It’s not a new idea that organizations worldwide need and seek qualified IT professionals with the skills and knowledge needed to use Red Hat products successfully. And for the last two decades, Red Hat Training and Certification has provided a way for them to assess, train and validate skills. Last year, we launched preliminary exams as a way to provide experience with our hands-on approach to testing to a broader audience and to explore making this approach more widely available as online exams. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant temporary site closures, lockdowns and social distancing. Going to a test center to take an exam is not an option in many places. Even if it is, candidates for certification might be understandably reluctant to visit a center to take an exam. With that in mind, Red Hat has accelerated our efforts, and I am very pleased to announce that several of our certification exams are now available remotely.
You asked. We delivered.
To this point, Red Hat Certification has delivered exams in public and private classroom sessions and through individually-delivered exams at testing centers. We have considered online exams in the past but decided not to pursue them in part because of concerns around exam security gaps. It is simply too easy for exam takers to cheat during their exams. Reliability has also come into question as we worked through how to make this a reality. Another factor is that many people prefer the quiet, controlled environment of a testing center over the less controlled (and sometimes chaotic!) environments in which they live and work. However, under the current climate people have had to make many adjustments, and where there might have once been a reluctance to bring certification testing into one’s home there is a new willingness, and even expectation, that this should be an option.
What we have undertaken is a unique approach that provides an entire operating system tailored for the purpose of delivering a Red Hat exam, as well as running the compatibility tester that helps establish if someone’s hardware and network connectivity are suited for remote delivery. When booted from a typical USB thumb drive or other external storage device, this operating system runs entirely in RAM and leaves whatever is installed on the system untouched and unchanged. This, too, was another concern we had about many of the online exam solutions out there: we wouldn’t want to install third-party software on our computers that purports to control it or lock it down and we wouldn’t want that for our test takers, either.
While running the live exam environment, test takers are strictly limited in what they can access and do -- no online searches, checking cheat sheets or chatting with more knowledgeable friends. If it is easy to cheat on an exam, assertions made about the people who pass it are weakened. When we certify someone, Red Hat is saying that person has the skills and knowledge to use one or more Red Hat technologies in actual IT environments. We want to protect the value of our reputation by doing all we can to ensure that the people who have passed our exams have done so fairly through their own skills and knowledge.
In addition to providing a more restrictive environment, the live exam environment also provides a more predictable, reliable user-side environment. Consider all the different operating systems, releases of operating systems, browsers, releases of browsers and browser plug-ins on people’s computers. All that variation puts reliability of online delivery at risk.
By contrast, our live exam environment provides everything needed to access the exam content, cloud-based lab environments and to permit remote proctors to observe the test taker during an exam, so there are no issues arising from unsupported software or software conflicts. We believe that this approach provides more reliability. And let’s be honest, taking an exam lasting three or four hours is stressful enough. Technical difficulties (other than those provided by design as part of the exam, of course) are the last thing anyone needs.
Which exams are available today?
Now for the details. Effective August 3, four of our most in-demand certification exams are available for remote delivery:
Red Hat Certified System Administrator (EX200V8K)
Red Hat Certified Engineer (EX294V8K)
Red Hat Certified Specialist in OpenShift Administration (EX280V42K)
Red Hat Certified Specialist in OpenShift Application Development (EX288V42K)
Anyone who has already purchased one of these exams or enrolled in one through their Red Hat Learning Subscription -- Standard Edition can also choose between remote and testing center delivery. Prospective certification candidates interested in taking one of these exams remotely should select the Individual Exam option through redhat.com/training. Then they will have the option to schedule either a remote exam or a testing center exam.
The most up-to-date list of individual exams that are available to take as a remote exam can be found on the Ways to Test page.
Red Hat Certified Professionals are critical assets to the organizations that employ them, as well as invaluable ambassadors for Red Hat and open source. Their health and well-being are very important to us. We expect to make most of our exams available for remote delivery based on global and regional demand. We previously extended all certifications set to expire between March 17, 2020, and December 31, 2020, to January 1, 2021 and affected RHCPs have been notified of this change. While we aim to get back to business as usual as quickly and safely as possible, we believe that remote exam delivery is a necessary step to providing a more highly available means of earning certification - not only as a temporary measure but moving forward beyond lock-down.
About the author
Randy Russell is the director of Certification and leads the team that develops and delivers Red Hat's certification programs and exams. A long-time proponent of performance-based testing, he has served on the board and as president and chairman of the Performance Testing Council, as well as having presented on this subject and others at industry conferences such as the Association of Test Publishers, the European Association of Test Publishers, CeDMA and TSIA.