I am happy to report that I managed to pass the RHCE exam for RHEL5 Linux this past Friday, after taking the test for a second time. Coworkers thought I was mad to take the test again just one month after the last failure, but with so many things gig on this year, I wanted to get it out of the way, but also because I wanted to keep the test fresh in mind. I went back carefully and reviewed he test, and compared it to the book I used figuring where I had gone wrong, and my score the second time was as follows:
RHCT score: 92.6/100
RHCE score: 100.0/100
My RHCT score remains unchanged (I know which question I got wrong, but still haven’t figured it out), but my RHCE web from 52.0 last time to 100/100. So how did I pass the test?
Due to confidentiality reasons, I can’t talk about the test structure itself. Instead I will refer you to the RHCE online prep guide, which is very up to date, and should be your primary source of reference. Note that in the RHEL5 version of the RHCE exam, the test is now condensed into 3.5 hours, so time is even more crucial now.
Unlike past certification tests I’ve taken (Comptia A+, Network+, LPIC 1 and 2), this test is very hands-on. You have to demonstrate a genuine hands-on ability to cover all basics of Redhat Linux systems administration and be flexible with the test environment you’re working on. Of course this is all necessary for on the job work, and that’s why the test still considered one of the best in the industry.
For me, here’s what I did to study, practice and prepare:
- Most importantly, I setup a virtual RHEL environment on my home computer (Mac). Personally, I used Parallels software to create a server and get hands-on experience. In hindsight, a big part of the reason for failing the exam the first time was not spending enough time checking my work to make sure I did it correctly. You really should get through the test fast enough that you can double and triple-check your work.1 After failing the first test, I also setup a client virtual host and used it to practice testing various services on the virtual server. That helped a lot come test time.
- Get a copy of RHEL5, now available from RedHat through the RHN Network. Just create a demo account, download a DVD version of the software and use it to install the virtual machines mentioned above. Originally I tried Fedora and others, but there were enough differences in behavior that I got confused, and just decided to get RHEL5 instead. You’ll save a lot of grief that way.
- Even if you have lots of Linux admin experience, it’s a good idea to review the material anyways. I found a lot of my Linux experience was dated, and I was doing things the “old” way, when RedHat had newer stuff now (e.g. the
up2datecommand has been entirely replaced by
yum). As for exam material, I found this book was the most useful and gave myself enough time to go through the whole book (700+ pages) and practice. This book also comes close, but had some information missing in my experience. Both books do not take into account the new test format of the RHEL5 version of the exam, so some information is pretty inaccurate, especially in the latter one.
- Anki helped me a lot for remember commands and the particular flags. I didn’t have to make too many flashcards, but it was nice to go through them enough they become rote. This is what Anki is for, of course.
- I personally did not take the RHCE exam courses offered by RedHat, but this blog has lots of good things to say about the course, and the blogger did pass. If you’re willing to spend the extra money, and get the solid education plus the chance to pass the exam, it’s worth it. I wish I had done that more than doing self-study. There’s a lot of things books just can’t convey.
So now, one out of four objectives this year is complete (another I withdrew from). During this time, I never forgot about the JLPT at the end of the year, but my ability to study was somewhat limited in recent months, and now I am able to return full-circle and focus on passing the N3 exam. Just in time too, as registration begins August 2nd in the US, just days away!
I hope I am not too late to study, but I’ve not been idle in the meantime, and now I can go into “cram” mode for the next four months.
For folks who have been following along with the blog and are taking the JLPT too, thanks for your patience, and now I can return to this subject once more.
If you’re taking the RHCE exam, don’t be discouraged if you fail the first time. I was surprised to see another test-taker from my first attempt there taking the test a second time, which gave me some relief. For me, going back and reviewing what I did wrong really taught me a lot, so there’s no shame in defeat if you learn from it. Good luck!
P.S. Unrelated, but this week marks “unagi” season in Japan, when the weather is really hot, and people try to cool off by eating unagi. I don’t care for eel myself, but if you’re in Japan, or anywhere hot, please try to stay cool. Me? I am regretting the big sunburn I got this weekend. :-p
1 During this last round of the RHCE exam, I am glad I triple-checked my work as I managed to find critical typos or neglected that would have actually made me fail questions.