Pretty frequently, we get students asking for tips on preparing for Red Hat exams in addition to completing Linux Academy courses and using Hands-on labs. No matter how long you study or how much time you dedicate to preparation, there’s always a lingering “what if?” in the back of your mind. Unfortunately, this is a feeling that will most likely stick with you throughout your career, but you don’t need to let those pre-test jitters get to you. If you study hard and keep your focus, passing your next exam will be a breeze – but studying isn’t the only way to prepare. Here are a few of my own suggestions for making sure that you’re at the top of your game in your next exam.

  1. SLEEP.
    • Seriously. Get a good night’s rest before your exam. It may seem like a good idea to dedicate the night before to cramming as much information into your brainmeats as you can, but going into the exam exhausted will make you more prone to overlooking steps, misunderstanding objectives, and missing questions that you know that you know – but just forgot for some reason. So make yourself a nice, big cup of chamomile tea, snuggle up with a teddy bear, and relax. You’ll be better for it.
  2. Get there early.
    • I’m sure we’re familiar with the saying, “the early bird gets the worm,” or in this case “the early bird has a lesser chance of being denied a seat for being more than 15 minutes late.” Red Hat is fairly strict on timing policy. If you show up more than 15 minutes after your designated start time, you can be denied the chance to take your exam, and you will not be refunded the exam fee. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and plan to arrive at the testing center at least half an hour before you’re scheduled to begin. The extra time can be used to review notes, fill out paperwork, or do some deep-breathing exercises, which we’re going to talk about… NOW.
  3. Breathe.
    • Seriously, breathe. Relax. It’s easier said than done, but don’t let nerves get the best of you. Chances are you have a much better understanding of [insert topic here] than you think you do, but even if you don’t, you can always try again. Go into your exam as calm and as confidently as you are able to, and knock it out of the park. I believe in you.
  4. Write your weakest topics down – then practice until it’s second nature.
    • Do you have a hard time remembering how to find SELinux policies? Struggling with LVM? Is NFS the bane of your existence? Well research it, then turn it into a practice exam! It may not work for everyone, but I’ve found that for myself things tend to “stick” better when I write them down. Whenever I want to learn something quickly and permanently, I write out a set of tasks to perform, then keep running through them until I feel confident in my ability to work with them. Linux Academy provides Cloud Servers that you can spin up, jostle around, then tear down as needed to master your subject that I highly encourage you to take advantage of.
  5. Have a meal beforehand (if you’re into that kind of thing).
    • Going into an exam hungry is the best way to spend more time distracted by your rumbly tum than about RBD snapshots (or whatever you’re testing for). If you have time, try to have a small meal or at least a snack before sitting for your exam. Now, I’m not suggesting that you have an 8-course feast (save that for after you get your results!), but keep in mind that you’ll potentially be in a room for anywhere from 2-5 hours with nothing but you, a proctor, and a computer screen with only very short breaks allotted. Grabbing an apple or having a quick cup of yogurt beforehand will not only stave away distracting hunger pangs, but may also boost brain function – or at least that’s what Buzzfeed tells me.

I hope these tips are as useful to you throughout your academic career as they have been to me throughout my own. They may all seem obvious – who am I kidding, they absolutely are – but sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves when we’re focused on a goal. I guess the biggest and most important tip I can give is to always be kind to yourself. As someone who regularly has to be shaken out of beating myself up over the “what-ifs” and “if-only’s,” I can tell you how pointless it is to get stuck lamenting over one thing instead of letting yourself progress. No matter the outcome, remember that there’s always tomorrow, which means you have the chance to try again. If you fail, just get up, dust yourself off, practice, then try again. You haven’t truly failed until you stop trying.


– trilliams

One response to “What to Expect When You’re Testing – Best Practices to Prepare for a Red Hat (or Any Other) Exam”

  1. David Driscoll says:

    I think about the objectives and write some sample questions and exercises that I think an exam writer might put on the test. Just the process of doing that makes me feel more confident about the material even if none of ‘my questions’ actually show up on the exam. Often the process helps me think thought what is too much detail for the type of test.

    I also repeatedly write down things that I’m expected to memorize for the test. For the Linux+ / LPIC-1 tests, I wrote down the port numbers, syslog severities, and common commands and switches (date cmd, hwclock -w, hwclock -s, etc) over and over again to burn it into my brain. Turns out it was overkill but it gave me confidence that I would ace those questions.

    Lastly, I like to create summary tables of commands, which helps me learn lots of information. Hope that helps!

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