The first Linux certification (LPIC-1) – HowTo

I just got myself LPIC-1 certified (verify). I’ll try to address a few issues here, if anybody else wants to do it and doesn’t know how.

Introduction

The LPIC-1 is granted upon passing 2 exams:

  • Exam 101 – more theoretically oriented, with many general questions.

  • Exam 102 – more practically oriented, with an emphasis on Scripting, Networking and Security.

The exams can be passed in any order, the certification is automatically granted upon passing both. Also, in order to get certified on the subsequent levels, you need to already have the lower level certification at hand. That is, for one of the LPIC-3 certifications you need to pass a total of 5 exams, in any order.

Logistics

The “official way” of taking exams is through a Pearson VUE test center. You need to first purchase an exam voucher (EUR 150 approx, might fluctuate with exchange rates) and then go take the exam on a computer in a controlled setup.

The “alternate way” is to attend a conference where pen/paper exams are offered. In Europe you may want to register your seat on this site, then attend that particular event. The cost for taking the exam in such setup is lower and may be the way to go if you plan to attend the conference for other reasons than taking the exams alone.

I have personally taken both 101 and 102 exams during the FOSDEM 2016 event in Bruxelles, Belgium, on January 30 and 31st.

Preparation

This is not the school-type of exam you may be accustomed with. In order to have a chance of passing such exams you need:

  1. Practical experience, lots of it. Just knowing a few shell commands won’t do. Maybe after the second or the third year in a DevOps/Sysadmin position one may consider starting the preparation for such certification.

  2. Preparation books: I found this particular book useful for filling some knowledge blanks. There is no “course” and no “exam support” for any LPI exam, though.

  3. Practice – again – on the “blank areas”. While many questions address “usual” stuff, there are some you can answer only by being familiar with that particular area.

On the exams themselves

I cannot provide you with any questions from the booklets, not that I remember many, though. But, roughly:

  • About half the questions address “normal” usage, things you should be knowing if you are currently employed in a position that requires Linux knowledge. They’re not easy, they’re not impossible either.

  • The other half is somehow split in “expertise areas” and you may need to master at least a few of those areas to actually pass the exam (e.g. you may need to know what file to change and what to put in there to modify the behaviour of the name resolution service).

  • The questions do not have equal weight (e.g. some add more to your score than others). Can’t tell which is which and I doubt any but the LPI people themselves can.

NB: this is not a trivia exam. All the questions are based on real usage cases that you may or may not have met during your professional years. Not having enough practical experience is, I suspect, the leading cause of exam failure.

Conclusion?

I have personally started the preparation for level 2. This is certainly tougher; I did not decide yet on an exam date or how to take them both. I’ll post a note here once I’m done with it, though. In the mean time, thank you for your read!

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