Microsoft Office 2010 (MOS): practice products for Core and Expert certifications

December 13, 2011 at 9:20 am | Posted in Microsoft, Transcender news | Leave a comment
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Transcender has partnered with G*Metrix, a technology testing provider, to offer you the Microsoft Office 2010 practice test products! Those who are familiar with our Office 2003 and Office XP products will find the same ease of grading and remediation text in the G*Metrix products. The Microsoft Word and Excel practice tests will also include a third pool of Transcender’s practice questions and corresponding explanations.

Users can choose from testing mode or training mode. 

In either mode, the format and appearance of the test engine mirrors a live exam. The task(s) to be solved for each item appear(s) at the bottom of the screen below a fully enabled version of the Office 2010 product being tested. In training mode only, users can click the question mark at the lower right-hand corner of the screen and pull up a full tutorial that explains each step of the action to take to complete the task.

The practice test application is available as a download that installs on your computer.  Because this simulates a live-in-the-application test, you must also have your own copy of Office 2010 installed to run the exam.  

For more information on passing your Office 2010 exams, check out our earlier blog posts:

Taking the Office 2010 exams: the rolling stone gathers the MOS

August 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Performance-Based Testing, Study hints | 11 Comments
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“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.

The preparation

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.

The experience

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.

The results

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.


The experience

Office 2010: Slice Excel Data Your Way

April 5, 2010 at 9:54 am | Posted in Microsoft, Technical Tips | Leave a comment
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Now that you’ve learned how to quickly summarize your Excel data, we’ll conclude the new features in Excel 2010 with the slicer.

The slicer is a  filter you can apply to PivotTables and PivotCharts. Slicers can add or remove elements from a table display and be reused across multiple tables. Enough theory; enter the real-world.

Let’s say that you work for a big pharmaceutical company and you’ve got the following data (excerpted only).

So, to allow sales managers to parse the data easily, you create a PivotTable as follows:

But maybe a sales manager wants to filter the data dynamically by drug name or category value. What can you do?

This is where the slicer comes into play. Let’s create two slicers: one for the drug name and the other for the category. A sales manager can then filter the data to display only non-drug sales as follows.

If you select option(s) from the Category slicer, then only drugs from those categories are available in the Pharmaceutical slicer to filter. Only those options selected in these slicers will be displayed in the PivotTable. These slicers can then be applied to other PivotTables or PivotCharts.

The slicer highlights non-filtered fields and displays a lighter highlight for fields that do not match the filter criteria. You can even customize the color scheme and general appearance of these slicers to your heart’s content.

So, don’t be intimidated by manager requests for data filtering. Give them some slicers and let them do their own filtering with Excel 2010’s new interface.

Office 2010: Spark some interest in Excel!

February 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Technical Tips | Leave a comment
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Continuing our tour through the new features of Office 2010, we move into Excel. The new version of Excel includes graphic improvements in conditional formatting and new functions for engineering and cube analysis (if you don’t know what a data cube, you’re better off not knowing). But Excel has some mores surprises in store. Namely, sparklines and slicers.

To understand what a sparkline is, we need to revisit a common problem with data tables and charts.

If you want to ensure that your meeting audience doesn’t nod off and wake  up in their own drool, you need to make data interesting. So, you make a chart. But, then that one person gets all up tight and insists on seeing the numbers, and you have to fumble around to look it up. Wouldn’t be swell if you could keep your data table, but still retain a bit of that chart excitement?

Enter sparklines. Sparklines are basically inline summary charts. To use one, you simply select a data range and then choose the Line, Column, or Win/Loss style. The SparkLine tools section provides many customization options. You can choose whether to mark the low and high point markers, modify the line or bar style, and set the sparkline and marker colors.

So now our data table has a visual summary column as follows.

Hey! I never promised the next James Cameron 3D epic, but it certainly works better for those visualizers out there, right? Next session, we’ll focus on the new analysis cube features and slices!

–Joshua Hester aka codeguru, Transcender’s MCAS test developer and in-house nerf herder

Office 2010: A Tool That’s Worth a Thousand Words

February 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Microsoft | Leave a comment
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As the impending release of Office 2010 looms, we here at Transcender are preparing for the next generation of MCAS certification exams. So what better time is there than now to highlight the new features of Office 2010? Rather than bore you with a laundry list of nuanced improvements, though, we’ll focus on a new functionality for each of the applications in the Office 2010 suite.

Remember that this is the Technical Preview and some features may change by the final release.

Let’s begin the journey with Word 2010, the desktop workhorse. Since Word 2007, many advanced formatting features available in previous versions have been exposed through the Office Ribbon. (On that note, Microsoft Office Labs recently released the Ribbon Hero game to help power users adapt better to the Ribbon interface.)

Office 2010 Ribbon

The Ribbon was introduced in 2007, and looks largely unchanged in 2010. However, a brand-new functionality in Word 2010 is the suite of built-in artistic effects for graphics. For example, let’s take the following image and apply some artistic effects.

Original Image

The Artistic Effects menu provides some intriguing Adobe Photoshop-style filters to make things interesting. It provides everything from pencil and brush strokes to screen effects. And the preview function, introduced in Office 2007, lets you quickly see an application preview in the menu itself.

So we can make the image look like a pencil drawing with the Pencil Grayscale effect …

Image with Pencil

Or apply the Plastic Wrap effect for more 3D impact …

Image with Plastic Wrap

Or if you are going for something completely different, then you can use the Glow Edges effect (black light bulb optional) …

In Word 2010, as in Word 2007, you can still apply color corrections, 3D and shadow effects, and compress and crop images. To retrieve these screenshots, I used the new Screenshot menu. From this menu, you can also insert screenshots (captured using the PrintScreen key) into Word documents.

Word 2010 also offers many advanced layout options specifically geared toward books and other publication types.

That concludes the new graphic bling in Word. Next week, we’ll move onto the new data analysis capabilities in Excel 2010.

–Joshua Hester aka codeguru, Transcender’s MCAS test developer

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