A New Look at the Linux+ Certification

Wednesday Nov 30th 2005 by Steve Rowe

Here is your chance to build and certify your foundational Linux knowledge within a vendor-neutral framework.

Are you a fan of open source operating systems? Are you looking to enhance your IT skills by learning technologies outside of the Microsoft realm? If you answer yes to either of these, venturing into the Linux world might be of interest to you. Undoubtedly, the Linux operating systems have grown in market share and in the minds of business and personal users over the past decade. Particularly, the Linux server operating systems have grown considerably in popularity.

Because there are several "flavors" of Linux, it might seem unfeasible to certify one's skills in Linux. However, CompTIA, the vendors of other popular IT certifications like A+, Network+, and Security+, have developed and now revamped their vendor-neutral Linux+ certification. CompTIA certifications generally serve as base-level certifications in a particular IT area; however, some certifications assume more IT foundational knowledge of certification seekers, such as the Security+ exam assumes more IT experience than the A+ exams.

The Linux+ certification offers IT professionals a chance to build and certify their foundational Linux knowledge within a vendor-neutral framework. Linux+ and Linux experience can lead to better IT positions as well as further certifications, like the LPI and Fedora certifications. Also, having a solid grasp on Linux can help those interested in Novell technologies because Linux is at the core of many Novell products.

What makes up this Linux certification from CompTIA?

The Linux+ Certification

The first Linux+ exam was under the 2001 set of objectives; see "A Look at the Linux+ Certification" for more information on this earlier Linux+ certification. As with any technology product, change and improvements are inevitable, and this is also true for Linux. As a result, the current Linux+ is under the 2004 set of objectives. It is important to note that the 2001 exam is no longer offered as it was eliminated as of July 2005.

The Linux+ certification is a foundational-level certification, as mentioned above, and passing this certification validates that the candidate is at a six to 12 month level of Linux support experience. This certification allows IT professionals to prove their knowledge of the following topics:

  • Installation and Configuration
  • Troubleshooting
  • Open Source Licensing
  • File Permissions
  • Local Storage Devices
  • Network Protocols

CompTIA notes that the current exam, the 2004 exam, includes an emphasis on security and documentation not found in the 2001 exam. In the IT world, it is no secret that systems security is critical and being able to configure and support systems security within any operating system infrastructure is essential. Also, the ability to effectively document support activities is an important activity that often goes undone. Understanding documentation and how to effectively document support activities can greatly enhance the effectiveness of an IT support department.

Now that you have seen a high-level list of the Linux+ topics, you can dive further into the objectives that make up this exam.

Linux+ Objectives

The Linux+ exam is comprised of six domains. The following table highlights the six domains and the percentage each domain represents on the Linux+ exam.

Domain % of Examination
1.0 Installation 19%
2.0 Management 26%
3.0 Configuration 20%
4.0 Security 21%
5.0 Documentation 6%
6.0 Hardware 8%

The following list takes a brief look at the various topics found in each domain:

  • 1.0 Installation—Comprising 19% of the exam questions, this domain includes proving your ability to select the appropriate installation method, based on the environment. CompTIA states that you don't have to know all the installation steps for each specific Linux distribution; however, you will need to know the common installation settings common to all of the major Linux distributions. The exam objectives note that the exam is limited to Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, and TurboLinux distributions. This domain can also ask questions dealing with selecting and installing proper hardware, including questions dealing with 32-bit as well as 64-bit machines, configuring hardware, software, file systems, and networking components, as well as how to configure a boot manager, such as LILO, ELILO, GRUB, or multiple boot options.
  • 2.0 Management—This domain examines the candidate's ability for providing everyday support and management of both Linux server and client systems. The exam expects the candidate to know vi along with how to support and maintain the systems via the command line. Examples of command line duties include creating shell scripts and administering user accounts. Other topics this domain examines include managing file systems, performing backups, creating files and directories,and managing their permissions with CLI, managing print activities, plus manage network activity.
  • 3.0 Configuration—This domain requires the Linux+ candidate to understand how to configure systems settings, access rights, and network services. The test may include how to configure client-side files such as mtab, fstab, hosts, resolv.conf, and inittab. The objectives list also indicates that the candidate will need to know which files are typically used to configure server-side applications. The candidate should know how to configure the X Windows environment, HTTP, Samba, DNS, and configure a NIC from the command line. You will also need to understand how to configure log files and how to set up environment variables such as $PATH, $DISPLAY, $TERM, $PROMPT, and $PS1.
  • 4.0 Security—This domain examines the candidate's ability to implement security options on client-side systems. Configuring security-related files is a required exam skill. This domain also requires that the candidate know how to set appropriate login access levels, implement encryption levels, identify if a system, file, or other software package has been corrupted, and identify different Linux Intrusion Detection Systems. The exam also may give you a set of requirements and have you set up a password policy to meet the requirements. You may also be required to identify security vulnerabilities with Linux services.
  • 5.0 Documentation—This domain examines the candidate's knowledge for proper documentation skills. CompTIA indicates that the candidate needs to understand how to document the work they have done in troubleshooting or configuring a system. Topics for this domain include establishing and monitoring system performance baselines, creating written procedures for installation, configuration, or security configurations, system management, documentation of installed configurations—such as software and security packages that were installed and TCP/IP settings—troubleshoot errors using systems logs and application errors using application logs, and accessing system documentation and help files, such as man, info, readme, and Web.
  • 6.0 Hardware—This section requires the candidate to understand typical Linux client and server hardware and hardware resources. Recall from above that you will be required to understand both of 32-bit and 64-bit computers and laptops, and you must identify and describe components found in these systems. Also, you will need to be able to identify and configure common driver modules and the utilities used to configure and troubleshoot them. This domain also requires that you be able to diagnose hardware issues using Linux tools. These tools can include /proc, disk utilities, ifconfig, /dev, live, CD rescue disk, and dmesg. The candidate also must be able to identify and configure mass storage devices and RAID, advanced power management capabilities, and removable system hardware. CompTIA notes that a strong understanding of ATAPI , SCSI, USB, RAID devices, and power management is required for this exam.
Note: The previous list is only a synopsis of the different topics found in each domain. It's important to note that exam objectives lists can change quickly and without notice. Be sure that, if you pursue the Linux+ exam, you stay current with the full Linux+ set of objectives. You can find this list at www.comptia.org under the Linux+ category.

Important Linux+ Facts

The following list gives some important Linux+ certification facts you should be familiar with:

  • You only need to pass one exam to become Linux+ certified.
  • The exam costs $218 for those who are not members of CompTIA.
  • There are 98 multiple-choice questions on the Linux+ exam with 90 minutes allowed to complete the exam.
  • You must attain a score of 675 on a grading scale of 100-900 to pass.
  • The exam is given by Pearson VUE and Thomson Prometric testing services.

    You need to pick only one of the two testing services; you can contact each at:
  • The exam code that you need to present to either VUE or Prometric is XK0-002.
  • There are no prerequisites required to take the Linux+ exam, but CompTIA recommends that you have passed the A+ and Network+ or have the equivalent experience before attempting the Linux+ exam.
  • Passing the Linux+ exam can also lead to college credit for some institutions. Check out www.comptia.org at the Linux+ site to find out which schools award credit for the Linux+ certification.


It is an undeniable fact that Linux has staked its claim in the IT operating system market. Its stability, affordability, and development have helped Linux gain market popularity. The various flavors of Linux are appearing in server rooms, and desktops to a lesser extent, throughout various businesses, schools, and even national governments. Being able to support, configure, and understand Linux would be a boost to one's IT career, and attaining the Linux+ certification is a great foundation.

Should you begin a journey toward Linux+ certification, be sure to find as many study sources as possible. Finding a diverse set of views from multiple authors will help insure that you cover the Linux+ topics in greater depth. Also, be sure to find plenty of practice exams before attempting the actual exam. Practice exams help you gauge your progress and can help you identify weak areas. Study, experience with Linux, patience, and solid effort are sure to lead you toward Linux+ certification and a healthy boost to your IT skill-set and career.

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