A Look at the Linux+ Certification

Monday Nov 10th 2003 by Steve Rowe

Undeniably, the open source Linux operating system has made a lasting impact on the information technology scene. Here's a look at what you need to know to past the Linux+ Certification exam.

In our last two certification articles, "A Look at the Network+ Certification" and "A Look at the A+ Certification," we have been working through some of CompTIA's entry-level exams. In this article, we will continue our course through the CompTIA suite of exams by discovering more about the Linux+ exam.

Undeniably, the open source Linux operating system has made a lasting impact on the information technology scene. You may be using a version of the Linux operating system to view this article! At this time, Linux has a strong presence in the server market, and it is working to gain a foothold in the client-side market as well. Linux has proven to be a solid and fairly secure operating system for file, print, and Web servers. It has shown itself to be a worthy competitor of the Windows Server operating systems and Novell's Server operating systems, and Linux looks to grow even more.

As you can imagine, with the Windows-centric IT world we live in, a developed and trained Linux support and development workforce is still building in comparison to trained Microsoft professionals. Many hobbyists have worked with or developed with Linux for some time, but with Linux creeping more and more into IT departments and server infrastructures the need for certified and trained support personnel is growing. If you have been supporting and working with non-Linux servers and client-systems for some time now, where do you begin?

Where to begin comes with several decisions. As you are probably aware, Linux comes in various forms. The following are some of the better-known versions of Linux that you may run into:

  • Red Hat
  • Debian/GNU
  • Mandrake
  • SUSE
  • Caldera

As with the many different versions of Windows you may have worked with, you will see similarities and differences among all these varieties of Linux. Careful research of job requests and market needs will give you a solid direction as to which of the various Linux versions you should focus on, but if you are completely new to Linux or have dabbled with this operating system for a little bit, you will need a foundation in Linux fundamentals and theory that you can apply across the different Linux versions and in your work as an IT professional. Earning a Linux+ certification can validate that you have mastered a fundamental knowledge level of the Linux operating system.

Linux+ Certification

As with all CompTIA exams, the Linux+ exam is vendor neutral. For those who are seeking to build a foundation with Linux, this exam is the best place to start. Upon passing this exam, you can pursue further study and certification with the specific flavors of Linux that offer further certification, such as Red Hat.

The Linux+ certification tests the knowledge of a person with at least six months working knowledge of vendor-neutral, Linux skills. The person pursuing the Linux+ certification is also advised to hold at least the A+ certification and Network+ certification, or have equivalent experience. As with any IT certification, be sure you give yourself plenty of practice opportunities. With the Linux+ exam, you should at a minimum have one or two Linux-capable machines available so you can practice installation methods, configuration vitals, and troubleshooting methodologies. Practice makes perfect!

Historically, this certification came about as people in the general IT and Linux-specific markets began to notice a need for trained individuals who could install, operate, administer, and troubleshoot services in Linux-based systems. CompTIA joined forces with recognized Linux professionals to develop this exam. As noted on CompTIA's Web site, some fairly large groups back this exam, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel. Within the Linux community, this certification does hold respectability.

What's Covered on the Linux+ Exam?

As you debate whether or not to pursue this certification, you may be asking yourself what is covered on this exam. The following table will break down the seven topic areas covered on the test, as well as the percentage of the whole exam each area comprises:

Domain Percent of Exam
Planning and Implementation 4%
Installation 12%
Configuration 15%
Administration 18%
System Maintenance 14%
Troubleshooting 18%
Identify, Install, and Maintain System Hardware 19%

The following list will give brief summaries of the content each domain may require you to know. This list is just a very brief look at what each domain covers. The Linux+ exam is an in-depth test and you absolutely need to consult the Linux+ objectives list found on www.comptia.com for a full look at everything you will be required to know for this exam.

  • Planning and Implementation—This domain will require you to know what items to consider as you prepare for a Linux installation. Items such as identifying proper hardware, file system considerations, Linux services you want to include, what software will be installed, and licensing determinations are some examples of this content.
  • Installation—This domain will require you to know how to install Linux on standalone machines, from a network location, and how to install via an NFS, FTP, and/or HTTP installation. You will also be required to describe the different types of Linux installation interactions (GUI, text, network, and so forth), select networking components, determine when the kernel needs to be recompiled, and select appropriate Linux parameters during installation, to name a few.
  • Configuration—This section centers on building your installation to meet specified parameters. Some of the items you may encounter are setting environment variables, configuring basic server and Internet services, adding and configuring printers, and editing basic configuration files.
  • Administration—In this domain, you will be required to know basic Linux administration tasks. Tasks such as user management, controlling services, backup strategies, using the command line to administer the system, connect to and manage remote systems, and manage and navigate the standard Linux file system are just a few items you will need to be familiar with.
  • System Maintenance—In this section, you will need to know tasks that help maintain system performance and usability. You will need to understand items such as managing storage devices, applying patches, process and service management, security, and monitoring log files for the exam.
  • Troubleshooting—This domain is self-explanatory. The Linux+ exam expects you to be able to interpret operating system feedback and follow troubleshooting process steps to isolate problems. Some of the troubleshooting tasks that you need to be familiar with include steps to rescue a file system, solve boot errors, use appropriate Linux troubleshooting commands, and edit configuration files to eliminate problems.
  • Identify, Install, and Maintain System Hardware—This section has the largest percentage of questions on the exam, as you can see from the chart above. Some of the topics this domain will require you to know include assuring that system hardware resources and properties are correctly configured for installation, knowing basic components and how they should work under normal conditions, installing and troubleshooting peripherals, ATA, and SCSI devices, as well as maintaining core and mobile hardware found in Linux.

Linux+ Facts

The following list runs down some important general facts you will need to be aware of as you pursue the Linux+ certification:

  • The Linux+ exam is 94 questions long and graded on a scale of 100-900.
  • The questions are in either an identification or situational multiple-choice format.
  • You have 90 minutes to complete these 94 questions and you must achieve a score of 655 to pass.
  • Both Thomson Prometric and Pearson VUE testing centers offer the Linux+ exam. You can reach Prometric at www.2test.com and VUE at www.vue.com/comptia. Visit your choice of testing venue to sign up for this exam.
  • The exam code you will need for registration is XK0-001
  • The CompTIA member price for taking the exam is $155. For non-members the exam will cost $207. As with most CompTIA exams, there are quantity discounts. See www.comptia.org for more details.


As with any exam you are about to embark on, make sure that you fully understand the best ways you learn. Knowing how you learn best will help you to determine what study resources you should gather. You may learn best in a classroom situation or maybe you prefer reading training guides and cram books. No matter what your preferred learning style is, be sure you have plenty of hardware and a copy of Linux to practice and gain hands-on experience. If you are familiar with Windows, as you study and experience Linux, try to compare and contrast the two operating systems. Many functions between the two will be similar, but names and methods of doing those functions certainly will be different. Lastly, studying for the Linux+ exam will help you build the foundational information needed for supporting and using the Linux operating system. With the consistent growth of this operating system, having these skills in your repertoire is bound to be a positive for your IT career!

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