If you are trying to get ahead in you career today, you will know that the computer skills you have under your belt are what will make the difference between you moving up the ladder or down. When it comes to trying to prove your computer competency in using office applications there is no other certification path that stands out like the Microsoft Office Specialist program. With over 3 million exams now undertaken and well over 2 million Microsoft Office Specialist Certificates issued, this certification has become the one to get to prove your skills in using Microsoft Office.
One thing I have found though is that many people fail these exams first time around and there really is no reason for it. The way the Microsoft Office Specialist exam works is that you will be taken into a room and sat at a computer. On this computer you will be asked by the computer to carry out a series of tasks. Each set of tasks is designed to represent tasks you would be expected to do on a day-to-day basis.
These exams really are a good representation of what people would be expected to do on a day-to-day basis. I should say I am a little bias since I am a Microsoft Office Specialist Master Instructor and my company is a Microsoft Office Specialist Authorised Testing Centre but having trained about 4,000 to 5,000 students through my training centre in Townsville, Australia the certification exams really do represent the skills you would be expected to perform in your workplace.
There are in fact seven exams in the Microsoft Office Specialist Program and they are the Microsoft Word Core and Expert Exams, Microsoft Excel Core and Expert Exams, Microsoft Outlook Core Exam, Microsoft PowerPoint Core Exam and the Microsoft Access Core Exam. If you were a Secretary or Personal Assistant, I would expect at a minimum you would have passed the Microsoft Word Core Exam and the Microsoft Excel Core Exam. If you hold the position of a salesman, I would expect you to have the same certifications as the Personal Assistant or secretary plus the Microsoft PowerPoint Core certification and maybe the Microsoft Excel Expert Certification and Microsoft Access Core Certification.
Ok, so how do we prepare for these exams.
First of all, you need to choose how you want to study for these exams. In terms of passing these exams it doesn't matter whether you want to do a course at a training centre, buy a self paced training program or doing the training on the Internet. Use the form of training that you feel most comfortable with. Me personally, I prefer to use self-paced training where as many of my students prefer classroom based training. Each training method has its own advantages and disadvantages. One thing to note, if you are going to go to a training centre, make sure at the very least they are a Microsoft Office Specialist Testing Centre and that they will give you a training manual and exercise disk to take home with you to keep. If the training centre doesn't give you a manual then don't waste your time with the course even if they might be the cheapest. In computer training, cheapest definitely does not mean the best.
Step 1. Once you have done the course or studied the Self-Paced material make sure you redo all the material within 7-days!
One mistake many people make, is thinking that they can do a two-day computer training course then walk away as an expect. If that's what you think, than it is totally fanciful. Computer Training is like a sport, if you want to be a professional then you must train as a professional. The first step you need to do in any training regime is to go back through all the material you did in the computer training course in the first 7 days after you the finish of the course.
Studies have shown over the years, that each 7 days you don't review your material, you will loose 50% of the material. Each week you don't review the material you loose another 50% which means in 6 weeks or so, you will remember nothing from your course. All in all you may as well, not have done the course in the first place.
Step 2. Write a brief statement in your own words, the key terms used during your course.
The next thing you must DO! Is to write a brief statement in your own words about all the key terms you learnt during the course or in your self-paced material. One of the challenges you will have in the exam is deciphering what they are asking you to do. Sometimes, I have found the language is very difficult to understand because it is written in American English (no offence intended to my American colleagues). In one of my Microsoft Outlook Core Exams, I was certain I was going to fail the exam. The only reason I passed was by identifying the key terms in the text that related to the application and by knowing those I worked out in each question what exactly they were asking me to do.
Step 3. Practice, Practice, Practice - Get lots of Practice Exercises
The next thing you must do is to get as much practice as possible. Most training schools will have structured their material so that at the end of each topic you will have some questions to answer and also some sort of homework exercise to do that will put all the tasks together into one exercise. The key here is to practice as much as possible. Check out the internet for places where you can get lots of practical exercises or make up some of your own.
Step 4 - Do a Pre-Assessment Exam to see if you are ready.
One thing I have learnt from doing these professional exams is that they are absolutely nothing like the exams you would have undertaken at school, college or at University. My recommendation that I would make to anyone sitting computer certification exams is to purchase a pre-assessment exam for the exam you want to take. What the pre-assessment exams do is to test your skills prior to sitting the real exams. Most of the pre-assessment exams I have seen are pretty good and pretty close to the real exams. I personally recommend either the pre-assessment exams from Certiport, Transcender or Self-Test Software.
When you do the pre-assessment exam, you should score 80% or above on the first go. If you don't, do not do what I have seen many people do, and that is to just keep doing the exam till you get all the questions right. What will happen if you do this is you will build up a memory of the questions and you end up knowing the requirements of the question without truly being able to interpret what the question is asking you to do.
Once you have done the exam once; DO NOT under any circumstances re-do that exam for 7 days. This will help stop the memory build up, of the questions.
What you MUST do once you have completed the pre-assessment exam and got a result is to look at the results of the test and find out which questions you got wrong and go back and study those areas more thoroughly. Then, after you have reviewed the material and waited 7 days, then try the pre-assessment test again.
You should in the second attempt score 90% or better. If you do achieve this then you are ready to sit the real exam. If you don't, then you need to follow the same process again for the next 7-days.
After the third time using the same Pre-Assessment exam, I recommend people try a different pre-assessment exam before being 100% sure they will pass the exam. The more you use the same exam, the bigger risk you face in retaining that memory of questions.
Most pre-assessment exams usually come with 2 or 3 different exams to try. If after three attempts of each pre-assessment exam and you still find that you can't pass at 80% or better, I would strongly recommend finding a mentor and also checking to make sure the training material you have purchased is covering the required material.
Step 5 - Pass the Microsoft Office Specialist Certification Exam!
Obviously once you have done this much training and practice and you have passed your pre-assessment exams you are now ready to sit the real exam. One thing to remember, Microsoft Office Specialist Exams are commercial exams and because of this, if you fail the exam, you have to pay to resit the exam. The cost to resit these exams can vary from as low as $80 US to $135 US, in many cases the prices are set by the Microsoft Office Specialist Testing Centre.
The good news is that if you have followed the steps I have outlined, I will be very surprised if you didn't pass on your first attempt.
Step 6 - You Are Finally A Microsoft Office Specialist