How to get official Excel certification step-by-step

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 18 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies often use spreadsheet software as the driving force behind many aspects of their business in addition to financials and management. Learning how to use Excel to its full potential can help you take control over data and streamline documentation for your entire team. If you want to boost your employability, acquiring certifications in applications like Excel can show employers that you have valuable skills. In this article, we explain how to get Excel certification with a step-by-step guide, discuss the benefits of getting this certification and provide examples of the skills that the exam tests.

What is Excel certification?

Excel certification is an accredited qualification you can obtain to demonstrate to employers that you are proficient in using Microsoft Excel. You get the qualification after completing the minimum number of hours of preparation and learning and taking an exam in person for a small fee. The exam tests a pre-set syllabus of knowledge, so most students take an online course or instructor-led training from an accredited provider. The exams either take place in person at an exam centre with approved Microsoft invigilators or online with another course provider.

Related: 10 advanced Excel skills for CV (and jobs that require them)

How to get an Excel certificate

Getting an Excel certificate is a simple process of finding an exam, following its associated course and taking the exam on a scheduled date. Here, we break down the process and our tips for succeeding step-by-step:

1. Find a provider

Find the right Excel certificate online that you would like to achieve to suit your goals. See whether you can get a fully accredited Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) qualification from Microsoft at a centre near you. If this is not practically possible, there are many other course providers online that hold a licence from Microsoft to provide certification that employers respect. Once you have found a provider, search for as much supporting material as you can to learn about how their exam works.

2. Follow their course

Follow the course, reading the guide from the course provider to prepare for the exam and learn Excel. Some providers prepare you specifically for a MOS exam, whereas others may prepare you for their own licensed exam online. Some providers offer completely online tuition and guides for the course content or hands-on tuition from a specialist tutor. Find whichever solution works for you and follow their course in its entirety.

3. Register for the exam

Schedule your exam on the provider's website as soon as you feel ready to take it on. Make sure you leave enough time to finish the course and prepare thoroughly to avoid taking the exam without having completed your studies. Once you have registered, the provider may send study guides and past papers to help you prepare to take the exam. Depending on waiting times and availability, you may be able to take exams as soon as a month after registering.

Related: How to prepare for an Excel assessment test (with tips)

4. Read the study guide

Regardless of whether you are taking the official Microsoft exam or a separate qualification, make sure you read a study guide in-depth before your exam. There are reliable official guides available online and in print, or alternatively, you can find other guides that cover similar content. Try to study several guides to compare information and ensure it's all up to date. Doing this type of revision in advance of the exam helps you to identify and fill any gaps in your knowledge.

Related: 15 basic Excel formulas to learn (with examples)

5. Take a practice exam

Practice exams and past papers are available online to help you prepare for the exam. While the precise questions are different each year, the exams generally try to address as much of the syllabus as possible in some form of a question. Taking the practice exams helps you measure your ability to answer different question formats under timed conditions. Combine this with frequent revision of key concepts while preparing for the final exam to increase your chances of success.

Related: 9 important academic skills for jobseekers to develop

6. Take the final exam

On your scheduled exam day, head to the exam centre or website and complete your final exam during the allotted time. The exam format is likely to be very similar to any practice papers you completed, but it may contain slightly different question formats. Having a thorough knowledge of Excel and the content of the course increases your chances of succeeding. Typically, questions try to use real-world scenarios that test how you would use Excel tools in a practical professional environment. Passing this exam earns you a certification in Excel, which they mail to your address.

Related: A guide to Power Query in Excel (with definition and FAQ)

What types of Excel certificates are available?

The industry-standard Excel certificate is the MOS qualification, which Microsoft set and examine themselves at centres around the world. When you sign up for the certificate, you select the latest or most relevant version of Office and specify that you are taking an exam in Excel. On passing this, you can later take a further exam to attain the MOS Excel Expert qualification.

To prepare for the exam, make sure you take an online accredited course from a provider that provides training for this particular exam. If you cannot get this particular certificate, there are plenty of other Microsoft-approved certificates available from other providers that employers also value.

Related: How to highlight Excel skills on your CV

What are the requirements for applying for an Excel certificate?

There's no professional or academic requirement to apply for an Excel certificate or take the exam. Each exam grade specifies the number of hours of learning and experience necessary to succeed in the exam, but there's no eligibility requirement to take it. Some higher grades of exams may require that you already complete the lower exam grades with that provider, but this is generally the only formal requirement. One practical requirement is that you have sufficient software on your computer and a stable internet connection to learn Excel and take the exam.

Related: 14 easy certifications you can earn to improve your CV

What knowledge does an Excel exam test?

An Excel certificate tests how a candidate would use MS Excel to solve problems in an example scenario using a business spreadsheet such as a budget, sales invoice or data entry log. Here are some examples of the skills an Excel examination focuses on:

  • Workbook management: This tests a user's ability to properly manage and label workbooks and worksheets in Excel. It may include deciding how best to separate information and best practice for file naming.

  • Data cells and ranges: A fundamental part of Excel is understanding cells, data types and how to specify ranges between cells. Ensure you study the basics that make up Excel fully before taking the exam.

  • Table data: Understanding how to use tables to store and manipulate data in Excel is one of the most powerful tools a professional can use on the platform. Depending on grade, your exam may simply cover basic tables and data or it may venture into more complex tools such as pivot tables.

  • Formulae and functions: Excel certificates thoroughly test your knowledge of how to use functions and formulae to manipulate and sort data. The exam may have you demonstrate how to perform certain functions or simply ask you what sort of function is most appropriate for a scenario they provide.

  • Advanced functions: Higher-level Excel certifications may cover advanced functions such as macros, Power Query and pivot tables, which automate complicated sequences of actions. Learn how each of these advanced functions work and include them in your exam answers if the situation calls for them or would benefit from their use.

Related: How to create a macro in Excel (a step-by-step guide)

What are the benefits of getting an Excel certificate?

Getting an accredited Excel certificate demonstrates to employers that you have proficiency with Excel, in particular with the knowledge that the syllabus tests. Here are some examples of the benefits of getting an Excel certificate:

  • Teaches useful knowledge: Committing to an Excel qualification motivates you to properly learn how to use Excel in a practical environment and master its basic functions. Getting a certificate from an accredited course provider ensures that you are learning useful real-world knowledge and reassures employers that you have proper training.

  • Validates abilities: An Excel certification shows that you can work with Excel applications and tools such as formulae, macros, pivot tables and other complex tools.

  • Eases recruitment: Earning a certificate makes it easy for recruiters to know exactly how proficient you are with Excel, which can streamline the hiring process and training periods. An Excel certification makes you a more reliable prospective hire than another candidate who says they are proficient in Excel but has no official certificate.

  • Provides qualification: Excel certificates are a real qualification that can be especially useful to people who do not have academic qualifications, such as a management, IT or financial degree. Since Excel's fundamentals rarely change significantly enough to outdate your knowledge, it isn't necessary to frequently renew the certificate.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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