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Preparing for the RHCETM Lab Exam

The Red Hat Certified EngineerTM (RHCE) Exam stands apart from many other certification programs in the IT sector because of its emphasis on hands-on performance-based testing of actual skills in Red Hat Linux installation, configuration, debugging, and setup of key networking services.

RHCE Exam is a performance-based practical exam. Of the 6 hours allotted for the RHCE Exam, only 1 involves answering multiple choice questions. This is in contrast to the rest of the certification industry, in which multiple-choice questions are the norm.

Consequently, the first, last, and most important element of preparation for the exam is actual skills and experience using Red Hat Linux.
What are your experience levels?
The best way to prepare to take the RHCE Exam depends on your background and current experience level. Three types of prospectives are described:

1. You have lots of recent UNIX and/or Linux experience and networking experience:
If you are already an experienced system administrator for Linux/UNIX systems and also have experience at setting up essential network services, it is a good idea to to make sure your skills and experience encompass the scope of skills in the course outlines for RH300 RHCE Course.

2. You have some UNIX and/or Linux user-level experience, or you are MCSE, MCP, or CNE:
If you are not highly experienced in UNIX/Linux system administration and/or network services, or if your system administration experience has never involved UNIX or Linux, you may want to consider taking one or more of the skills courses in the RHCE Program: RH033, RH133, RH253, depending on your level of experience.

RH133 is the transition course for MCSE, MCP, and CNEs, as well as others who want a review of their UNIX user skills on Red Hat Linux. RH253 is for those who have the skills in RH133 but need to learn to configure key networking services and security. Persons taking RH253 should make sure they have taken Internetworking with TCP/IP or its equivalent from a reputable training vendor, or through self-study.

3. You are a Linux pro, expert, or already run your own ISP, or else you have really strong self-study discipline and access to a networked Linux server:
For those wishing to prepare for the RHCE Exam without taking RH300, or any other Red Hat course, the remainder of this document lists proficiencies that should be developed prior to taking the RHCE Exam. Red Hat reserves the right to change the elements of the exam at any time, with or without changes to this study outline.
Components of the RHCE Exam
The RHCE exam consists of 3 components:

I. Debug Exam: 2-4 challenges; 2.5 hours, performance-based (100 pts)
II. Multiple Choice Exam: 40-50 technical questions; 1.0 hour, multi-choice answers
III. Server Install and Network Services Setup Exam: 2.5 hours, performance-based (100 pts)

PASS requires: avg of 80 or higher, with no single score lower than 50 pts.

The Debug Exam involves correcting problems on a Red Hat Linux system. These problems range from boot failure to problematic network services. Examinees may use any documentation installed on the system in order to assess and correct problems, but they may not bring in any books or notes, and "reinstall" is not a valid corrective measure!

The Multiple-Choice Exam tests for technical knowledge about Red Hat Linux. It also includes questions that assess knowledge of common Linux commands, command redirection, and other system administration skills. No notes or books are permitted during administration of the multiple-choice exam, and examinees may not use computer resources (man pages, info pages, etc.) to gather information.

The Server Install/Network Services Exam requires examinees to install and configure a Red Hat Linux server on an x86 system. Configuration may include various network services, user environment, account management, and other elements that fall under the heading, "system administration". Precision and completeness are important for all tasks in this exam.

Red Hat stats show that it is quite easy to score high on the multiple-choice component of the RHCE Exam while being unable to score sufficient points on the performance-based components of the RHCE Exam. This illustrates the difference between multi-choice only certification and performance-based certification.
Study Points for the RHCE Exam
Red Hat cannot provide a laundry list of minute details about the RHCE exam. Persons who have taken the RHCE Exam have signed a Confidentiality Agreement not to share details about the RHCE Exam. The integrity of the RHCE Exam depends on the integrity of the community of persons who take the Exam.

Experienced Linux system administrators seeking to take the exam without preparing first through Red Hat's courses may find that the list below is a useful guide to preparation. Red Hat does not represent the list below as complete or comprehensive, and does not guarantee individual performance or results on the RHCE Exam based on this list.

Those planning to take the RHCE Exam should:

  1. understand disk partitioning and know how to use Red Hat's install-time partitioning tools
  2. be thoroughly familiar with, and capable of, Red Hat installation, particularly network installations
  3. understand install-time configuration elements (LILO, authentication, networking, system initialization, packages, etc.)
  4. understand and be able to implement post-installation configuration of install-time options
  5. be familiar with Red Hat Linux filesystem layout
  6. understand the role of the scripts and configuration files under /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts
  7. understand different approaches to multiple-boot installations and be familiar with installation-related tools (rawrite, fips)sometimes used during multiple-boot installations
  8. understand kickstart installation basics (kickstart file, floppy- vs. network-based, installation media, boot disk preparation, etc.)
  9. possess a thorough knowledge of the rpm command and its switches, particularly those related to the installation and querying of packages
  10. be familiar with the basic elements of source (*.src.rpm) rpm packages
  11. know how to create and use a boot/rescue floppy disk set for system recovery
  12. know how to create different kinds of user accounts
  13. know how to configure the user environment
  14. be familiar with system and user bash configuration files
  15. understand quotas, quota concepts, and be able to implement user and group quotas
  16. understand the cron system and be capable of setting up the scheduled jobs using cron
  17. understand essential kernel concepts, such as monolithic vs. modular kernels, initial ramdisks, etc.
  18. be able to install kernel sources and development tools needed in order to rebuild the Linux kernel
  19. be able to configure, build, and install the Linux kernel and modules from source and understand LILO configuration and the elements -- first stage, second stage, and installer -- that make up LILO
  20. understand. and be capable of. implementing the following network services: Apache, Samba, NFS, basic sendmail, POP3/IMAP4 email, DNS, and ftp
  21. be sufficiently familiar with the function, configuration, and logging of those services as to be capable of basic troubleshooting
  22. be familiar with, and capable of, implementing access restrictions for the above services
  23. be familiar with other network services supported under Red Hat Linux: squid, innd NNTP server, xntpd, etc.
  24. understand X in general and the XFree86 X server in particular, including its configuration file and the primary tools used for editing that file
  25. be familiar with the window manager and desktop environment choices available under Red Hat Linux, and know how to select these choices
  26. understand and be capable of implementing and using the remote capabilities of X, including remote logins and remote clients.
  27. understand the role of inetd, inetd.conf, and /etc/services; and be capable of implementing tcp_wrappers security measures
  28. understand basic NIS concepts and the components associated with NIS understand the purpose of the PAM subsystem, and be capable of implementing basic PAM configuration changes
  29. possess basic familiarity with configuration issues -- routing options, IP forwarding, kernel configuration -- associated with using Red Hat Linux as a router
  30. be capable of using ipchains to implement basic firewalling policies and be familiar with the User Private Group scheme in Red Hat Linux

Last updated: 10/04/99
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