Red Hat’s training and certifications are an effective way to gain or solidify skills and demonstrate mastery of same. Whether you’re looking to get your foot in the door of the IT world, or you’re a seasoned professional looking to move up the ladder, Red Hat’s got you covered.

However, Red Hat’s certifications are not easy to pass. After all, the certification exams are all about performing exam tasks. There are no multiple-choice questions and answers, matching terms, or purely hypothetical scenarios; you get a machine, and you either make it work according to the exam’s objectives, or fail. The idea is to simulate real-world scenarios.

The difficulty is one of the main reasons why the certifications are highly regarded. Today, we’ll explore some ways to ease the difficulty just that little bit.

Make sure to adjust the environment before you begin the exam

Imagine you start the exam, you read through the tasks, and right when you want to begin, you realize the keyboard layout is not what you expected. Other times, you may notice that the screen is too bright, dim, or tilted. Make sure you iron these out before you actually start. The keyboard layout of exams is en-US by default, so either make sure you’re familiar with the layout, or make sure you know how to change it.

Read the exam tasks and environment documentation carefully!

People want to get to work on objectives right away, but this is a common pitfall. The exam tasks may not be in any particular order. Often, one task depends on another. Knowing all the tasks before you begin working on any single one gives you the necessary perspective of what you should achieve at the end of the exam.

The environment documentation is just as crucial as the exam tasks! It describes which environment and servers are available for you, preconfigured and working. Additionally, it contains any documentation that you have available, any passwords that may come in handy, or even how the exam is graded.

Most Red Hat exams are evaluated only after rebooting the environment. This should be included in the documentation of the exam. Other exams have no requirements for rebooting, but dictate which directories you should create your files in, what the file names should be, and how to restore your work should you corrupt the system. These are crucial pieces of information, so ignore them at your peril!

Last but not least, the exam questions change between retakes. So if you failed an exam once, read through the tasks carefully even if you think you know all the tasks. You may be surprised!

Know the exam objectives, and know them well!

As you know by now, Red Hat’s exams are purely about doing. Every exam has a set of objectives, some of which you will be asked perform. Though every objective is a simple sentence, it contains more than you might think. For example:

  • When is the feature or a function used?

  • How do you configure it? Are there more than one configurations of the particular objective? If so, how do they differ and when would you use each of them?

  • Is there any administrative task that can be performed with the objective?

  • Is there any client-server architecture connected with the objective? If so, can you configure both the client and the server?

Exam objectives should be the primary source of estimating your preparedness for any exam. Just make sure you go beyond a typical "hello, world" use case of any given objective, and that you understand the "why" and "why not" as well as the "how."

Use the right tools for you

We have established that the exam is all about doing. However, how you achieve the exam tasks, that is up to you. Whether you use a command-line tool, or a graphical interface, that is up to you, as long as it works.

A typical example is network manager for managing networking with RHEL. You can use:

  • nmcli - a command-line tool.

  • nmtui - a command-line text interface, which guides you through the changes.

  • nm-connection-editor - a graphical interface for managing networking.

All of the tools can achieve similar things. It is up to you which one you choose. Also, keep in mind that you can use graphical forwarding using a simple ssh -X flag. That means you may be able to use a graphical interface even for systems that are configured with no graphical environment. Be aware though that some tools may contain bugs, which may or may not affect you while taking the exam. Be sure you try the tools thoroughly for your needs in your test environment before committing to using them in the exam.

Documentation is there - use it!

There is no point in having a performance-based exam where the exam takers have to memorize all the objectives by heart! That’s why you are often provided some kind of documentation, and you should use it to your advantage.

You should definitely be familiar with the official documentation for the product that is being tested. Orienting yourself in the documentation may help you immensely! Just remember that Red Hat exams do not permit unrestricted access to the internet. As a result, some functionality of the documentation may not available, such as possible in-built search functionality which relies on internet access.

But even if you are working with a program that has no documentation from Red Hat, you can often find some sort of help. Can you search the manpages? Are you sure there is no package that offers documentation? For example, install the httpd-manual package for offline documentation for the httpd server. For the enterprise application developer exams based on Java, you can often check enum classes, which may have documentation included as comments.

Remember that most of the objectives have at least some kind of documentation on the system. If your answer to an exam objective is "how am I supposed to know that?!" look first for some kind of help that is available to you. You may be surprised by what you’ll find in the documentation.

Review, review, review!

If you’ve got some time left at the end of an exam, make sure that you did not undo one exam task by finishing another one. I can’t say how many times this saved me from failing an exam. Very often, the tasks are related, so there is a real possibility that by setting one thing, you might break another. If you review in the last 10 or 20 minutes and realize that happened to you, you at least realize your mistakes, even if there’s no time to correct them.

Learn with Red Hat

Red Hat provides training for their exams. This is, hands down, the best way to study for the exams. The training is tested, and should contain everything you need to know for the exam plus a little extra.

However, even if you cannot attend any online or in-person trainings, definitely visit Red Hat’s learning community. A number of course instructors are visiting the community, and should you have any practical questions, you may find help there.

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