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Inside Scoop on the A+ and Networks+ Tests

Thanks to  Phil Croucher, author of  The A+ Reference Book   for sharing this inside scoop with us. You can find more information about The A+ Reference Book, The BIOS Companion and his other works, here


About The A+ Test

I won't waste a whole chapter telling you how to study - you know best how to do that, and the book is big enough anyway (did you know it has to be a certain size just to get on the shelves?). It's just like any other multi-choice test, except that sometimes all the potential answers are wrong! One, of course, will be less wrong than the others, so maybe that's what they're after. I haven't found out whether it's the people who set the test, or the fault of many of the other books around, but, as an example, the bit of memory between 640K and 1 Mb is constantly referred to as High Memory, when it's been Upper Memory for years, and well before the A+ exam was even thought of, and the bit up to 640K has always been known as Base Memory (just look at all those old motherboard manuals) - for some reason, Base Memory is now what remains after DOS, etc has been loaded. As a result, you have to learn things just to pass the exam, rather than because it's correct, but there you are.

Other examples come from Networks +, where they say a Local Area Network (LAN) is confined to a limited area, and a Wide Area Network (WAN) isn't. Actually, a university with several locations spread across the country with its own cabling is still a Local Area Network - a WAN uses a third party, such as the telephone company, to get its work done. Also, the term Client/Server used to relate to database operations, where calculations were done in the server rather than trailing all the way to the workstation and back - now it seems to relate to high-end network operating systems that use a dedicated server to run them, which should be defined as server-based, although, to be fair, this is a term used by Microsoft.

Bearing this potential confusion in mind, when I have picked up differences, I have included them in the text. Luckily, if you get an answer wrong, there's no harm done, provided you get the minimum score (currently 65% for A+, 82% for N+) - in UK aviation exams, you lose a half-point every time!

Still, despite the above comments, the exam is welcome, as there has long been the need for some sort of standard.

The test is not entirely theoretical, and you need some hands-on experience with DOS and Windows. Areas to concentrate particularly on include ESD and static, how to ground yourself (make sure the ground is to the building), the sequence of loading of both DOS and Windows, and the sequences of mouse clicks to get things done in the latter, such as checking for disk free space in 95, and adding hardware. A knowledge of what readings to expect when checking fuses with multi-meters is handy as well.

It's also a good idea to go through the tutorial before you do the exam proper, just to get the idea of how it works. It only takes about 15 minutes and is not counted in the final results. You will also find a couple of questions relating to customer service, which are also not counted, but you have to go through them to get to the end. A good tactic is to go through the test once, answering only those questions you absolutely positively know the answer to, and marking the others for later review, because it's entirely possible to get the answer to one question as part of the text of another (I actually got two identical ones within the space of 5). There's plenty of time, certainly enough to read each question twice or even three times, which sometimes you have to do because the way they are put is so bad, especially Microsoft ones.

So, read the questions carefully! Some of them include a little doublethink, such as giving you a situation, then requiring you to choose the exception that doesn't solve the problem.


Networks +

This test is a lot stiffer, and the pass mark is now 82%, possibly to bring it in line with Novell, as they now accept it as part of their requirements for CNE. Areas to concentrate on here include IP addressing (how do you tell a Class A from a Class C address, for example) , The OSI model and what the layers do, and what equipment and protocols operate where on it. IEEE numbers are useful, as are which protocols are routeable or not. There is some emphasis on environmental stuff, and the effects of bad cabling, or what happens if you have to many devices on a ring main to which is attached your network - in other words, "unexpected or atypical conditions that could either cause problems for the network or signify that a problem condition already exists, including room conditions, the placement of building contents, personal effects, computer equipment and error messages." So there.

Don't forget to brush up on what TCP/IP utilities give you what information, and what the screen displays look like, so you will need to get a little hands on experience. They also like you to know about standard password and backup procedures and the need for application patches (and where to get them) and the use of anti-virus software.

 


The above is just a sample of what is in Phil's new book, The A+ Reference Book. The book is intended not only to get you through the exam, but to be a constant source of reference afterwards, with over 2000 pages of information at your fingertips, on Secret BIOS settings, over 6600 hard drives, over 700 motherboards, DOS, Windows, NetWare and Linux. As a special bonus, there is also coverage of the Network + exam!


The A+ Reference Book Home Page

Weekly Tweaks Archive

-- Other Articles by Phil --

The Lowdown on Ethernet 

Parallel Communications Explained

Shadow RAM

UART Explained

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Updated 07/06/04

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