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Interested in MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer)?

The Character of the Test

Now what I have to report is that there are quite a few questions like that on the exam. Those kinds of questions may bog you down, so if you're weak on experience, I suggest that you start putting in some hours learning where things are in Windows operating systems and what common command line switches are used and why.

The next thing to note about the exam is that I only recognized one question from books and practice tests. I read the Sybex textbook and tested with its accompanying CD, I bought a Sybex CD from the earlier A+ objectives (before they upgraded to the 2001 objectives), I used Exam Cram's practice tests, I used Microsoft's practice tests, and I spent plenty of time sitting in a cushy chair in Barnes and Noble drinking coffee and going through questions in the Mike Meyer's A+ book (I also read the entire chapter on the Windows 2000 operating system in that book) and many other A+ exam prep books (and I'm quite sure that the one and only question that I'd seen before was in one of those random books, incidentally, though I don't remember which one).


How My Method Served Me

My experience with computers can be summed up pretty well with the following: I program in perl, I can program client side JavaScript quite well, I design websites, I have a bit more than just a passing familiarity with Linux, and I've built my own computers for quite some time. Here's how I did on the test:

The minimum passing score for the hardware exam was 596. My score was 791 (which, I guess, if the software was rating between 200 and 800, probably wasn't too bad). When question #21 showed up, I was a bit disappointed, since I had the idea that if you were doing well on the test that you wouldn't get more than 20 questions. I'm fairly sure that I answered 23 questions, although it might have been 24, or less likely 22. According to the printout that shows that I passed, I "missed one or more questions within...[four]...objective areas" - so, unless a single question could overlap more than one area (which is a possibility, I guess), I must've had at least four answers incorrect.

The minimum passing score for the operating system exam was 600. My score was 702 - so I didn't do quite so well here, and I wasn't expecting to. In fact, the woman who administered the test had asked me, "Are you nervous?", to which I responded that I fully expected to fail at least one exam, but I wasn't sure which one, and that when you expect to fail you aren't nervous about it - you've already accepted it as a foregone conclusion.


A Final Tip: Psyche 101

And, as a side note, that's my exam tip. Lots of people tell you to imagine yourself doing well, or imagine yourself "in the winners circle", or whatever, to help deal with nervousness. I've never quite understood that - it seems more to me that such thinking only tends to put the pressure on still more. Instead, a far more constructive approach is the "There's no failure, just feedback" type of thinking. Really, if you don't pass, it's not really that big of a deal, is it? So you have to fork out another $150 if you want to take an exam again. In the big scheme of things, you're going to wreck cars, lose money in Vegas, and do all kinds of things in your lifetime that are going to cost you more than $150...easily. It's not that much. Then there's the people who have their egos involved, they just can't stand the thought of having to tell friends or family, "I didn't pass." For those people, I'll just say that if you feel like that, perhaps there's something more valuable that you should be working on than computer certifications, like accepting that you're not a perfect human being, nor necessarily is your value measured by how much better you are at things than other people.



  1. If you're actually making an effort to learn the material and to understand what you're doing, then the odds are probably pretty good that you're going to pass the test. Don't sweat it - just try to make sure that you have learned the material and then take comfort in CompTIA's ability to discover that through their questioning.
  2. If you're an employer, the value of anyone's specific certification is multiplied by the number of certifications that they have. If s/he's got a single certification, it doesn't mean much. However, someone who studies many many areas of computer technology and can demonstrate it through certifications is someone who probably knows his or her stuff.
  3. One more point: don't use brain dumps. If you do, you'll rob yourself of the opportunity to have a qualified party (CompTIA) give you feedback about what it is that you know

That's my contribution to those who have yet to pass.

Back to page 1 of passing the A+ certification exam.

. Original Copyright, May 2004. All Rights Reserved.