Brian Robert Callahan

academic, developer, with an eye towards a brighter techno-social life


I took the CompTIA Linux+ XK1-005 beta exam for fun

Update (2022-06-22): I passed.

Like I previously did with the PK1-005 Project+ beta exam, last week I took the XK1-005 Linux+ beta exam. I guess I am a sucker for these certification betas. They are so cheap it's difficult for me to say no and I have the experience that CompTIA is looking for, so for $50 I figured there's much worse ways I can spend that money and if I pass then even better I'll be certified.

Like the Project+ beta exam before it, I in no way need this certification for $DAYJOB. I was simply interested in what qualifies these days as entry-level Linux skills for an enterprise environment. It's somewhat difficult to argue that I don't have Unix skills, with a *BSD being my daily driver since 2005 and specifically OpenBSD being my daily driver since 2011. But, *BSD is not Linux despite their similarities and I do administer a large number of Linux machines as part of my research work. I was interested in learning where the gaps in my knowledge might lie.

Study materials and study time

I did not study for this exam in any way outside of obtaining a copy of the exam objectives from CompTIA, which sadly I am not able to share due to CompTIA specifically mentioning that the exam objectives are not to be shared. I believe the term for this method of not studying for an exam is called pludging the exam. But that is not to say that I was unprepared. After glancing over the objectives it was clear to me that I knew the vast majority of the material and the things I did not know I simply would not have the time to learn and could make reasonable guesses on.

Exam day

Like the Project+ beta exam before it, I took the Linux+ beta exam at home in my home office. The Pearson OnVUE software just works on my machine and all the proctors I have encountered have all been very pleasant and professional. No issues there.

Like the Project+ beta exam, I had 113 questions and 165 minutes to complete the exam. Unlike the Project+ beta exam, the Linux+ beta exam included Performance-Based Questions, or PBQs for short. This makes sense, as the current version of the Linux+ exam also includes PBQs. I had three PBQs and the remainder of the exam was multiple choice questions. Fairly typical CompTIA fare.

I completed the exam in about 80 minutes.

Exam review and thoughts

I cannot share too much in terms of details since that's not allowed by CompTIA's rules, but I do want to share overall thoughts and opinions on the exam. There is also another XK1-005 review by another beta tester if you'd like to read that. In fact, I'd recommend you read it, since many of my opinions are shared with that beta tester.

Note too that I cannot share if I passed the exam or not because results will not be provided until June. Similar to the Project+ beta exam, if the passing mark stays the same for the Linux+ I would feel relatively confident that I passed.

Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

I was very afraid the Linux+ beta exam would be little more than a flag memorization exam. I was pleased to find that it mostly was not. There were admittedly some questions that did require you to memorize flags but not too many. I am extremely weary of flag memorization exams because they teach Linux administrators all the wrong habits: they implicitly teach that the things to care about are the minutiae of utilities and that perfection is achieved in parlor tricks. Both are the exact opposite of what I would want in a Linux administrator.

Memorizing flags helps no one: learning how to identify the correct utility and knowing how to quickly find and peruse documentation for the specifics you need is what I want in a Linux administrator. Because it also demonstrates the humility of the person: there is not one single person who knows even a meaningful fraction of everything in today's modern software stacks. You need to be constantly asking for help to accomplish your goals. I want to hire Linux administrators who are humble enough to say "I don't know, but I do know how to ask for help and where to go to seek that help." I expect that from my students, and I would absolutely expect that from my employees.

I would recommend that anyone serious about demonstrating their entry-level Linux skills consider taking this exam.