Opinions on and Expriences With Kiosk-Delivered Certification Exams?

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Finally got around to knocking-out one of my certifications (changed to a new contract and this customer was a lot more concerned about their SMEs being certified). I opted to do the kiosk-based exam since they offered a lot more scheduling flexibility. Gotta say: it's really nice getting your exam results back in under half a business day!

That said, there were a few things about the kiosk experience that were sub-optimal:
* My test was slated to start on the hour - and we're told in the arrival instructions to be in your seat by a quarter to the hour. I got to my seat well on time. The test delivery, however, wasn't ready on time. It finally allowed me to do the sign-in steps about a minute before the hour, but the automated provisioning of the testing-hosts didn't complete until about seven after the hour.
* The test station, itself, is singularly unsuitable for someone with other than 20/20 vision. The screen was positioned not only closer than either a normal desktop or laptop screen, but closer than I even hold a book or e-reader. I'm far-sighted and wear glasses to correct my vision. Unfortunately, with the stupidly-close positioning of the screen, it placed the screen well inside the optimal focus-distance of my glasses.
* Exacerbating the screen-distance problems was the requirement to wear a headset: the chord on the headset prevented me from pushing my seat back to get to the point where I could view the screen without major eye-strain. This would have been merely annoying, had the headset actually been used for anything, but, all of the proctor interaction was done via an onscreen chat interface. So, why the requirement to wear a headset that restricted my movement?
* While the chat tool is a nice idea (especially for asking the proctor "what's up with the testing session not being ready on time"), it chews up precious screen realestate. Given that the exams require creating configurations that closely adhere to the exam specifications. it's helpful to be able to have the instructions appear side-by-side with the system-item that you're configuring. With the screen size of the testing kiosk and the fixed-frame layout of the work and proctoring-tool areas, an already not large screen effectively became like working on a 13", 4:3 monitor. Meant that couldn't effectively do side-by-side specification/system work

My question is, are these kiosks all this poorly implemented or was I just "lucky"?

Tom Jones's picture

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Hi Tom,

  • I do not have the same opinions as you did.
  • About the test host being on time I do not know, I got a very big time slot from my employer to do the exam so I did watch the clock at all. So here you might be correct.
  • The workstation was great to work with. No issues like you describe.
  • My proctor was very clear about what to ask and what not to ask, when I complained about a subject that was added to the exam in the period after the course. He/she made that very clear to me that this was not to be answered by a proctor. So this was my bad, not his/hers.
    **So in short only the set-up time of the test-server might have been an issue, but I did not notice it.

I did the exam in the Netherlands, where did you do it? Could have influence on the hardware being available to you, that is why I ask. The test centre was only a few years old, due to a move to a new location.

Kind regards,

Jan Gerrit Kootstra

Did this exam in the US. It was hosted at a McTest type of facility (one of many Pearson VUE franchises that are scattered throughout the DC area), but this was the first time I'd had a test delivered through this particular provider. Earlier RH exams were delivered by a companies who hosted classes at their facility and my testing was done on the normal working lab consoles. This exam was conducted on a purpose-built, stand-alone test-console (a unit from Innovative Exams hosted in a one-person room at the Pearson facility). When I'd asked the facility's front desk person about the shortcomings of the testing-device, she'd indicated "we have that complaint from most of the test-takers and have forwarded them up to the unit-owner (Innovative Exams), but have gotten no responses."

On the one hand, I like the fact that exam-days are no longer tied to the associated scheduling of RedHat's prep classes' schedules. The down side is having to suffer with the poorly-designed testomatic delivery-unit.

Jan where in the Netherlands, I took my exam last Friday in Utrecht, similar poor experience.

Thanks Tom, I'm concerned about this, I'm getting ready to test... If I take this route, I'll ask about these details.

I consider to try "Red Hat learning subscription" + kiosk exams. Do you have any experiences with this combination?

Good to know and what to look for. I have an exam scheduled next month.

I have passed ex442 in Paris and it was OK. I scheduled D0405 later this month. I'll let you know.

I have finally taken DO405, and it was... just horrible.

During the usual briefing before the exam, the supervisor told me not to use "vi" or "vim" due to my virtual environment. According the supervisor, using the ESC keystroke could have disconnected my session.

OK fine, the session starts, and I can see "Time remaining: 2:33". The exam is supposed to last 3 hours. I immediately notified the supervisor. His answer: "see that with Red Hat, there is nothing I can do".

I still decided to take the exam since I had to travel almost 4 hours to come to Paris, and I work with Puppet for a long time, so I was hoping to pass.

I pushed the ESC keystroke by reflex, and... it worked as usual. No disconnection. Thanks guy for this stressful information, especially when your exam is shortened by 30 minutes.

Immediately after the exam I called Red Hat, opened a case with all the information, asking them to read the chat and check the time.

In the meantime I received the result: I didn't pass.

The guy was supposed to give me an answer by Tuesday. On Wednesday, still no answer, I sent an email. The answer: "sorry, the case has been closed by mistake". Nice try.

Finally, I get an answer:

"As I have been through the recording of your session, I can see that you didn't get actual amount of time. Due to that, we have decided to give you a retake of the exam at no tuition on a space available basis. The exam has to be taken by 27 Nov 2016"

So I have to wait more than 6 months to re-take the exam. No commercial gesture for the day lost, the travel expenses or whatever. Just "come back in 6 month".

The company hosting the kiosk told me this kind of issue already happened.

I hope you guys will have a better experience than me.

*"As I have been through the recording of your session, I can see that you didn't get actual amount of time. Due to that, we have decided to give you a retake of the exam at no tuition on a space available basis. The exam has to be taken by 27 Nov 2016"

So I have to wait more than 6 months to re-take the exam. No commercial gesture for the day lost, the travel expenses or whatever. Just "come back in 6 month".*

Hi Jeremy,

I'm sorry to hear about the bad experience. Just one small point: I believe the message you received doesn't say you need to come back in 6 months. Instead, you have 6 months to do the retake. I.e. no later than in November.

Hi Robert,

So much disappointed that I misread. Thanks for pointing it out.

Hi Jérémy

Sorry for rebounding this old post.

Can you please just tell me what were Red Hat number to call ?

I have a claim about an exam too but no one in RH Certification team could give me a clear feedback. The case is pending since more than 2 weeks. Ref: https://access.redhat.com/discussions/3300211

P/S: I guest you are from France like me.

Thanks

During the usual briefing before the exam, the supervisor told me not to use "vi" or "vim" due to my virtual environment. According the supervisor, using the ESC keystroke could have disconnected my session.

If I was informed of this at the start of the exam I would be asking for an immediate refund. Even the suggestion from your proctor that this type of constraint is acceptable concerns me.

Can someone from Red Hat confirm this isn't correct, and is a case of miscommunication?

Can someone from Red Hat confirm this isn't correct, and is a case of miscommunication?

I cannot speak for the particular proctor involved in that exam, but I can confirm that when I took an exam using a kiosk, I was neither warned about this, nor had I any trouble using vi/vim. In fact, any tools included by the provided repository should be available for use.

I should clarify that my issues isn't about using vi/vim (as much as I love vi, i'm not going to meltdown if I can't use it). My issue is the artificial constraint imposed on the person taking the exam, in this instance not being able to hit the 'ESC' key for fear of breaking the examination process.

I can say that my experiences taking exams at the end of courses have been superior to taking kiosk based exams. I have also found the experience varies depending on the quality of equipment provided by the training provider (which may seem obvious, but is often overlooked).

When I asked the proctor if at least he could provide me the vi syntax to remap the ESC keystroke, he answers me that "something should be available in the man page".

As I said, I had to travel and I decided to take my chance...

I have re-passed EX405 last week.

Guess what? Same issue, time remaining when the exam started: 2:26 instead of 3 hours.

Luckily this proctor has been able to help and contacted Red Hat directly. 5 minutes later the missing time was added to the timer.

I don't know if there is something wrong with this particular exam, but always good to know that the proctor can actually help you with this kind of issue.

Having taken 5 + kiosk exams I'll I can say is they generally slow (graphic lag). I work at about 50% capacity due to the general poor performance (slow response of gui you can barely move a window and resolution so poor). On some occasions with exams that require multiple virtual machines i have seen screens lock up and they are skimp on resources where load on vm makes the unusable. It appears as though your desktop is a virtual machine running in Vnc/spice which explains graphics and lag.

My suggestion is to take real exams in classroom if possible. Sadly these get sold out if they are popular as part of bundle.

Red hat exams are generally stressful kiosks make them worse. Would be a lot better with a dual monitor setup (not sure if they have this in classroom exams) but I'm sure most classroom setups are higher spec systems.

When I took my exam in February of this year, I had alot of problems with the machine, ID would not scan and noise reduction headphones broke.

To me, the directions were confusing on where I should be taking the test on. Were I to take the exam on the local RHEL system or the virtual system?

If I ran into an issue, I would try the chat session, which I didn't think was much help either. Once I ended the exam, your chat session is over too, so I tried to chat with them on a few issues and couldn't because I ended the exam. I didn't know that either...

I called Red Hat and later learned that I could have tested at the end of a bootcamp, instead of using a Kiosk. IMO, do the bootcamp test, not the kiosk. Too many issues...

I've taken two kiosk exams in the past 12 months (both here in the Brisbane office), and both went well (RHCSA and SA-OpenStack). I didn't experience any slowdown, even with the OpenStack one that ran multiple VMs.

The only suggestion I have is to put a more prominent notification somewhere for the OpenStack test that when you launch the VM, it won't be in runlevel 5. I wiggled my mouse a couple of times at the blank VM screen (which didn't work, since it was ignoring mouse input at that runlevel), then finally accidentally pressing something on the keyboard before it came to.

Anyone taken the exam in the Melbourne office kios recently? How is the setup there? I was expecting the kios to have 2 screens one for reading the questions and the other for doing the exam. One monitor sounds very backward and slow down.

Hi Ben,

I'm afraid none of the kiosks have two screens. It's a special set up that includes a locked down computer case, a camera for the proctor, etc. Have a look at the following video, which includes a view of the kiosk machine: https://youtu.be/6uwl-w9vSc8?t=49.

I'm used to a dual-monitor setup at home and at work, but taking the exam on a one-screen kiosk wasn't so bad. It was, at worst, a minor inconvenience having to Alt-Tab between windows, but you don't exactly have to do that too many times... you read the question for a minute or so, then flip back to your VM.

+1 on the 2 monitor configuration. It is not just about reading the requirements and doing the work on other terminal, from time to time you may want to split consoles across two screens so you can read a man page or open up one of the manuals . Many fundamental things you should know(without looking) but more specific things where by you refer to manual page or want to read something it would be extremely useful to have a proper setup (even more so as the graphics lag is bad to begin with). Most people work on 2 monitors nowadays and using just 1 is cumbersome especially in the scenario where it is an exam and you are generally more anxious to begin with.

I know this doesn't really help, but, unfortunately, you can't usually expect two monitors even when taking an exam in a classroom environment - it's not just about the kiosks.

That said, it really isn't that much of a problem. I'm used to a two-monitor set up myself, but I didn't have any trouble organizing my screen on the one-monitor kiosk to have enough space for two terminal-emulator windows (with multiple tabs in each) and the browser window with the instructions.

It would make sense to have all exams consistent, having 2 monitors vs 1 is obviously an advantage. Sure you can organize your monitor space and resize your desktop windows so they sorta fit but this still more of distraction from doing actually what you are being asked. Personally i think all exams should be delivered with a 2 monitor setup which is sort of the default configuration for most IT administrators.

This is other requirement about wearing headphones seems a bit ridiculous, i did not have to wear these for any of my exams.

About the headphones: There's no requirement to wear those. They're provided for your convenience, so that you can be shielded from potential surrounding noise. No actual communication happens through the headphones. All communication with the exam proctor is in a chat window.

Hi Robert,

Thanks, that helps.

I tried the kiosk to day and passed the EX277 exam. This was the new laptop-based kiosk solution. It is not optimal, but works. A bit lagging graphics, US(?) keyboard mappings on norwegian keyboard, small fonts and little screen estate. But, it is so convenient to being able to pick a date/time that suits me and taking the exam locally so I accept the problems. Being well prepared is important to compensate for reduced working speed and stress due to for instance keyboard-mapping issues, etc.

I did a kiosk exam in Amsterdam and ended up having to leave the test incomplete. To start with, the general lag in the responsiveness of the virtual desktop slows you down considerably. About an hour into the exam, my virtual desktop stopped responding and just froze up. Terminal stopped taking input, couldn't switch between windows or back to the browser, and pretty much everything just stuck. The online proctor tried to help, but he had to contact Redhat support, who logged in remotely to investigate, as I sat there idle and frustrated. Finally they returned it back to a responsive state, not before I'd lost an hour, not an amount time the proctor could extend my exam with.

I sat the EX442 on Friday. This was my first time with the new "laptop" kiosk and the experience was not good. I had sat RHCSA and RHCE for both RHEL6 and RHEL7 on the old stye kiosk without much in the way of problems.

The laptop screen has great resolution but is physically too small. I felt like I spent the 4 hours squinting at the screen. An external monitor would be appropriate. Also, I'm not used to typing on a laptop keyboard. I kept pressing the "Funct" key instead of the "CTRL" key, it got very frustrating. The lag was also terrible and the exam froze several times and dropped out completely once. I also found that frequently, random key presses would be repeated. I think this is a function of the lag also.

I was alone in the exam room and while trying to read some objectives, the exam proctor threatened to terminate the exam because I was "talking".

Wasn't happy.

At the facility, I pushed the button with the mouse to start. I signed a bunch of Non-Disclosure Forms. Then a Desktop opens with a 2"x2" little Proctor chat screen in the Corner with Page after Page of information streaming by. I said, Please Slow Down, I can't read. Then It said,"Good Luck". All that took less than 1 minute. I was not ready and they gave me NO instructions. I would expect them to at least tell me something. It is a $400 exam. They gave me Nothing, and just said "Good Luck".

I took the RHCSA 7 exam on 5/19/17 and got 80/300. I knew all the objectives, I asked why I failed. They said, I needed to do more preparation and then gave me some bogus reasons after I kept pestering them, that I know were not the reason. I thought the exam seat was set up incorrectly. Then someone said, there was a link to other instructions. I have NO idea where that other link was. It was not on the Task List page. There was just the Tasks on that list and I did them all. The Proctor was of absolutely no value. The Certification team has made that abundantly clear and said a few times, The Proctor is not there to be my friend or help me in any way. He obviously screwed me over. When I sat down to take the test. The desktop opened up and that was it. What am I supposed to do? I asked the Proctor what to do. THAT was the wrong thing to do. He told me to click on a PDF. The thing is, WHY didn't I know that? Are you supposed to ask the Proctor, what am I supposed to do? That brought up the Task list. Half way through the test I realized that there might be a problem. There was no extra disk or free partitions. I just kept going, I did most of the tasks, but the things I couldn't do. I wrote how to do in the comments. I figured, they would have someone that would look it over. Shit Happens! But, It shouldn't be such an Ordeal to straiten it out. They refuse to look at the exam I took. I was absolutely cheated and I'm ready to start yelping.

WOW! straight 3 years. They still haven't improved. I mean they should've improved their setups by now. Also change couple of Proctor's.

Sorry to hear about your experience man. But I should point out that in the exam, there might be only be one disk. That disk will contain standard system partitions and will have couple of GB's available. You might have to then extend the available space and work with that. Because 3 out of 4 primary partition will be used for system setup.

As far as I know, they usually take scores with some in some sort of automated way. So I don't think they actually noticed or the automation catches the comments you put. Because the purpose of the exam is to test your practical skills in real life.

Best of luck for next time. But next time you should ask for a good kiosk setup or just talk to them about your last experience. They might consider something.

That is true. There were 3 mounted File Systems With Space on them. I did grow and expand a fs. But, there where no free partitions to do some of the other things it asked. I signed non disclosure forms. So, I need to be careful. I made notes afterwards of everything I did. They made me sign Non Disclosure agreements and then Cheated me! I did every stinkin one of those tasks. But, they refuse to look at it past what the script is telling them. It is ridiculous!!! I open tickets and then they close them without saying anything. I got a nasty-gram from Customer Service Yesterday saying they already made a decision and don't want me to bother them any more. Shortly after I got an email asking how the Service was and am I satisfied.

That is true. There were 3 mounted File Systems With Space on them. I did grow and expand a fs. But, there where no free partitions to do some of the other things it asked. I signed non disclosure forms. So, I need to be careful. I made notes afterwards of everything I did. They made me sign Non Disclosure agreements and then Cheated me! I did every stinkin one of those tasks. But, they refuse to look at it past what the script is telling them. It is ridiculous!!! I open tickets and then they close them without saying anything. I got a nastygram from Customer Service Yesterday saying they already made a decision and don't want me to bother them any more. Shortly after I got an email asking how the Service was and am I satisfied.

I had a similar problem in a recent exam with needing to complete a disk related exercise but insufficient space (have to be vague to to be the NDA). However in my case I advised the proctor of the problem and requested support from a Red Hat engineer. I want on with the exam and at the end when I was double checking my work, there was disk space enough to complete the exercise.

Gotta say I've had a few problems with the laptop kiosks that I didn't experience on the old kiosks and I'm not a fan.

So far I've done the following on the laptop kiosks: EX442 - problems with the exam environment, had to re-sit EX403 - huge problems with the exam environment, had to re-sit EX405 - uneventful (no problems with the environment)

Will be sitting EX236 tomorrow, hoping for another uneventful exam.

Good Luck with EX236, Colin.

I am halfway through the 236 course. Going to attempt an exam next month. Hopefully I'll pass :)

Thanks :)

Assuming you're doing the training via ROL? I'd love to hear your comments/opinions as I've found more that a few labs/guided exercises that don't run properly. The ganesha setup feels very finicky and doesn't seem to survive a reboot. Makes me nervous for the exam but I've already deferred it once, need to just get it done.

You got it right, I am doing training via ROL. I have completed 6 chapters already. So far I found issues only with one of the lab. Which is the last lab of chapter 5. Otherwise, everything is fine. I did report that lab to support & they are yet to resolve it.

What you can do is, you can just setup a local centos7 machine with glusterfs and see if the issue persist. I am being cheap on lab time, so I built a local lab myself. Just interconnected them with hosts file. One thing I always consider is, reboot! reboot!! reboot!!!. Cause most of my fellow candidates made the mistake of not rebooting. Either they were over confident or didn't feel like it. But reboot is a crucial thing.

I completed Ganesha lab without any problem. Just make sure you are not forgetting firewall rules and enabling the services you need to enable. Ganesha is really tricky since it's connected to one of the most trickiest piece of software. Also mention that it's a network device while booting.

I am still learning 236, so I'm just telling you what I know :).

Honestly, I can't imagine your frustration and everything you went through. Since I didn't had such experience with the exams. But I am sorry for what you had to go through.

It's okay. I also signed a form. We are not discussing full exam topics. I mean anybody who knows how to do partition would know about the topics and the tasks. It does seem really odd that you would get only 80. You did check everything before you left the machine, right? Like every task you did and rebooted the machine after major tasks.

I did about 12 reboots, haha. I was confident but scared at the same time.

Are you self taught? or you had training?

The problem I've had with ganesha is that after the reboot, the servers don't have the IP addresses listed in /etc/ganesha/ganesha-ha.conf which completely breaks the objective from both the client and server sides.

We've been running gluster in production now for a couple of years but we only use a few of the features.

Yep, I always reboot a few times during the exams to make sure I've got it working correctly.

You kinda lost me there, haha. I guess I haven't gone that far yet.

If it's something that changes the config file itself, you can change the attribute with chattr to block any edits. I can't think of anything else at the moment since I don't have much experience on it yet.

No, the configs don't change, the "HA" IP addresses simply don't show after a reboot.

1) Provision the RH236 lab
2) On 'workstation' run 'lab ganesha solve'
3) Reboot servera and serverb
4) When the servers are back up, notice how they are not using the IP addresses listed in /etc/ganesha/ganesha-ha.conf

I can let you know about it tomorrow, hopefully. I have a lot of work on hand today.

By the way, how was your exam?

I'm UTC+8 so the is approx 2hours 36 minutes away. I've done that lab multiple times with the same result. All looks fine until the servers are rebooted. I meant to say yesterday that there is a similar problem with the CTDB guided exercise. All is fine until server reboot but in that case I found another file that should also be modified. I logged a ticket on this but the response wasn't the best.

I am going to work with the nfs-ganesha lab in next 3-4 hours. Whenever I get free time in-between those hours. Will let you know my test-results.

How was your exam though? I hope you didn't had any bad experience.

I can't go into detail due to the NDA but I made a couple of big mistakes early on in the exam that only became a problem much later in the exam. Long story short, I failed. Very annoyed with myself. Will re-sit fairly soon as I know what I did wrong.

Shoot! I'm very sorry to hear that Colin. Don't be too hard on yourself. It happens. I might also fail the first time. Praying that I don't fail.

Good luck on re-test. It's good that you already know where you made mistakes.

Colin, it seems the issue persisted on my lab also. The IP's are getting lost after reboot.

Hi all, I am preparing for the RHCSA EX200 exam and after reading this thread I am concerned about taking the exam in a kiosk environment. I am/was planning to take the exam at the end of October (London-UK area); however only the provider Imparando (kiosk) provides the exam in October. By looking at the RH website the only scheduled date (not guaranteed) for classroom based exam (QA London) is on 15 Dec. Really do not want to risk £470+VAT after reading so many bad comments.

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