Have you decided to take the next step in your CompTIA certification journey by achieving the new CompTIA Server+ (SK0-005) certification? This certification exam is a little more intense than the CompTIA A+ exams you may have faced in the past. I will share some tips and tricks to help you learn and retain what’s covered, setting you up for exam success and a career in server administration.
By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.
These wise words, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, serve as the beginning of my discussion. For each certification exam I’ve taken (and I've passed more than 40 technical certification exams in my IT career), I begin with the same process:
- Download the exam objectives
- Understand the domains covered
- Identify my strengths and weaknesses
Let's delve into this approach a little deeper within the context of the new CompTIA Server+ exam.
Download the Exam Objectives
I always recommend starting by downloading the exam objectives. There’s no need to guess what's going to be covered. The organization that wrote the exam knows what's on it, and you have access to this information. These are the exam objectives.
The CompTIA Server+ exam objectives are organized into four domains. Start your studying by identifying these domains, or the main topics of the exam. Furthermore, these domains are weighted so you know how much of the exam applies to each domain.
Here are the CompTIA Server+ domains and their relative weights:
1.0 Server Hardware Installation and Management = 18%
2.0 Server Administration = 30%
3.0 Security and Disaster Recovery = 24%
4.0 Troubleshooting = 28%
These weights should guide your studying because they identify the relative importance and number of questions you are likely to see on the exam. Server administration, for example, is covered significantly more than hardware management.
Within each exam domain are a series of specific exam objectives, or related topics. For example, on the CompTIA Server+ exam, Domain 1.0 Server Hardware Installation and Management has three exam objectives. One of those is 1.2: Given a scenario, deploy and manage storage.
When you download the exam objectives PDF, under exam objective 1.2, you’ll see examples of concepts and practices surrounding RAID, media types, interface types and shared storage. These lists of examples are not exhaustive or identical to what you will see on your exam, but they provide guidance on what types of things you should study.
Another useful component of the exam objectives is recommended experience. CompTIA Server+ recommends certification candidates have two years of hands-on experience working in a server environment and at least a CompTIA A+ certification or equivalent level of knowledge.
It’s important to determine if you meet these recommendations. If you don’t, additional preparation may be necessary. The CompTIA A+ recommendation is based on the number of hardware concepts included in the CompTIA Server+ exam.
I also think having CompTIA Network+, or an equivalent level of knowledge, can be really helpful, although it is not formally recommended. In particular, TCP/IP and IP addressing are essential topics.
So now that you have downloaded the exam objectives and know what the exam covers, how do you learn the material?
4 Ways to Study for CompTIA Server+
Your next challenge is to figure out how to learn the content. There are two general approaches:
1) Technical training
You can choose one or the other or combine them to ensure complete learning and understanding. Let's examine both methods.
1. Technical Training
CompTIA Server+ technical training is provided by dedicated training centers that are part of the CompTIA Authorized Partner Program and often falls into a five-day course structure. Some of that time is spent with a certified instructor delivering concepts and fielding questions, while the rest of the time is spent completing hands-on labs.
This method can be very effective, depending on the instructor and the course materials. It can also be expensive and time-consuming. One advantage is that it's usually very focused, and you won't waste a lot of time searching for accurate information online. Everything is prepackaged and ready for your consumption. Keep in mind that formal training still requires additional study time outside of standard class hours.
Another good option may be self-study, assuming you have the self-discipline and can find accurate materials. Official CompTIA training products, including eLearning tools, are written with the CompTIA Server+ exam objectives in mind. Consider starting with the Official CompTIA Server+ Study Guide. You can choose either an eBook or printed format, whichever you find easier. Using official CompTIA resources ensures you’ll be studying the right information.
If interactive eLearning is more your style, CompTIA CertMaster Learn is a comprehensive solution, consisting of videos, hundreds of practice questions, performance-based questions, and more, all organized into a personalized learning plan to help you manage your study time.
3. Hands-on Skills Practice
I mentioned labs above when I discussed technical training. Recall that CompTIA recommends candidates have two years of experience with server administration. But what if you don't have on-the-job experience? Or what if your experience is limited to a specific aspect of server administration? Labs provide two benefits: solidification of concepts and hands-on experience.
CompTIA Labs for Server+ provide opportunities to practice tasks like deploying Docker containers, monitoring Linux performance and developing scripts on real equipment in a virtual environment. These labs take the material you've read or heard and solidify it by asking you to achieve the required settings and show your understanding. And if you purchase a bundle that includes CertMaster Learn and CompTIA Labs, the labs are integrated into your learning plan in one seamless experience.
Whether it’s CompTIA Labs or building your own home lab, doing so gives you the chance to perform tasks you may not have had the opportunity to do during your IT career. For example, I have used virtualization to build a custom home lab environment on my laptop. This gives me the opportunity to work with unfamiliar administrative tools and programs. Because the virtualized environment is on my laptop, it’s portable and flexible.
Note: The new CompTIA Labs for Server+ (SK0-005) now include scoring and immediate feedback to help you assess your level of preparation and knowledge.
4. Practice Exams
I used to get asked by my students to discuss practice exams. The practice exams offered by various companies can be useful when used correctly. CompTIA’s own product, CertMaster Practice, offers a full timed practice test experience, including scenario-based multiple choice and performance-based questions—the same types of questions you’ll encounter when taking the CompTIA Server+ exam. This is a great feature that enhances the learning process.
Here are a couple of specific recommendations for CompTIA CertMaster Practice for Server+:
- Discover if you tend to be quick or slow when taking exams
- Learn the average time each question takes to complete
- Get comfortable with the lab user interface
- Reinforce knowledge by using study mode (correct answers are displayed immediately)
I don't tend to take the final score from practice exams all that seriously, but it can help you gauge how much you know and how much more studying you need to do.
5 Topics Covered by CompTIA Server+
Finally, you may be wondering how to apply these ideas specifically to CompTIA Server+. Of course, I won't give away any answers, but here are some of the topic areas you should certainly focus on.
Anything related to security is critical. Specifically, you should understand network security and the associated protocols, such as L2TP. Physical security is important, as are responses to disasters, security incidents and other business interruptions.
2. Cloud and Virtualization
Cloud computing is an essential part of today's IT world, so concepts like service models and deployment models are emphasized. While cloud computing is based on virtualization, don't forget that on-premises virtualization is also a big part of today's server administration tasks.
3. Operating Systems
While details about Windows Server and Linux are not part of the exam, you will gain knowledge on both platforms during any hands-on opportunities. I suggest you have some comfort with both operating systems.
It helps to make sure you're up to speed on the main aspects of networking. IP addressing knowledge is always fair game on any technical certification exam. Comprehension of the TCP/IP stack and how the protocols are related to each other is also critical. This is more than just memorizing the OSI model. Review name resolution and static/dynamic IP address configurations while you're at it.
5. The Server Lifecycle
It may help you to visualize server administration based on the common server lifecycle. In fact, that is what I used to organize the official courseware when I authored it. The lifecycle includes aspects such as hardware (physical or virtualized), installation, patching and management and decommissioning. You’ll need to understand what needs to occur at each point.
Set Yourself Up for Certification Success
I've covered a lot of ground here, so let’s recap. My first suggestion is to understand what's going to be covered on the new CompTIA Server+ (SK0-005) exam by downloading the exam objectives and evaluating your level of knowledge compared to the topics.
Next, find your learning path, whether it be formal training or self-study. Hands-on opportunities are critical to understanding processes and gaining experience. Use practice exams correctly, without relying too heavily on the final score. Practice exams are great for gauging your timing in order to better manage the clock during the exam.
Finally, I mentioned some specific CompTIA Server+ topics to pay attention to, including security, virtualization and operating systems.
I hope these ideas will help you to master the knowledge covered on the CompTIA Server+ certification exam successfully.
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Damon Garn is a freelance writer and editor and the author of the Official CompTIA training content.