The RHCE exam
The RH300 course is informative and is a reasonable preparation for the exam. However, there's a lot of information to cover, and while the labs do a good job of illustrating most points, the presentation
|The exam is specifically looking for debugging and deployment skills.|
Unlike computer-administered exams you may have taken for other certification programs, Red Hat follows a more practical path. Their goal is to verify not only that you are familiar with concepts and procedures, but that you are adept at handling a real Red Hat Linux system. The full-day exam allows no notes or other reference material, and is presented in three separate parts:
- Debugging, 2.5 hours. This part of the exam tests your ability to debug, repair, and reconfigure a problematic Linux system. As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to teach this skill, so any experience you have with repairing Linux problems will help you. Note that the problems that you face on the exam can be solved using the information from the class, so this is a good test of your ability to apply that information. However, don't let the exam be the forum for your first experience with a Linux boot failure!
- Written Exam, 1.0 hours. This portion of the exam is very similar to computer-administered multiple-choice exams you may have taken for LPI, MCSE, or other programs. The test consists of 50 questions and few surprises. We were told that most students find this portion of the exam the easiest, and it was. Items covered included facts about configuration techniques, particular files, the function of various services, etc. For those who study the course material or who are experienced with Linux system administration, this part of the exam should be easy.
- Server Install and Network Services Setup, 2.5 hours. This part of the exam required that students prepare a bare system for use as a production server. Detailed requirements were provided for a typical business situation, and students had to translate them into working deployed resources. Items on the requirements list included accounts management, shared services configuration, security setup, and custom kernel setup. Attention to detail is important in this portion of the exam and I confess that I used every minute of the time I was allotted.
Each of the three segments is worth 100 points and requires a minimum score of 50. This minimum is particularly significant on the debugging portion of the exam, where a few failures can cause you to fail the entire exam. You must have at least 240 points (80%) at the end of all three segments to receive the RHCE certificate. Unfortunately, results are tabulated after you leave, meaning that you'll have some time to wait for your status. My results took over two weeks to arrive via e-mail, and my printed certificate took even longer.
If you think you'd like to try your luck with the RHCE exam without the training, read through the exam prep guide first. If you're comfortable with everything you see there and can function without documentation, you're a likely candidate.
Was it worth it? In the last section, I'll offer my impressions and some tips on taking the exam.