Taking the Office 2010 exams: the rolling stone gathers the MOSAugust 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Performance-Based Testing, Study hints | 11 Comments
Tags: MOS, Office 2010, test-taking tips
“A rolling stone gathers no moss.” — English proverb
Earlier this month, a couple of colleagues and I took the new Word and Excel 2010 core exams. Of the three of us, I was the only person who had never sat for an Office exam, but I’ve been a Microsoft Word user since installing Office for Windows 1.0 from a 5 1/4″ floppy, so I didn’t think I’d have any problems.
Although they were released on June 30, the Office 2010 Word and Excel exams were not available in our nearest and dearest testing centers. As it turns out the bleeding edge of MOS certification is located in rural Rome, Georgia, two hours outside of Atlanta, on the 25,000-acre campus of Berry College. The drive was long, but the scenery was gorgeous: farm fields, rolling hills, and periodic “See Rock City!” billboards.
Sidebar: My favorite sight was a group of teenagers on horseback riding up to a gas station to buy sodas.
Once we finally got to Rome, as several roads turned out not to lead there at all, our Certiport test proctor was wonderfully accommodating, and more than pleased to have three guinea pigs for the new exam series.
Before setting out, of course, we thoroughly reviewed the published exam objectives. They’re more detailed and explicit than the 2007 counterparts.
As objectives go, these are pretty unambiguous. Notice, however, that the objectives range in complexity; saving an open document as a template is much simpler than performing mail merge tasks. We also expected that the Ribbon would be key to the exam experience, so we made sure we knew what each button accomplished.
The fine print
The MOS exams are each 50 minutes long and ask a series of scenario-based questions. These first two Office 2010 exams are similar to their 2007 predecessors in that the exams are live-in-the-application, meaning you are using a full version of the software with the Help function disabled. Pop-ups are still active (for example, if you hover your mouse over the B button on the Home tab, a note will pop up saying “Make the selected text bold”).
While it seems you’re allowed to take any path to a result, there’s no crying in baseball and there’s no backtracking in MOS. Once you finish with a scenario, you have to move on to the next set of questions without the option of returning later. If you get mired inside of one scenarios and need to start over, there’s a handy “Reset” button. This resets only the active question, not the entire test.
We started with the test we thought would be more difficult for us: Excel 2010. Josh started pounding through it like a machine. George was sweating a little, but I could hear the steady click click clicks from his terminal. Meanwhile, Excel stomped me into the dirt. Now, I hate to lose and I hate to fail, but I have to admit this failure was a badly needed lesson for me.
I’m an adequate daily user of Excel 2007. I had reviewed the 2007-to-2010 feature changes, but gaps in knowledge aside, I can truthfully say the live exam killed me for one reason alone: I didn’t watch my time. While George and Josh clicked feverishly along, I pondered and guessed and spent long minutes hunting up and down the menus. End result: I didn’t even get to a third of the questions, while the guys both finished with minutes to spare. There were most likely more questions I could have answered, but just didn’t get to.
Unlike the 2007 objectives for Excel, the 2010 exam Objectives focus much more on graphics than on formulas and functions. So take a tip from my hard-learned lesson – don’t sweat the small stuff, mind the clock, focus on the task at hand, and manipulate the data in the way the tasks require, and you should be able to click, click, click with time to spare.
After a brief break, we moved on to Word 2010. I expected to get 100% (I was seriously miffed that I scored just under 90%). Again, this was a test where you had to know exactly which menu or mouse-click hid your required task and go straight to it if you expected to finish on time. Given my broader knowledge of Word, I was able to blast through nine-tenths of the questions I saw and then grant myself a bit of leeway one of the harder scenarios, testing different options until I had as close to a correct answer as I could manage. But I had learned my lesson from Excel, and kept my eye on the ticking clock as I went through the test.
One of us left the test center with two sparkly new certifications (overachiever!), while the rest of us (yours truly included) proudly walked away with one certification each.
Look for one more blog post in the Office 2010 series where I go over the targeted study advice we wish we’d followed before taking the exams.