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Linux Essentials: What is this new credential?

Lusting after a Linux certification but a little (or a lot) intimidated by the level of fluency in obscure command-line options required by Linux+ and LPIC-1? Linux Essentials may be right up your alley.

Linux Essentials is the newest Linux certification on the block. With CompTIA's Linux+ and LPI's LPIC-1 already billed as entry-level Linux certifications, the addition of Linux Essentials might seem a little like entry-level Linux overkill, but our interview with long-time trainer Robb Tracy, reveals it definitely is not.

Originally launched as a pilot program in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa by the Linux Professional Institute (LPI), the program was expanded to North America in October 2012. Although it’s designed primarily for students in academic settings eager to credential their new skills, anyone can take the exam.

IT Pro and professional trainer Robb Tracy has written study guides for CompTIA Linux+, LPIC-1, and the new Linux Essentials credential, making him the natural go-to guy for our questions about this new exam. While we were hitting him up for the latest intel, we also scored a free sample chapter from his new study guide, along with some practice questions to give you  a taste of what you're likely to encounter on the exam (goodies await in the resources box at the end of the article).

GoCertify: What are the key differences between the Linux Essentials program, the LPIC-1 program, and CompTIA Linux+?

Robb Tracy: The key thing to remember about Linux Essentials is the fact that it is aimed directly at high school, college, and university students. The goal of Linux Essentials is to expose students to the Linux operating system and the concept of Open Source software. As such, it is an ideal entry-level Linux program.

LPIC-1/Linux+ is targeted more at information technology professionals in the field. As such, the LPIC-1/Linux+ exam has a reputation of being quite difficult. One of my complaints over the years has been that it is too difficult and can scare away Linux newcomers. I call it the “Linux wall of fear.” Let’s face it, Linux is very different from Windows. If the first Linux exam a student takes blows them out of the water, it can really discourage them from pursuing Linux any farther.

I think Linux Essentials provides a fantastic avenue for those new to Linux to get their feet wet with the operating system and gain some confidence before tackling the more advanced LPIC- 1/Linux+ certification.

"Even though it is introductory in nature, Linux Essentials still covers a lot of ground."

GoCertify: Is there substantial subject overlap between Linux Essentials and LPIC-1 and CompTIA Linux+?

Robb Tracy: You will find that Linux Essentials covers many of the same topics that are covered in LPIC-1/Linux+. However, the topics are covered at a more introductory level in Linux Essentials. In Linux Essentials, you learn the basics. In LPIC-1/Linux+, you delve much deeper and learn the nitty-gritty details.

My experience thus far has been that passing Linux Essentials is a significant confidence-booster for Linux students and a great stepping stone for LPIC-1/Linux+.

GoCertify: How long will it take the average person to work through this book and be ready to take the exam?

Robb Tracy: Even though it is introductory in nature, Linux Essentials still covers a lot of ground. My advice to students is to not rush it. The book is 650+ pages in length, so trying to cram the night before the exam isn’t going to work.

If you are pursuing Linux Essentials in a self-study environment, I typically recommend about two months of study time prior to taking Linux Essentials. (Some of my more advanced students have done it in about a month.)

If you are pursing Linux Essentials in an academic environment, then it is usually completed in a semester at the post-secondary (college) level and in two semesters at the secondary level (high school).

GoCertify: In your experience, which topics on the Linux Essentials exam do candidates typically find most challenging?

Robb Tracy: USING THE COMMAND LINE!! Let’s face it; most IT students today have grown up using a graphical user interface (i.e. Windows) on their computer systems. Most of them have never used a command-line interface. Linux Essentials (and LPIC-1/Linux+, for that matter) focus heavily on command-line skills.

Given a particular computing scenario, students need to be able to identify which Linux command is the correct one to use as well as what options and parameters must be included. The best way to learn this is to practice practice practice!