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Interested in MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer)?

The day of taking the A+ test I wrote the following on a certification bulletin board to help others to have some idea of what they should expect when taking the exam:

Scoring

The test begins by saying something to the effect that there's a score range between 200 and 800 - I don't recall, now, exactly what the wording was. The report that was printed out following the test, however, says:

"The...[exam - this applies to both the hardware and the operating system exams]...has a scaled score between 0 and 1300."

My guess is that after some questioning their software might determine that your score is at most 200, and at that point there's no bother testing further - hence the software cut off of 200. Similarly, after some questioning, the software might determine that you are at least at the 800 level, in which case there's no point testing further (they don't think that it's particularly important to identify you as a 1200 or a 952 - a simple "800 or above" will suffice). Again, that's just my guess.

 

Annoyances

Now, before continuing, I'd like to share what annoyed me the most about the practice questions that I'd find in textbooks:

To my way of thinking, a good question is one that tests a person's:

For instance:

Last week you noticed that your programs are beginning to take longer than usual to launch and this week they are taking even longer. What should you do first to attempt to solve this problem?
  1. Install more memory
  2. Look for conflicts in the Device Manager
  3. Defragment the hard drive
  4. Drink less coffee

A problem like that requires that you understand its causes and that you know what tools are available to help solve it. The practice questions, however, haven't always matched that style. Instead, they'd ask something like:

Last week you noticed that your programs are beginning to take longer than usual to launch and this week they are taking even longer, so you've decided to defragment the hard drive. How do you go about launching the defrag program?
  1. Click Start/Run/Utilities/Defrag
  2. Right-click My Computer, select properties.... (etc.)
  3. etc....

Now, to my way of thinking, they let the cat out of the bag just by the way they ask the question. Here they have a decent opportunity to test your understanding of how things work, but instead they choose to question you about trivial bits of minutia relating to how to get the program started. Why the heck would they do such a thing?

Before giving my answer, let me expand the category a little bit. My argument would be that they shouldn't test you on any of that trivial minutia. They shouldn't ask about which hardware typically uses which IRQ, they shouldn't ask what uses what memory address...they shouldn't ask you anything that pertains to reference material.

If you, within your scope of duties as a computer technician, need to know standard IRQ assignments, then you can carry around a 5x7 card or something that has them written down - the very idea of committing these things to memory is ridiculous. And why? Well, because if you really need to know these things, then you'll learn them by default. One day you'll be working on something and you'll need to know that the real time clock uses IRQ-8 and you'll just know it without looking. How? Well, because you needed to know that yesterday and you looked it up, and since that was only a day ago you still remember. See? Things that you're actually going to use will be memorized without any intention of committing them to memory, thus committing these things to memory is a waste. Similarly, if you don't need to know these things (that is, if you're not going to use them) then there's no point in learning them either (obvious); so why bother?

 

Annoyances Explained

Now I can just imagine someone from CompTIA responding to me with: "Yes, we agree with you. But, remember, the A+ certification is designed for people who have 6 months on the job experience as a computer technician, and we fully expect that a person with that much experience is going to know where to find the defragmentation program without any intentional desire to commit it to memory. That is why we ask such questions: because those questions help us to test for experience, rather than just understanding."

That, to me, seems to checkmate my game in one move.

Page 2 of passing the A+ certification exam.

. Original Copyright, May 2004. All Rights Reserved.