The Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator certification, or the “EX 200”, is one of the most valuable entry-level exams one can take. Just hop on Indeed.com or your job search engine of choice and start searching. You will see that the RHCSA is a very common certification requirement for many careers. As indicated by the job trends, Red Hat certifications are incredibly popular among career postings. Not only is it great for finding a new job, it’s also a great way to earn promotions or salary bumps at your current job.
Ok, so now that I’ve sold the exam, let’s talk a little bit about what to expect from the exam.
Note: Due to the NDA, I can’t really get into specifics on the exam. I can only cover the basic exam set up, as well as some general test-taking tips and objectives that could prove incredibly useful on an exam like the RHCSA.
The RHCSA is different than most tests. It is a hands-on environment in which you are provided with multiple tasks to complete within the time frame on a real system. You will be provided with a workstation with RHEL 7 and a GUI installed. On this workstation, there will be a Guest VM that you will need to access. That’s about all I can say about the environment. You will be able to install many utilities, such as a GUI, on the guest VM, and will also have access to manpages for most tasks. You will not be completely lost; Red Hat seems to want it to feel somewhat like a real environment you may encounter on the job.
It may be a little unnerving sitting at this station since there is a camera and microphone right above you. The test proctor will be able to see and hear your every move. They may reach out to you and instruct you to uncross your arms or move obstructions from their view. Also, keep in mind that if you encounter a particularly daunting task, they can also hear any comments you make out loud (I may have said something inappropriate during my exam, oops!)
As I’ve mentioned before, this test can be very daunting. Just like any test, there are some basic tips you should heed before taking the exam:
- Get plenty of sleep. I know, I know. Everyone always says “get plenty of sleep” before an exam. This one is even more important than many. One of the more stressful components of the exam is the ability to actually fail the entire exam due to one mistake. Yes, that’s right. If you make one mistake that renders the VM unbootable, you can fail the exam, even if you did everything else right! So get plenty of sleep and don’t try out that new fast food burrito you saw on a commercial, stick to your usual breakfast that you know won’t cause any stress during the exam.
- Be able to accomplish the requirements with as little research or help as possible. You will have a time limit for this exam. This time limit allows for plenty of time to complete the tasks if you know them well. If you are using manpages for every task, you are going to have a very bad time. Do keep in mind, there may be some tasks that can’t be solved by using manpages, so it’s best to understand everything extremely well. Linux Academy has Hands-On Labs to help judge your readiness.
- Reboot often! As I stated before, if the VM is unable to boot, you fail. Be sure you reboot your system after any task that could potentially prevent your system from booting properly. This includes any LVM, Grub, or other boot-related tasks. Sure, the reboot takes time, but it’s better than finding out at the end you have to start fresh because your machine didn’t boot.
- Although the proctor can wipe your machine for you if it doesn’t boot, this can cause you to lose a lot of time. This is why it’s best to find the tasks that modify properties that could render your system inoperable and perform those tasks first. That way, if you do screw something up, you don’t lose all the work you performed before that task.
- Use your tools! You are provided with a full RHEL7 installation. Use the tools provided! You won’t be able to reach out for custom repositories, but items such as the ‘Server with GUI’ group install and “bash-completion” are certainly there for you to use. These can help you complete your tasks quicker and with fewer errors.
- This is not a pride competition! Speaking of using tools, remember, the great thing about the RHCSA is that it is based on completion, not the method of completion. If you know a shortcut, take it! For instance, if just disabling SELinux will help you troubleshoot an SELinux issue faster than scouring the logs, do it! Disable SELinux, confirm it’s SELinux causing the issue and work backwards from there.
- Reboot! Did I mention to reboot? Definitely reboot before you leave the testing facility. It doesn’t take a lot of searching on the various internet forums to find the people who thought they aced the test and ended up failing with a zero.
- Relax! It’s only a test! Yes, it’s an expensive test, but it’s worth it. If you focus, study the course on Linux Academy, and are able to accomplish the RHCSA Practice Exam, you can pass this test! If, for some reason you don’t, take a deep breath, figure out where you went wrong, and come back and do it again. I can assure you, as an RHCSA holder, the certification is well worth the effort!
Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll be able to ace this test and reap the rewards that come along with it. Once you pass it, reach out to us and let us know so we can join in the celebrations! Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Then, get your LinkedIn profile ready, because recruiters love the RHCSA!