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Flight Engineer NickH Flight Engineer
Flight Engineer
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failing an exam

Here's. a tough topic. I failed an exam yesterday. Now, I know failure can be a valuable step on the road to success (coincidentally, same day, Sam Chillcott, an experience coach I met, posted this the same day: https://www.instagram.com/p/B1Yj9Eellri/). But it's still pretty hard to take. 

How about you?

Have you gone through this experience? 

How did you approach your retake?

Do you think you came out better?

 

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Flight Engineer littlebigfab Flight Engineer
Flight Engineer
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Re: failing an exam

Hi NickH,

Sorry to hear that Smiley Sad Which exam was that ?

Don't worry, It's totally OK to fail an exam. Red Hat exams are pretty hard, and that's the reason why they are valuable.

Failing an exam has occured to me twice, for EX270 a couple of years ago and for EX425 earlier this month. I re-took both of them immediately and passed both of them the second time. Such failures are very annoying especially because I have to travel to take my exams.

My advice would be to leverage your initial preparation and quickly re-take that exam, just adding the little extra-effort you need to.

Your own feedback on your performance as well as the detailed exam results as provided by Red Hat should let you figure out where you have to put that extra-effort.

Good luck with your re-take ! Smiley Happy

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Flight Engineer Tracy_Baker Flight Engineer
Flight Engineer
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Re: failing an exam

(This is a bit lengthy; I hope it is a good read for students, professionals, and instructors. I think I've answered all the OP's questions.)

I will admit that it took me three times to get my RHCE. I didn't take the failures well. Prior to that, I had never failed a cert exam. I didn't fail my RHCSA, CCNA, CCNA Security, A+, Linux+, etc., etc. etc.

For heaven's sake, I teach RH254! However, I think that had a lot to do with my not passing the first time; in a word: hubris. I teach it, so obviously I know it - or so I thought. Therefore, the test shouldn't be that hard (heck, I passed my RHCSA in the 90 percentile the first time). 

When I got the email I saw that my score was abysmal. And, I was utterly humbled.

What did I do? I looked at the areas where I was deficient and, for the next 10 days, I heavily practiced those areas, while touching on the areas, again, where I had done well. Then I took the exam again.

When I received the email telling me that I had again failed, I saw that I had missed it by only 7 points. I was so angry with myself --and Red Hat. I thought that there was a problem with the exam; I had convinced myself that there was. Still, before sending a nasty email to Red Hat's certification team, I took a breath, opened my practice systems and looked into the area where I thought I had a valid complaint. I did (of course) discover my mistake -- within 30 seconds -- by looking in the man pages.

You see, I stopped the exam with 6 minutes to go and I had not looked in the man pages before I did that. If I had only checked the man pages I would have passed. The thing I needed was right there, on the first page, as obvious as you please.

Another 10 days of studying... Mostly to keep sharp, I'd now taken it twice and I had a pretty good grasp on what to expect, and what I'd (probably) see again. Again I worked on weak areas.

I easily passed the third time. I also made certain to read the instructions in their entirety. I have a bad habit of scanning text. I increased my scores in all areas because I took the time to read every word (and by doing so, I realized some mistakes I had previously made).

My job did not demand I take the exam. I do not get an advancement nor do I get a pay raise for having earned the RHCE. I took it for one reason only: my students. I wanted to understand what it took to pass the RHCE. I wanted to relay the experience to them (without sharing any specifics, which would voilate the rules). I wanted their instructor, the person standing in front of them professing the benefits of the RHCE, to have earned the RHCE.

I also wanted to know if what I was teaching them was apropos. Now, I will never teach to any exam. That would be (in my humble opinion) be a form of cheating. What it did do was illustrate my areas of weakness - where I needed to bone up so I can be a better professor.

For example, in the five publically published exam objectives for Apache (HTTP/HTTPS), I found that, when put to the test, I had (have) room for improvement. I didn't know it as well as I thought I did.

I will end with this: I never learn so well, or as quickly, as I do when I fail at something. I will never forget the lesson of the man page that I related - both why I needed to use it and what I found that that allowed me to succeed on the third exam.

When it comes to teaching and learning, I truly beleive that failure isn't an option; it is a necessity.

 

Program Lead at Arizona's first Red Hat Academy, est. 2005
Estrella Mountain Community College
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Moderator
Moderator
  • 618 Views

Re: failing an exam

This is a great feedback @Tracy_Baker and teaching. Thanks for sharing.

I understand how it can be easy to get convinced that we know something and realizing afterwards that the memory is not perfect. Those are lengthy exams that require being methodical.

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Flight Engineer NickH Flight Engineer
Flight Engineer
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Re: failing an exam

Now that's reassuring. And good stories. @littlebigfab - my failed exam was ex280.

I came at it from a string of successes. RHCSA - good score! RHCE - great score! Ansible - perfect score! Openshift - wait, what does this question even mean?  

I got a mail with results a couple hours after the exam, which breaks down results into 5 areas. This points to my strengths and weaknesses. Once section is perfect, one I don't know well enough, one I do know but dropped points on, and one that is mystifying me. Is that par for the course?

I would copy the results mail here, but I haven't a clue whether it's covered by NDA. Any moderators know?

 

 

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Flight Engineer littlebigfab Flight Engineer
Flight Engineer
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Re: failing an exam

Don't worry @NickH, EX280 is a pretty difficult one, especially if you've had no previous professional experience with OpenShift. I passed it earlier this year with a score of 225, which was just slightly above the minimum required score of 210.

You'll pass next time ! Smiley Wink

I'm curious to see your results mail but indeed I don't know if you can discloe it here. You should wait for a moderator to advise.

Have you taken it as an individual exam on OpenShift 3.6 ?

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Moderator
Moderator
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Re: failing an exam

@NickH 

My very first time taking the RHCE in 2000, I failed.  At first I was angry, but after a while, I came to accept that I was under prepared to take the exam.  My first attempt at EX442 the exam for performance tuning, I also failed.  I went into it thinking "Hey, I know kernel tuning stuff." and it turned out to be a much more broad exam than that.  Again, under prepared, or focused on preparation on one subset of topics.  For that one, I took it on a whim, so was not suprised that I failed, I was disappointed that I scored a 25% on it though.  (This was 2003'ish.)

Since then I think I've gotten a lot better at managing my test experience and doing preparation.

In terms of preparation, using the information available as the test objectives helps me focus my efforts.  I make sure that I can do whatever tasks are in the companion training materials that covers the same topics.  Not just memorizing the exercise and the steps, but working to get an understanding of why the steps in the lab are the ones I'm doing.  What do I look for in the output of the commands?  How do I verify that I accomplished this successfully?  If this isn't working, where does it log or provide error output?  If I understand the activity and the technology and the goal of doing the activity, then if things are similar, but different, on the exam, I'm not thrown by the differences.

On exam day, I read through the entire exam first, and when reviewing each item, I classify it as:
No problem, can knock this out.
I can probably do this, but it's going to take some time.
No idea.

Once the classification is done, and I've identified any prerequisites between the items, I work through all those that I've categorized as "No Problem".  If it turns out that there is an issue, I'll spend 5 minutes chasing the issue, then re-categorize it as "I can probably do this." and move on to finish out all the "No Problem" items.

When all the "No Problem" items are done, focus shifts to the "I can probably do this." items.  These I'm familiar with, but maybe I'll need to look at man pages or I'm less familiar with the syntax of commands.  Also, for these, because I'm less familiar, I may not be able to troubleshoot things if stuff starts going wrong.  Just like the "No Problem" elements, if an item starts going astray, not working the way I think it should, after about 5 minutes, it gets reclassified as "No idea" and I move to the next item from my "I can probably do this." list.

At this point, I should have most of the exam items done.  What is left is the 'No idea' items or those items that were more complex and I got into trouble.  So from here I just pick and choose to try and get as many done as I can hoping to bump up my score.  If I'm at this point and I have 3 of 12 items done (as an example) ... things don't look good.  I'll keep working on the outstanding items, but at this point, I'm probably going to need a retake, so the focus shifts from passing to learning for the inevitable retake.

The other thing I find is that people sometimes don't do what the question asks them to do.  I've heard people say after an exam: "Well I set it up differently because no one would actually do it that way."  You should implement the task exactly as the item words it.  Not 'best practice' or whatever other interpretation might be applied.  Do the thing as it is written.

Hope that helps!

-STM

--
Principle Technical Marketing Manager, Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Red Hat Certified Engineer (100-000-264)
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Flight Engineer Tracy_Baker Flight Engineer
Flight Engineer
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Re: failing an exam


You should implement the task exactly as the item words it.  Not 'best practice' or whatever other interpretation might be applied.  Do the thing as it is written.

I would suggest some very slightly different. That is: Meet the objective in the instruction.

Sometimes, there are multiple ways to do a thing, yet still meet the objective.

For example: An EX300 published objective is this: 

  • Use shell scripting to automate system maintenance tasks

You might be asked to write a script that does XYZ. It is almost guaranteed that there is no singular way to write that script. That's immaterial. What is material is that the script's output meets the deliverables.

Or how about this published objective:

  • Configure IPv6 addresses and perform basic IPv6 troubleshooting

There's more than one way to do this.

Meet the objective. (To be sure, there may be tasks where the objective, as written, will be the way you do it.)

Program Lead at Arizona's first Red Hat Academy, est. 2005
Estrella Mountain Community College
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Moderator
Moderator
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Re: failing an exam

@Tracy_Baker I think I may have mixed "objective" and "Item details".  If the item said (and this is just a made up example) create a user named bob with a password of password, then that is exactly what one should do.  Saying "Well, I created bob, but set his password to P@ssW0rD! because no one in real life would use a password of 'password'." would be an incorrect approach to the item.  The item's content told you exactly what to do.   Another mistaken way to accomplish the item,  "I created bob and set his password, but locked the account because at my company, user's have to request to have their account initially unlocked on machines."  Did the example item text say anything about locking or unlocking the user?  No.  So it should probably be unlocked since locking it was an extra step that was not requested.

I would agree that there are sometimes multiple ways of completing items.  In the example (for the record, I'm just making up an example item here, I have no idea if adding a user bob is or is not on any exam...) one could use useradd to add the user, or edit the /etc/passwd file by hand.  You could figure out the MD5 hash and add that to your useradd with the -p option, or you could run the passwd command on the user and set the initial password.  One of the things I find most liberating about Red Hat's performance based exams is that it doesn't matter how you got the service, configuration, data as long as you have the right end state.

Do what the item says, not what you think it means.

-STM

--
Principle Technical Marketing Manager, Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Red Hat Certified Engineer (100-000-264)
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Moderator
Moderator
  • 616 Views

Re: failing an exam

Hey @NickH, sorry to hear that you did not pass your exam. It is never an easy thing to fail if you have spent a lot of time preparing for it.

I have failed myself the DO425 exam, ironically, I wrote a couple of chapters in this course. I knew if would be tought. I always find myself trying to manage my time, and tend to quickly lose confidence when I am not able to solve one of the objectives, as I am wondering how this will impact the rest.

I have learned to "time box" the tasks, for example, if I stumble for more than twenty minutes, I move on. I also failed the DO407 the first time, and I had a really low score. The second time, I passed with 100%, I succeeded because I decided to (again) take the course and make sure I would take the time to focus on all the little nuances.

And I think this is the other lesson for me - there are a lof of little subtleties in the ways exams work, whether about configuring a service using the right file, but also the right file name, etc. I think overall, I could always pay more attention and double check all the resources name, etc.

Psychologically, failure does not seem to affect me that much, perhpas because I know I will have another chance, and learning was just as pleasant Smiley Happy

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