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12 Tips to Help You Pass Your Next CompTIA Exam

12 Tips to Help You Pass Your Next CompTIA Exam

Many business today require employees to become CompTIA certified. Whether it’s A+, Network+, or Security+, all these certifications have one thing in common: The exams! 

While sitting for an exam may send shivers down the spine of even the most experienced IT professional, it is important to realize that these certification tests all share a common format.

CompTIA’s A+, Network+, and Security+ exams include performance-based questions (PBQ) and multiple choice questions. The exact number for each question type vary from exam to exam. Though there is no shortcut to knowing the technical information that will be included on these exams, there are test taking approaches that will improve your chances to pass. 

As an IT professional who has taken many certifications tests over the years, I would like to share some of my strategies.

Tips for Performance-Based Questions

Performance-based questions require you to complete various tasks. Drag and drop, configuring an IP Address, and building a Personal Computer are a few examples of the PBQ tasks. CompTIA states: "These PBQ test your ability to solve problems in a simulated environment." And I suspect that we will see more PBQ’s as CompTIA rolls out new versions of its exams.

Tip 1: Before you schedule your test, read as much as you can on the PBQ questions.

CompTIA provides descriptions and samples of PBQ questions here. Generally, the PBQ are the first questions presented. Do not lose time because you did not do your pre-test homework. Know what actions are required by you to complete the PBQ.

Tip 2: If you are having trouble with a PBQ, mark it and move onto the next question.

This can be said for both the PBQ and the multiple choice questions. CompTIA exams allow you to mark a question for later review. The PBQ questions are challenging, and you do not want to spend too much of the allotted 90 minutes on these questions.

Tips for Multiple Choice Questions

The number of multiple choice questions will vary from exam to exam, but they will be multiple choice. There will be no true/false, no short essay, and no fill in the blanks. So the good news is that the correct answer (or answers) is/are there; you just have to find it/them. Being familiar with the technical jargon will go a long way to help you pass the exams.

You can download the exam objectives and acronym list from CompTIA’s web site. Reviewing this document will be invaluable.

Tip 3: Identify a key word or phrase in the question.

Sample Question: Which of the following must be available to host a virtual environment?

D. Hypervisor

If you identify virtual as a key word, you can look for an answer that pairs nicely with that key word. If you familiarized yourself with CompTIA’s A+ acronym list, you know Hypervisor is the right answer.

Tip 4: Capitalized words in the question are there for a reason.

Sample Question: Which of the following requires a MINIMUM of three hard drives?


MOST, LEAST, MINIMUM, MAXIMUM, FIRST. These words are VERY important. RAID 0 can utilize three hard drives, but only RAID 5 requires at least three hard drives.

Tip 5: Know the vocabulary.

Sample Question: Why would you use plenum rated cables when installing new cabling in your office?

A. Efficiently reduces EMI and cross talk in STP cabling
B. Allows cabling to be easily bent without snapping
C. Reduction in hazardous fumes if cable is on fire
D. Ensures an intruder cannot wiretap your cabling

If you reviewed CompTIA’s A+ Essentials Objective 2.2, you know about plenum-grade cables, and you also know they are used to reduce the emission of harmful fumes in case of a fire.

Tip 6: Generally, you can eliminate at least two answers.

Sample Question: You are setting up a small office with five clients running Windows 7. The clients will access the network through a Wireless Access Point. Which of the following encryption methods is the MOST secure?

B. WPA2 Personal
C. Ad hoc
D. Infrastructure

If you reviewed your courseware’s chapter on wireless networks, you know that ad-hoc and infrastructure have nothing to do with encryption methods in a wireless network. WEP and WPA2 Personal are wireless encryption methods but WPA2 Personal is the MOST secure.

Tip 7: Make logical deductions.

Sample Question: Which version of Windows 7 does NOT support a 64-bit version?

A. Windows 7 Ultimate
B. Windows 7 Home Basic
C. Windows 7 Professional
D. Windows 7 Enterprise

Let's say you cannot remember which versions of Windows 7 support 64-bit. Begin to break down the question and answers. 1. There is only one answer. 2. The answer is a version that does NOT include a 64-bit version. 3. 64-bit versions support more RAM and is for the higher end versions, therefore you can eliminate Enterprise and Ultimate. 4. The choice is between Windows 7 Home Basic and Windows 7 Professional. 5. Between Windows 7 Professional and Home Basic, Home Basic is the lower end version, so that version must be the correct answer.

Tip 8: Knowing the wrong answer is a good thing.

Sample Question: What port does Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) use?

A. 80
B. 443
C. 389
D. 25

You studied common port numbers, but cannot recall LDAP’s port number. However, you do know port 80 is HTTP , 443 is HTTPS and 25 is SMTP; therefore the remaining answer, port 389, must be correct.

Tip 9: Anticipate the answer as you read the question.

Sample Question: A co-worker wants to purchase an external hard drive for her PC. Which of the following could you recommend? (Select TWO).

Before you actually read the possible answers, think: What are examples of external hard drives? Now, when you see the answers, picking the correct one(s) will be a snap!


The only external hard drives listed are eSATA and USB.

Tip 10: Later questions may help with earlier questions.

Sample Question: A co-worker wants to add an internal hard drive for her PC. Which of the following could you recommend? (Select TWO).


This question is almost identical to the earlier question. But the key phrase in the earlier question was external hard drives, and this one is internal hard drive. You know SATA and PATA are internal hard drives and are the two correct answers; therefore, eSATA must be an external hard drive. If you were unsure about eSATA, you can return to the earlier question and mark the correct answer.

Tip 11: Do not leave any answers blank.

I am not absolutely clear how CompTIA exams are scored, but I do know a blank answer is worth zero. If all of the above tips fail, guess. You can mark any question and return to it if you have time left before the exam ends. And this leads me to my final, and perhaps most important tip:


Use all of your knowledge and test taking skills to answer the questions. Mark those questions that have challenged or confused you. If you have time, go back to those questions, but remember your first response is usually correct.

To pass a CompTIA exam, you must master the technical information presented in the test. CompTIA classes, books, and videos will help in that area, but there is also a skill to deconstructing the test questions to compliment that knowledge. 

I hope these tips offer you help in that area and enhance your test taking talent. Good luck on your road to CompTIA certification!

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Peg KeenanAuthor: Peg Keenan, Technical Instructor
MCT, MCSE, MCSA, MCP, MCDST, MCITP, MCTS, A+, Network+. Security+, KCP

Peg has been a Technical Trainer for over 15 years. Before joining New Horizons in 2008, Peg has worked as an Attorney, Network Administrator, and Technical Consultant. Peg earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston University, her Juris Doctorate from Tulane University, and her technical training from Clark University.

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