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Getting Certified in Microsoft Office: Special Insights

Getting Certified in Microsoft Office: Special Insights

July 31, 2017 in Microsoft Office, Corporate IT Training / by Craig Gerdes

Are you interested in earning a higher salary?  Do you like being on the fast track to a possible new promotion?  Are you attracted to the idea of earning recognition for your hard-earned knowledge and skills?  Then a Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification may be just right for you!  It certainly would add something extra on your resume and set you apart from your coworkers or other job seekers.

This article will share some helpful insights into the certification process including describing the different levels of achievement available, the best methods to study and practice for the exams, practical tips from a recent completer (me!), and much more.

What is the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification?

The Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification is for anyone looking to demonstrate proficiency in one or more Office programs. Exams for 2016 Microsoft Office are available in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook (SharePoint and OneNote are available for the 2013 version).  Expert level certification is also available in Word and Excel.  Furthermore, you can earn Master level certification by passing three required exams (Word Expert, Excel Expert, and PowerPoint) and then one of the elective exams (Access or Outlook).

Office-Specialist-Badge Expert-Badges Master-Office-Specialist

Where do I Take an Exam?

Certiport administers Microsoft Office Specialist exams. You can locate a testing center in your area by going to http://www.certiport.com/Locator.

What is the Exam Format?

Exams are primarily performance-based and conducted in a “live,” or simulated, environment. This creates a real-world testing experience for candidates. A candidate will complete several tasks that build on each other to develop projects. Candidates must understand the purpose and common usage of the program functionality in order to complete the tasks successfully in each of the projects. For example, a Word exam might ask a user to create a newspaper article using several design, layout, and formatting options. A typical exam consists of approximately 5 projects with approximately 5 tasks per project.  These are timed exams and the typical amount of time allotted is 50 minutes.

When Will I Know My Results?

After you complete an exam, your results will display on your screen immediately, and you can print, if desired. A passing score is 700 out of 1000 points. The score report will also display a section-by-section analysis. Those who pass will receive by mail an official certificate within approximately two to three weeks.  Digital badges to share on your social media profiles will be available almost immediately.

How do I Prepare to Insure Success?

The good news is that Centriq students who have completed any of the classes in Microsoft Office programs at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels are well prepared to take and pass these exams. The books Centriq uses in all Microsoft Office classes include exercises and activities that tie directly to MOS exam objectives.  For easy reference, an appendix in the back of each book lists each MOS objective tested and the corresponding activity or exercise.

Candidates can also consider purchasing practice tests at Gmetrix at https://gmetrix.com or study guides from Microsoft Press at https://www.microsoftpressstore.com.   Another option is to connect with other candidates and engage in good conversations regarding the certification process by following Microsoft Learning’s Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/MSLearning.

Finally, just going to Microsoft Learning at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning and reviewing the skills measured on the exam and making sure you can perform them (and if you can’t, study or use Help to learn) will pay big dividends in making sure you are prepared.  Below is an example from the PowerPoint exam:

Microsoft-Office-Specialist

Some Practical Tips for Taking an Exam

  • Watch your time. Remember you only have 50 minutes to complete 5 projects so that is approximately 10 minutes per project.  Furthermore, remember each project has approximately 5 tasks so that is approximately 2 minutes per task.  Do not get stuck on a difficult question early on and run out of time at the end.  Mark the question instead and return to it later after answering other, perhaps easier, questions.  Knowing exactly how many questions you can miss and still pass can relieve some of the stress (usually no more than 6 or 7 total). Use any keyboard shortcuts available to you to help save time.
  • Read questions carefully and answer them even more carefully. Do not allow the time pressure affect your ability to understand completely what is being asked.  Questions on Access queries and Excel functions/formulas are especially difficult to read and comprehend.  Make sure you are completely clear on the steps you are going to take before jumping in to solve the task.  Make sure you do not miss important distinctions when reading. In Excel for example, did the question state to use a function or a formula or select a column range or a table range?  When typing your answers, a misplaced or missing comma, quote mark, or parentheses may mean the difference between getting the question right or wrong.

So there you have it…some basic facts and suggestions to help you pursue a Microsoft Office Specialist certification.  Obviously, the extrinsic benefits (salary, promotion, recognition) are all well worth the time, effort, and cost.  But the intrinsic benefits of self-confidence and pride that come by validating your expertise to yourself is just as important if not more important.  Good luck in your endeavors!

More information at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/certification-overview-mos.aspx.

Craig Gerdes earned his Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master certification in July 2017.  He has taught Microsoft Office software to adult students in a variety of settings since 1989.  Craig has a Master’s degree in Adult, Occupational, and Continuing Education.