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Chapter 1: Red Hat Certification ExamsExam taking is not something that most people anticipate eagerly, no matter how well prepared they might be. In most cases, familiarity helps ameliorate test anxiety. In plain English, this means that you probably won't be as nervous when you take your fourth or fifth Red Hat certification exam as you'll be when you take your first one. Granted, every certification exam-whether it's a Red Hat exam, a Caldera exam, or another certification program-will be different, but the preparation process will be similar and you'll become more comfortable with each experience.
Whether it's your first exam or your tenth, understanding the details of exam taking (how much time to spend on questions, the environment you'll be in, and so on) and understanding the exam software will help you concentrate on the material rather than on the setting. Likewise, mastering a few basic exam-taking skills should help you recognize-and perhaps even outfox-some of the tricks and gotchas you're bound to find in some of the exam questions.
This chapter, besides explaining the exam environment and software, describes some proven exam-taking strategies that you should be able to use to your advantage.
Before you take your Red Hat exam, I strongly recommend that you complete the Self-Assessment included with this book (it appears just before this chapter, in fact). This assessment will help you compare your knowledge base to the requirements for obtaining an RHCE, and it will help you identify parts of your background or experience that might need improvement, enhancement, or further learning. If you get the right set of basicsunder your belt, obtaining Red Hat certification will be that much easier.
Once you've gone through the Self-Assessment, you can study those topics where your background or experience might not measure up to an ideal certification candidate. But you can also tackle subject matter for individual tests at the same time, so you can continue making progress while you're catching up in some areas. Once you've worked through an Exam Cram, read the supplementary materials, completed the chapter tasks, and taken the practice test, you'll have a pretty clear idea of when you should be ready to take the real exam. I strongly recommend that you keep practicing until your scores top the 80 percent mark; 85 percent would be a good goal to give yourself some margin for error in a real exam situation (where stress will play more of a role than it does when you practice). Once you hit that point, you should be ready to go. But if you get through the practice exam in this book without attaining that score, you should keep taking practice tests and studying the materials until you get there. You'll find more information about how to study and prepare in the Self-Assessment section of this book, along with even more pointers on how to study and prepare. But now, on to the exam.
The Exam Situation
When you arrive at the testing center where you scheduled your exam, or at Red Hat's training facility, you'll need to sign in with an exam coordinator. He or she might ask you to show two forms of identification, one of which must be a photo ID. After you've signed in, you'll be escorted to your testing station, and you'll be asked to deposit below your desk any books, bags, or other items you brought with you. Typically, the room will be furnished with anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen computers.
You'll be furnished with a pen and pencil and a blank sheet of paper. You're allowed to write down any information you want on both sides of this sheet. Before the exam, you should memorize as much as you can of the material that appears on The Cram Sheet (inside the front cover of this book) so you can write that information on the blank sheet as soon as you are seated in front of the computer. You can refer to your rendition of The Cram Sheet any time you like during the test. Keep in mind, however, that most of the RHCE exams are performance based, not multiple choice. This means that you'll be facing time restrictions that you have to balance between your physical system time, task coordination, and more. So use your time wisely.
The exam situation will be staffed at all times by the instructor or exam coordinator, who will monitor the test takers and give instructions when necessary. In addition, the instructor is available as a last resort for help. Please note that asking the instructor for help does affect your score by a very large percentage (as much as 25 percent for one question). If you're running out of time and can't get past a specific portion of the exam, you might opt to take the point reduction to complete the exam. Depending on which part of the exam you begin, the instructor will have loaded or prepared the appropriate Red Hat certification exam setup. You'll be testing with a number of other students, and you'll all be asked to start at the same time.
All Red Hat certification exams allow a certain maximum amount of time in which to complete your work. The RHCE 302 Exam consists of three sections. The sections are presented in random order-meaning that one time the written exam might be first, another time the Installation Lab, and another time the Debugging Lab-so make sure you're prepared before entering the exam area. You might not be able to take advantage of the breaks in between exams to prepare for the next one. The exam takes a total of six hours: two and a half hours for each hands-on exam and one hour for the written exam.
Red Hat certification exams are performance based. Although this might sound quite simple, the exam comprises three elements, two of which, as I mentioned, are hands-on...