CompTIA A+ Core 1 vs Core 2: What Are the Differences?

CompTIA A+ Core 1 vs Core 2 What Are the Differences

You must pass two exams to get your CompTIA A+ certification. A popular entry point into the IT industry, CompTIA A+ stands out among IT certifications because it isn’t a single exam but two separate ones: Core 1 and Core 2. Every A+ holder has passed both, but what are Core 1 and Core 2, and how are they different?

Look no further: we’ve got you covered. In this article comparing CompTIA A+ Core 1 vs Core 2, we’ll explain both exams, the exam format, how to be eligible for either exam, exam domains, and a comparison of the Core 1 and Core 2 exams.

When you’re ready, let’s dive in.

Core 1 and Core 2 Explained

While other CompTIA certifications consist of only one examination, CompTIA A+ is an exception. It comprises two certification exams covering different topics:

  • Core 1 focuses on hardware, cloud computing, and networking technology, and
  • Core 2 is about software, operating systems, and cyber security basics.

As of the time of writing, the latest CompTIA A+ certification exam codes are 220-1101 for Core 1 and 220-1102 for Core 2. You must pass both to obtain the CompTIA A+ certification.

Exam Formats

Each Core examination has at most 90 questions, and you must complete each exam in 90 minutes. You can take the A+ exams at separate times.

The CompTIA A+ exams include two types of questions:

  • Multiple-choice questions, which may admit single or multiple answers, and
  • Performance-based questions (PBQs), including drag-and-drop items: They’re crucial for testing your ability to solve problems in a simulated environment, making CompTIA A+ such a valuable certification demonstrating one’s excellence in practical IT skills. Anywhere from one to 10 PBQs appear at the start of the A+ exam.
Exam Formats
Example PBQ

Managing your exam time is important. A+ exam questions carry different weights unknown to the candidate. Typically, PBQs have heavier weights than multiple-choice questions, and some multiple-choice questions are worth more than others. (Check out our "Best CompTIA A+ Practice Questions to Prepare for the Exam" article to help prepare!)

You enroll in A+ exams through Pearson VUE - either in the comfort of your home using Pearson VUE’s online testing service or in person at a testing center. 

If you take an A+ exam from home, a proctor monitors you through a webcam and microphone. In the on-site exam, which is preferable for various reasons, a closed-circuit television with a proctor on site will watch you. A+ exams are closed-book.

Pearson VUE will provide you with available exam time slots. Feel free to reschedule your exam within 24 hours of your original time slot if you need more time; you won’t be charged anything for rescheduling.

Eligibility for Core 1 and Core 2

Although A+ has no hard-and-fast prerequisites, CompTIA recommends that A+ candidates have nine to 12 months of hands-on experience in technical roles in academia or industry, which helps reduce study time for both Core 1 and Core 2. Three to four months is the average time for someone new to IT to prepare for both A+ exams.

From A+ study materials, you’ll gain technical knowledge of how hardware and software work. If you’re new to IT, you can get hands-on experience with various hardware components by joining a local hackerspace. Such participation will help you gain a practical understanding of how the nitty-gritty of the hardware works and aid you in questions on technical troubleshooting.

You don’t have to do Core 1 and Core 2 in order. However, if you feel more confident in either Core 1 or Core 2 material, you may opt to take the exam you find easier first.

Here’s the detailed breakdown of the latest Core 1 and Core 2 domains:

Eligibility for Core 1 and Core 2
CompTIA A+ Exam Domains: 220-1101 and 220-1102

CompTIA A+ Core 1 Domains

Core 1 tests your hardware, networking, virtualization, and cloud computing knowledge. With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile devices are also part of the Core 1 syllabus. Virtualization and cloud computing are new topics that pertain to the proliferation of XaaS (anything-as-a-service) in cloud computing and remote access in recent years.

Specifically, the Core 1 domains are:

  • Mobile devices: configuring them, peripherals, software, and network connectivity;
  • Networking: basic knowledge of computer networks plus port numbers and protocols;
  • Hardware: installation and configuration of PC hardware components;
  • Virtualization and cloud computing: summarize cloud computing concepts and aspects of client-side virtualization.
  • Hardware and network troubleshooting: applying the best practice methodology below
CompTIA A+ Core 1 Domains
Technical Troubleshooting—Best Practice Methodology

Anything related to hardware is likely on the A+ Core 1 exam.

CompTIA A+ Core 2 Domains

Core 2 assesses your knowledge of operating systems, (cyber) security, software, and operational procedures. Such knowledge is essential for a competent technician to help protect their company’s or client’s data, which has inestimable worth.

Specifically, the Core 2 domains are:

  • Operating systems: mainly Windows installation and configuration, but touches upon macOS and Linux computer systems;
  • Security: various physical and digital security measures;
  • Software troubleshooting: common problems in software technologies of computers and mobile devices;
  • Operational procedures: best practices in documentation, data management, change management, backup and recovery, safety, environmental and legal considerations, and professionalism.

You may view Core 2 as the A+ “everything soft” exam as it exclusively covers software technologies and soft skills you must possess to thrive as an up-and-coming IT professional.

Similarities and Differences

The most important topic that spans Core 1 and Core 2 is networking, which involves hardware cabling (Core 1) and mastering networking applications to perform necessary functions and beef up cyber security (Core 2). Since A+ only covers basic networking knowledge, it’s a good idea to take up Network+, which goes deeper into networking, after you’ve earned your A+; gaining Network+ also renews your A+ automatically.

Except for the overlapping element mentioned above, the content of the Core 1 and Core 2 exams are mostly separate. The difficulty of both exams is comparable, and the preparation required for both is similar: adequate study, as much hands-on experience as you can get, and practice tests to master the multiple-choice questions and the PBQs.

On a scale of 100–900, the passing scores for Core 1 and Core 2 are 675 and 700, respectively.


We hope this article on CompTIA A+ Core 1 vs Core 2 prepares you for this important entry-level certification. For more information on the CompTIA A+ exam, check out our CompTIA A+ cheat sheet and course offerings below. Last but not least, if you plan to take the A+ exam soon, we wish you all success.

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  • Cassandra Lee

    Cassandra is a writer, artist, musician, and technologist who makes connections across disciplines: cyber security, writing/journalism, art/design, music, mathematics, technology, education, psychology, and more. She's been a vocal advocate for girls and women in STEM since the 2010s, having written for Huffington Post, International Mathematical Olympiad 2016, and Ada Lovelace Day, and she's honored to join StationX. You can find Cassandra on LinkedIn and Linktree.