Hey everyone, I'm Colin Hamilton from SUSE. Today, I’d like to post on my insights into taking a Linux certification. I currently have five different certifications related to Linux and I’d like to give my input on the experiences that I’ve had.
First off, new certifications are all going toward sandbox environments with tasks to accomplish rather than a multiple choice test. All of the exams I’ve taken, whether it be from the Linux Foundation, OpenStack, or SUSE, have all been sandbox environment tests. Due to this, I highly recommend that you make sure to actually run through on a test machine anything that you’re studying. Not only will this better prepare you for the exam, but it’s also much more beneficial for you in the real world. Cramming facts won’t be enough to pass these kinds of tests — you need to understand how to apply the things you’re learning in a real environment.
Going off of that, some major benefits to this type of exam are that you will have access to man pages, you can install things that you think will help you (tmux is a favorite tool of mine to install in exams), and you have the ability to spend more time on one project if you’re having trouble remembering whereas you can accomplish other tasks you remember quickly.
More than anything else, I recommend getting the necessary study material! Fortunately, there’s generally a solid standard among the industries, so an admin-level study guide will be fairly agnostic in terms of its use. However, don’t completely rely on it, and when possible, get the study material specific to your exam. If you can learn the material in the study guide sufficiently, I would, based on my experience, all but guarantee that you can pass.
Here’s the but. Unfortunately, there have been times where what was in the exam was not in the study material. This is usually not the case, however, but I have had it happen. When possible in these situations, I recommend making a “skipped.txt” file and recording that task, then moving on in the exam. Once you’ve done everything else, go through your skipped.txt to go back over anything you may have had to skip. Now you can dedicate the rest of your remaining time to those things that you weren’t prepared for. This isn’t always possible depending on if the task builds on a future task, but when possible, this is a very effective way of ensuring you are able to hit all the tasks you know you can ace.
Next, while you do have access to man pages, it would be unwise to use them excessively. As a way of balancing out that aspect of the exam, they have a timer on these tests, and while it may feel like plenty of time, it can run out quickly if you’re not careful. Don’t brush off learning something well just because you think you’ll be able to find it in the man page.
Also, keep in mind that these exams generally have a passing bar of somewhere around 80%, give or take 5%. Most that I’ve taken have been closer to a 75% requirement. This gives you wiggle room for those times when you just don’t know or don’t remember what it is they want you to do.
Lastly, as a practical aspect of the exam, make sure beforehand that you meet all the requirements to take the exam. I was able to take almost all of my exams on my own laptop at home rather than at a specified location, but they have strict expectations. If you break any of these, they will prevent you from taking the exam or end it early. You’ll need to be in a quiet empty room. You’ll need a webcam. They’ll also have you uinstall an extension to your browser so that they can watch your desktop at all times. If you have any doubts, ask the proctor/monitor at the very beginning so that he can let you know. If it’s something you need to know before the time of the exam, call their support and ask.
P.S. After you take the exam, be prepared for an excruciatingly long waiting process. Why it takes up to three business days to let you know whether you have passed is beyond me. However, that seems to be the industry standard. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and they’ll get back to you a day sooner, but I wouldn’t count on it — that only happened for me one time.
I hope I’ve changed all of your lives forever and that this paradigm shift in your lives will mean less work for me (wink). Good luck on your exams!