EX188 is a great starting point for Red Hat certifications

I’ve been working at Red Hat for for 13 years, so people will often come to me ask for guidance of where to get started with their Red Hat certification journey. So many people have heard of the RHCE - the Red Hat Certified Engineer exam, which remains one of the most respected IT certifications in the industry, let alone just Linux certifications.

Many of these same people have years of Linux experience, but maybe haven’t taken a Red Hat certification before, or in a long time, and are looking for recommended next steps. While going straight for RHCE might sound alluring at first, aiming so high is probably an overly ambitious target to start with. If you think this might be you, then continue reading for some tips!

Understand the prefixes and numbers

The first step in getting started with Red Hat certifications is to understand the nomenclature.

The prefixes roughly indicate content (EX, RH, DO, etc)

The numbers roughly indicate complexity

Red Hat exams rely on a lot of exam technique

The Red Hat exams are fantastic because they are practical, they test real, hands-on skills. There are no trick questions, however, you need to know some Red Hat exam technique before you start doing the level 200+ exams. This means planning your time, planning which questions to answer, in which order.

For example, you can see that the RHCSA exam requires you to debug boot problems in the exam objectives, as well as implement storage configurations. If you cannot do those tasks perfectly, quickly, you’re going to automatically lose-out lots of points later in the exam by not being able to do webservers, or similar if your machine won’t boot!

You also need to know how to be efficient in the virtual exam environment, how to use the GNOME3 desktop, how to setup keyboard and terminal shortcuts/preferences (eg, dark mode) that will make your exam go much more smoothly and more comfortably.

This means, if you have not taken an exam before, or recently, I strongly recommend starting with a more basic exam first, just so that you get familiar with Red Hat exam technique.

Getting started with Linux exams

Red Hat has an extensive set of courses for Linux, but there are two main exams; Red Hat Certified Administrator (RHCSA) and Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE).

A lot of people think that RHCSA is “the easy exam”, and RHCE is “the real exam” - but that’s absolutely no longer true. Since Red Hat acquired Ansible, these exams were restructured quite a bit. Both exams now cover the same range of topics, but it’s in how you apply those topics that is the difference.

  • RHCSA is in understanding many Linux concepts. The best place to start is looking at the exam objectives page for the exam and see that it covers the shell, shell scripts, lvm, debugging boot problems, filestems, webservers, containers, and much much more!
  • RHCE is a test of if you can implement these concepts at speed and scacle, using Ansible. This means you need to know everything in the RHCSA before you have any hope of doing RHCE!

However, there is a better place to start!

EX188 - Certified Specialist in Containers is an great starting point

So, if you need some exam experience, and you want to get started on your Linux journey, consider the EX188 exam. I found that this exam gives a lot of time, it’s just a single topic (Containers, which you need to know for RHCSA anyway), and the questions are not easy, but they are straightforward, and don’t require a lot of planning to answer (as opposed to RHCSA and RHCE).

What’s the first step?

The first step you should take, that takes just 5 minutes, is to go to your exam objectives page (EX188 objectives page), dump it into a spreadsheet, and go through and highlight each row against how comfortable you are.

  • Red = I don’t know this topic at all.
  • Orange = I sort-of know this topic.
  • Green = I know this topic inside and out.

Use that as a visual way to plan your learning journey. If you’d like to see an example about how I do this, check out my article about how I planned my approach to EX374.

Useful resources