Microsoft raised exam certification prices in July

August 23, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Transcender news, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Microsoft made a worldwide adjustment in the price of their MCP and certification exams for non-academic titles. The increased prices went into effect on July 18, 2106.

The pricing change does NOT affect pre-paid vouchers from Transcender or vouchers purchased from Pearson VUE, Courseware Marketplace, or through academic Volume Licensing. You can continue to use any vouchers you bought prior to the pricing upgrade without having to make up the additional cost.

Student discounts have not changed, but they will be calculated from the new exam price.

In most cases the price increase was around USD $15. To find a price for a specific exam, find your test on the Microsoft Certification Exam List or go directly to Pearson Vue and check the price for your region.

Free webinar on social media hacks – staying safe while surfing

July 29, 2016 at 11:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What do you think when you hear “social media hack?” The top of everyone’s nightmare list is having an attacker take control of your Facebook account and impersonate you online, expose private information, or steal your data – or your money. This kind of hack gets the most news, and it’s potentially the most dangerous attack. The results can range from simple pranking or trolling to blackmail, identity theft, account lockout, and financial loss.

But how easily can you recognize other types of social media hacks – the ones that try to steal corporate data, spread malicious websites or code, or even influence the course of an election?

What makes these attacks uniquely “social media” based is that they rely on these huge user bases of relatively unsophisticated users – like grandma and your boss’s boss – and they take advantage of how few checks and balances there are when it comes to creating a user profile.

Join Transcender’s training expert George Monsalvatge for a 45-minute webinar that will help you (and your users) identify these increasingly sophisticated and distributed attacks aimed at social media networks. The webinar is FREE and relatively painless to join – just click the helpful link below:

Social Media Hack Attacks:
Staying Safe While Surfing
Register Today!
This webinar discusses several types of social media attacks and discusses best practices in order to prevent social media attacks.
8/3/2016 at 12:00 pm EST / 11:00 am CST

 

Lightning deal: Microsoft offers FREE upgrades for 2016 MCSA in June

June 16, 2016 at 8:35 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft | Leave a comment
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Microsoft recently announced an incentive for IT pros working toward their MCSA in Windows Server 2012 or their MCSA in SQL Server 2012/2014: finish your certification by June 30, 2016, and earn a free voucher for the 2016 upgrade exam.

Upgrade path for Windows Server 2016

The MCSA in Windows Server 2012 requires three exams:

  • 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012
  • 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012
  • 70-412: Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services

If you have all three under your belt by June 30, you’ll qualify for a free voucher to sit exam 70-743: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA: Windows Server 2016. No exam details are available at this time.

Upgrade path for SQL Server 2016

The MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014 also requires three exams:

  • 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014
  • 70-462: Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014
  • 70-463: Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014

Interestingly, although only one upgrade exam number is shown for SQL Server 2016 (70-762), it looks like there are actually three separate upgrade options:

  • Earn an MCSA: SQL Server 2016 (Database Development) by taking 70-762: Developing SQL Databases
  • Earn an MCSA: SQL Server 2016 (Database Administration) by taking 70-762: Provisioning SQL Databases
  • Earn an MCSA: SQL Server 2016 (Business Intelligence Dev) by taking 70-762: Developing SQL Data Models

Again, Microsoft hasn’t released any exam objectives or details at the time of this post.

Do I have time to study?

Absolutely. Transcender has a full range of practice tests, e-learning, and virtual labs for each track, including a 30-day online access version of the practice tests:

What if I already have an MCSA in 2012 / 2014?

The wording was “between now [June 2] and June 30, 2016,” so this offer is probably limited to people who haven’t yet passed all the required tests. You can see Microsoft’s original post at the Born To Learn blog, and ask whether the offer extends to those who already have their certification in hand. However, as a certified professional, you should already be receiving emails from Microsoft each time a free beta exam is released (like the recent offer for the 70-698), so if you don’t qualify for this deal, odds are that a similar one will come your way.

Happy certifying!

~ The Transcender Team

The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 5 of 5)

May 20, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Welcome back to my series of posts on the new A+ exam. Did you think I was NEVER going to finish this blog series? Me too! But I have been really snowed in working on some new products that I think will really please our customers. One of those is a practice test for (ISC)2’s SSCP exam. And there are a few more exciting security titles are coming soon! Watch our website for more information.

The old A+ 220-801 and 220-802 exams are still available, but they will retire on June 30, 2016 in the United States. CompTIA released a new version of the A+ certification by rolling out the 220-901 and 220-902 exams on December 15, 2015.

  • In my first post, I went over the timeline and what to expect from the exam changes as a whole.
  • In my second post, I went into detail regarding the first two objectives for 220-901, Hardware and Networking.
  • In my third post, I went into detail regarding the last two objectives for 220-901, Mobile Devices and Hardware & Network Troubleshooting.
  • In my fourth post, I covered the first two objectives for 220-902, Windows Operating Systems and Other Operating Systems and Technologies.

In this post, I will cover the rest of 220-902, a total of three objectives: Security, Software Troubleshooting, and Operational Procedures. I’ll give you the entire overview of each objective, list each subobjective, tell you where each topic fell in the old A+ 800-series (if applicable), and put all changes or additions in RED ITALICS.

I will not call out any deleted topics, although CompTIA has removed some topics. This is because I am not really sure if those topics were actually removed from the exam, or if they are just so insignificant that they aren’t called out in the objective listing, but are still floating around in some test questions. Remember that CompTIA’s objective listing contains a disclaimer that says,

“The lists of examples provided in bulleted format below each objective are not exhaustive lists. Other examples of technologies, processes or tasks pertaining to each objective may also be included on the exam although not listed or covered in this objectives document.”

For this reason, I didn’t want to focus on what was removed. My exam experience has shown that the bullet lists are not exhaustive. Spending time focusing on what was removed may give you a false sense of security by making you think you don’t need to study those topics. So I am just ignoring any topic removals.

First, a note about “Bloom’s Levels”

You’ll see me refer to topics changing their Bloom’s level. In the instructional design world, Bloom’s taxonomy is used to describe the depth or complexity of a learning outcome, just as the OSI model describes the level at which a network component operates. Level 1 is basic memorization (what is a router?), where level 6 is complete mastery of a concept (designing a network from scratch).

If I mention here that a Bloom’s level has changed, it generally means that CompTIA is asking for something more complex than memorization. While these changes shouldn’t scare you, there is a bit more “rubber meeting the road” to the higher Bloom’s levels. For example, instead of recognizing various LCD technologies from a list, you may be asked to evaluate which LCD is the best choice for a given scenario. Instead of answering a question about how CIDR notation behaves in the abstract, you may be asked to configure a subnet mask.

220-902 Objective 3: Security

A+ 220-802 covered Security in its own domain. It included prevention methods, security threats, securing a workstation, data destruction/disposal, and wired/wireless network security. The biggest change in this objective is the new topics that are covered (obviously because new security threats have emerged) and the inclusion of Windows OS security settings and securing mobile devices.

What’s changed? In A+ 220-902, Security now includes OS security settings. No big surprise: Windows is widely used, and securing it should be the top priority of anyone using it daily. This objective also includes mobile device security, which should also not be a surprise with the popularity of these devices increasing, particularly in enterprises.

3.1 Identify common security threats and vulnerabilities. – From Objective 3, subobjective 2 in the old 220-802. The wording changed to “Identity” from “Compare and contrast,” which affected the Bloom’s level by moving up to the application level.  New topics were added:

  • Malware – Revised to include spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, and rootkits under a single bullet with ransomware being a new entry.
  • Spear Phishing – added
  • Spoofing – added
  • Zero day attack – added
  • Zombie/botnet – added
  • Brute forcing – added
  • Dictionary attacks – added
  • Non-compliant systems – added
  • Violations of security best practices – added
  • Tailgating – added
  • Man-in-the-middle – added

3.2 Compare and contrast common prevention methods. – From Objective 3, subobjective 1 in 220-802. The wording changed to “Compare and contrast” from “Apply and use,” which affected the Bloom’s level  by moving down the comprehension level. These new topics were added:

  • Physical security 
    • Mantrap – changed from Tailgating in the 220-802 to more accurately reflect the actual preventive control
    • Cable locks – added to the Physical security section
    • ID badges – changed from Badges in the 220-802 to more accurately reflect the preventive control
    • Smart card – added to the Physical security section
    • Tokens – changed from RSA tokens in the 220-802 to more accurately reflect the preventive control
    • Entry control roster – added to the Physical security section
  • Digital security
    • Antivirus/Antimalware – added Antimalware to the Digital security section
    • Multifactor authentication – added to the Digital security section
    • VPN – added to the Digital security section
    • DLP – added Data loss prevention (DLP) to the Digital security section
    • Disabling ports – added to the Digital security section
    • Access control lists – added to the Digital security section
    • Smart card – added to the Digital security section
    • Email filtering – added to the Digital security section
    • Trusted/untrusted software sources – added to the Digital security section
  • User education/AUP – Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) added

Continue Reading The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 5 of 5)…

Flash sale! CompTIA A+ Exam Series Will Retire June 30, 2016

May 4, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Posted in CompTIA | Leave a comment
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Have you been studying for the A+ at a leisurely pace, figuring there’s plenty of time to knock it out? Did you pass the 220-801, only to wait for the right time to take the 220-802? If so, time is no longer on your side. The 800 version of CompTIA’s flagship certification exam will retire in just under two months. This is relevant because you cannot mix and match exam versions. If you passed the 220-801 or 220-802 exam, you must pass the other 800-series exam to obtain your A+, or else take both 900-series exams.

You will need to complete the English-language 800 series exams by June 30, 2016 to see the old test objectives. After that time, all test takers will have to sit for the 220-901 and 220-902 instead.

Our CompTIA specialist, Robin Abernathy, has covered the updates to the A+ exam in a series of blog posts. Part 1 explains how the exam topic breakdown differs in 901/902 compared with 801/802 and suggests that test-takers adopt a different study approach. Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and (forthcoming) Part 5 drill down into the nitty-gritty differences between the two knowledge banks.

If you don’t feel like clicking over right now, suffice it to say that Robin (and most test-takers) felt that the 801/802 topics had enough overlap that the test taker could (and probably should) schedule both exams to fall as close as possible to each other – even within the same day – and knock out their A+ certification in one fell swoop. Both tests covered aspects of the same technologies, so studying for one meant studying for the other by default.

By contrast, there is almost NO overlap between the topics tested on 220-901 and 220-902, which means that you’ll want to study and sit for each exam separately.

The 901/902 drops some outdated topics (no more questions on CRTs or Windows XP) and modernizes device coverage – instead of laptops, “mobile device” questions also cover tablets and phones. It also moves the OS focus beyond Windows to acknowledge the presence of both Linux and Mac OS X in the workplace. The 901/902 is also more hands-on than in previous generations – some may say it’s harder; others may call it more realistic. For example, instead of being asked to define a given command’s function, you could be given a scenario and asked to choose the best command to troubleshoot this device. Instead of simply identifying what a setting does, you will likely be asked to choose the correct setting for a given set of conditions.

There is still plenty of time to buy your 800-series A+ practice exams, and to help you study, Transcender has put them on sale.

SAVE 50%

on the 30-Day Online Access practice exams to test your knowledge for the 220-801 and 220-802 certifications.

Enter promo code: T2016EXP

Pass Guarantee not valid for last minute study aid promotions.

 

2016: Held Ransom

April 11, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Posted in EC-Council, Technical Tips | Leave a comment
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It was predicted late last year that 2016 would the year for ransomware. Thus far, the prediction is proving right; only four months in to 2016, the Locky ransomware has managed to spread itself over 114 countries (displaying its demands in dazzling array of 24 languages). The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $17,000 in bitcoins after having their computer systems seized in February 2016, while hospitals in Kentucky and Maryland report similar attacks.

In case you’ve been in that doomsday bunker a bit too long, ransomware is malicious software that blocks access to your own data, usually by encryption that targets a local computer. Data stays locked away until you pay a tidy sum of money to the hacker (or, more commonly, to the hacking organization). The malware usually contains a ticking bomb that will format the entire hard drive if you don’t pay by a deadline (or post the data for everyone to see, just as extra motivation). The data kidnappers may call themselves hackers or vigilantes, or even pretend to be a federal agency, but their demand is always the same: pay us for your data — or else!

Worse, with automated viruses like Crytpolocker, Crytowall and TeslaCrypt, hackers don’t have to go through the extra effort of targeting big fish like CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Any end user could be bilked for hundreds of dollars. And, through the economies of scale, hackers rake in millions per campaign. While current year damages won’t be tallied for a while,  the FBI estimates the CrytoWall variant pulled in over $18 million from 2014 to 2015 alone.

gangster-squad-option-2

“Shame if something happened to that hard drive…”

End users are not the only targets; nor are Windows users. Major sites like the New York Times, BBC, AOL and NFL had their advertising networks compromised by malvertising, where a malicious ad hijacked user’s browsers and redirected them to install a crypto-virus via the Angler toolkit (another argument for using adblockers?). And the once near-invincible Mac OS has been revealed as the target of the KeRangers malware – the first ransomware Mac users have ever had to contend with.

In this climate, is it any surprise then that a prominent security certification vendor like EC-Council was a recent target? Read more for the details.

Continue Reading 2016: Held Ransom…

Announcing Microsoft’s FREE upgrade exam for Win 8 MCSAs

March 30, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Are you a Windows 8 MCSA? If you are, and you earned your MCSA: Windows 8 certification between February 15, 2015, and May 31, 2015, you can take Exam 70-697: Configuring Windows Devices for free. Doing so will earn you the MCSA: Windows 10 certification.

To take advantage of this offer, you MUST sign up using the link on the Microsoft site, and you MUST take (and pass) the exam no later than May 31, 2016.

Because you are limited to one free exam attempt, you may want to take advantage of Transcender’s full range of prep materials. We offer the Microsoft Practice Exam for 70-697 MSCert: Configuring Windows 10 Devices, an online Practice Lab with virutalized machines, and professional e-learning courses with 18.5 hours of instruction.

If you earned your MCSA: Windows 8 after the cutoff date, you can still register to take exam 70-697 and earn the MCSA: Windows 10 – which is still a solid move for your certification career.

The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 4 of 5)

March 9, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Posted in CompTIA | 1 Comment
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Welcome back to my series of posts on the new A+ exam. The old 220-801 and 220-802 exams are still available, but they will retire on June 30, 2016 in the United States. CompTIA has released a new version of the A+ certification by rolling out the 220-901 and 220-902 exams on December 15, 2015.

  • In my first post, I went over the timeline and what to expect from the exam changes as a whole.
  • In my second post, I went into detail regarding the first two objectives for 220-901, Hardware and Networking.
  • In my third post, I went into detail regarding the last two objectives for 220-901, Mobile Devices and Hardware & Network Troubleshooting.

In this post, I will cover the first two objectives for 220-902, Windows Operating Systems and Other Operating Systems & Technologies. I’ll give you the entire overview of each objective, list each subobjective, tell you where each topic fell in the old A+ 800-series (if applicable), and put all changes or additions in RED ITALICS.

I will not call out any deleted topics, although CompTIA has removed some topics. This is because I am not really sure if those topics were actually removed from the exam, or if they are just so insignificant that they aren’t called out in the objective listing, but are still floating around in some test questions. Remember that CompTIA’s objective listing contains a disclaimer that says,

“The lists of examples provided in bulleted format below each objective are not exhaustive lists. Other examples of technologies, processes or tasks pertaining to each objective may also be included on the exam although not listed or covered in this objectives document.”

For this reason, I didn’t want to focus on what was removed. My exam experience has shown that the bullet lists are not exhaustive. Spending time focusing on what was removed may give you a false sense of security by making you think you don’t need to study those topics. So I am just ignoring any topic removals.

First, a note about “Bloom’s Levels”

You’ll see me refer to topics changing their Bloom’s level. In the instructional design world, Bloom’s taxonomy is used to describe the depth or complexity of a learning outcome, just as the OSI model describes the level at which a network component operates. Level 1 is basic memorization (what is a router?), where level 6 is complete mastery of a concept (designing a network from scratch).

If I mention here that a Bloom’s level has changed, it generally means that CompTIA is asking for something more complex than memorization. While these changes shouldn’t scare you, there is a bit more “rubber meeting the road” to the higher Bloom’s levels. For example, instead of recognizing various LCD technologies from a list, you may be asked to evaluate which LCD is the best choice for a given scenario. Instead of answering a question about how CIDR notation behaves in the abstract, you may be asked to configure a subnet mask.

220-902 Objective 1: Windows Operating Systems

A+ 220-802 covered Windows operating systems in its own domain. It included Windows operating system (OS) features and requirements, installation, command-line tools, tools and features, Control Panel utilities, networking, and maintenance. The biggest change in this objective is the OSs versions that are included.

What’s changed? In A+ 220-902, Windows operating systems now include Windows 8 and 8.1. No big surprise: Windows XP was removed. But contrary to popular belief, Windows 10 is NOT included. Often I hear complaints that the A+ certification doesn’t include the latest Windows version (because this happens in almost every iteration of A+.) But keep in mind that the objectives for this exam were ironed out last year while Windows 10 was still in its infancy.

1.1 Compare and contrast various features and requirements of Microsoft Operating Systems (Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1). – From Objective 1, subobjective 1 in the old 220-802. New topics were added:

  • Features 
    • Side by side apps – added to the Features section
    • Metro UI – added to the Features section
    • Pinning – added to the Features section
    • One Drive – added to the Features section
    • Windows Store – added to the Features section
    • Multimonitor task bars – added to the Features section
    • Charms – added to the Features section
    • Start Screen – added to the Features section
    • Power Shell – added to the Features section
    • Live sign in – added to the Features section
    • Action Center – added to the Features section

1.2 Given a scenario, install Windows PC operating systems using appropriate methods. – From Objective 1, subobjective 2 in 220-902. These new topics were added:

  • Boot methods 
    • Solid state/flash drives – added to the Boot methods section
    • Netboot – added to the Boot methods section
    • External/hot swappable drive – added to the Boot methods section
    • Internal hard drive (partition) – added to the Boot methods section
  • Type of installations
    • Recovery partition – added to the Type of installations section
    • Refresh/restore – added to the Type of installations section
  • Partitioning
    • GPT – added to the Partitioning section
  • File system types/formatting
    • ExFAT – added to the File system types/formatting section
    • NFS – added to the File system types/formatting section
    • ext3, ext4 – added to the File system types/formatting section
  • Properly formatted boot drive with the correct partitions/format– added

1.3 Given a scenario, apply appropriate Microsoft command line tools. – From Objective 1, subobjective 3 in 220-802. The Networking command-line tools that were included in this objective in 220-802 have been moved to the Networking objective in 220-901. These new topics were added:

  • GPUPDATE – added
  • GPRESULT – added
  • DIR – added
  • EXIT – added
  • HELP – added
  • EXTRACT – added
  • Commands available with standard privileges vs. administrative privileges. – added

1.4 Given a scenario, use appropriate Microsoft operating system features and tools. – From Objective 1, subobjective 4 in 220-902. These new topics were added:

  • Disk Management
    • Initializing – added to the Disk Management section
    • Shrink partitions – added to the Disk Management section
    • Assigning/changing drive letters – revised to include changing
    • Storage spaces – added to the Disk Management section
  • Other
    • Windows Upgrade Advisor – added to the Other section
  • System Utilities
    • DEFRAG – added to the System Utilities section
    • System restore –  added to the System Utilities section
    • Windows Update –  added to the System Utilities section

1.5 Given a scenario, use Windows Control Panel utilities. – From Objective 1, subobjective 5 in 220-802. These new topics were added:

  • Display/Display Settings – revised to include Display Settings
    • Color depth – added to the Display/Display Settings section
    • Refresh rate – added to the Display/Display Settings section
  • Folder Options
    • General options – added to the Folder Options section
    • View options – added to the Folder Options section
  • System
    • Hardware profiles – added to the System section
  • Programs and features – added
  • Devices and Printers – added
  • Sound – added
  • Network and Sharing Center – added
  • Device Manager – added

1.6 Given a scenario, install and configure Windows networking on a client/desktop. – From objective 1, subobjective 6 in 220-802. The Bloom’s level has increased. “Given a scenario” requires applying your knowledge, rather than the old wording of “Setup and configure” (demonstrating knowledge without application). These new topics were added:

  • Network shares/administrative shares/mapping drives – changed to include administrative shares
  • Printer sharing vs. network printer mapping – added
  • Remote Desktop Connection – changed to proper name of tool
  • Remote Assistance – added
  • Network card properties
    • BIOS (on-board NIC) – added to Network card properties section

1.7 Perform common preventive maintenance procedures using the appropriate Windows OS tools. – From objective 1, subobject 7 in 220-802.

  • Best practices
    • Scheduled disk maintenance – changed to disk maintenance instead of separate check disks and defragmentation
    • Antivirus/ Antimalware updates – changed to include antimalware
  • Tools
    • Disk maintenance utilities – changed to disk maintenance utilities instead of check disk and defrag
220-902 Objective 2: Other Operating Systems & Technologies

This is a mostly new objective for the A+ certification. For those of you that go way back (and I am talking way, way back here), you’ll remember that the A+ certification used to cover the Apple and Linux operating systems, cloud technologies, and network hosts. With this latest version, you will see a return of those operating systems in this objective, as well as covering the mobile device operating systems, virtualization, mobile device connectivity and email, and mobile devices synchronization, which were all covered in 220-802.

Continue Reading The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 4 of 5)…

Take-Home Certification Exams: Adventures in Online Proctoring

February 18, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Posted in Proctors, Study hints, Technical Tips | Leave a comment
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So, you’ve spent months studying for the latest certification. You’re ready to schedule the exam and  proudly showcase your new knowledge and skills. Until recently, your only option was to take the exam at an approved testing center. [Editor’s note: the following opinion does not represent the corporate viewpoint of Kaplan, Transcender, Graham Holdings, or any sane person, Josh. ~A.L.] Most test centers are a cross between a corporate cubicle farm and prison camp. Sure, there are people there, but people in their worst possible moments: bleary-eyed, nerve-wracked, and way too over-caffeinated. [Editor’s note: This would explain those horrible ID photos on my score reports. ~A.L.]

If you don’t live near a corporate testing hub, you might dread the half-day of commuting time, lost productivity, or even the need for an overnight hotel stay. (In a major hub like Atlanta, there are testing centers galore, but we have to fight bumper-to-bumper traffic to get there.) You may be too busy with your day job to get the time off, or you might want enough time to fit in a last-minute cram session. You may experience test anxiety that negatively affects your performance, especially when testing in an impersonal, sterile environment.

Enter online proctoring.

Message not recommended. Online proctors might not appreciate the humor.

The glorious promise of an online proctored exam is the ability to take a certification exam wherever you are at the time of your choice, without travel or stressful interactions. And except for a few caveats, the dream is reality. But you need to really consider those caveats. The whirlwind home-alone experience isn’t for everyone!

Josh’s Excellent Proctored-Exam-At-Home Adventure

First: equipment. You need a decent PC with a camera and microphone and high-speed Internet bandwidth. Every online proctor will have a pre-flight checklist that will verify your hardware is up to snuff. Don’t wait until minutes before taking the exam to ensure your equipment will pass. Run the check as soon as possible, and leave yourself time to borrow, purchase, or overnight yourself any missing components.

Next: scheduling. You read that right – even though you have more flexibility than a testing center’s hours, including the ability to take your exam late at night or very early in the morning, a live proctor still has to be present on the other end of the connection to observe you take the exam. For this reason, some time slots may be unavailable – the proctor might already have too many test takers to keep track of. (Or maybe they actually sleep.)

Finally: location. From my personal experience, you need to find a room or an enclosed space in a room that will be quiet and isolated (where no one can here you scream). This is actually required to prevent accusations of cheating, so close all of your windows  and make sure no one is in the same room with you. If you don’t have access to a private room in your home, check your local public library – most have study rooms that can be reserved for periods of up to two hours. Other options would be a hotel conference room or an unused cubicle or office in your workplace.

If you’re testing in your own home, secure any pets away from the exam area and make sure that children won’t enter the area. I chose my dining room (finally getting some use out of it!), because I would have at least three walls around me. I locked up my cats  for the duration, especially after my first unsuccessful attempt when my cat Norio attempted to lie across my hands during the exam (the proctor had to pick himself off the floor laughing, but was gracious enough to allow me to continue). I also silenced my cellphone and let everyone, especially my wife, know that I would be completely unavailable and unresponsive for the duration.

No pet time for you – I have a test to take!

Additional considerations for at-home online examinations

Here are a few other tips I’ve learned from online proctored experiences:

  • Do not install any updates or new software on the same day as your exam appointment. Murphy’s law in action here. I’ve had to cancel at least one exam after installing an update to Visual Studio on the machine I was using for the exam. It took over an hour, and finished installing just in time for the proctor to tell me that my test time was up.
  • If you’re using a laptop, make sure you’re plugged into a power source. Especially if you have some ridiculous 42-inch super AMOLED screens which will run dry after 5 minutes of operation.

This thing is for an online test, not a gaming rig!

  • Empty your pockets of everything (and make sure you wear pants, too).  Some test centers require this and will make you display your empty pockets to the camera. And you’ll have to spin around (so you may want to hold off of on the antihistamines for a bit).
  • Clean up the table or desk where you are testing. You can’t have any loose papers or computer equipment lying around. You’ll have to pick up your laptop (or attached camera) and rotate it around the work space to demonstrate that no cheating materials are nearby, so make sure there’s nothing embarrassing lying around.
  • You cannot have bags, purses, boxes, or any other items on the floor next to your chair.
  • You must take off all bracelets and watches. This I forget all of the time, but the proctor won’t. Save yourself some testing time and do this beforehand.
  • Make sure you can roll up long sleeves to display that you don’t have notes written on your skin.
  • Do not bring any food, drinks or gum into the test environment. It’s not allowed. Well, at least don’t open your mouth too wide or smack too loud.
  • Be nice to your proctor. It’s at their discretion if and when you get bathroom breaks!

If you have wearable medical devices (such as insulin pumps or medical alert bracelets) that should not be removed, or if your personal beliefs don’t allow you to comply with certain regulations (such as displaying bare arms), be sure to ask the vendor to specify IN WRITING whether exemptions are allowed in general, and to approve yours in particular, to avoid disappointment at test time.

“You keep using that word – I do not think it means what you think it means”

Different vendors have different terminology. When you’re searching for an exam you can take from home, be sure you’re searching for online proctored exams. For example, Oracle refers to exams taken online as “non-proctored” and exams taken in person at Oracle University testing centers as “proctored.” Here is more information on online proctored exams with Oracle.

Sold! Where do I sign up?

Due to security considerations, not every vendor offers an online exam experience. Project Management Institute, for example, only allows people to sit the PMP exam at approved testing centers.

At this time of writing, Cisco allows certain of its exams to be scheduled through Pearson Vue for an at-home exam experience.

EC Council, for popular security certifications like CEH, delivers their exams through ProctorU.

CompTIA’s online exam program is called the Anywhere Proctored program, but the available information seems to be geared toward test providers, not test takers. At this time of writing, I could not definitely find a CompTIA exam that could be taken online outside of a boot camp or other training course.

Microsoft has a robust online proctored exam environment, called “online proctored exam delivery.” You can read their full list of policies here.

According to Pearson Vue, VMware offers all VCA exams in a 24/7 online format. There is a full FAQ available.

Online proctoring exam service PeopleCert offers online proctored exams for a variety of vendors, including ITIL®, PRINCE2®, MSP®, P3O®, MoV®, DevOpsLean ITLean Six Sigma,ACCESSIBILITY PASS and ISO.

However you choose to take your exam, as always, we wish you good luck and happy testing!

~Josh aka codeguru

The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 3 of 5)

February 10, 2016 at 10:56 am | Posted in CompTIA, Study hints, study tips | 1 Comment

Welcome back to my series of posts on the new A+ exam. The old 220-801 and 220-802 exams are still available, but they will retire on June 30, 2016 in the United States. CompTIA has released a new version of the A+ certification by rolling out the 220-901 and 220-902 exams on December 15, 2015.

  • In my first post, I went over the timeline and what to expect from the exam changes as a whole.
  • In my second post, I went into detail regarding the first two objectives for 220-901, Hardware and Networking.

In this post, I will cover the second two objectives for 220-901, Mobile Devices and Hardware and Network Troubleshooting. I’ll give you the entire overview of each objective, list each subobjective, tell you where each topic fell in the old A+ 800-series (if applicable), and put all changes or additions in RED ITALICS.

I will not call out any deleted topics, although CompTIA has removed some topics. This is because I am not really sure if those topics were actually removed from the exam, or if they are just so insignificant that they aren’t called out in the objective listing, but are still floating around in some test questions. Remember that CompTIA’s objective listing contains a disclaimer that says,

“The lists of examples provided in bulleted format below each objective are not exhaustive lists. Other examples of technologies, processes or tasks pertaining to each objective may also be included on the exam although not listed or covered in this objectives document.”

For this reason, I didn’t want to focus on what was removed. My exam experience has shown that the bullet lists are not exhaustive. Spending time focusing on what was removed may give you a false sense of security by making you think you don’t need to study those topics. So I am just ignoring any topic removals.

First, a note about “Bloom’s Levels”

You’ll see me refer to topics changing their Bloom’s level. In the instructional design world, Bloom’s taxonomy is used to describe the depth or complexity of a learning outcome, just as the OSI model describes the level at which a network component operates. Level 1 is basic memorization (what is a router?), where level 6 is complete mastery of a concept (designing a network from scratch).

If I mention here that a Bloom’s level has changed, it generally means that CompTIA is asking for something more complex than memorization. While these changes shouldn’t scare you, there is a bit more “rubber meeting the road” to the higher Bloom’s levels. For example, instead of recognizing various LCD technologies from a list, you may be asked to evaluate which LCD is the best choice for a given scenario. Instead of answering a question about how CIDR notation behaves in the abstract, you may be asked to configure a subnet mask.

220-901 Objective 3: Mobile Devices

A+ 220-802 covered mobile devices in its own domain. It included features of mobile operating systems,  basic network connectivity, configuring email, securing mobile devices, hardware differences in regards to tablets and laptops, and mobile device synchronization. Laptops were covered separately, in the 220-801 Laptops domain.

What’s changed? In A+ 220-901, mobile devices now includes laptop hardware and components, laptop display components, laptop features, features of other mobile devices, and accessories and ports of other mobile devices. In some cases, minor wording changes occurred at the subobjective level.

3.1 Install and configure laptop hardware and components. – From Objective 3, subobjective 1 in the old 220-801. New topics were added:

  • Ports/Adapters section  – added entire section
    • Thunderbolt – added to the Ports/Adapters section
    • DisplayPort – added to the Port/Adapters section
    • USB to RJ-45 dongle – added to the Ports/Adapters section
    • USB to WiFi dongle – added to the Ports/Adapters section
    • USB to Bluetooth – added to the Ports/Adapters section
    • USB Optical Drive – added to the Ports/Adapters section
  • SSD vs. Hybrid vs. Magnetic disk – added to the Hard Drive subsection
  • 1.8in vs. 2.5in – added to the Hard Drive subsection
  • Smart card reader – added to the Hardware/Device Replacement section
  • Optical drive – added to the Hardware/Device Replacement section

3.2 Explain the function of components within the display of a laptop. – From Objective 3, subobjective 2 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level has increased. “Explain the function of” requires applying your knowledge, rather than the old wording of “Compare and contrast” (demonstrating knowledge without application). These new topics were added:

  • TTL vs. IPS – added to LCD subsection
  • Webcam – added
  • Microphone – added
  • Digitizer – added

3.3 Given a scenario, use appropriate laptop features. – From Objective 3, subobjective 3 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level (and therefore the difficulty) for this objective changed, because the “Given a scenario, use” phrase replaced “Compare and contrast” (demonstrating knowledge without application) in the old version. One new topic was added:

  • Rotating / removable screens – added

3.4 Explain the characteristics of various types of other mobile devices. – This objective was not part of the A+ 900-series exams. The topics in this objective are:

  • Tablets – added
  • Smart phones – added
  • Wearable technology devices section – added entire section
    • Smart watches – added to the Wearable technology devices section
    • Fitness monitors – added to the Wearable technology devices section
    • Glasses and headsets – added to the Wearable technology devices section
  • Phablets – added
  • e-Readers – added
  • Smart camera – added
  • GPS – added

3.5 Compare and contrast accessories & ports of other mobile devices. – This objective was not in the A+ 900-series exams. The topics in this objective are:

  • Connection types – added section
    • NFC – added
    • Proprietary vendor specific ports (communication/power) – added
    • microUSB/miniUSB – added
    • Lightning – added
    • Bluetooth – added
    • IR – added
    • Hotspot / tethering – added
  • Accessories – added section
    • Headsets – added
    • Speakers – added
    • Game pads – added
    • Docking stations – added
    • Extra battery packs/battery chargers – added
    • Protective covers / water proofing – added
    • Credit card readers – added
    • Memory/MicroSD – added
220-901 Objective 4: Hardware & Network Troubleshooting

The old A+ 220-802 covered troubleshooting in its own domain. It included the troubleshooting theory, hardware troubleshooting, network troubleshooting, operating system troubleshooting, security troubleshooting, laptop troubleshooting, and printer troubleshooting.

In A+ 220-901, this objective covers hardware troubleshooting, network troubleshooting, mobile device troubleshooting, and printer troubleshooting. The other aspects of troubleshooting have been moved to the A+ 220-902 exam. All changes are in RED ITALICS.

4.1 Given a scenario, troubleshoot common problems related to motherboards, RAM, CPU and power with appropriate tools. – From Objective 4, subobjective 2 in 220-802. This subobjective had no changes.

4.2 Given a scenario, troubleshoot hard drives and RAID arrays with appropriate tools. – From Objective 4, subobjective 3 in 220-802. This subobjective had no changes.

4.3 Given a scenario, troubleshoot common video, projector and display issues. – From Objective 4, subobjective 4 in 220-802. This subobjective had no changes.

4.4 Given a scenario, troubleshoot wired and wireless networks with appropriate tools. – From Objective 4, subobjective 5 in 220-802. This subobjective had no changes.

4.5 Given a scenario, troubleshoot, and repair common mobile device issues while adhering to the appropriate procedures. – From Objective 4, subobjective 6 in 220-802. The old version of this objective only mentioned laptops, not mobile devices. So keep in mind that you must expand all of the troubleshooting scenarios to include all other mobile devices, including laptops, tablets, and smart phones. New topics include:

  • Touchscreen non-responsive – added to Common symptoms
  • Apps not loading – added to Common symptoms
  • Slow performance – added to Common symptoms
  • Unable to decrypt email – added to Common symptoms
  • Extremely short battery life – added to Common symptoms
  • Overheating – added to Common symptoms
  • Frozen system – added to Common symptoms
  • No sound from speakers – added to Common symptoms
  • GPS not functioning – added to Common symptoms
  • Swollen battery – added to Common symptoms

2.6 Given a scenario, troubleshoot printers with appropriate tools. – From Objective 4, subobjective 9 in 220-802. This subobjective had no changes.

Closing Thoughts

As you can see, I am just covering the high points and not delving too deeply into these topics. My point here is to help those who already know the A+ understand exactly what new topics they need to study. CompTIA has started a series of Webinars called Deep Dive: A Look Inside the A+ 900 Series Objectives that cover these topics much more deeply than I do. You can access these Webinars  by joining the CompTIA Instructor Network at http://bit.ly/1Sxj3h9.

Remember, this post is part of a series of posts I will be completing. Here are the details for those posts:

To help you start your A+ 900-series study schedule off right, we have launched our 220-901 practice test! It includes performance-based questions and covers all the 220-901 topics.

cert-220-901

Thanks again for reading!

-Robin Abernathy

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