The recent announcement about the completion of the BSDP certification requirements got me thinking about the BSD certification effort again.  It's been over a year since the last time I gave it any attention but I looks to have taken off.  The BSDA exam has been going since 2008 and the BSDP exam is going to be available sometime in 2011.  I decided to give BSDA a shot next month at MeetBSD California.

I've been having a hard time figuring out just what to expect and how to go about preparing, though.  It's almost as if everybody who's ever taken the exam had to sign an NDA promising never to describe the exam process publicly.  There's no "official" courseware, but we do have the certification requirements and a wiki.  There's also this nice rendition of the wiki content.

I've managed to find a little more information on the exam itself which I'll rattle off here.  Don't take my word as gospel, though–my information might contain mistakes or have been interpreted incorrectly.  Here's what I'm expecting:

The BSDA exam is a written exam without a hands-on portion.  The questions are multiple choice or true/false and there should be roughly 100 questions.  There may be additional questions on the exam used for the psychometric feedback loop but that don't count towards your final score.  The exam is not simply graded correct/incorrect and assigned a percentage score.  It is sent off to be statistically analyzed with batches of other exams.  Scores will range from 200 to 700, with 500 marking the pass/fail threshold.  The exam covers FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and DragonflyBSD. 

The BSDP exam will be both written and hands-on via a virtualized lab.  While the BSDA exam requires a general knowledge of the basics of installing and administering 4 operating systems, the BSDP hands-on portion will require deep knowledge of at least one of them.  At this time, details of the exam are still emerging.

The exam fee is a modest $75.  In order to take the exam, you must first register for a free BSDCG ID, register for an exam session, and pay the fee online before taking the exam.  All of these steps are done over at  Apparently some people have shown up to take the exam without having paid in advance.  If you have the cash on hand, you may be able to still take the exam, but it's better to do it right and pay online in advance.

I suspect many people will have some experience in one or two of the 4 main BSD operating systems, but not all.  There will likely be questions testing some of the differences between these 4, so it would be a very good idea to get a copy of each OS (or get the official BSDA DVD for $40 which has them all) and practice installing them to real hardware or in a virtual machine (qemu, vmware, virtualbox, etc).  Areas to focus on are the different installers, source and binary packaging systems, different firewall systems, and nuances in network configuration.  You should also know the release locations and numbering/naming schemes used by each operating system.


I'm most familiar with FreeBSD.  I'm going to have to put in a little effort to familiarize myself with the other *BSD's on the exam, and as I do, I plan to chronicle my efforts here in the hopes that it may be useful to somebody else.