My roadmap for passing the CompTIA A+ Core 2 (220-1002) in 3 weeks with no IT experience

This is a follow-up from a previous post I made where I detailed my roadmap for studying for the CompTIA A+ core 1 certification exam on my own and passing on the first try with a 799 and no IT experience.

For core 2, I gave myself 3 weeks to pass, knowing that my last week I would be out for the summer (I teach) and would have extra time to practice before my test.

I modified my strategy slightly based on my experience studying for the first exam (I spoke about this at length in my previous post). Here’s what I did.

  1. Like last time, I brought Professor Messer’s notes and the Jason Dion Udemy test practice course, but this time I also bought the Messer practice tests PDF since I personally found the practice tests last time to be the biggest advantage in preparing for the test. I began by watching the Messer videos in order and using the notes as reference.

  2. I downloaded Oracle (a virtualization platform) and some Linux distributions on my Windows desktop. I previously owned a Mac and an iPad so I didn’t use iOS or macOS in my virtualization set up but if you’re unfamiliar with those operating systems may be worth it. Anytime the Messer videos covered navigating these OSs I would follow along and try to do the commands and play around with the settings until I got familiar with it. By far, the exam objectives cover Windows much more than any other OS so having a windows computer at your disposal is critical to prepare for this exam.

  3. I made a running list of the commands covered in the command line since the objectives cover a good deal of them and if you’re not already familiar with the syntax and function of these commands, you have to commit them to memory because the test will expect you to use the correct syntax, especially in the PBQs where you’re given a command line window. You won’t be able to access the full help options that you would in a regular OS so don’t bank on being able to type help and expand your options.

  4. I was able to get through the videos faster by using the arrow keys to skip ahead on parts that I was already familiar with but next time I will play around with watching videos at a faster speed since this is by far the most time-consuming part of the training. Unlike last time, this time I did not make flashcards or take notes beyond things like commands that I knew I had to commit to memory.

  5. Once I finished the videos, (this took me 2 weeks, so 2/3 of the entire time I gave myself to study) I went back through all the Messer notes (this is where buying these course notes becomes handy) and I copied and pasted all the topics and bullets that I knew I needed to review more or memorize into Anki flashcards on my computer. I only skipped the concepts that I was certain I knew well and wouldn’t forget by the time of the test.

    I copied all the charts detailing all the different Windows editions, versions and features as well as the charts showing minimum system requirements to run 32 and 64-bit versions of each Windows version, these were super important and came up a LOT during the practice and you will need to know it for the exam. It’s tempting to gloss over but come up with ways to easily memorize or recognize these concepts.

    Other important things to commit to flashcards and memorize were terminal commands, the Windows programs and services to check, monitor, and troubleshoot, and the in-place-upgrade chart for Windows. Also please make sure you know the steps for change management and malware removal as these come up a lot. Especially knowing what would be the best course of action to address certain problems. Always remember that before making any significant changes to the system or device, always analyze what you’re dealing with first, then start with the least intrusive fixes before attempting drastic changes. And always always always quarantine the device after malware is suspected or confirmed.

  6. Once doing my review of notes and flashcards without doing and heavy review yet, I took the first Dion practice test to get a baseline. I ended up scoring about a 77% but the test initially glitched and marked a few questions wrong during the review but said they were right when I went back to see what questions I missed so I had to adjust the percentage myself. This may or may not be a glitch on the course itself, just be aware and be sure to go back to review all questions, even the ones you got correct. Make a point to flag or write down questions you were unsure of because even if you got it right, getting that confirmation of why it was right always helps.

    You may or may not want to take a baseline test. If you only purchased the Dion exam, you may want to save them for when you feel you have studied sufficiently since you only get 2. I only used one as a baseline since I bought the Messer exams as well and had a total of 5 exams to take. I felt that using one as a baseline will help me understand what to expect as I reviewed my flashcards and it’s always a confidence booster to start low and see your score improve after more review. It’s an extra boost of confidence if you do well or get a passing score on your baseline, too.

  7. The next phase of studying is my favorite since you can see your growth in real-time. After taking the baseline and feeling good about the score (don’t be discouraged if you fail your baseline or first exam, you will see growth if you keep practicing) I just kept going through the Anki flashcards over and over for a few days and creating mnemonic devices for the multi-step processes like malware removal and change control and associating ideas with acronyms or names.

I only had a few days before the test at this point in my studies (I took the baseline about a week before my exam because I only had 3 weeks but you may want to give yourself more time, especially if you are not studying for this right after studying for the first core.

I just took one or two practice exams a day, did a post-mortem, wrote down any concepts I was unfamiliar with, and did as much free practice I could find online to supplement my studies. I found myself burning out after taking the 3 Messer exams in one day (the day before the test) since I noticed I scored lower on the last exam, (I got a 91%, 90% then somewhere in the 80s on my last exam) and I found myself making more careless mistakes. If you can, space out your practice exams!

I found this exam more difficult than I thought it would be since it doesn’t cover as many topics as core 1 does but it covers them in greater depth and I found a lot of the questions to be fairly subjective. You really have to understand the troubleshooting methodologies. I couldn’t finish a PBQ because I forgot a subcommand that goes with a command-line function (I can’t say what it is for fear of violating test privacy rules but please study your commands and subcommands).

All in all, I passed with a 734, which is lower than the 799 I got on core 1. I really thought I’d score higher on this one because I found studying for it to be easier and got consistently low 90s scores on the practice exams but I may have burned myself out trying to take so many practice exams the day before the test.

I hope this was helpful for folks who may be studying for the A+ 220-1002 now or later.



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