What topics are covered on the RHCSA?

The seven main categories of the exam are as follows:

  1. Understand and Use Essential Tools
  2. Operate Running Systems
  3. Configure Local Storage
  4. Create and Configure File Systems
  5. Deploy, Configure and Maintain Systems
  6. Manage Users and Groups
  7. Manage Security

These categories are then further broken down into individual task-based objectives.

How do I know if my current level is good enough?

You can take a pre-assessment test with Red Hat to gage your current proficiency.

How should I prepare?

Hit the labs hard to get lots of hands-on practice. I recommend using Michael Jang’s study guide.

Update: Jang recently released a separate companion book specifically for exam practice. I don’t own it myself but it has received some good reviews on Amazon.

How is the RHCSA certification different from the RHCT?

Many will describe the RHCSA as the “new RHCT” but that isn’t entirely accurate. RHCSA was launched after the release of RHEL6 and the RHCT was indeed its predecessor. However, because RHEL6 includes a lot of new functionality, RHCSA naturally has considerably more topics than the RHCT did.  The RHCT was retired on March 1, 2011

Why is the RHCT being replaced?

Good question. The first reason is pretty simple. Since many engineers working with Red Hat hold the job title System Administrator, RHCSA was deemed to be a more fitting term. The second reason comes down to the review undertook by Red Hat to analyse the skills and abilities required of system administrators today.

Over the past two years, Red Hat has been gathering information from its certified community on their work. This effort included task analysis, focus groups, technical surveys, RHCE Loopback events and other feedback. In many ways, RHCSA may be similar to the RHCT but quite a lot has been changed in light of this in-depth analysis.

How does the RHCSA relate to the RHCE exam?

The RHCSA is the prerequisite for the RHCE so the material will not be so wide or covered in as much depth. It is, however, important not to underestimate the RHCSA. I know some quite “experienced” engineers who failed it basically because they didn’t prepare. This is probably due to some of the new topics in the RHCSA.

I don’t have any Linux experience. Are there any prerequisites for taking the RHCSA?

Officially, no. However, the exam covers a wide range of linux and Red Hat material making it a tricky exam for someone with no practical experience. If you work really hard on the labs in the book and learn the material thoroughly I think you should be okay. You may, however, consider attending the Red Hat Academy to broaden your knowledge further. Attendance in these classes is not required though and you can just simply take the exam by self-study if you like.

I am looking to boost my career prospects. Should I take LPIC or Red Hat certs?

If you have little real Linux experience, you might want to take LPIC first to learn the basics. See relevant article here.

RHCSA Jobs/How many jobs require RHCSA?

The RHCSA certification is still quite new so not many job descriptions mention it specifically (yet). Employers will soon catch up though and the fact  that it is now a prerequisite for RHCE will make the RHCSA an increasingly important qualification.

In addition, the RHCSA was  recently described as the number 2 IT certification for 2011. Watch this space.

Which exam do I have to take?

To get the RHCSA certification you need to pass the EX200. If you also want to gain the RHCE, you will have to take the EX300 too.

How many questions are there in the exam?

There are no questions as such. RHCSA is a practical test with 16 hands-on tasks.

Do you know any web sites with practice problems?

Practice problems will not help you. Read the relevant material thoroughly and practise the examples in the book. You really need to work through all the labs and remember the important concepts. Don’t waste time trying to find shortcuts to success. The aim is to acquire useful practical skills and knowledge after all.

What kind of questions came up on the exam?

The exact questions are confidential information that can not be disclosed. All candidates are required to sign an NDA before sitting the RHCSA. However, the format of the exam is based on practical, hands-on Red Hat problems.

How do I install RHEL6?

You can find detailed installation instructions on the Red Hat site

Should I use RHEL6 32 bit or 64 bit?

Either is fine.

I want to use a non-commercial distribution. When is CentOS 6 coming out?

CentOS 6.0 was released July 9th 2011.  You will find the release notes here

CentOS is available for download from here.

Are there any other non-commercial distributions?

I personally prefer CentOS as it is the closest to RHEL but others such as Fedora, Scientific Linux are viable alternatives to RHEL6.

How much does the test cost and how long is it?

It costs $400 and it is 2.5 hours long.

What is the minimum passing score?

The minimum score to pass the RHCSA is 70%.

Can I take the RHCE exam before the RHCSA?

Yes. You can take the exams in any order but the RHCE will not be awarded until you get both certifications.

How long are the instructions given for each task in the exam?

It will vary depending on the task, but 3-4 paragraphs is reportedly the norm.

How many computers are provided in the exam?

One computer per candidate. All hardware is checked by the examiner prior to the exam.

What should I be careful about in the RHCSA exam?

Time pressure is an important element. Do easy one tasks first that you are sure about. You also really need to know the material well or you will run out of time before you finish. There is not a lot of time to be looking up commands.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t cheat. You WILL be caught. The examiners are strict and will penalise or even fail those who turn around or give the impression of looking at another candidate’s screen.

What resources can I use during the exam?

You will have to use the MAN pages or other local files. There is no Internet access during the exam.

Have any suggestions or questions you want to ask me? Send me an email.