The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 2 of 5)

January 28, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA, Study hints, study tips | 1 Comment
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As I explained in my last post, CompTIA has released a new version of the A+ certification by rolling out the 220-901 and 220-902 exams on December 15, 2015. The old 220-801 and 220-802 exams are still available, but they will retire on June 30, 2016 in the United States.

In this post, I will cover the first two objectives for 220-901, Hardware and Networking. 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 (for example, floppy drives and SCSI). 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”

In this and subsequent posts, you’ll see me refer to topics changing their Bloom’s level. In the instructional design world, Bloom’s taxonomy is a model for describing the depth or complexity of a learning outcome, much like 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 abstract, you may be asked to configure a subnet mask.

220-901 Objective 1: Hardware

A+ 220-801 covered hardware in its own domain and included BIOS, motherboards, RAM, expansion cards, storage devices, CPUs and cooling, connectors and cables, power supplies, custom configurations, display devices, and peripherals. In A+ 220-901, hardware has been expanded to include UEFI and printers and multi-functional devices (which  was its own objective in 220-801). In some cases, minor wording changes occured at the subobjective level.

1.1 Given a scenario, configure settings and use BIOS/UEFI tools on a PC. – From Objective 1, subobjective 1 in the old version. The Bloom’s level for this objective increased, because the “Given a scenario” qualification is now part of this objective. 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 only one new topic:

  • Secure boot – added to BIOS security sub-section

1.2 Explain the importance of motherboard components, their purpose, and properties. – From Objective 1, subobjective 2 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level (and therefore the difficulty) for this objective changed as well, because the “Explain the importance” phrase is used instead of “Differentiate between” (demonstrating knowledge without application) in the old version. One new topic was added:

  • Mini-ITX – added to Sizes section

1.3 Compare and contrast various RAM types and their features. – From Objective 1, subobjective 3 in 220-801. One new topic was added:

  • Buffered versus unbuffered – added to Types section

1.4 Install and configure PC expansion cards. – From Objective 1, subobjective 4 in 220-801. One new topic was added:

  • Storage cards – added

1.5 Install and configure storage devices and use appropriate media. – From Objective 1, subobjective 5 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Hybrid and eMMC – added to Solid state/flash drives section

1.6 Install various types of CPUs and apply the appropriate cooling methods. – From Objective 1, subobjective 6 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Install” phrase (using acquired knowledge) is used instead of “Differentiate among” (demonstrating knowledge without application) in the old version. New topics include:

  • Intel 1150, 2011 – added to Socket types section
  • AMD FM2, FM2+ – added to Socket types section
  • Disable execute bit – added to Characteristics section
  • Fanless/passive – added to Cooling section

1.7 Compare and contrast various PC connection interfaces, their characteristics and purpose. – From Objective 1, subobjective 7 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Analog and Digital (Optical connector) – added to Audio sub-section
  • NFC – added to Wireless connections section
  • Quality and DRM – added to Characteristics section

1.8 Install a power supply based on given specifications. – From Objective 1, subobjective 8 in 220-801. One new topic was added:

  • Dual rail – added to Specifications section

1.9 Given a scenario, select the appropriate components for a custom PC configuration, to meet customer specifications or needs. – From Objective 1, subobjective 9 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective was raised to include “Given a scenario.” New topics are:

  • Multicore processor – changed from Powerful processor in Graphic / CAD / CAM design workstation section. This change simply updates the test’s language to current PC technology, as all “powerful” processors today will be multicore by default.
  • Multicore processor – changed from Powerful processor in Gaming PC section.  Again, this is not new knowledge, but rather an update of the test’s nomenclature.
  • Meets recommended requirements for selected OS – changed from Meets recommended requirements for Windows in Standard thick client section. This is an important change because it shows a shift back to including other operating systems besides Windows, which hasn’t been the case in the past few A+ releases.
  • Meets minimum requirements for selected OS – changed from Meets minimum requirements for running Windows in Thin client section.
  • Network connectivity – added to Thin client section.

1.10 Compare and contrast types of display devices and their features. – From Objective 1, subobjective 10 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Compare and contrast” phrase is used instead of “Given a scenario, evaluate” in the old version. New topics include:

  • TN vs. IPS and Flourescent vs. LED backlighting – added in the LCD sub-section
  • Refresh / frame rates – added frame rates
  • Aspect ratios (16:916:10, and 4:3) – added specific ratios

1.11 Identify common PC connector types and associated cables. – From Objective 1, subobjective 11 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Adapters and converters (DVI to HDMIUSB A to USB BUSB to EthernetDVI to VGAThunderbolt to DVIPS/2 to USB,  and HDMI to VGA) – all added, and all reflective of the cables commonly available in today’s computing environments.

1.12 Install and configure common peripheral devices. – From Objective 1 subobjective 12 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Biometric devices, Motion sensor, Touch padsSmart card readers, and Digital cameras – added to the Input devices section
  • Smart TV and Set-Top Box – added to the Input & Output devices section

1.13 Install SOHO multifunction device / printers and configure appropriate settings. – From Objective 4, subobjective 2 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Given a scenario” phrase has been removed. In addition, multifunction devices have been added and configuration knowledge is required. The new topics include:

  • Configuration settings (DuplexCollateOrientation, and Quality) – added to the Use appropriate drivers for a given operating system section
  • Infrastructure vs. adhoc – added to the Wireless sub-section
  • Cloud printing/remote printing – added to the Device sharing section
  • TCP/Bonjour/AirPrint – added to the Sharing local/networked device via Operating System settings sub-section
  • Data privacy (User authentication on the device and Hard drive caching) – added to the Public/shared devices section

1.14 Compare and contrast differences between the various print technologies and the associated imaging process. – From Objective 4, subobjective 1 in 220-801. The wording changed to “Compare and contrast” from “Explain the differences between,” but in my opinion, this change did not affect the Bloom’s level. New topic is:

  • Virtual (Print to filePrint to PDFPrint to XPS, and Print to image) – added

1.15 Given a scenario, perform appropriate printer maintenance. – From Objective 4, subobjective 3 in 220-801.  New topics include:

  • Inkjet (Clean heads, replace cartridges, calibration, clear jams) – added
220-901 Objective 2: Networking

A+ 220-801 covered networking in its own domain and included network cables and connectors, TCP/IP, TCP and UDP ports and protocols, wireless networking standards and encryption, SOHO wireless/wired router installation and configuration, Internet connection types, network types, network devices, and networking tools. In A+ 220-901, minor wording changes occurred at the subobjective level. All changes are in RED ITALICS.

2.1 Identify the various types of network cables and connectors. – From Objective 2, subobjective 1 in 220-801. This subobjective had no changes.

2.2 Compare and contrast the characteristics of connectors and cabling. – From Objective 2, subobjective 2 in 220-801. Slight wording change at subobjective level, but no change in the Bloom’s level. New topics include:

  • CAT6e, CAT7 – added to Twisted pair section
  • Splitters and effects on signal quality – added to Twisted pair and Coaxial sections

2.3 Explain the properties and characteristics of TCP/IP. – From Objective 2, subobjective 3 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Public vs. private vs. APIPA/link local – added link local
  • Subnet mask vs. CIDR – added CIDR

2.4 Explain common TCP and UDP ports, protocols, and their purpose. – From Objective 2, subobjective 4 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • 22 – SSH; 137-139, 445 – SMB; and 548 or 427 – AFP – added to Ports section
  • CIFS and AFP – added to Protocols section

2.5 Compare and contrast various WiFi networking standards and encryption types. – From Objective 2, subobjective 5 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • 802.11ac – added to Standards section

2.6 Given a scenario, install and configure SOHO wireless/wired router and apply appropriate settings. – From Objective 2, subobjective 6 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Given a scenario” qualification is now part of this objective. New topics include:

  • NAT / DNAT – added DNAT
  • Firmware – added
  • UPnP – added

2.7 Compare and contrast Internet connection types, network types, and their features. – From Objective 2, subobjective 7 and 8 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Tethering – added in the Cellular subsection

2.8 Compare and contrast network architecture devices, their functions, and features. – From Objective 2, subobjective 9 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Patch panel– added
  • Repeaters/extenders – added
  • Ethernet over Power – added
  • Power over Ethernet injector – added

2.9 Given a scenario, use appropriate networking tools. – From Objective 2, subobjective 10 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Cable stripper – added
  • Tone generator & probe – added generator
  • WiFi analyzer – added
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

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

To help you get through the holiday doldrums and start your 2016 study schedule off right, we just launched our 220-901 practice test! It includes performance-based questions and covers all the 220-901 topics.


Thanks again for reading!

-Robin Abernathy

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  1. […] 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 […]

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