Linux certification: RHCE and LPI

Recently I passed my LPI-202 exam, so from now on I am LPI level 2 certified. Because I was already a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE), I will describe shortly the differences between both certifications.

For Linux certifications, there is no de-facto standard, like MCSE, CISSP or CCNA. As with most Open Source projects, one can choose between several options. The most important options are RHCE and LPI.

Both certifications cover much more than Linux alone. They also test applications and services like DNS, DHCP, Apache, NTP, INN, Squid, FTP, LVM, RAID, NIS, SSH, Firewalls, etc. It would therefore be better to talk about Open Source certifications.

As shown above, much knowledge is needed for these certifications. They are certainly not meant for newbie's and both certifications can not be passed without at least some study.

Both RHCE and LPI have this wide scope. However, the way the exam is organized is very different.


RHCE stands for Red Hat Certified Engineer. As you have guessed, it is a certification which was created by Red Hat. The exam is a practice exam only. This means there are no multiple-choice questions! The exam consists of two parts:

1. You will get a Red Hat Linux system with several problems and errors. All of these problems and errors must be solved in 2.5 hours time.

2. You get a four page description describing setting up a complete system, including much of the services and applications stated above. Setting up this system would take several days to finish in a typical working environment. During the exam you must be finished in three hours.

The largest problem about the RHCE exam is the time pressure. One must have much knowledge and experience to be able to work very fast, certainly in the second part of the exam. There is virtually no time to read any "man" pages.

Although the RHCE exam is about Red Hat systems, the needed knowledge for the exam is very useful when working on other Linux distributions. 

If only the first part of the exam is passed, and not the second, you will receive the RHCT certificate (Red Hat Certified Technician). Red Hat has also a RHCA (Red Hat Certified Architect) certificate. This relatively new certificate is even more demanding.

Red Hat offers a four day RHCE training, which will prepare you for the exam. I encourage everyone seeking the RHCE certification to take this training. The training prepares you and make you focus on the exam, which will take place on the fifth day, after the training days. Experience shows that only about 60% of the candidates that took the training, pass the exam.

More information about Red Hat certification can be found here.

LPI (Linux Professional Institute) certification is something completely different. It was setup from the Open Source community and consists of multiple-choice questions only. Although no practice is tested, the exam is not easier than RHCE, but different!

There are two levels of LPI certification: LPI level 1 and LPI level 2. Each level consists of 2 exams, so in total you need to pass 4 exams to get LPIC-2 (LPI Certified Level 2). Since a few months, also LPI level 3 is available, for those seeking real challenges!

The description of LPI level 1 says it is meant for "Junior Level Linux Professionals". Level 2 is for "Advanced Level Linux Professionals". With my 10+ years of UNIX/Linux experience I found level 2 pretty hard to pass. Even the first level is not easy to pass without proper preparation.

An example of a question from level 1:

What will be printed on the screen when you perform the following command on two files:

file 1:

file 2:

tac file1 file2

Hm... that was not that easy, was it? An example from level 2:

Which type of keys, generated by dnskeygen is needed for TSIG?

o Public
o Private
o Shared
o Public and private
o All three

As you can see: Even for the most experienced Linux administrators LPI questions are not obvious.

More information about LPI can be found here.

This entry was posted on Thursday 14 September 2006

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Sjaak Laan

Recommended links

Ruth Malan
Gaudi site
Esther Barthel's site on virtualization
Eltjo Poort's site on architecture


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