Guest Post: Preparing for Red Hat exams

by Anderson Silva

Below is the first in a series of posts by actual Red Hat Certified Professionals offering their preparation tips for taking Red Hat exams. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s and not necessarily those of Red Hat Training.

I have been working for Red Hat for over 5 years, and throughout these years I have had the opportunity to take several Red Hat Training courses and earn a few certifications. These certifications include: Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHEL5, 2007), Red Hat Certified Architect (2010) and Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHEL6, 2012).

So, when I read that the good people at Red Hat Training were looking for some ‘How do you prepare’ for Red Hat training courses and exams, I thought I had something to offer.

Red Hat Training courses are usually set up in a small classroom environment with 4 days of lectures, Monday through Thursday, and the exam on Friday. Throughout the years, the amount of time the exam takes has changed a bit, but one can be sure to take up at least your entire morning on Friday.

On Monday, you will receive the course material, printed and bound as a book, and this book will have several chapters 10 – 15 (or so), and at the end of every chapter some lab exercises. Most instructors I’ve had will try to get the whole class though most of the content of the book by the end of the day Wednesday or lunchtime on Thursday, so the rest of the time can be devoted to re-working all the labs you worked throughout the week.

On top of all that, I find it very important to do the following:

1. Don’t take your work with you to the classroom. Make arrangements with your boss so that you can basically have the week ‘off’ from work so you can concentrate on the material. Don’t bring your laptop to the classroom. The instructors are nice enough and they won’t call you on it if you do, but you will be doing yourself a favor and keep work outside the classroom.

2. Take Notes. Good Notes. This is probably my most important tip at least, I know it works for me. I usually open up a document on Google Docs on my workstation, and take notes on all all the labs I work throughout the day. For example, if you need to set up a Kerberos Key Distribution Center, write down all the steps out on this ‘online’ document.

3. Go over the material covered every night. At the end of the day, even though I am usually exhausted, I try to get a good dinner and forget about everything for an hour or so, maybe even catch up on work if needed, but before going to bed, I read over the chapters covered by the instructor, and most importantly, I read over my ‘Google Docs’ notes I took all day. If I missed anything, I take the time to correct it or complete it.

4. Re-do your labs from memory. On Thursday, when your instructor gives you the time to re-do your labs, assuming you have been studying every night, and taking notes, you should feel pretty comfortable to re-do most, if not all of the labs from memory. It will give you a confidence boost, and also allow you to see where the gaps are in your head regarding the course. Fill out your notes, and you discover the gaps.

5. Use the Red Hat Enterprise Linux system documentation. You will be surprised how many things you can refresh your memory on from the documentation that already comes with RHEL. Take some time in the labs trying to find where specific commands (specially the long ones with lots of arguments) can be found on main pages or /usr/share/docs/.

6. Finally, one final review. By Thursday night, I am usually ready to take the exam. Tired, yes, but pumped with adrenaline. When I get home on Thursday night, I put the book from the course away, because the book is thick and intimidating. I take out my notes from ‘Google Docs’ and just read it, and study. On Friday morning, I pop the document up on my phone, and stop at IHOP or some other breakfast shop and have a good breakfast while reading my notes online.

By 9 am on Friday, I feel more than prepared to take the exam. I would be lying if I told you that I passed every single one of them on the first try, but every time I failed, and re-took the test, I know it wasn’t because it wasn’t taught or because I didn’t study, it was usually because I misread some instruction or mistyped some configuration that would have a cascading effect on exam.

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