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Exam Profile: Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) Exam (EX300)

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Sander van Vugt offers exam details and preparation tips for the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) Exam (EX300).
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Red Hat's RHCE EX300 is a hands-on exam that tests real skills of Linux engineers. The exam verifies that experienced Linux administrators can work with a wide range of services that are commonly used on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator (RHCSA) exam is a prerequisite to taking the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) exam. Although it is not required to have passed the RHCSA exam before taking the RHCE exam, the RHCE certificate will only be granted to those who have also passed the RHCSA exam (EX200).  It is also possible to take both exams on the same day.

Exam Details

  • Type of Questions: The EX300 consists of hands-on assignments. These assignments mimic real tasks that administrators of Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers deal with on a daily basis in their professional environments. The candidate works on a real Red Hat system, to pass the exam a sufficient amount of assignments has to be completed successfully.
  • Number of questions: There are between 10 and 15 hands-on assignments.
  • Passing Score: 210 out of 300
  • Time Limit: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • How to Register: Registration goes through http://www.redhat.com/en/services/certification/individual-exam-sessions. Notice that in some geographic areas, registration for the exam only goes through Red Hat authorized training centers.

Trouble Spots

The E300 is about more than just the appropriate technical skills. Time management also plays a significant role, and the successful candidate knows how to prioritize to ensure that all the exam assignments can be completed within the 210-minute time frame.

Although the questions are clearly formulated, problems do arise because candidates incorrectly interpret the questions. I strongly recommended that you take some time to carefully read through the exam questions as the exam is meant to evaluate if the candidate has correctly interpreted each question. After reading through all the questions you should then prioritize which questions to tackle first, and which questions to answer later. It is always a good idea to answer the easy questions first.

The contents of the exam are protected by an NDA and cannot be discussed. There are, however, a number of typical problem areas that can easily be identified from the RHCE exam objectives, as published at http://www.redhat.com/en/services/training/ex300-red-hat-certified-engineer-rhce-exam. The most significant problem areas include:

  • SELinux: All services that are configured on the RHCE exam are supposed to be used in a context where SELinux is offering full protection.
  • Kerberized NFS Server Configuration: The RHCE objectives focus heavily on configuring a Kerberos protected NFS server. This topic is particularly complicated, because the procedure to set up a Kerberized NFS server has changed between RHEL 7.0 and 7.1.
  • Setting up iSCSI: The candidate has to be able to set up an iSCSI target as well as an initiator. Although this is not extremely hard to do, many administrators don't do this on a regular basis and for that reason don't have enough hands on experience.
  • Setting up Aggregated Network Interfaces: Setting up aggregated network interfaces using bonding or teaming is challenging, as it risks messing up the current network configuration, which will for sure lead to failure on the exam.
  • Creating Advanced Samba Configurations: The candidate has to be aware of many advanced Samba features, such as share based access control, SELinux configuration for Samba, and multi-user mounts.
  • Web Services: The configuration of Apache web services is among the essential topics on the EX300 exam. Advanced tasks such as configuration of virtual hosts, setting up private directories, and configuration of TLS security need to be completed.

Apart from the different topics that have been listed here and which are challenging enough by themselves, in the EX300 the candidate is supposed to be able to combine different configurations to get to a working configuration. Just configuring the service itself is not enough; successful candidates will need to integrate them with other services as well. For instance, the candidate has to not only sett up a DNS server, but also consider the related SELinux and firewalling configuration.

Preparation Hints

At any time, regularly check the EX300 exam objectives. Red Hat occasionally makes minor version updates to the objectives as well as minor version updates to the operating system that the exam is taken on, though not frequently. The objectives are published at the Red Hat website.

The most important preparation hint is to practice a lot. Make sure you get good information on how to assign the tasks that are part of the exam objectives and select the preparation method that works best for you. The nice thing is that the exam candidate doesn't necessarily have to attend an official Red Hat class to take the exam, but can also use self-study to prepare for the exam.

When registering for the exam, two options exist. The first option is a classroom exam, which is given at a limited number of locations and times. The benefit of taking a classroom exam (with other exam candidates), is that the candidate can work in a relaxed environment where an examiner is available on-site. The other option is the kiosk exam. In a kiosk exam, the candidate sits behind a monitored computer, and assistance is only available remotely. Although the kiosk exams are the same as classroom exams, the lack of physical presence of an examiner is considered a disadvantage by many candidates.

Recommended Study Resources

Several different solutions exist for study resources:

  • Buy a book, like the Red Hat RHCSA/RHCE 7 Cert Guide, published by Pearson. This book contains all you need to know to prepare for the exam, including many lab exercises that mimic the exam contents, and test exams that help you prepare the best possible way.
  • Take advantage of video training with Pearson IT Certification’s Complete Video Course on the RHCE exam, which provides video training on every objective in the exam and additionally offers practice questions plus interactive exercises and quizzes.
  • Take the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) Exam Prep Video Workshop.  In this course the author provides deep dive training into common RHCE exam traps, pitfalls, and difficulties, and also walks you through a live practice exam so you can get a feel for what the exam will be like in the testing facility. This video includes real student and instructor Questions and Answer sessions so you can experience a workshop environment without the costs and time commitment associated with attending one in person. If you have studied for the exam, but need some final test-prep help, this course is a good option.
  • Watch the RHCSA/RHCSE Webcasts that are available for free through Safari Books Online. These webcasts zoom in in more detail on the exam topics that are typically considered complicated by most candidates.

Where to Go from Here

Make sure that you're ready before taking the exam. Learn about each objective on the exam, test yourself with practice exams, and practice, practice, practice your Linux skills.

The best way to ready yourself is to take as many practice exams as you can. The Red Hat RHCSA/RHCE 7 Cert Guide comes with 2 RHCE practice exams and the Premium Edition comes with 4 RHCE practice exams, so that’s a good place to start. The Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) Complete Video Course has practice questions for every lesson that you can also work through. Finally, the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) Exam Prep Video Workshophas a full live-exam walk-through so you can get a feel for what it’s like to actually take the exam. Work your way through any and all practice exams that you can get your hands on to make sure you're ready.

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