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The Road To Certification (Part 3)

Volume Number: 24 (2008)
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: Professional Development

The Road To Certification (Part 3)

Increase your knowledge and build credibility on the way

by Doug Hanley


In the first two articles in this series, we looked at Apple's IT certifications. We examined reasons for and benefits of getting certified, as well as the testing experience and the changes Apple made to its IT certifications with the release of Mac OS X Leopard. Now we are going to take a parallel path and examine Apple's hardware repair certification [OR "Macintosh Technician" certification]. This certification qualifies a technician to perform warranty repairs on Apple products while working at Apple-authorized service facilities.

Apple Certified Macintosh Technician

In the past there were two distinct certifications for doing hardware repair: ACDT, Apple Certification Desktop Technician, and ACPT, Apple Certified Portable Technician. To achieve those certifications, one had to pass the Mac OS X Service and Support Exam as well the specific desktop or portable hardware exam for the certification. Passing the Mac OS X Support Essentials Exam would also qualify for the operating system portion of the certification. As of December 2007, Apple replaced the ACDT and ACPT certifications with the unified Apple Certified Macintosh Technician, ACMT Certification. The ACDT and ACPT exams are no longer available.

The ACMT certification still requires the Mac OS X Service and Support Exam but it only requires one hardware exam: the Apple Macintosh Hardware Exam. This is an expiring certification and needs to be renewed every year. One important change to note is that the Support Essentials Exam no longer fulfills the operating system requirement of the certification. These exams are available at Prometric Testing centers. As we discussed in our first article, you are required to have an Apple Tech ID before you can register for an exam. One of the key differences in the service certification is that you need to recertify every year. The recertification exams are available online.

Categories Covered in Mac OS X Service and Support Exam

While similar in scope and content to other Apple certification exams, the Mac OS X Service and Support Exam focuses more on troubleshooting Mac OS X. There are 50 questions covering eleven topics. You need to get at least 32 of the 50 questions correct to achieve a passing score of 64%.

Here is an overview of the topics covered:

1. Introduction (5 items)

Identify assistive features of Mac OS X

Identify iChat features in Mac OS X

Identify iChat requirements in Mac OS X

Identify Safari features in Mac OS X

Identify Dashboard features in Mac OS X

2. Installation (2 items)

Determine that a specific computer meets the minimum requirements to run Mac OS X v

3. Users (3 items)

Describe security issues involved with user accounts and passwords in Mac OS X

4. File Systems (3 items)

Describe search paths, hidden folders, and system-related folders

Format a hard drive on Mac OS X

Manage the Mac OS X file system

5. Permissions (4 items)

Describe the behavior of the different permission settings on files and folders

Troubleshoot permissions issues

6. Application Environments (5 items)

Use Activity Monitor to monitor applications' use of memory and processor

Describe accessibility features in Mac OS X

Install, run, and troubleshoot native Mac OS X applications

7. Network Configuration & Troubleshooting (3 items)

Describe basic networking concepts and terms

Use Network Diagnostics, Network Utility, and Network Preferences to troubleshoot networking issues

Use network preferences to determine the state of a network interface.

8. Peripherals (3 items)

Identify what devices are connected to a Macintosh computer

List the types of drivers used in Mac OS X to communicate with peripherals

Perform basic troubleshooting of peripheral issues

9. Printing (2 items)

Use Printer Setup Utility to troubleshoot printing issues, including printer sharing

Describe the print process in Mac OS X

10. Startup Sequence (7 items)

Troubleshoot startup issues, including startup items and login items

Identify the different stages of the startup sequence and their corresponding visual or auditory cues

11. Troubleshooting (13 items)

Resolve a Kernel Panic in Mac OS X

Use tools included with Mac OS X to resolve customer issues more efficiently

Use Network Diagnostics to troubleshoot a networking issue

Determine if a task is possible in Safe Mode

Recognize what action a Safe Relaunch performs in Mac OS X

Resolve an application/framework version mismatch issue in Mac OS X

Use Disk Utility to verify the directory of a volume in Mac OS X

Reset a user password in Mac OS X

State what starting up in Safe Mode does in Mac OS X

Categories Covered In The Apple Macintosh Hardware Exam

questions in 23 sections. You need to answer 65 questions correctly out of the 90 for a 72% passing grade. In addition, there are two sections that you must pass with a specific percentage. For the ESD, Electro Static Discharge, you must pass at 80%, or 4 out of 5 items. The Technician Safety section requirement is 8 out of 11, or 73% percent correct.

Here is an overview of the topics covered in this exam:

1. Basic Computer Theory and Terms - 2 items

Identify normal and abnormal computer operation to include:

Startup, Sleep, Shut Down and Kernel Panic

2. Underlying Technologies - 3 items

Describe the function of the following technologies:

ALS (Ambient Light Sensor), ATA/SATA, Bluetooth, ColorSync, Compression, CUPSD VIEFI Ethernet, ExpressCard/34, FireWire, Infrared, MIDI, Modem, Optical Audio, Optical drives, PMU, QuickTime, Rosetta, Serial Attached SCSI (SAS), SMC, SMU, Sound in/out (analog, digital, optical), Sudden Motion Sensor, USB/USB 2.0, Video in/out, and Universal Binaries

Identify common ports found on Apple computers given pictures and/or logos.

3. References - 6 items

Using the Apple Support site, locate the following resources for a specified Apple product: Troubleshooting Information Configuration (based on serial number) Warranty Status of a product User Manual Product specifications

Using Service Source, Knowledge Base, and GSX (if available), locate the following information for a specified Apple product: Service News (if available) Service Manuals Compatibility information Take-apart procedures Symptom Charts Screw Matrices Parts and configurations (If GSX is available) Service part numbers (If GSX is available) Disc images/diagnostic software (if available)

Given a specific service issue, identify which Apple reference will produce the most informative results.

4. Diagnostics - 3 items

Interpret reports from Apple Hardware Test.

Describe when to use AHT.

Identify when Apple Service Diagnostic (ASD) is used.

5. Hardware Tools - 5 items

Identify the correct hardware tools to service different Apple products.

Identify specialized tools available from Apple.

Given a specific Apple product, identify all hardware tools needed to perform a particular module replacement.

6. Troubleshooting Theory - 22 items

State the primary goals of troubleshooting.

State the general steps of the Apple-recommended troubleshooting process.

From a problem description, identify the most appropriate questions to ask a customer to help identify the cause of a problem.

State three qualities that make a repair action a quick fix.

From a problem description, identify the most appropriate quick fix(es) to use.

From a problem description, find the probable cause by applying knowledge of hardware components and functions of Apple products.

Describe the component isolation troubleshooting method.

Describe what components are necessary for a minimum system.

Given a troubleshooting scenario, determine whether a problem is hardware or software related by using recommended Apple tools and strategies.

State three reasons why you should test a full range of functionality when verifying a repair.

From a description of a repair, identify the Apple recommended diagnostic to verify the repair.

Identify common symptoms that would be considered a "no power" condition.

Identify symptoms that would be considered a "No Video" condition.

7. ESD Precautions - 5 items (MUST PASS 4 OUT OF 5 OR 80%)

Explain how electrostatic discharge (ESD) causes damage.

List seven guidelines used to reduce the risk of ESD damage.

Describe several common myths about ESD and why they are not true.

Describe the importance of each of the four essentials components of an ESD prevention compliant workspace.

Explain ESD preventive steps to be taken when working on-site.

8. Technician Safety - 11 items (MUST PASS 8 OUT OF 11 OR 73%)

State the risks of servicing CRTs.

List the eight CRT safety rules.

Describe the CRT discharge procedure.

Describe the CRT disposal procedure.

Describe precautions for avoiding shock hazards on iMac systems.

Describe precautions for working with Krytox thermal grease.

Identify potentially hazardous materials used in Macintosh systems.

9. Power Management - 5 items

Explain the different power and operating modes in Apple systems.

Describe five power saving techniques for Apple systems.

Describe how to calibrate a portable system's main battery to ensure optimal battery performance.

State which AC power adapter works with a specified Apple portable model.

10. Liquid Crystal Displays - 3 items

Describe causes of pixel anomalies.

Diagnose five common pixel defects.

Describe similarities and differences between CCFL and LED LCDs.

11. Hardware Service Issues - 5 items

Describe how to locate the AppleCare name for a Mac.

Identify the locations, physical or otherwise, of a Mac's serial number.

Identify any hardware or software requirements to use or upgrade a Mac, using the Apple Support site.

Identify special precautions when working inside an Apple portable computer.

12. Wireless Networking Part 1 - 1 item

Identify features on the front and rear of the AirPort Extreme (802.11n).

13. Wireless Networking Part 2 - 6 items

Describe basic security features of wireless networking.

Discuss appropriate probing questions when troubleshooting AirPort issues.

Determine whether to perform a Forced Reload (hard reset to factory default settings) or a Soft Reset on all models of AirPort Base Station.

Describe basic Bluetooth troubleshooting issues.

14. Mac mini - 2 items

Identify any hardware or software requirements to use or upgrade a Mac mini.

15. iMac - 1 item

Describe the use of diagnostic LEDs in iMac G5 and Intel-based iMac systems.

16. Mac Pro - 2 items

Describe how to correctly install RAM in a Mac Pro.

Explain the function of the diagnostic LEDs on a Mac Pro.

17. Xserve - 2 items

Describe equipment and precautions for Xserve hardware service.

Describe feature and functions of Server Monitor.

18. MacBook - 1 item

Describe known issues for the MacBook's MagSafe connector.

19. MacBook Pro - 1 item

Identify troubleshooting issues for MacBook Pro systems.

20. Power Mac G5 - 1 item

Troubleshoot the Power Mac G5 thermal control system.

21. eMac - 1 item

Describe the purpose of the VGA output port and its use in troubleshooting an eMac system.

22. iBook G4 - 1 item

List the symptoms and solutions for the common portable computer issues using Apple's online resources (GSX, AppleCare Service Source).

23. PowerBook G4 - 1 item

Identify which PowerBook G4 computers support hot-swapping of the battery.

Preparing for the ACMT Exams

There are a number of ways to prepare for these exams. One is to simply review the Peachpit Book, Apple Training Series: Desktop and Portable Systems, 3rd Edition (ISBN: 0321455010). The second is to purchase the self-paced AppleCare Technician Training from Apple at:

It includes one year of access to Service Source and online courses that you can go through to prepare for the exams.

A third way to prepare is through your employer, if they have access to Global Service Exchange (GSX). Via GSX, you have access to Service Source and those online courses.

Finally, the best way to prepare for the exams is to take the hands-on courses offered at Service Training and Testing Centers - Apple Authorized Training Centers that offer Service Training. A comprehensive five-day course, with hands-on experience taking apart desktop and laptop computers, is offered at several locations across the U.S. - you can find their contact information at:

These classes give you the practical experience and the ability to interface with a professional instructor who has years of bench experience.

In the next and fourth article of this series, we will examine the Pro Application Certifications that Apple offers. And in the fifth article, we will provide detailed information about the requirements for the Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA) 10.5 certification. We will discuss the topics covered on each of the exams required for ACSA certification, and what resources are available to help you prepare. Those resources of course will include Apple Authorized Training Center classes and books.

Doug Hanley owns MacTEK Consulting & Training, an Apple Authorized Training Center in Las Vegas, NV. His time is divided between teaching classes and wrangling servers. He has been providing support on the Mac since the early 90's. To track him down, go to or email


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