How to Learn More About CompTIA’s Performance-Based Questions (with FREE Webcast offer)

December 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Performance-Based Testing, Vendor news | 3 Comments
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With the release of CompTIA’s new A+ series, 220-801 and 220-802, many of you will finally get your first look at CompTIA’s performance-based questions. The performance-based questions were actually first released by CompTIA in their CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) exam, but the CASP has a more limited audience than CompTIA’s A+, Network+, and Security+ exams.

Several members of our Content Development team have seen the CASP, the new A+ and Network+ performance-based questions, and we all feel that CompTIA is headed in the right direction with these item types. While we can’t share any details ourselves, CompTIA has released information over the past few weeks that will hopefully answer some of your questions. Here are a few resources I would recommend:

Did you notice CompTIA has increased the recommended hours of hands-on field experience to one year, up from the previously recommended six months? Those of us who have already taken the exam perceived a small but definite increase in difficulty. Again, with those performance-based items, you can either perform a task or you can’t. Hands-on experience is key. If the question simulates an action you do every day at work, then you’re probably going to find it a breeze. If it tests a concept you’ve only read about in books or studied in the abstract, it may take you a little longer to puzzle out the solution.

As I already mentioned, the new A+ and Network+ exams include performance-based questions. CompTIA will integrate performance-based questions into the Security+ exam in January.

So it looks like the move is permanent, folks! Embrace it! And know that what CompTIA has released is just the tip of the iceberg. Does anyone remember Microsoft’s 83-640 exam? I think that was a glimpse of where performance-based testing should really go.


Grab your discount: Security+ and Network+ exams on sale until CompTIA rolls out new test format

October 3, 2012 at 9:14 am | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA | Leave a comment
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As many of you may know, CompTIA introduced performance-based questions on the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certification exam. These questions have really added to the difficulty of the exam. The new A+ series (220-801 and 220-802), to be released in October 2012, will also include this item type. We were told that CompTIA was looking into expanding some of their other certifications to include this item type, but we weren’t told when the changes would occur other than “fourth quarter of 2012.”

Finally, CompTIA has released some concrete details about upcoming changes to the Network+ and Security+ certification exams. And the news? Both of these certifications will be adding performance-based questions in as soon as one month!

Network+ candidates: How the product changes affect you

For Network+, the last day to take this exam WITHOUT performance-based items is November 3, 2012. Starting on November 4, 2012, all Pearson VUE-delivered Network+ exams will include this item type.

CompTIA is encouraging individuals who are already studying for Network+ to take the current exam before the performance–based questions become incorporated. As part of this initiative, CompTIA will allow you to purchase a Network+ exam voucher by November 3 and save 15%.  Purchase a Network+ Exam Voucher Now if you plan on taking the exam by November 3rd. Once you buy the voucher, you’ll have between ten and twelve months from the date of purchase to redeem it for a test. After November 3, these exam vouchers revert to full price.

Security+ candidates: How the product changes affect you

For Security+, the last day to take the exam WITHOUT performance-based items is December 31, 2012. Starting on January 5, 2013, all Pearson VUE-delivered Security+ exams will include this item type.

As with Network+, CompTIA is encouraging individuals already studying for Security+ to take the current exam before performance–based question become incorporated. Purchase a Security+ exam voucher by December 31, 2012 and save 15%. Purchase Security+ Exam Voucher Now if you plan on taking the exam by December 31st. The voucher is valid for ten to twelve months from the date of purchase. On January 1, 2013, these exam vouchers revert to full price.

Click here for more information on performance–based items from CompTIA.

In addition, CompTIA has created a great video all about the CompTIA testing experience that includes information about the PBT item type. The item type discussion section starts at around the 5-minute mark, but I would suggest watching the whole video, because it contains some great information.

Transcender customers: how the product changes affect you

As far as the Transcender products go, we will definitely be adding performance-based items to our current practice tests. But keep in mind that we do NOT get an advance viewing of these items — so we cannot see what these items entail until November 3rd for Network+ and January 5th for Security+. Once we see how CompTIA handles the performance-based aspect, we will put together a plan for revising our practice products so that they’ll best prepare you for the actual exam. We anticipate that we’ll be adding our own performance-based items approximately 6-8 weeks after the CompTIA exams release.

Any Transcender customers who have an active practice test license at the time we release the product update will be able to update their purchase to the new version at NO additional cost. (What a great value add!)

Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have, and happy testing!

-Robin Abernathy

Resource Review: CompTIA Network+ N10-005 Authorized Cert Guide by Kevin Wallace

February 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Posted in CompTIA | Leave a comment
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Pearson Education has released a book, the CompTIA Network+ N10-005 Authorized Cert Guide, which has been written specifically for the new version of CompTIA’s Network+ exam, N10-005. Luckily, I was able to obtain a copy of this book while I was developing our N10-005 practice test. I found the book helpful in providing details in some topics, particularly topics that were new to the N10-005 exam. I wanted to share with you what I felt were the strongest points about this book, as well as areas where I thought it fell a little short. But don’t stop reading yet – there was a lot that was good and worthwhile about this resource!

If you’ve read any of my resource review posts in the past, you will know that I am a fan of charts, tables, and bulleted lists. Most CompTIA exams include a lot of knowledge-based material that you must memorize: things like media types, media speed, maximum distances, and so on. Pearson’s books always include plenty of those charts, tables, and lists that prove to be very helpful in preparing for the exam. This book includes just the right mix of charts, tables, and bulleted lists. In addition, the book includes lots of graphics to help illustrate the topics covered, including media connector graphics, cable composition graphics, and so on. You should take the time to study all the charts, tables, bulleted lists, and graphics.

The book includes a DVD that contains a practice test, supplementary memory tables, and training videos. I feel the practice test isn’t on the level of the Transcender practice test. I’m not just saying that because I work here, but because the item explanations aren’t written to the depth that ours are. Pearson’s practice test also includes item types that are not covered in the live exam. So I worry that users would be inadequately prepared for the live exam.

In going through the content, I was glad to see that Pearson’s book did cover most of the new topics that are now included in the Network+. However, this subject matter was not always easy to find. The topical Index located in the back of the book wasn’t as comprehensive as I had hoped for. A lot of times, when I am preparing for a new exam version, I spend time looking for study materials on the new topics. Usually, I just look for that topic in the Index of the latest reference book. In this book, however, it took some effort to find those new topics using the Index. To Pearson’s credit, they quickly got back in my good graces when I noticed that the book comes with free 45-day online access to the electronic form of the book. After creating my online account, I was able to search for some of those terms that I couldn’t find through the Index. So my advice is: Use that online version to search for those topics you are unsure of, but keep in mind the 45-day limit. (Hey, Pearson Education: What’s up with that? I may not take the exam in 45 days. If you aren’t going to give me unlimited access to it, can you at least include a PDF version of the book’s content on the DVD that comes with the printed copy?)

While the book does a fairly decent job of covering the topics from CompTIA’s Exam Guide for N10-005, I should warn you about the depth of that coverage. To Pearson’s defense, this book was written and released BEFORE the Network+ exam was actually released. As a CompTIA Partner, Pearson does NOT get early access to the test. I know this for a fact because Transcender is also a CompTIA Partner. Without seeing the live exam content, there are no guarantees that coverage is to the depth that is needed. So keep in mind that you may see topics on the live exam that are not covered adequately in this book.

In summary, I think this is a decent reference for studying for the Network+ exam. It would provide a great beginning to the study process. But in my opinion, some topics are not covered as well as others, so other references may need to be incorporated into your study plan. (Shameless plug: Did I already mention that Transcender’s Cert-N10-005 practice test has just been released?)

I would love to hear from our readers with any questions/comments you may have!

-Robin Abernathy

Resource review: CompTIA Network+ (N10-004) Cert Guide

October 27, 2010 at 9:23 am | Posted in CompTIA, Study hints | Leave a comment

I recently had the opportunity to review Mike Harwood’s CompTIA Network+ Cert Guide. The full review and book can be found on Amazon, but I thought I’d also share it here in case anyone is looking for a great companion to their Network+ practice test!

Any time a certification candidate decides that it’s time to purchase a study guide, the candidate is usually overwhelmed by the number of titles available for that exam. Choosing the right book can make the difference between passing and failing.

With that said, I have had a lot of experience in studying for certification exams, including exams from CompTIA, Microsoft, and Cisco. I have used many books over the past decade or so, and I can honestly say that I think Pearson got it right with the CompTIA Network+ (N10-004) Cert Guide.

This book does a good job of covering the content you need to understand to pass the exam. I know…because I have taken and passed that exam. I know how the questions are worded, and I understand the logic that CompTIA uses for their exam. It helps that I am also a practice test developer for Transcender.

I love the fact that Mike Harwood does not go into depth when it is not needed for the exam. I remember several years ago when I used a book to study for the old version of the Network+ exam, and I spent time learning about how the Internet was founded (and, no, the book did not mention Al Gore). When I finally took the exam, I realized that all that information was not needed to pass the exam. I was so frustrated!

But Harwood’s book gets to the nuts and bolts of the Network+ exam. I particularly love a few things about this book:

1. When discussing similar technologies, the author provides comparison type material, such as advantages/disadvantages. Often understanding the subtle differences is the key to answering the questions on the live exam.

2. There are LOTS of pictures, screen shots, and diagrams. This will really help when you see similar pictures and diagrams on the live exam. (And make sure you can identify the different kind of cables, connectors, and so on. This is vital for the Network+ exam.)

3. I love the use of tables and bullet points for review purposes. These are easy to find and can be reviewed right before you walk into the test center.

4. The wireless networking chapter is particularly helpful. While this technology is not new, it is relatively new to the CompTIA certification world. The wireless obstruction table on page 265 was particularly helpful!

5. The Troubleshooting Procedures and Best Practices chapter was arranged in a manner that is easily understood. I have been involved in the development of study guides. Often, the troubleshooting section is the hardest to write because problems can be caused by so many factors.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone preparing for the Network+ exam. It is also a great general reference for those who are just starting in the computer networking industry. Of course, I also recommend the N10-004 CompCert: Network+ 2009 Edition practice test from Transcender – after all, I developed it!

Robin Abernathy
A+, Network+, Server+, Security+, Project+

CompTIA Certifications: What’s New in 2010 for A+, Network+, Linux+, Server+, Security+, and Project+ Exam Tracks

February 2, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA | 5 Comments
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CompTIA has been really busy over the last year or so updating their exams. In addition, they have published a new certification policy for the A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications (but not other CompTIA certs). (For more information on the new certification policy, see this previous blog post and

I wanted to take a bit of time to discuss just what CompTIA has done, and what we expect from them over the next year  with regards to their major certifications.

A+ Certification

There are currently two versions of the A+ certification: the 600 series and the 700 series.

  • To obtain the 600 series A+ certification, a candidate must take 220-601 (Essentials) and then choose from 220-602, 220-603, or 220-604 to complete the certification. Each of the application exams are based on specific skill sets (IT Technician, Remote Support Technician, Depot Technician).
  • To obtain the 700 series A+ certification, a candidate must take 220-701 (Essentials) and 220-702 (Practical Application).
  • For individuals who already have a previous A+ certification, there is an A+ Bridge exam to upgrade their certification to the 700 series. Candidates would simply take one exam (BR0-003).

Just last week, CompTIA issued an invitation to subject matter experts (SMEs) to update the A+ exams. I expect that this is a just a reseed of the 700 series content and will not result in any real changes to the exam guide. The 600 series started in 2005, and the 700 series in 2009. In my opinion, since we got an entirely new exam last year, we won’t see a complete revamp until 2012, which would tie in nicely with the new recertification policies.

Network+ Certification

The Network+ exam was rewritten in 2009. The old version of the Network+ exam has been retired. Currently, there are two options for the Network+ 2009 certification:

  • For individuals who do not hold the Network+ certification, the candidate must take the N10-004 exam.
  • For individuals who already have a previous Network+ certification, there is a Bridge exam to upgrade their certification to the 2009 version. Candidates would simply take the Network+ Bridge exam (BR0-002).
Security+ Certification

The Security+ exam was rewritten in 2009. The old version of the Security+ exam has been retired. As with Network+, there are currently two options for the Security+ 2009 certification:

  • For individuals who do not hold the Security+ certification, the candidate must take the SY0-201 exam.
  • For individuals who already have a previous Security+ certification, there is a Bridge exam to upgrade their certification to the 2009 version (BR0-001).
Linux+, Server+, and Project+ Certifications

Recently, CompTIA also released the beta exams for the new versions of three other certifications:

  • Linux+ Candidates who took the beta version have received their score reports. We expect the new version to be released sometime this quarter;  CompTIA has announced a date of January 2010. Once the new version is released, candidates will be able to certify using the old Linux+ exam (XK0-002) or the new Linux+ exam (XK0-003).
  • Server+ Candidates who took the beta version have received their score reports. We expect the new version to be released sometime this quarter, but there’s been no official announcement yet. Once the new version is released, candidates will be able to certify using the old Server+ exam (SK0-002) or the new Server+ exam (SK0-003).
  • Project+ Candidates who took the beta version have NOT received their score reports. We expect the new version to be released sometime this quarter — CompTIA says February 2010.  Once the new version is released, candidates will be able to certify using the old Project+ exam (PK0-002) or the new Project+ exam (PK0-003).

We’ve begun pre-development on these three practice tests, and the real writing will start after the betas are released.

Keep watching for updates on the new releases, and happy testing!

– Robin

UPDATE: CompTIA Won’t Expire Existing A+, Network+, Security+ Certifications

January 26, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Posted in CompTIA | 4 Comments
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On January 11, 2010, CompTIA announced via their corporate blog and website that A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications would expire three years from the date of issue in a retroactive change that applied to all holders of these certifications. Certified individuals would pay an annual fee to register a variety of continuing education credits in a pending CompTIA database in order to renew certifications.

As of January 26, CompTIA has reversed the decision with regard to currently certified individuals. While these three exams will still come with a shelf life, CompTIA will phase in expiration dates starting in January 2011, and apply them only to certifications earned after that date.

From the announcement
(full text is here at

CompTIA will not require recertification for any current holders of CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ or CompTIA Security+ certification. You are not required to retest to maintain your valid CompTIA certification. Regardless of when you became certified in CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ or CompTIA Security+, you are certified for life.

For candidates currently preparing to sit for a CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ or CompTIA Security+ exam, if you pass an exam and become certified by December 31, 2010, you too will have a lifetime certification with no requirements for recertification or retesting.

Effective January 1, 2011, all new CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ or CompTIA Security+ certifications will be valid for three years from the date the candidate is certified. After three years, the certification must be renewed. This can be done by passing the most current exam for a respective certification or by participating in CompTIA’s upcoming new continuing education program, which will allow individuals to keep their skills current and their certification up to date without retesting.

To keep abreast of the situation, we encourage you to contact CompTIA directly with any questions, and to check and for official policy announcements.

CompTIA sets 3-year expiration policy for A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications

January 14, 2010 at 10:42 am | Posted in CompTIA, Vendor news | 58 Comments
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ETA 1-26-10: This post has been retained for archive purposes. The information is not current. To view an updated post, click here. To view the official CompTIA certification policies, go to For other CompTIA news on Transcender’s blog, click the “Categories” droplist in the upper right column and select CompTIA.

Continue Reading CompTIA sets 3-year expiration policy for A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications…

CompTIA’s N10-004 Network+ 2009 – References Abound

October 13, 2009 at 9:58 am | Posted in CompTIA | 1 Comment
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Several months ago, I blogged about CompTIA’s new Network+ test, N10-004. At that time, I was lamenting the fact that there were no published references for the Network+ test. I was literally spending hours searching the Internet for help. I included links to some of the more helpful sites in my post, but hoped that a more comprehensive reference would be released soon.

Well, here it is October already, so I thought I’d do a little informative update about the references now available.  I performed a search at for Network+ 2009 books. I received 26 results. Included in this list were several Sybex books, a few Todd Lammle books, a couple of Mike Myers books, and other authors. If you are looking for a good study reference, I would suggest paying attention to the length of the book and to the reviews. As for the length, I hate to say “the longer the better.” But I definitely wouldn’t purchase a book that was considerably shorter than the others. The reviews can be very insightful, particularly if there are a few bad reviews.

Now, what would I choose? Well, I personally would probably purchase a Mike Myers or Todd Lammle book. I have experience with their material and have found that they are fairly thorough. One of Mike Myers’ books is over 700 pages, and one of Todd Lammle’s books is over 800 pages. That should keep you busy for quite a while.

And don’t forget to purchase Transcender’s Cert-N10-004 practice test. The questions are great, and the tutorials/explanations are out of this world! Take it from me, the always objective and über-talented author of said practice test.

Also, if you have been previously certified in Network+, there is a Bridge exam that only covers the new topics. The Bridge exam is ONLY available to Network+ certified professionals. And you guessed it, the aforementioned über-talented author of the Network+ practice exam has also put together a practice test for the Bridge (Cert-BR0-002) — you know, in my spare time.

Look for an upcoming post where I discuss answers to the Network+ topics that seem to be tripping our customers up (based on their comments to us).


Network+ 2009 (N10-004) practice test: Robin takes on Network+

May 4, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Posted in CompTIA | Leave a comment
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Recently, Transcender announced the release of our Network+ 2009 version practice test. This was quite a milestone for me. I personally wrote or revised over 400 practice test questions and 400 flash cards. (By the end of the project, I was very tired, but it was quite a learning experience for me too.)

There are some changes with the new version. For instance, the objectives state we must memorize all the wire colors of the 568A and 568B cables. Even in the days where I wired offices on a weekly basis, this handy chart was located on a little Post-It note tucked neatly away in a pocket of my tool caddy. I had a co-worker who had them memorized, but he was one of those guys who literally memorized everything. (You know the type: just ask him who won the Cy Young award in 1985. He can tell you, along with the stats. Ugh!) Me, I just checked my Post-It.

So when it comes to exam time, this is my technique: I memorize this type of information before taking the test. Once I hit the testing center, I  jot the information down IMMEDIATELY when handed my dry-erase board (and possibly make the test facilitator a little nervous), pass the exam, and dump the information. Back in the real world, I just refer back to my Post-It note (in its rather tattered form) when I REALLY need it.

But once I’d completed writing our practice test, I felt like I had accomplished so much…both personally and for our customers. Our practice test really hits the mark. We based our items on the exam objectives and the application of our test experiences.

Transcender N10-004: 375 practice test questions / 466 flash cards
We released our practice test after thoroughly analyzing the content in the live exam. The test content is weighted based on CompTIA’s Exam Guide.

For those previously certified on Network+, we have the Bridge version of our practice test for sale, BR0-002. This will test you on the difference between N10-003 and N10-004.

So with that information, I know you’ll make the choice to purchase Transcender’s Cert-N10-004 practice test. Remember to study those explanations! They are absolutely the most important piece of our tool. And use those flash cards just before taking the test as a last-minute review of the basics.

We know that with our tool you’ll pass with flying colors!

— Robin A.

P.S. Watch CompTIA’s web site for announcements over the coming months! The new Beta versions of the Project+, Linux+, and Server+ exams have been released. In addition, the A+ exams are being revised as well. So a lot is happening in the CompTIA world!

CompTIA’s Network+ 2009 (N10-004): Finding References

February 10, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Study hints | 6 Comments
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Update: There is a follow-up post on finding more Network+ references here:

CompTIA has released the newest version of the Network+ exam. I took the exam the first week of February, and I can honestly see the changes. While the exam is still knowledge based, I could see where CompTIA has tried to be more task-focused in the exam design. I also saw that CompTIA has revised the exam sufficiently to include new technologies.

Immediately after taking the exam, I started to develop Transcender’s N10-004 practice test. Over the past few weeks, I had been doing groundwork to prepare for writing the test. Part of this preliminary work includes locating, and sometimes purchasing, references for the test.

To find references, my first step is always to check the CompTIA certification site to see what is listed. Usually CompTIA releases their official CompTIA Press books around the same time as the exam. Unfortunately, as of this post, none of the book references they list are for the 2009 version of the test.

Not finding any official CompTIA references listed, I decided to search I got all excited when several books came up….only to realize that none of them are slated for release until April/May 2009. My, that doesn’t really help me now, does it?

At this point I decided I must come up with preliminary online references that could jump-start my practice test development. (A few years ago, I used the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking to help with the development of N10-003. I still have this book. But Transcender is trying to work toward using mostly online references to help our customers during the studying process. Nothing is more frustrating than having to purchase several books on top of purchasing your practice test, right?) (Oh, my, focus Robin. You are starting to chase a rabbit!)

I decided to search for generic online networking references, like encyclopedias, glossaries, and tutorials. I found the following references that could be a great starting place for those preparing for the 2009 Network+:

Computer Network Tutorials –

Computer and Wireless Networking Basics –

Networking Glossary –

The Network Encyclopedia –

Now these four references will by no means cover all of the topics in the Network+ exam, but they will serve to get you on your way.

What do you do about the topics that are not covered here? One word – GOOGLE. But be smart with your Google search. If searching for a particular term like 568A, enter “What is 568A in computer networking” in the search string. You would be surprised at the number of terms and acronyms that mean different things depending on the industry you are in. And personally, I don’t want to wade through several pages of unneeded search results pertaining to conservation, engineering, stimulus plans, or anything else. I hear enough about that on TV.

Be careful which result you use for your primary research. Know where you information is coming from. For example, I know that most of us use as a general source of information. However, the information on is not always accurate. So make sure to corroborate any information from a reputable company or organization, such as Microsoft, Cisco, CompTIA, or an educational institution. An inaccurate reference can cause you to memorize the wrong facts and miss exam questions.

I guess that’s enough about this for now. I’ll post an update if I find anything interesting over the next few days.

To find out more about what CompTIA says about Network+, go to One reminder: the current version of Network+ (N10-003) will be retired July 31, 2009. If you are currently Network+ certified, you are not required to upgrade your certification. But my personal opinion is that it never hurts…and besides, it adds to your list of designations in your signature line (something that we techies seem to enjoy).

-Robin Abernathy

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