Passing the LPI-1 and LPI-2 exams

Warning: This blogpost has been posted over two years ago. That is a long time in development-world! The story here may not be relevant, complete or secure. Code might not be complete or obsoleted, and even my current vision might have (completely) changed on the subject. So please do read further, but use it with caution.
Posted on 30 Jun 2010
Tagged with: [ certification ]  [ linux ]  [ lpi

I’ve just finished my LPI-201 and LPI-202 exams, which you both need in order to receive your LPIC-2 certification. Even though I’ve used Linux professionally since before 1998, I still wasn’t as easy I though it would be (but then again, you shouldn’t take them right after each other). I was kinda hoping that my experience would roll me through the program, and guess what, with some help of some test exams, it did :)

Lt;dr: Don’t expect it to be easy just because you work with Linux.


Some people are as fast as lightning when working in vim, even though they have never installed a squid-proxy or configured sendmail. Others have used Debian distributions their whole life while they never even heard of YUM. Most administrators probably never really used any kind of GUI (xwindows with gnome or kde or even xcfe etc). And that’s ok… Linux is probably a more complex yet more flexible system than most people will work with nowadays.

So even people who say they have a lot of experience with Linux, they probably aren’t lying but don’t expect a c-programmer or php-programmer who works daily in apache and vim, to setup your slave-dns services or could troubleshoot your server park in case something goes wrong. See it this way: just because you work with computers, doesn’t make you a web designer (even though the majority of the world think it does)…

The LPI is a qualification to let other know that you are qualified in the whole Linux administration spectrum (and beyond). Note that when I say Linux, I do mean general Linux distributions without specifying which one. An LPI administrator knows his way around redhat systems (RedHat, Fedora, CentOS) just as easily as on Debian based systems (Debian, Ubuntu etc) or even systems like LFS or Gentoo.

I think LPIC fills a gap that doesn’t get filled by other Linux-certifications. Even though most companies prefer RHCE engineers, it does focus (logically) on RedHat which is not always the best distribution for your need or even the ones you actually are using. LPIC solves this by being completely unbiased when it comes to distributions. (side note: LPIC has a partnership with SUSE Linux, see below at “added bonus”). LPIC guarantees you that a certified administrator know his way around whatever you plant in front of him (or her).

Am I ready for LPI?

If you work with Linux on a daily basis (either professionally or back at your own place) and if you know your way around the command line, the LPIC-1 certification should be doable however, please note that these exams are based on EXPERIENCE! If you can add new users to your system solely in Gnome or KDE, then sorry, LPIC is not for you. Although you probably can get away with this on MSCE courses, you need to know what under the hood, and you need to understand what’s going on.

The way they setup the exam is by asking a lot of commands and parameters you need to type. For instance: “which option do you need to specify if you want to chown a directory recursively?”. (It happens to be the -R switch, as in “chown -R jthijssen /home/jthijssen/”). What they ask for is not so much you learning all the commands and parameters by heart (you could, but then again, you could do with all theoretical exams), but they expect you to know these things because you deal with them every single day. So instead of ALL parameters you need to know, most people who take the LPI courses, will only need to learn the 10 or 15% of the parameters they don’t use daily.

The setup:

There are LPI 3 levels:

  • LPI-1 junior level Don’t kid yourself: this level is much much higher than the majority of Linux administrators. You understand the basics of Linux, including the boot process, file hierarchy, package management (rpm, dpkg), vim usage etc.

  • LPI-2 advanced level Assumes you know setting up and troubleshooting systems in both single and multi-os environments. Know your way around sendmail, apache, bind, samba, squid and the likes, and don’t be afraid of some security assessment. You need a at least a few years on the job experience to pass this exam without too much trouble.

  • LPI-3  senior level This is serious big boy stuff. It assumes you have years of knowledge working with enterprise environments.

Before you are LPI-1 certified, you need to pass 2 exams: LPI-101 and LPI-102. You need to a lot about your system including some SQL querying, x-windows basics and more. They are definitely doable exams if you got some experience on Linux. You can do each exam separately. You don’t need to have passed the LPI-101 before you can do the LPI-102. Just think of them as 1 big exam, split in two. Your certification is valid up to 5 year, or until you do another certification.

LPI-2 certification works the same way but you need to have your LPI-1 certification before you can start on LPI-2. This level is not 1 step more difficult, but I would say about 10 steps :) You should know most services and daemons by heart, as well as the boot-process, trouble shooting, LVM, device drivers, kernel compilation, PAM etc etc. I sincerely doubt you can pass this exam with just learning from books. You need the experience first, now even more than on LPI-1.

LPI-3 certification is hard. Well, at least I wouldn’t want to take it without a few weeks of intensive reading and more hands-on experience. I’m planning on taking it this year, but there are some other certifications I’d like to pass first (MySQL dbe/dba for example).

LPI-3 is a bit different than the other 2 exams, since it consists of 1 mandatory exam (the LPI-301) and you must choose 1 other exam in a certain specialty. You have several, for instance the LPI-302 exam which is about Linux in a mixed environment, the LPI-303, which is about security or even LPI-306, which is about Mail and messaging. It basically let you specialize in a certain direction (although you could do multiple specialties if you want to).


Ubuntu has a separate exam called the LPI-199. It’s a single exam which you can take whenever you want, but you won’t get certified until you are LPI-1 certified. (so it’s possible to do LPI-101, LPI-102 and LPI-199 in one go). However, be advised that this exam is very VERY Ubuntu-specific and you probably won’t get there without knowing a bit deal of Ubuntu itself (for instance: where to find security updates, how to restore user gnome settings etc).

I’ve used the prep-kits from Ucertify (here and there). The main reason is that after I’ve done the Zend5 certification, I saw that the questions in their test suites were better matching the questions I got on the actual zend5 exam (even better than the questions you get when you buy the test exams from Zend itself. They are not expensive and give you a good feedback on what you need to learn, what you already know etc. PLUS, if you fail your exam, you get your money back from them.

For the LPI-199 (Ubuntu certification), I recommend Ubuntu certified professional study guide from Micheal Jang (over here). Ucertify does not have a LPI-199 test exam yet, but they are planning to release one in the near future. Basically, learning the book is what you need, and most of it is common Linux anyway. Just go over the nitty bitty Ubuntu-specific stuff and you’ll be fine.

Whatever you do: don’t assume you will ace exams because all the online tests you could find were easy. They do not reflect the actual exams as they are much much harder! Don’t think you know your stuff, grasshopper, KNOW you know..

Doing the exams:

You can select any Pearson-Vue center you like, on the date and time you like (more or less). It’s not possible to schedule 2 exams at the same time (the site says you need at least one hour and a half apart, but most centers will let you do the exams right after each other. I’ve heard today that they probably are going to change this, so you can schedule multiple exams in one go. If you happen to fail an exam: don’t worry. You can retake them later on (I think a week after the first time you failed). Even if you didn’t make it, you can see what areas you need to focus on PLUS at least you know what to expect the next time so you probably will be much calmer and you can concentrate on the test again.

Added Novell bonus:

When you have passed the LPI-101 and LPI-102 exams, and are thus certified as a LPI-1 administrator, you can apply for a Novell Certified Linux Administrator without doing any exam (or paying any fees).


I’m not allowed to go into details about the questions asked in the exam, but most of them are understandable and don’t have answers you can explain multiple ways. Don’t go asking for questions, because A) they are probably different ones than you will get and B) it’s an experience certification, so cheating is probably not going to help you anyway..