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Exam Profile: Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) Exam (EX200)

Sander van Vugt offers exam details and preparation tips for the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) Exam (EX200).
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Red Hat's RHCSA EX200 is a hands-on exam that verifies real skills for Linux administrators who want to work with Red Hat servers. It is Red Hat’s entry-level exam, preparing Linux professionals for the Red Hat Certified Administrator (RHCSA) exam. There is no prerequisite for this exam, but it is the prerequisite to taking the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) exam, as well as other Red Hat certifications. This exam profile provides an overview of what to expect on the exam, and also some exam preparation strategies.

Exam Details

  • Types of Questions: The EX200 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 percentage of assignments needs to be completed successfully.
  • Number of Questions: There are between 10 and 15 hands-on assignments.
  • Passing Score: 210 out of 300.
  • Time Limit: 2 hours 30 minutes.
  • How to Register: Registration goes through http://www.redhat.com/en/services/certification/individual-exam-sessions. Click on Explore Locations to find a testing center near you. Notice that in some geographic areas, registration for the exam only goes through Red Hat authorized training centers.

Trouble Spots

The EX200 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 150-minute time frame.

Although the questions are clearly formulated, problems do arise because of candidates incorrectly interpreting questions. I therefore strongly recommend you take some time to read through the exam questions carefully to adequately interpret the question. After reading through all the questions, you should prioritize and determine which questions you should answer 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 problematic areas that can easily be identified from the RHCSA exam objectives, as published at http://www.redhat.com/en/services/training/ex200-red-hat-certified-system-administrator-rhcsa-exam. The most significant problem areas include:

  • Troubleshooting: RHCSA includes troubleshooting, and the candidate has to be prepared for a number of different scenarios.
  • Software Management: The RPM Package Manager and the yum repository manager play an essential role in the exam. Without active repositories, no software can be installed, and the candidate will fail the exam for sure.
  • Storage Management: The candidate must be able to create partitions as well as logical volumes. For many candidates these are tasks that are not accomplished on a daily basis. Also, by making mistakes in configuring storage, the candidate can make his server unbootable, which leads to exam failure.
  • Networking: In Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, Red Hat has introduced a redesigned networking stack, which is based on the NetworkManager and associated tools. Working with this environment is not intuitive and needs a lot of preparation.
  • User and Permission Management: On the RHCSA exam, the candidate has to be able to master any issues that deal with permissions on Linux systems. Not just the commonly known Read, Write and Execute permissions need to be mastered, but also the more advanced Access Control Lists.
  • Automount: the autofs service can be used to mount a file system only when it is accessed by a process or a user. Configuring this is not intuitive and therefore problematic for many candidates.
  • SELinux: Red Hat uses SELinux to implement an advanced and sophisticated mandatory security mechanism. SELinux is complicated, but the RHCSA candidate is expected to know how to deal with it to make sure that services can keep on running in an environment where SELinux is enabled.
  • Remote File System Access: Accessing a remote file system by itself is not that difficult. The challenge is in accessing remote file systems using a context where autofs, SELinux and firewalling have to be combined. Because many different items have to be combined to mount remote file systems successfully, many candidates consider this challenging.

Preparation Hints

You should regularly check the EX200 exam objectives before taking the exam. Red Hat does sometimes update the objectives, which includes making minor version changes to the operating system on which you will take the exam. This does not happen very often, but it’s a good idea to check the objectives, which 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 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 IT Certification. This book contains information on every objective as well as everything you need to know to prepare for the exam, including 2 practice exams (4 RHCSA Practice Exams in the Premium Edition), lab exercises, interactive exercises and quizzes, and video to help you prepare in the best possible way.
  • Take advantage of video training with Pearson IT Certification’s Complete Video Course on the RHCSA exam, which provides video training on every objective in the exam and additionally offers practice questions plus interactive exercises and quizzes.
  • Watch the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) Exam Prep Video Workshop. In this course the author provides deep dive training into common RHCSA 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 at http://www.pearsonitcertification.com. 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 to take the exam before signing up. 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 RHCSA practice exams and the Premium Edition comes with 4 RHCSA practice exams, so that’s a good place to start. The Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator (RHCSA) Complete Video Course has practice questions for every lesson that you can also work through. Finally, the Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator (RHCSA) Exam Prep Video Workshop has 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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