5 Steps to pass CompTIA A+ certification

CompTIA A+

When you have made up your mind to take and pass the CompTIA A+ certification, you need to come up with a game plan for studying. The best way to study and pass the CompTIA A+cert test is by studying a few good books dedicated to the exam, using flashcards, doing labs, and studying sample questions for the exam. This means studying hundreds of flashcards and sample questions. 500 – 900 is a good goal.

Step 1 – Find a book to walk you through what you need to know for the exam.

I’ve found the All-In-One Exam Guidebooks by McGraw-Hill Education is a helpful book for studying for CompTIA specific Cert tests. The authors have their pulse on the exams and gear their studies towards questions that will be asked on the test. They have great sample questions as part of the book, and the electronic copies have 100’s of sample questions for the exam. I’d recommend using a few different books while studying for the CompTIA tests. You’ll appreciate the variety of sample questions.

Step 2 – Make and study flashcards.

You can find flash card apps like www.ankiapp.com that save your cards in the cloud so you can access them from multiple devices like your phone or laptop. It’s best to make your own flashcards on the app to study from since you are finding the question and writing the answer. AnkiApp also lets you download pre-made flashcards from different websites. This is a time saver but please note, there could be mistakes in other peoples decks. Check out different apps and different decks to see if they work for your needs.

Step 3 – Be organized and strategic.

Being organized and scheduling time to study for a certification exam are critical steps in your studying. I’d make sure to divide my flashcards or question and answers into 25 question blocks. These blocks allow you to set goals. At first, don’t try to memorize what you are studying. If you don’t fully understand what the question is asking, look it up on the internet or in one of your study guides. If you are looking at sample questions and don’t understand all of the choices, spend some time looking up what they mean. Do this for the first two passes on your flashcards and question and answers. Next, dedicate time to run through 2 blocks of 25 a day, every day, 7 days a week.

Step 4 – Rewards system Give yourself a reward system.

For example, when you finish your goal for the day, you get a half hour of TV. When you get a reward system down, you’ll see your rewards be geared to your free time. Soon your rewards will be, if you study for three hours that day, you can clean the kitchen…You will want to clean the kitchen by that point to get a break.

Step 5 – Focus on what you don’t know.

Once you have run through all of your study materials 5 times (2 taking your time to look up definitions and answers, and 3 times, just running through the questions and answers) start taking out the ones you know the answers to. By the 7th run through you will have whittled down your stack quite a bit. This full process takes me a month and a half to 2 months. Having pre-scheduled the exam to light a fire under myself, I’d time it that way. The week before the exam, run through your questions, all of them, and whittle them down one more time to the questions or topics that are causing you trouble. Write these on a piece of paper and carry this around with you everywhere. For me, regardless of the cert test, I’d always have port numbers I was trying to cram into my head before the test. Study this sheet right before you walk in the door before the exam.

How to Start a Blog to Showcase Your Documentation Skills

Documentation is a key skill in the tech world. Things break and are fixed, infrastructure is designed and implemented, workarounds are put in place, and software or hardware is tweaked. Working as part of a successful team means you are documenting your solutions and processes so they can be referenced by your team later in time. More about documentation here *LINK*. If you are in school, have an internship, have a technical side gig, or are already in the tech field, starting a blog to showcase your documentation can set you apart from other candidates while looking for a job.

If you are currently in a tech program or are studying for technical certifications, you know that working in labs is part of the process. You are learning how to work through the building, configuring, and troubleshooting of certain hardware, networking or software environments. And, if you are working with a technical guide or step-by-step, you know full well, they don’t always provide the correct solutions. When you start having to do additional research on how to correct a problem or configure something correctly, this can be your opportunity to create a blog post on the solution you found.

If you aren’t attending a tech program that is no problem. Even if you are helping a friend set up their wireless router or helping a family member reset their password, these are all opportunities for blog posts.

Don’t worry if the solution is already published on the web, posting your version of how you fixed something is all that matters. Your blog is to show potential employers your documentation skills, not to generate a bunch of views or comments.

Creating the blog is simple. I’d recommend just signing up for a free WordPress blog. https://wordpress.com/create/blog/. No need to sign up for a custom domain or pay for a fancy theme. I wouldn’t recommend putting much thought into how it looks because this is purely a website where you will be publishing a solution to a problem you solved.

Let’s look at a quick blog post you could post and a suggested format based on researching a solution to a question a friend asks you for help with. Your friend has a coworker that journals ideas at work. They open a notepad from their Windows 10 desktop and the date and time automatically appear in the notepad. Your friend wants to be able to do the same thing….open the notepad and have it autofill the date and time. You google the solution and set it up for them. Here is an example blog post for this process…

How to automatically log date and time when you open notepad in windows.

In Windows 10, type “notepad” in the search bar in the lower left-hand corner.

With a new note open, type .LOG on the first line.

Press enter to create a new line.

Click File then Save As.

Type in a sample file name for your new text document.

Click Save.

Close the open notepad.

Test by opening the new notepad file.

You should see the date and time listed automatically!

Screenshots of the process help your readers follow your instructions. Some people are visual learners and others like to skim documentation. Both screenshots and good, clearly written steps are a good idea when you are writing your blog.

As you research solutions to computer related issues, see these as content for your blog. If you have a dozen or so well written blog posts for your potential future employers to review, you will stand out in the crowd.

Good luck!

What is Documentation?

Your Tech Career – Documentation

I was asked recently at a talk I was doing at a community college for students in their Network Design and Administration program what documentation is. It was their Computer Hardware class and for many of them their first exposure to computers and computer support. Documentation is simply recording or writing down what you did to solve an issue.

Documentation is critical to a team environment both large and small because tech issues can be ongoing. It is the end goal to resolve a user or technical issue in most tech jobs. To explain what documentation is a bit further, I’d like to focus on a help desk environment where a team of tech support specialists helps end users at a company with their computer configurations, issues, and emergencies.

Say a computer user named Erin, in a marketing department at a mid-sized company, suddenly cannot print to their local printer attached to their computer. She has tried turning it off and on and made sure paper was in it, but it doesn’t print. It’s critical that she finishes printing the project she is working on for a meeting later in the day so she calls the company tech support line for assistance.

The help desk tries to help remotely by logging on the computer but the printer just isn’t showing up. Tech support asked Erin to check the cable connections and it seems like everything is plugged in correctly. Tech support dispatches someone to go look at the printer in person. When the tech person arrives they realize that the USB cable that connects the printer to the back of the computer fell out. It appears the user may have caused the issue inadvertently by catching the cable with her foot and unplugging it. The tech reattaches the cable and shows Erin how to do that, tests the printer, and asks the user to test print something.

The technician will then fill out a ticket to document the troubleshooting. The ticket will look something like this:

1/20/18 10:50 AM – Adam the tech
Erin on PC-78 called with a printer issue. She could not print from any program. I was able to remote into the computer and look at the printer settings. The local printer was not showing up. I asked her to check that the power cable and USB printer cable were plugged into the back of the printer snugly. She could not confirm it was plugged into the computer. I dispatched Matthew to go to look at the issue in person.
1/20/18 11:35 – Matthew the tech
Arrived at Erin’s PC-78. Checked that the printer had power. Confirmed it was not showing up as a printer option. Followed USB cable to back of the computer. Noticed the USB cable had fallen out and plugged it back in. I showed Erin the issue. Noticed cables were loose behind the computer so I secured them with a Velcro strip. Test printed a page. Asked Erin to test print. Test print was successful.

This looks like a lot of documentation for a simple printer issue but let’s look at why it was important to document the issue.

A few weeks later Erin can’t print. She has another deadline and is frustrated that she is having another printer issue. She remembers that she kicked out the cable before, looks under her desk, undoes the velcro that was tidying up the cables and confirms it’s plugged in. She reboots her printer and it starts working. Crisis averted.

Fast forward another few weeks and the printer stops working again. Erin is extremely frustrated. Especially because this has happened twice in the last month. She reboots the printer an that doesn’t do the trick. She calls tech support. Tech support looks through the ticket and asks if she checked that the cable was plugged into the back of the computer. That’s right, she loosened up the cables to check last time, sure enough, she kicked the cable out. She reconnected it and asked if someone could come back out to secure those again for her.

The tech was able to read the documentation from the last ticket and diagnose the issue even though Erin forgot to check that cable behind the computer. She forgot because, in her mind, it was an ongoing and different issue with the printer. The good documentation that both the techs took last time saved an urgent trip from the tech department to help her with another printer issue. Since it was a reoccurring issue, tech support can schedule a tech out when convenient to secure the cables even better so this issue doesn’t keep happening.

Documentation in a help desk environment can be recorded in different ways but it’s usually recorded in a ticket management system. Some popular ticket management systems are Freshdesk, Zendesk, or ConnectWise. These ticketing systems can record tickets, network configurations, passwords, and usernames, and even track an organization’s assets like computers, printers, and network equipment.

If you are new to the tech world or interested in getting a job in the tech world, I’d recommend starting a blog of your own to showcase your documentation skills. As you work on tech issue and resolve issues, document the steps in a blog. Put that web address on your resume so future employers can see your documentation skills. I did this when I was fresh out of my Networking Design program. I would check at times how many new visitors to the site I had when I was going to the job interview process and saw a huge jump in traffic during that period of time. My potential employers were looking at my documentation skills!

Ideas for things you could document:
-How to install MS Office 365
-How to configure the settings in Chrome
-5 things to check if your monitor isn’t turning on
-10 features to look for when buying a new computer
-How I helped my grandma get rid of a virus on her computer

Practice and showcase your documentation now. It will give you an advantage when looking for a new job in your NEW TECH CAREER!