Computer Network Specialist
A+ Core Exam Objectives
San Antonio College of Medical & Dental Assistants
Information Technology Department


Final Revision (as of July 17, 1998)

A+ Core Service Technician Examination Blueprint

NOTE: This is the FINAL revision of the A+ Core Service Technician exam blueprint. This document was produced after the final technical and psychometric review of the item pool following the beta-testing period. This document is reflective of the topics and technologies which appear as part of the A+ Core Service Technician exam.

Introduction

For A+ Certification, the examinee must pass both this examination and the A+ DOS/Windows Service Technician examination.  This examination measures essential competencies for a break/fix microcomputer hardware service technician with six months of on-the-job experience.  The examinee must demonstrate knowledge to properly install, configure, upgrade,  troubleshoot and repair microcomputer hardware.  This includes basic
knowledge of desktop and portable systems, basic networking concepts, and printers.  The examinee must also demonstrate knowledge of safety and common preventive maintenance procedures. 

Since customer satisfaction is a key aspect of providing microcomputer hardware service, this examination will include questions that measure the examinee's knowledge of effective behaviors that contribute to customer satisfaction.  The customer satisfaction questions will be scored but will not impact final pass/fail score on this examination.

The skills and knowledge measured by this examination are derived from an industry-wide job task analysis and validated through a worldwide survey of 5,000 A+ Certified professionals. The results of the worldwide survey were used in weighting the domains and ensuring that the weighting is representative of the relative importance of that content to the job requirements of a service technician with six months on-the-job experience.  The results of the job task analysis and survey can be found in the following reports:

  • CompTIA A+ Certification Technical and Customer Satisfaction Job Task Analysis: Phase 1 Report (June 27, 1997)
  • CompTIA A+ Certification Technical and Customer Satisfaction Job Task Analysis: Phase 2 Report  Survey Results (November 10, 1997)  ** A copy of the Job Task Analysis: Phase 2 Report is available for purchase by clicking here to download the order form.

This examination blueprint includes weighting, test objectives, and example content.  Example topics and concepts are included to clarify the test objectives; they should not be construed as a comprehensive listing of the content of this examination. 

The table below lists the domains measured by this examination and the approximate extent to which they are represented.

Domain

 % of Examination                             (approximately)

1.0 Installation, Configuration, and Upgrading

30%

2.0 Diagnosing and Troubleshooting

20%

3.0 Safety and Preventive Maintenance

10%

4.0 Motherboard/Processors/Memory

10%

5.0 Printers

10%

6.0 Portable Systems

 5%

7.0 Basic Networking

5%

8.0 Customer Satisfaction

10%1

Total

100.00%

1 Note: The Customer Satisfaction domain will be scored but will not impact final pass/fail score on the A+ Core examination.

Domain 1.0 Installation, Configuration, and Upgrading

This domain requires the knowledge and skills to identify, install, configure,
  and upgrade microcomputer modules and peripherals, following established
  basic procedures for system assembly and disassembly of field replaceable
  modules.   Elements include ability to identify and configure IRQs, DMAs, I/O
  addresses, and set switches and jumpers.

Content Limits

1.1  Identify basic terms, concepts, and functions of system modules,
  including how each module should work during normal operation.

Examples of concepts and modules:

  • System board
  • Power supply
  • Processor /CPU
  • Memory
  • Storage devices
  • Monitor
  • Modem
  • Firmware
  • Boot process
  • BIOS
  • CMOS

1.2 Identify basic procedures for adding and removing field replaceable modules.

Examples of modules:

  • System board
  • Storage device
  • Power supply
  • Processor /CPU
  • Memory
  • Input devices

1.3 Identify available IRQs, DMAs, and I/O addresses and procedures for configuring them for device installation.

Content may include the following:

  • Standard IRQ settings
  • Modems
  • Floppy drives
  • Hard drive

1.4  Identify common peripheral ports, associated cabling, and their connectors.

Content may include the following:

  • Cable types
  • Cable orientation
  • Serial versus parallel
  • Pin connections

Examples of types of connectors:

  • DB-9
  • DB-25
  • RJ-11
  • RJ-45
  • BNC
  • PS2/MINI-DIN

1.5  Identify proper procedures for installing and configuring IDE/EIDE devices.

Content may include the following:

  • Master/slave
  • Devices per channel

1.6  Identify proper procedures for installing and configuring SCSI devices.

Content may include the following:

  • Address/Termination conflicts
  • Cabling
  • Types (example: regular, wide, ultra-wide)
  • Internal versus external
  • Switch and jumper settings

1.7  Identify proper procedures for installing and configuring peripheral devices.

Content may include the following:

  • Monitor/Video Card
  • Modem
  • Storage devices

1.8 Identify concepts and procedures relating to BIOS.

  • Methods for upgrading
  • When to upgrade

1.9  Identify hardware methods of system optimization and when to use them.

Content may include the following:

  • Memory
  • Hard Drives
  • CPU
  • Cache memory

Response Limits:

The examinee selects, from four (4) response options, the one option that best completes the statement or answers the question.  Distracters or wrong answers are response options that examinees with incomplete knowledge or skill would likely choose, but are generally plausible responses fitting into the content area.

Sample Directions:

Read the statement or question and, from the response options, select only one letter that represents the most correct or best answer. 

Sample Test Items:

1. Which statement is true regarding SCSI termination?

A. Only drives must be terminated.
B. Only adapters must be terminated.
C. No termination is necessary.
D. Both ends of the chain must be terminated.

Correct answer: D

2. External modems are usually connected to a(n)

A. SCSI port
B. LPT port
C. serial port
D. parallel port

Correct answer:  C

3. The major advantage of using Flash ROM is

A. you can upgrade BIOS without replacing the chip
B. you do not have to re-load the operating system
C. hard drives are protected
D. memory capacity is increased

Correct answer: A

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Domain 2.0 Diagnosing and Troubleshooting

This domain requires the ability to apply knowledge relating to diagnosing and troubleshooting common module problems and system malfunctions. This includes knowledge of the symptoms relating to common problems.

Content Limits

2.1  Identify common symptoms and problems associated with each module and how to troubleshoot and isolate the problems.

Content may include the following:

  • Processor/Memory symptoms
  • Mouse
  • Floppy drive failures
  • Parallel ports
  • Hard Drives 
  • Sound Card/Audio
  • Monitor/Video
  • Motherboards
  • Modems
  • BIOS
  • CMOS
  • Power supply
  • Slot covers
  • POST audible/visual error codes
  • Troubleshooting tools, e.g., multimeter

2.2   Identify basic troubleshooting procedures and good practices for eliciting problem symptoms from customers.

Content may include the following:

  • Troubleshooting/isolation/problem determination procedures
  • Determine whether hardware or software problem
  • Gather information from user regarding, e.g., multimeter
  • Customer Environment
  • Symptoms/Error Codes
  • Situation when the problem occurred

Response Limits:

The examinee selects, from four (4) response options, the one option that best completes the statement or answers the question.  Distracters or wrong answers are response options that examinees with incomplete knowledge or skill would likely choose, but are generally plausible responses fitting into the content area.

Sample Directions:

Read the statement or question and, from the response options, select only one letter that represents the most correct or best answer. 

Sample Test Items:

1.  Installing a floppy cable backwards will

A. destroy the floppy drive
B. cause the controller card to fail and require replacement
C. cause the system to lock up
D. render the drive inoperable but cause no damage

Correct answer: D

2.  You have a system with one EIDE drive. You connect a second EIDE drive to the same cable as the first drive, set it to slave, and apply power. The original drive auto-detects, but not the new one. What could be the problem?

A. The CMOS is loose.
B. The LBA or E-CHS is not active.
C. The master drive has a separate  "single drive"  setting.
D. There is no power to the master drive.

Correct answer: C

3.  When an I/O device such as a serial port or modem is not enabled during startup, what is the cause?

A. corrupted memory
B. failed BIOS
C. lost clusters
D. monitor burnout

Correct answer: B

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Domain 3.0 Safety and Preventive Maintenance

This domain requires the knowledge of safety and preventive maintenance.  With regard to safety, it includes the potential hazards to personnel and equipment when working with lasers, high voltage equipment, ESD, and items that require special disposal procedures that comply with environmental guidelines.  With regard to preventive maintenance, this includes knowledge of preventive maintenance products, procedures, environmental hazards, and precautions when working on microcomputer systems.

Content Limits

3.1  Identify the purpose of various types of preventive maintenance products and procedures and when to use/perform them.

Content may include the following:

  • Liquid cleaning compounds
  • Types of materials to clean contacts and connections
  • Vacuum out systems, power supplies, fans

3.2 Identify procedures and devices for protecting against environmental hazards.

Content may include the following:

  • UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and suppressors
  • Determining the signs of power issues
  • Proper methods of storage of components for future use

3.3 Identify the potential hazards and proper safety procedures relating to lasers and high-voltage equipment.

  • Lasers
  • High-voltage equipment
  • Power supply
  • CRT

3.4  Identify items that require special disposal procedures that comply with environmental guidelines.

Content may include the following:

  • Batteries
  • CRTs
  • Toner kits/cartridges
  • Chemical solvents and cans
  • MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)

3.5  Identify ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) precautions and procedures, including the use of ESD protection devices.

Content may include the following:

  • What ESD can do, how it may be apparent, or hidden
  • Common ESD protection devices
  • Situations that could present a danger or hazard

Response Limits:

The examinee selects, from four (4) response options, the one option that best completes the statement or answers the question.  Distracters or wrong answers are response options that examinees with incomplete knowledge or skill would likely choose, but are generally plausible responses fitting into the content area.

Sample Directions:

Read the statement or question and, from the response options, select only one letter that represents the most correct or best answer. 

Sample Test Items:

1.  When power is restored after a power outage, what should you do to protect your system?

A. Disconnect the CRT.
B. Close all programs.
C. Turn off the power.
D. Unplug all power cords.

Correct answer: D

2.  What is the first step to safely service a laser unit?

A. Unplug the unit.
B. Check the paper feed.
C. Inspect the mechanism.
D. Check for power.

Correct answer: A

3. Electrostatic discharge occurs when objects

A. are ungrounded
B. have dissimilar electric potential
C. are in a humid environment
D. are removed from their protective bags

Correct answer: B

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Domain 4.0 Motherboard/Processors/Memory

This domain requires knowledge of specific terminology, facts, ways and means of dealing with classifications, categories and principles of motherboards, processors, and memory in microcomputer systems.

Content Limits

4.1  Distinguish between the popular CPU chips in terms of their basic characteristics.

Content may include the following:

  • Popular CPU chips
  • Characteristics:
    • Physical size
    • Voltage
    • Speeds
    • On board cache or not
    • Sockets
    • Number of pins

4.2  Identify the categories of RAM (Random Access Memory) terminology, their locations, and physical characteristics.

Content may include the following:

  • Terminology:
    • EDO RAM (Extended Data Output RAM)DRAM
    • (Dynamic Random Access Memory)
    • SRAM (Static RAM)
    • VRAM (Video RAM)
    • WRAM (Windows Accelerator Card RAM)
  • Locations and physical characteristics:
    • Memory bank
    • Memory chips  (8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit)
    • SIMMS (Single In-line Memory Module)
    • DIMMS (Dual In-line Memory Module)
    • Parity chips versus non-parity chips

4.3  Identify the most popular type of motherboards, their components, and their architecture (for example, bus structures and power supplies).

Content may include the following:

  • Types of motherboards:
    • AT (Full and Baby)
    • ATX
  • Components:
    • Communication ports
    • SIMM AND DIMM
    • Processor sockets
    • External cache memory (Level 2)
  • Bus Architecture
    • ISA
    • EISA
    • PCI
    • USB (Universal Serial Bus)
    • VESA local bus (VL-Bus)
    • PC Card (PCMCIA)
  • Basic compatibility guidelines

4.4 Identify the purpose of CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor), what it contains and how to change its basic parameters.

Example Basic CMOS Settings:

  • Printer parallel portUni., bi-directional, disable/enable, ECP, EPP
  • COM/serial portmemory address, interrupt request, disable
  • Floppy driveenable/disable drive or boot, speed, density
  • Hard drivesize and drive type
  • Memoryparity, non-parity
  • Boot sequence
  • Date/Time
  • Passwords

Response Limits:

The examinee selects, from four (4) response options, the one option that best completes the statement or answers the question.  Distracters or wrong answers are response options that examinees with incomplete knowledge or skill would likely choose, but are generally plausible responses fitting into the content area.

Sample Directions:

Read the statement or question and, from the response options, select only one letter that represents the most correct or best answer. 

Sample Test Items:

1.  MMX capability enhances

A. caching speed
B. floppy disk transfer
C. multimedia
D. media mix execution

Correct answer: C

2.  One reason for an incorrect time/date setting could be

A. low power supply voltage
B. low CMOS battery
C. low disk space
D. a bad UPS

Correct answer: B

3.  The following drive type parameters can be configured in CMOS EXCEPT

A. tracks
B. cylinders
C. seek time
D. number of heads

Correct answer: C

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Domain 5.0 Printers

This domain requires knowledge of basic types of printers, basic concepts, printer components, how they work, how they print onto a page, paper path, care and service techniques, and common problems.

Content Limits

5.1  Identify basic concepts, printer operations and printer components.

Content may include the following:

  • Types of Printers
    • Laser
    • Inkjet
    • Dot Matrix
  • Paper feeder mechanisms

5.2 Identify care and service techniques and common problems with primary printer types.

Content may include the following:

  • Feed and output
  • Errors
  • Paper jam
  • Print quality
  • Safety precautions
  • Preventive maintenance

5.3 Identify the types of printer connections and configurations.

Content may include the following:

  • Parallel
  • Serial
  • Network

Response Limits:

The examinee selects, from four (4) response options, the one option that best completes the statement or answers the question.  Distracters or wrong answers are response options that examinees with incomplete knowledge or skill would likely choose, but are generally plausible responses fitting into the content area.

Sample Directions:

Read the statement or question and, from the response options, select only one letter that represents the most correct or best answer. 

Sample Test Items:

1.  On a laser printer, the laser beam

A. burns the toner to the paper
B. fuses the image to the transfer corona
C. changes the charge on the photosensitive drum
D. provides the main power to the primary corona

Correct answer: C

2.  A laser printer keeps getting a "MEM Overflow" error.  Which of the following is NOT a possible fix?

A. Reduce RET.
B. Replace the printer's RAM.
C. Add more RAM to the printer.
D. Reduce the print resolution.

Correct answer: B

3.  Which type of connector is used for a parallel connection on a printer?

A. Centronics (36-pin) D-Shell
B. 25-pin (DB-25) male
C. 25-pin (DB-25) female
D. 9-pin (DB-9) male

Correct answer: A

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Domain 6.0 Portable Systems

This domain requires knowledge of portable computers and their unique components and problems.

Content Limits

6.1 Identify the unique components of portable systems and their unique problems.

Content may include the following:

  • Battery
  • LCD
  • AC adapter
  • Docking stations
  • Hard Drive
  • Types I, II, III cards
  • Network cards
  • Memory

Response Limits:

The examinee selects, from four (4) response options, the one option that best completes the statement or answers the question.  Distracters or wrong answers are response options that examinees with incomplete knowledge or skill would likely choose, but are generally plausible responses fitting into the content area.

Sample Directions:

Read the statement or question and, from the response options, select only one letter that represents the most correct or best answer. 

Sample Test Item:

1.  Type I PC Card (PCMCIA) is

A. the thinnest and measures 3.5mm in thickness
B. the thickest and measures 10.5mm in thickness
C. the same size as other cards but configured differently
D. not compatible with new laptops

Correct answer: A

2.  A laptop has a black border on the screen and the screen does not fill the entire LCD. This could indicate

A. a bad battery
B. incorrect BIOS
C. incorrect display settings
D. insufficient system RAM

Correct answer: C

3. Which term refers to a PC Card (PCMCIA) you can remove and replace without powering off?

A. card services
B. hot-swappable
C. socket services
D. Plug and Play

Correct answer: B

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Domain 7.0 Basic Networking

This domain requires knowledge of basic network concepts and terminology, ability to determine whether a computer is networked, knowledge of procedures for swapping and configuring network interface cards, and knowledge of the ramifications of repairs when a computer is networked.

Content Limits

7.1 Identify basic networking concepts, including how a network works.

Content may include the following:

  • Network access
  • Protocol
  • Network Interface Cards
  • Full-duplex
  • CablingTwisted Pair, Coaxial, Fiber Optic
  • Ways to network a PC

7.2  Identify procedures for swapping and configuring network interface cards.

7.3  Identify the ramifications of repairs on the network.

Content may include the following:

  • Reduced bandwidth
  • Loss of data
  • Network slowdown

Response Limits:

The examinee selects, from four (4) response options, the one option that best completes the statement or answers the question.  Distracters or wrong answers are response options that examinees with incomplete knowledge or skill would likely choose, but are generally plausible responses fitting into the content area.

Sample Directions:

Read the statement or question and, from the response options, select only one letter that represents the most correct or best answer. 

Sample Test Items:

1.  A 10BaseT cable is normally connected to a computer with a(n)

A. BNC connector
B. TX connector
C. RJ-11 connector
D. RJ-45 connector

Correct answer: D

2. An improperly configured network interface card could

A. prohibit the PC from powering up
B. prohibit network access
C. damage a sound card
D. cause screen flicker

Correct answer: B

3. The IRQ for a PCI network interface card is NOT configured with

A. CMOS
B. BIOS
C. jumpers
D. the operating system

Correct answer: C

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Domain 8.0 Customer Satisfaction

This domain requires knowledge of - and sensitivity around - those behaviors that contribute to satisfying customers.  More specifically, these behaviors include such things as: the quality of technician-customer personal interactions; the way a technician conducts him or herself professionally within the customer's business setting; the credibility and confidence
  projected by the technician which, in turn, engenders customer confidence; the resilience, friendliness, and efficiency that can unexpectedly delight the customer above and beyond the solving of a technical problem.  This domain is NOT a test of specific company policies or procedures.

Content Limits

8.1 Differentiate effective from ineffective behaviors as these contribute to the maintenance or achievement of customer satisfaction.

Content may include the following:

  • Communicating and listening (face-to-face or over the phone)
  • Interpreting verbal and nonverbal cues
  • Responding appropriately to the customer's technical level
  • Establishing personal rapport with the customer
  • Professional conduct, for example, punctuality, accountability
  • Helping and guiding a customer with problem descriptions
  • Responding to and closing a service call
  • Handling complaints and upset customers, conflict avoidance, and
    resolution
  • Showing empathy and flexibility
  • Sharing the customer's sense of urgency

Response Limits:

The examinee selects, from four (4) response options, the one option that best completes the statement or answers the question.  Distracters or wrong answers are response options that examinees with incomplete knowledge would likely choose, but are generally plausible responses fitting into the content area.

Sample Directions:

For each item below, choose the one BEST answer. The overriding objective of this test is to test your knowledge of and sensitivity to behaviors that promote customer satisfaction. Base your choices solely on what would  "please the customer"  and NOT on any particular company or service organization's policy.

Sample Test Items:

Item 1.


Technician: "Please take a moment and tell me in your own words what happened.  What's the problem?"

Customer:  "Thanks, I'd welcome the opportunity. Well, I reached over to turn the PC on and it just wouldn't start.  It seemed like..."

Technician: "Wait!  Back up just a minute! Did you have to stand up or move your chair when you reached over to power up the PC?  Is it possible that your electrical cord was exposed and that you may have accidentally unplugged it with your foot?  Where was your foot in relation to the power strip? This problem is common among inexperienced users  you folks haven't had time yet to learn to be comfortable with the equipment.  As a rule,  inexperienced customers tend to be overly clumsy or timid.  Why don't we check the cord"

Customer:  "As I was saying, it seemed like the power supply was acting up again.  You should probably know that I'm an electrical engineer with a bit more experience in these matters than you seem to indicate.  Now, with your permission, I'll continue..."

1. From the options listed below, select the one answer that BEST exemplifies how the technician should have handled this situation to increase customer satisfaction.

A. Allowed the customer to explain the problem fully before exploring specific causes.
B. Not assumed that the cord was unplugged since the symptom could be caused by other problems.
C. Asked the customer to review the troubleshooting guide for common problems before calling for help.
D. Avoided abrupt orders like  "back up!"  in favor of more polite expressions such as "may I interrupt?"

Correct answer: A

2. The BEST way for a technician to communicate with a customer is to speak

A. rapidly without interruption so that the customer's time is not wasted
B. very slowly,  focusing on the message so that the discussion does not get off-track
C. excitedly with dramatic hand gestures in order to keep the customer's attention
D. clearly and at a pace that accommodates the customers ability to understand

Correct answer: D



Last updated: Friday, March 03, 2000

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