The Linux operating system, Red Hat, has two popular certifications available—the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) and Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE). In this post, we will be focusing on the RHCSA certification and, specifically, tips for passing the EX200 exam.
The RHCSA exam evaluates knowledge of several Red Hat operating system topics including the following:
- Shell command line and scripting
- Operating system troubleshooting
- Storage functions
- System maintenance
- Basic networking and user management
- Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) contexts
An official objective list is posted on Red Hat’s website. The RHCSA is a hands-on exam. There are no multiple-choice questions. You will be expected to login to a console and complete a set of tasks on a virtual machine running Red Hat. Many exam tasks build upon preceding tasks, so you must ensure that you can fully complete the first few tasks. While these are generally the most straightforward, each of these tasks has multiple subtasks that allow you to receive additional points for the ones you complete within the time limit. Keep in mind, all changes must persist after a reboot.
You may be asking yourself, “how do I prepare for the RHCSA exam?” The most important tip is to practice on a Red Hat (or CentOS) machine. Although flash cards and study guides may help you memorize commands, what actually matters is being able to successfully complete tasks on a Red Hat virtual machine. You will most likely discover that you can improve your recall and exam preparedness by practicing exam questions on a virtual machine versus only using flash cards.
For instance, a number of RHCSA exam takers did not pass because they did not anticipate the steps required to get access to a Red Hat machine via console access. Try it! You may be surprised that this seemingly straightforward task on a SELinux-enabled Red Hat machine actually requires several steps that you may not have accounted for, especially if you are only familiar with desktop Linux distributions or if what you’ve memorized is no longer applicable.
This takes us to the second most important tip—exam-taking strategies. Do not waste your time trying to figure out a task. Skip it and move on to the next one. If you have time left over, you can always revisit the task. There aren’t any bonus points for completing a challenging task versus completing more straightforward tasks, so the goal is to complete as many tasks as possible to get the maximum number of points.
My final tip is to narrow your focus of study. Ideally, you should know all the RHCSA objectives thoroughly. As you begin to study, however, you will realize just how much material is covered in each objective. Yet, not all material can be tested within the time limit. One strategy is to fully understand objectives that do not require configuring and setting up services, such as shell commands, operating system troubleshooting, disk operations, and user management. Although it is important to also study the more challenging objectives of configuring services, such as Kerberos with OpenLDAP or an NFS/Web server with correct SELinux permissions, these tasks typically take longer to complete on the exam than others. Hence, if you focus on becoming proficient with straightforward tasks, you will have time left over to complete tasks that will take more time.
On a final note, continue to practice using a Red Hat machine and don’t just memorize commands. RHCSA is one of the most reputable certifications precisely because you must complete the exam tasks, not just memorize answers. And, please remember that if you don’t succeed on the first try, you will be better prepared for your next attempt. You can do this!