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The Linux Professional

Linux Professional Institute Certification


Welcome to the third article of The Linux Professional. In last month's column I detailed my experience with the Red Hat Certified Engineer program. This month I'd like to explore the Linux Professional Institute's first exam, No. 101, which I took in January 2000 (and described briefly in the first article in this series). LPI is a nonprofit, vendor-neutral organization set up with the goal of creating an international standard for certifying Linux professionals.

Exam 101 is currently available at Virtual University Enterprises affiliated testing centers. You'll need to establish an account prior to registering for exams.

LPI Exams

To attain the LPI's first level of Linux certification (LPIC Level 1), candidates must pass two General Linux exams:

The Institute released exam 101 in January 2000. Exam 102 will be released in mid-April 2000.

The LPI also defines two higher certification levels, Level 2 and Level 3. Level 2 certification will require two exams:

Level 2 exams are currently under development, but availability dates are not yet available. Level 3 will require two specialized exams from an array of offerings, to be created after Level 2 is complete.

In my first article I labeled LPI's offerings community testing because exam content is largely contributed by volunteers from the Linux community. While it is unclear how industry will react the the various Linux certifications available, LPI's approach should yield a well rounded set of exams which represent the interests of Linux administrators in the field.

While the LPI could field a single exam for their LPIC Level I certification, testing centers could find that a long, involved test is too difficult to schedule and deploy. Also, examinees may be put off by sitting for hours taking the tests or by the sizable lump-sum cost that would be necessary. Instead, LPI is creating multiple exams of managable duration and cost, along the lines of other established exam programs. With this goal in mind LPI divided its Level 1 topics into two parts, yielding exams 101 and 102. Together, these exams are intended to represent a Linux administrator's basic responsibilities. Because both exams are required, there's no point to taking only one, so plan on registering for both exam 101 and 102 to complete your first level of LPI certification. Exam 101 consists of 60 questions to be answered in 90 minutes, and costs USD $100. Specifics on exam 102 aren't yet available.

In the discussion that follows, you'll note that the numbers assigned to exam topics aren't sequential. For example, exam 101 begins with topic 1.3, and continues with topic 2.4. This is due to organizational changes made by the LPI as their program developed. The numbering from their original setup remains to avoid a confusing migration. For examinees, use the topic numbers only as references. They do not relate to exam numbers or certification levels.

Exam 101 Topics

Exam 101 tests five Linux administration topics, each containing a series of objectives:

Admittedly, that's a lot of information. Even if you're already a Linux admin, there are bound to be items in the objectives that you haven't had to deal with (like quotas, perhaps). More detail on these topics is available from the LPI list of objectives.

LPI's Program Objective Management System

In addition to the list of objectives already cited, the LPI maintains a CGI-based Program Objective Management System (POMS). This system is primarily used during the development phase of exam objectives, but a few additional clues on established objectives may be found there. For example, Topic 1.8 Objective 4 (Objective 1.8.4 in POMS) reads as follows:

Provide technical assistance to users via telephone, e-mail, and personal contact.

You may wonder just how the LPI intendes to test something as personal as user support. If we examine POMS for item 1.8.4 we find this note:

This objective has been considered important and therefore is retained to remind would-be sysadmins; it will be difficult to test.

Based on the comment, be advised that user support is part of the job, but not part of the exam. Other details not mentioned in the summaries can be found in POMS, particularly for exam 102.

Preparing for Exam 101

It's fair to say that if you are an experienced Linux or Unix administrator, exam 101 won't be a challenge for you. The LPIC Level I certification is intended for junior administrators. On the other hand, the body of knowledge that's being tested is large. At present, the LPI's list of objectives and POMS system are about all you have to go on as preparation materials. While these contain references to how-tos and other documents, any serious digging may begin to feel more like research than exam preparation. In the near future this situation should begin to change. At least one book is already announced for Exam 101, I'm currently working on one, and others are likely to be in the works as well.

As the market for Linux has increased a number of instructor-led training options for Linux have appeared. If you're new to Linux and willing to pay for such a class, you may find the experience useful. This is particularly true if you're coming to Linux from the Microsoft or Novell world. Check out Linuxcare University and LinSight for some training options, or you may also be able to get information by snooping around GoCertify.

If you are affiliated with a training organization offering Linux certification prep courses, let me know so I can include your link in future articles or other resources.

As with any certification program, there's no substitute for experience. I recommend that you go through the objectives with a working Linux system available to answer questions, review documentation, and work with commands.

Another resource that you will certainly want to look at is a set of Sample Questions recently posted by Scott Murray, LPI Director of Exam Development (these questions are to be moved to the LPI site soon, so check there if necessary). Use the sample questions to gauge the flavor and depth of the test and to evaluate your readiness.

After the Exam

You'll be able to get your results on VUE's LPI Exam Options page. Note that as of late March, 2000, the LPI is still compiling statistics on exam 101. Only after a statistically significant number of examinees have taken the test can a reasonable pass/fail point be set. During this "beta period", VUE will be reporting a "fail" status for everyone. When the beta period is complete the VUE status will be fixed. Because of this hitch I'm still awaiting my results for exam 101.

Next Month

In next month's article, we'll take a look at the Sair Linux and GNU Certification program.

Jeff Dean is an engineering and IT professional currently writing a Linux certification handbook for O'Reilly and Associates.

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