Training and Certification

CompTIA A+ Training: Instructor-Led vs E-Learning

November 24, 2015

Bita Beigishah

You already have an understanding of why earning the CompTIA A+ certification is a great career move, but now you have to find the best way to prepare for the test. There are really two options you face; instructor-led or e-learning*.

*For the purposes of this post I will refer to e-learning as the equivalent to self-study in that it is self-paced and typically the least expensive option.

Here are the options you face and the pros and cons of each in relation to the A+ exam.

Instructor-led A+ Training

Instructor-led training (ILT) literally means you attend class or tune in online during set dates and times and an instructor leads the course. ILT for CompTIA A+ is typically a full 40 hour course which can be scheduled in five consecutive work days, five Saturday classes or ten 4-hour night sessions. This training can be delivered in one of several concentrations:

  • Bootcamp = Training that is geared towards preparing students to pass their certification exam on the last day of the course.
  • Exam Prep = Training that is geared primarily toward exam preparation, but the certification will not be delivered on the last day of the course.
  • Skills-based = Training that does not include exam preparation, but focuses solely on developing the student’s comprehension of the exam objectives.

When deciding to take an ILT course, you first need to determine goals – either to understand the material or to earn your certification.

Download our CompTIA A+ Study Guide

While these seem similar, they are actually very different in that exam preparation training focuses more so on how to answer questions as the certification body wants them answered and other test taking techniques.

Skills-based on the other hand is solely geared towards developing knowledge of the course material. However, both sets of skills are necessary to succeed on an exam. Students will not be able to pass on exam prep or skills-based training alone. The combination is vital.

Pros of using a CompTIA A+ approved ILT center

  • You will only be exposed to CompTIA A+ Approved Content. This is good for you because using non-approved content is grounds to have your certification revoked and can prohibit you from ever receiving any CompTIA certification in the future.
  • All instructors are certified in the course they are teaching so they have seen the latest A+ exam firsthand.
  • The content can be adjusted quickly to meet different learning styles. For example, if you are having trouble understanding a hardware component your instructor can take an old computer apart with you and show you first hand what the part is and how it relates to the device as a whole. In this way, ILT can be great for the kinesthetic learner.

Cons of using a CompTIA A+ approved ILT center

  • It is expensive. At $2,060 it is an investment and you need to ensure that you will get the return you are hoping for once you have the certification. Also, make sure you looked closely at the various cost savings method your ILT center offers to save a few bucks when possible.
  • It is time-consuming. The most effective training delivery is the 40 -hour one week course because it completely immerses you in the content and requires your total concentration, but it also requires a week of vacation time if your company is not willing to put you through the course.
  • If the class is comprised of a vast range of learning levels and the instructor needs to constantly revert back to teaching prerequisite knowledge, it can become frustrating for some students.

A+ E-learning

Websites such as Professor Messer offer great and free e-learning options for students hoping to self-study for their CompTIA A+ exams. However, you will still need to combine this free option with paid labs in order to fully develop an understanding of the course material.

Usually students who self-study for exams take about three months of consistently studying material to pass their certification exam. When self-studying it is important to develop a thorough understanding of the exam objectives since the test-taking practice isn’t included in self-study materials and you don’t have access to an instructor who understands the details regarding the exam’s delivery.

Pros of using CompTIA A+ e-learning

  • It can be very inexpensive and in some cases free to use.
  • You can learn at your own pace and concentrate as much or as little as you’d like on any given topic.

Cons of using CompTIA A+ e-learning

  • You have to dig around for a number of materials to gain a comprehensive learning experience. If you are not selecting materials carefully you could waste money on labs, books, videos, etc that don’t aid in your A+ journey. Additionally, by not selecting quality materials you could waste your time by studying the wrong information; it’s true that you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet!
  • You don’t have direct access to someone who has taken the exam to understand how questions are presented and how to address each question in order to find the right answer.
  • It’s time-consuming. In fact, it’s probably more time-consuming than an ILT course, but you choose which hours you dedicate to study. The one problem that self-study students run into is that they can easily get consumed by the details and never fully develop the widespread comprehension that is necessary to passing the exam.

Overall, e-learning is the best priced option but only for students who are disciplined to use it effectively. It takes a lot of time, patience and investigation to pull together all the necessary study materials to develop a total comprehension of the exam objectives. Additionally, students who elect this option must also have a strong test-taking background because much success is determined simply by understanding how to attack each question on the exam appropriately to secure the right answer. If you don’t have this discipline (don’t worry most people are in this category, myself included) ILT is your best option.

The training center will pull together and test all the materials such as books, labs, flash cards, etc. you need to study and give them to you as included in the cost of the course and provide the study plan you should follow both before and during your class.

Finally, the instructor will be able to answer all your questions during your course and direct your study time to encompass the most important sections of the objectives that will most likely be seen in your certification exam.

What training method did you use?

If you passed your CompTIA A+ certification, tell us how you prepared in the comments below!

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