CompTIA provides a neutral certification process recognized worldwide by the information technology industry. CompTIA’s A+ Essential certification validates your IT knowledge in several areas, including professionalism, networking and security, and computer technology, according to CompTIA. CompTIA A+ certification requires the completion of two exams—220-701 and 220-702. Several methods are available to learn CompTIA A+ Essentials at home, including purchasing textbooks, reviewing CompTIA’s website and searching for online training courses.

Visit CompTIA’s website for learning materials. The site provides several tools for learning A+ Essentials at home. Download the practice questions, training materials and exam objectives. Make sure you review both the Essentials and Practical Application components if you plan to pursue certification. See Resources for links to CompTIA’s learning tools.

Purchase CompTIA A+ Essentials certification manuals. Several manuals exist for learning CompTIA A+ Essentials. Many include interactive media like compact discs that provide sample tests and practice questions. Research and review several options including “CompTIA A+ Complete Study Guide” by Quentin Docter, “CompTIA A+ Certification All-In-One for Dummies” by Clarke and Tetz and “All-In-One CompTIA A+ Certification Exam Guide” by Mike Meyers. The textbooks provide structured information on hardware, troubleshooting and maintenance, as well as conceptual knowledge you can apply during your hands-on learning experience. See Resources for links to each product.

Review the information using methods that work for you. Use a combination of hands-on and visual cues to develop an understanding of key concepts. For example, use index cards to record key concepts and work with an old computer to gain basic experience with hardware, maintenance and troubleshooting.

Focus your studies. A full 67 percent of the the CompTIA A+ Essentials training deals with hardware, troubleshooting and operating systems, each of which requires hands-on knowledge. Gain a detailed understanding of motherboard types, central processing units, cooling methods and storage devices. Obtain a used motherboard and study each component.

Build your own computer. To gain a firm understanding of computer hardware, purchase a bare-bones computer package and assemble it using books like "Build a Computer from Scratch" by Jeff Heaton or "Building the Perfect PC" by Barbara Fritchman Thompson. Once complete, follow the troubleshooting methodology--investigation, analysis and implementation--to resolve any concerns you may encounter. You can locate bare-bones computer kits online.

Register for online training. Several programs allow you to work at your own pace or exclusively online. Online training offers a more interactive approach to learning and provides the conceptual knowledge required to complete hands-on activities. In addition, online training offers tools that help identify your weaknesses. Visit the Resources for links to programs or research online training opportunities.

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