RHCE tips | My experience part 2 – Taking the course and exam

In general, the rh300 course itself is pretty intense. It covers everything about RHEL 5 and all examinable topics. I am predominantly a debian and centos user (also love ubuntu and hate slackware) and I find the course useful. Overall, I think RH300 is more suitable for experienced system admin. I will explain why later.

Day 1

9 person (including me) turned up for the course at 10am, monday. Everyone was looking excited. We started off by giving a quick introduction about ourselves. Many of us worked in the sys. admin industry for many years. There were a few ex-rhces who wanted to re-certify for rhel 5. We kicked off straight away after the self introduction. No time to waste.

The tutor is professional and very knowledgeable. We were rushing through topics like package management and bootup process in details. Its all rhct stuff but good to refresh. We ended at 5pm sharp.

Yes, each of us got a $12 free lunch voucher by redhat – giving free stuffs is something redhat is good at! Free lunch for 5 days, not bad huh?

Day 2

We started off at 9am. We moved on to system security, pam, file management and user management. We had to be fast and the tutor didn’t repeat anything that he said before – rhct skills were assumed. After every unit, we had about 20 mins to attempt the labs. There were 10 mins break after every ~1.5 hrs. Pam and selinux itself are big and we only covered the critical areas. We ended at 4.30 this time but had quite a bit to absorb.

Day 3

Some of us turned up earlier today. We did installation, virtualisation, networking, network security, dns, dhcp. Again, experience tells me that network authentication (ldap and stuff) is a big area but we only covered the critical points. Not sure why NIS is examinable since very few people are using it now. There were quite a few commands to remember. GUI is good but command line skills is needed to pass the exam.

I decided to go further for lunch that day. We left at about 5pm that day with everyone looking tired.

Day 4

We did web services, network file sharing, mail and troubleshooting. In my opinion, troubleshooting is the most important but we were left to do it at about 3pm that day. Many of us could finish all the troubleshooting labs. Some of us stayed back till 6pm that day as we tried to do some additional labs.

I went back at about 6pm and wrote some notes on all important things that were discussed over the 4 days. I have a short-term memory and couldn’t remember alot of commands. There were quite abit to remember (well, man pages help but time is crucial in the exam) but I didnt want to overstrain myself too much as my brain was already packed with information. I slept at 11pm that night.

Day 5 – the exam

Note: The prep guide is important – http://www.redhat.com/certification/rhce/prep_guide/

Many of us arrived early and did abit of reading. The exam was delayed and started at 9.30am. Waiting is not fun.

It was a 5.5 hrs exam and everyone was abit nervous. There were 3 sections:

* troubleshooting (min 80/100)
* installation + configuration (min 70/100)
* security configuration (min 70/100)

You need to get a minimum of 80% for section 1, 70% for section 2, and 70% for section 3 to pass. I didn’t start off well as I missed one small part in section 1 but I did manage the clear it. I was pretty comfortable with section 2 and 3 but I think I made some typo and careless mistakes in section 3. I received the results 2 days later and I passed.

Note: The exam structure has changed since mid 2009.


Part 1: Troubleshooting and System Maintenance (2.5 hrs)

Many of us could do it, in fact some finished in like 1 hr or so. It wasn’t hard but can be tricky. I am better at analysing things over remember things. I was quite slow when dealing with issues involving numbers. I was making the wrong assumptions and couldn’t work one section. In the end I gave up. I knew I had 80% already, so I decided to leave 45 mins earlier in order to have more rest for part 2 after lunch.

Looking back, if I were to retake part 1 again, I could probably get the next 20 marks. Under exam conditions, there could be abit of unpredictability. Many people think part 2 is harder but I find part 1 harder – not because it is hard but because if you miss a step, there is a chance that you cannot continue. This could be a great blow to your confidence. There are compulsory questions and non compulsory questions in part one. Unlike part 2, I recommend getting each question right before moving on to the next. The reason is that if you know that you already have 80% under you belt and you can’t do the next question, you will not panick. Yes, panick is the killer in examinations.

Part 2: Installation and Configuration (3 hrs)

I did the installation and configuration (both rhct and rhce sections) in less than 1.5 hrs and spend the rest of the time checking my work. I found part 2 easier than part 1 mainly because it is more predictable. I kinda know where to look for the config files and was tackling the questions really quickly. The problem was I tend to make typo errors (which created some extra troubleshooting task for myself in the exam). I am also careless when reading questions. I know myself too well, that was why I allocated plenty of time to recheck. Many of us stayed back for the entire 3 hrs.

We were told that the results would be released immediately or within 2 working days. I went home and discovered that I was tired… interesting because I didn’t feel anything for the past 4 days. I got an email from redhat one day later with an attachment – I got my RHCE. Yay!

sorry, I blanked off my cert no.

What you get after passing the RHCE exam

* A RHCE certificate (pdf)
* A RHCE T-shirt
* Exclusive access to redhat’s RHCE merchandise section
* Exclusive access to redhat’s RHCE forum
* The right to use RHCE logo in your website, business cards, letter heads… etc.


RH300 is a good course for experienced linux administrators. According to the lecturer, the passing rate for first timer is about 47%, so one has to be mentally prepared. You will feel very confident in administrating redhat servers after the course. The percentage rate should be higher if the students are experienced sys admins (I think everyone in our class passed). You lose half the battle if you believe it is hard. You do need to be comfortable with the command line and have experience managing linux though. I am also against learning unrelated or non-redhat stuffs for the exams as it only complicates things unless you have an einstein brain. If you are a redhat enterprise linux < 5 user, don’t stick with old technologies as there are commands in rhel 5 that can make your life way easier. The penguin passion has to be there. If you come from a windows background or not familiar with how linux works, I recommend doing RHCT first. Rushing only gives more pressure and at the end of the day, RHCE doesn’t mean everything.  I still rank attitude, personality and experience over certification. This is also the employment criteria in our company and I believe it is smilar across many companies.

Time to stop. I might blog about some RHCE study or exam tips next. Please don’t email me asking for exam questions and answers!


Author: bpeh

Bernard Peh is a great passioner of web technologies and one of the co-founder of Sitecritic.net Website Design and Reviews. He works with experienced web designers and developers everyday, developing and designing commercial websites. He specialises mainly in SEO and PHP programming.

4 thoughts on “RHCE tips | My experience part 2 – Taking the course and exam”

  1. The RHCE exam proves a high level of knowledge, and is a highly respected qualification. Hence thank you for sharing the guidelines for preparing the exam.

  2. Dear Bernard,

    Thanks a lot for RHCE cert info.

    I guess this certification information is based on RHEL 5. Do you have any info about the RHCE certification on RHEL 6?

    I am also an IT trainer (Microsoft) and want to get RHCE certified.

    Also they have changed the validity period for RHCE certification.

    Thanks again,


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