the challenges. Taking CompTIA certification prep classes can be a great way to get started. If you want to pass your test, and take your career to the next level, take the first step today by contacting ACI Learning.