My tips for the Red Hat RHCE exam

7 October 2013 — 32 Comments

Red Hat Certified EngineerLast week I attended the Red Hat RH300 course (fast track) in Amsterdam and did the RHCSA and RHCE exams on the final day. I passed both RHCSA (283/300 points) and RHCE (300/300 points). I had a great teacher because, apart from technical stuff, I also learned how to approach the exams.

The objectives for both RHCSA and RHCE are well documented on Red Hat’s site. You should start to make sure you know everything inside out. Practise, practise, practise. Learn to use the documentation that ships with RHEL, as this is the only help available: no internet access is provided during the exam. There are several books available that help prepare and Red Hat has very good courses as well, that I really recommend. I assume you should be able to study this all one way or the other.

One advise on this though: don’t try to remember everything but remember the references instead. If you know a man page has examples you can use, just remember the man page. If you know documentation is in a separate package, remember the package name. A references takes less ‘memory’ in your head, so you can remember more. This will speed up your work significantly.

But wait, technical knowledge is just one challenge. Watch out for the pitfalls:

Pitfall #1: Time
Most experienced Linux sysadmins will probably be able to pass the exam if there was no restriction on time. You could test, trial-and-error and read man pages all day long. Even start from scratch when you seriously broke something. Well, it’s time to wake up: in reality time on the exam is (very) limited. And yet many candidates do not manage their limited exam time.

A classic example: spending too much time on something that does not work right away. Instead, accept the fact it doesn’t work now and continue with other tasks or else time will run out. When you have given everything a first attempt, you can always return to a task that you skipped before.

Not only should you know immediately what to do when you read the tasks, you need to know the fastest way to configure something. Yes, the fastest way. Not the way you prefer to do it, or have been doing it until now. I’ve heard people complaining about the GUI/TUI tools. And I agree a GUI is not something you want on a server. But hey, if ‘system-config-authentication‘ has a ready to fill-in form and makes you configure LDAP with TLS and Kerberos in 60 seconds. Why would you want to go for the manual way on the exam? Yet, some feel they are better off configuring this on the command line. There’s simply no time for that approach, nor will it bring in more points. Be smart, take the fast track.

Pitfall #2: Your assumptions
Reading is a big problem because candidates tend not do read very well on the exam. Especially when aware of Pitfall #1, they will not spend the first few minutes reading instructions. A waste of time, right? But in reality this will cost precious time later on because assumptions are made, but never checked. Is it a good idea to start working on something, without seeing the bigger picture?

I don’t think so. Sometimes, tasks are related but not grouped together. When you read everything first, you might find that doing two tasks together is easier. Or you might choose a different approach based on all information, instead on just a single task. Reading ahead helps you understand the bigger picture.

Imagine you are asked to configure, let’s say, NTP. Some assume they have to sync to a time source that is provided and then have to setup a NTP server and serve time to the local network. But isn’t is a waste of time to configure a NTP server, when all you have to do is setup a NTP client? This also occurs with tweaking configurations more than is being asked for. Keep it simple and do exactly what is asked for.

How I avoided the pitfalls
Value your own work through the eyes of a customer. Example: if a web server is perfectly configured but a firewall prevents access to it, then this does not work for a client. Website is down: zero value. Red Hat might also values your work on the exam like this. Keep that in mind.

Structure is another important thing to work on. This was my approach on the exam:

1. Imagine you are working for a client that has written down everything they want from you. Read it all and try to understand the bigger picture. Then reorganize it: group together what belongs to each other.

2. Install everything at once. After step 1 you should have identified all packages you need to install. Do it now. Then ‘chkconfig on‘ every service you will configure later. Why? Because it is easy and it prevents forgetting it later on. Remember: a perfectly configured service that does not start at boot brings in zero points.

3. Then setup the firewall for the services you identified at step 1 and installed at step 2. You probably need to tweak this as you go through the tasks, but just setup the basics now. This will make it easier later on.

On my exam the first 3 steps took less than 20 minutes and provided a solid base to build on.

4. Work through all tasks and remember: Be smart, take the fast track. Also, skip any task that you are stuck on for more than 10 minutes.

Reboot a few times and recheck everything you have finished so far. Your work is reviewed after a reboot anyway, so you should make sure your changes survive a reboot. The sooner you find a problem, the sooner you will be able to solve it.

5. When everything is done, carefully check the items a final time. Then you’re done. And, you probably have some time left!

Conclusion
The Red Hat exams are challenging. You absolutely need the technical skills as outlined in the objectives. But, I believe that alone is not enough. To pass, you should manage your limited time on the exam by taking the fast track and remember the right references. Before you start, make sure to have a clear picture in mind of what you are supposed to do. Start by building a basic setup and work from there. Finally, always check your assumptions.

Good luck! 🙂

32 responses to My tips for the Red Hat RHCE exam

  1. 

    simply great article regarding Red Hat exams

  2. 

    Nice article. Question. How literally do you answer questions. EG: “Create a directory called ‘/bla’ and give user ‘bob’ access to it.” Do you give bob read only access or r/w? And another… “Make sure ‘postfix’ is accessibly only from network ‘192.168.0.0/24′”. Do you give access from the localhost also?

    Finally, are all RHCE exams the same or do they change for different people, locations, attempts, times…?

    Cheers.

  3. 

    Hello,

    I took RHCE exam after preparing for 6 months and failed with score zero, yes zero. I did my exam very well and I just missed only one question and I’m very sure that other than one question , I got the right o/p for rest of the question, as I tested each and every o/p from vm and physical machine. One big thing I missed to check was by rebooting the vm. I did not had time to check by rebooting the VM. And I believe something got screwed because of that system did not come up after reboot.

    After getting the result I tried with all the questions I remember from rhce exam at home lab and for none of the questions/scenario , system start-up was not screwed up. Not able to recreate the same scenario.

    I will be re-taking the exam in next available slot and definitely this time I will be practicing each and every config by rebooting and not sure If I will be able to recreate the same scenario during my practice like screwing up system-start-up.

    I may not be able to discuss any specific questions and answers here. What I’m loking for is which services or commands could have screwed up the start-up of my exam vm. I’m looking for answers like – fdisk /dd / mount /fdisk/iscsi/iptables/selinux.

    Is there any other non-technical reason this would have happen ?
    Do you think the non RHCE questions , like the questions which we fill before the exam starts ?
    I was working till the moment 00:00 Mins left , Can this be a problem ?

    Thanks in Advance.

    Thanks,
    rhce-user

  4. 

    Something as simple as a typo in /etc/fstab could cause a system to drop into maintenance mode when booting.

  5. 

    ‘I took the RHCE exam recently and after the exam i realised that i hadn’t disabled the firewall.I scored only 117 marks.So how much mark do we actually loose for not diabling firewall in an RHCE exam?

  6. 

    I sat rhce last week and was asked to configure a service. I can’t figure out how I supposed to do so as it wasn’t installed and there was no info about accessing any repos to get the required packages. I probably missed something or did something stupid but I wonder if anyone else has been in a similar situation and could help me figure out what I was doing wrong.

  7. 

    do you need any CCNA knowledge or desktop engineering knowledge to take up the RHCE course n certification. Many frighten me by saying the same . Im really confused please help me.

  8. 
    Naushad Nazeer Pasha 3 March 2015 at 10:38

    on 27/02/2015 i wrote both RHCSA and RHCE exams and i scored RHCSA 283/300 (small mistake which i realized later, which costed me 17 marks) and RHCE 300/300.
    very happy after getting the result.

  9. 
    RaunakKhadkikar 4 March 2015 at 18:48

    hi swap
    If stop and disable firewalld.service the chances of getting score is really good,other option is that whenever you will do any task you have add permanent firewalld.service.So it is better to stop and disable firewalld.sevice at starting…

  10. 
    RaunakKhadkikar 4 March 2015 at 18:51

    hi David
    I think you might be commiting mistake while giving the right path which we have to provide in system baseurl.

  11. 

    Hi Blog, I took the RHCSA exam today and got a 0. All questions were answered. As i completed each task on the system, I checked off the radio button for each answer and went on the next question. I completed within the time alloted I was confident I’d walk away with 100% or somewhere near. Even the freebies were answered.

    Can anyone say if the answers are also copy / pasted somewhere else, in addition to completing each tasks ?

  12. 

    Always remember this pitfall:

    Reboot a few times and recheck everything you have finished so far. Your work is reviewed after a reboot anyway, so you should make sure your changes survive a reboot. The sooner you find a problem, the sooner you will be able to solve it.

    After researching, I fell to the reboot pitfall. Thanks everybody.

    JKB

  13. 

    first of all i would like to say congrats.pliz help me wth anything that u can assist with in terms of exams.quastions or anything

  14. 
    Rovshan Pashayev 7 November 2015 at 21:21

    Hi,

    I wanna pass RHCSA and reading “PDFs” from RH documentation page; System Admin, Network, Security, SELinux etc. Am I doing right? I mean should I waste time for them?
    But must say I love reading them, so interesting.

    Thanks.

  15. 

    1: I am preparing for rhcsa ,I wonder if you can just provide us with some sample questions. not exactly what you saw in the exams, but just some rough idea. that will help me under stand , the paper before attempting it.

    2: Does RHCSA paper is also tough like RHCE, as I have seen the course outline and it appears to me that rhcsa should not be a big deal , in terms of TIME and complexity.

    I would appreciate your response in this regards

    • 

      As for 1: I’d recommend taking a course or study a book. 2: It may not be complex, but it’s still a lot of work so time-wise still a challenge 😉 Good luck!

  16. 
    sobars kalamkar 18 February 2016 at 15:18

    Hi,

    In RHCE exam ,I solved each and every Question and crossed verified all answers three times which was absolutely correct and i also rebooted system two times,my all answers was correct,but I do not know how i get only 234 marks?

  17. 

    hi all,
    I got zero in RHCE paper it will be helpful if somebody helps me out what mistake was done in this paper there is no possibility of getting zero in this paper

  18. 
    Manish Tiwari 23 May 2016 at 15:35

    Hi its my bad luck i didnt able to clear my RHCE exam ..i got 206 marks. I am having problem in configuring samba and nfs .Can anyone help me out on these two topics as how to approach on these two topics?

    • 

      Same here. I got 206; dont know why server1 was neither responding nor rebooting. BTW, how you felt after getting the score!

  19. 

    Hi, I gave RHCSA exam yesterday.After reboot vm comes up and i checked all things ,all are fine.after that, i reboot again and login with root and it shows login incorrect.What happen to my vm and will my all questions are evaluated or not?? Plz reply………

  20. 

    Thank you for your tips. I just not started studying for the rhcsa exam. I am starting to set up a test bed at home. i wanted to know when taking the actual exam do you have to install RHEL 7 from scratch ? also do you have to install kvm from scratch ?

  21. 

    Nice article
    Thanks for sharing the informative blog.

  22. 

    Nice article
    Thanks for sharing the informative blog.

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