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The Linux Professional

Brainbench and Linux Certification Roundup


Welcome to the sixth article of The Linux Professional. This month I'll give some news on the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) and an overview of the Linux offerings from Brainbench, which offers free exams via the Web to examinees. I'll also give a summary of the certification options presented in this series of articles.

LPIC Level 1 exams completed

The LPI has completed its analysis of the 102 beta exam, and results were mailed to examinees in mid-September. With the scores from both exams (101 and 102) now available, the LPI is able to award its first certification, the LPIC Level 1. Those candidates who have passed both exams should be receiving their printed certificates soon. This is a significant milestone for the LPI and for Linux administrators seeking certification of their skills.

Brainbench - certification for free?

I admit that I was a bit skeptical when I first looked at Brainbench, a company whose byline claims that they're "the skills authority." Brainbench offers Web-based exams on an array of topics, including Linux, Windows, databases, and office suites. Their offerings aren't limited to IT topics, though. They also offer general knowledge exams, covering areas such as the Internet, the aerospace industry, and biotechnology, as well as written language evaluations in English, German, and Russian. The complete list is quite diverse and includes a few hundred offerings.

Brainbench charges no fees to take their exams. Instead, the company caters to employers seeking a source for qualified job applicants. After you pass a Brainbench exam, you can list your results for these prospective employers to review. This is intended as a recruiting strategy and is funded by pricy access subscriptions charged to corporate customers.

The Linux exams offered by Brainbench include:

  • Linux Administration (General)
  • Linux Administration (Red Hat)
  • Linux Programming (General)

After taking both of the administration exams, I can say that they're not trivial, and they differ significantly from other Linux certifications like the LPIC, RHCE, and Sair Linux & GNU. Instead of testing at a certain level of knowledge using a static exam, these exams use questions requiring knowledge ranging from simple to highly detailed, delivered by an adaptive testing engine. I was surprised at the depth and breadth of coverage present in the exams. And here's the big difference: The results Brainbench reports to prospective employers may contain qualitative analysis of your exam performance, including specific strengths and weaknesses. This information can help employers to determine if you are qualified for senior positions.

If you want to allow non-participating employers to access your record, you can request that it be mailed or e-mailed, or you can give interested parties your Brainbench transcript number. They can enter the number on the Brainbench web site to immediately see your certifications.

Probably the biggest criticism of Web-based testing is the ease with which examinees can cheat. It's an honor system, and the advertised certifications could be considered suspect unless verified by the hiring employers. However, for paying Brainbench client companies, this is easily done during the interview process. Brainbench offers verification exams as a service to their clients, in both a short and long form, with immediate e-mail notification of results.

The cheating problem makes Brainbench certifications (and other Web-based programs) a dubious competitor for proctored certification techniques, and savvy employers won't be fooled. However, as a recruiting vehicle using the freely administered exams, and as an assessment system with the verification exams, Brainbench offers a credible, convenient, and substantive service to both examinees and employers. Those employers who need to quickly and objectively evaluate the skills of applicants may be very interested in this technique.

For anyone interested in certifying their Linux skills, the Brainbench offerings can help establish your qualifications. They're also excellent practice exams, and cost you nothing.

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