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CompTIA is an organization with broad industry support including: Apple, Microsoft, HP, Compaq, Dell, Gateway and many other fine organizations. For a lot of reasons, CompTIA came to exist to provide a standardized exam series for technicians that would represent the knowledge gained after about six months of well-rounded training. The exams are knowledge-based, rather than skills-based (i.e. the test does not involve actual assembly/disassembly of a computer) but does test the applicant on problem symptoms and solutions in addition to ability to install and configure the Operating System. While not the first attempt at quantifing computer skills (several noble but unsuccessful attempts were made in the 1980's), this exam series has enjoyed worldwide appreciation and is available in several different languages. This exam series has been sufficiently successful that other industry members (Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and others)have developed Certification exam programs for their products.
The Operating Systems exam is one of two exams required for A+ Certification (the other being the Hardware exam). The applicant must pass both exams to become certified. The Operating System exam covers skills in DOS, Windows 9x (95, 98 and ME) and Windows 2000 Professional. Ability to correctly install the system, configure it for existing components (modem, sound, video, networking)and resolve problems is tested.
The textbook material usually includes more than 400 pages of detailed history, development, standards and methods. Class time is eight hours per week for 8-9 weeks; the student is encouraged to contribute an equal amount of time to study and preparation outside of class. While current, or prior, experience with computer software is not required to successfully pass the exam, experience will impact the amount of study time needed to master the concepts and data.
Currently, the exam is in linear format. The test taker will be allowed to answer questions in the order presented, or skip questions and return to it later. Questions can be marked so he/she can go back later and review the question/answer. There are 80 questions, 70 of which are scored and the remaining 10 (randomly placed throughout the test) are used to develop future exams. There is a 90-minute time limit for the exam.