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Linux Professional Institute raises the bar on testing

Linux Certs (part one)

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Newsforge logo The Linux Professional Intitute isn't out to make money. That could be the factor that sets this Linux certification agency apart from the others - if nothing else, LPI can certainly claim to be the only certification body with non-profit status. Not having to focus on the bottom line provides certain benefits to people who want to become Linux professionals.

For example, LPI is known for giving free tests at LinuxWorld conferences. "We're going to be doing that at every LinuxWorld Expo," says Evan Leibovitch, the president of LPI. And they don't put any limitations on the number of testees. "It is come one, come all," he adds. "We do a number of certification labs around the world where we give free or reduced rate exams. In Frankfurt we did one and we gave the exams for no cost; There've been occasions where we've been invited to paricipate in certain events and provide testing. We've given them in China and in Vienna, and Toronto. We really have been going all over the place and doing this."

That's one of the benefits. Another, says Leibovitch, is that LPI is vendor-neutral and "distribution-agnostic." He says that LPI has been developed specifically to test competency in any and all Linux distributions.

LPI believes it has gone to great lengths to create an exam that accurately tests the knowledge of an aspiring Linux systems administrator."LPI is the only program that is using professional psychometrics. When we put our programs together, we solicit people who know Linux, and people who have degrees in how to make an examination. That gives us quite a high level of quality." Psychometrics is a method of testing that has been used extensively in intelligence, personality, and more recently vocational testing. It is a scientific approach to testing intelligence and knowledge.

"We did a survey in the community to determine what tasks they thought were junior roles and which were intermediate," says Leibovitch. "It's a very deliberate system."

So far, more than 6,000 people have been certified through LPI. Leibovitch says they have distributed some 20,000 examinations. A quick math check points out the obvious: LPI ain't easy, so don't stroll into LWCE to take the free test on a whim. "LPI has a reputation of not being easy to pass. There's a roughly 57% failure rate." Isn't it considered "not good" when nobody in the class can get an "A"? "It's not good, but it's not bad," he says. "If somebody walks in and hasn't adequately prepared themselves they're going to be in for a shock."

So how does one going about preparing? For one thing, you can look at the exam objectives at the website. LPI testing objectives are weighted from 1 to 10. Heavier objectives will get more questions on the exam, lighter objectives will get fewer. For the LPI 101 exam, there are thirty-one objectives to study. LPI recommends focusing on these and using HOWTO's and man pages as reference material.

LPI also provides some sample questions, a list of LPI-specific books, a couple of vendors who provide LPI practice tests for a fee, and other resources.

There are also many companies whose business it is to prepare you to take the LPI, either by providing courseware or direct training. The LinTraining website alone lists 353 training centers worldwide that offer LPI certification. Leibovitch says there are 7000 VUE and Prometric centers that offer testing. "You just make an appointment, walk in, and take the exam.

LPI's motivation isn't to make money, it is to create a "standardized, multi-national, respected program to certify levels of individual expertise in Linux" according to its mission statement. A list of stated goals:

  • Create industry recognition
  • Provide an organizational path for students
  • Provide an organizational mechanism for training centers
  • Enhance marketing
  • Counter the "no-support" argument
  • Turn students into advocates
  • Provide other means of employment for Linux skilled individuals
  • Recruit new Linux users
  • Assist in the hiring process

Leibovitch says that though LPI hasn't been around long enough to have accomplished all of these goals, they're well on their way. "We also have other things in mind regarding the advancement of Linux professionalism in general. We're working on the first Linux Professionals conference. We'll do seminars on career advancement, not the kind of thing someone would find at the average Linux conference."



Now that it has two levels of the exam finished, LPI is beginning to collect more statistics on the efficacy of its exams, for instance, numbers of certificate-holders who've landed jobs as a result of their LPI-testing success.

The LPI currently charges $100 per exam. "When I was in China," says Leibovitch, "it was brought to my attention that $100USD is prohibitively expensive in that country."

"We're looking at ways to further decrease the cost."

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