I took a class during my junior and senior years of high school that allowed students to test for Microsoft Office Specialist certifications. These certifications, which are internationally recognized, included Word, Word Expert, Excel, Excel Expert, and PowerPoint. The Word, Excel, and PowerPoint certifications were done the first year, and the Expert certifications, which are two part exams, were done the second year. These certifications have always stuck out on my resume, and many people have asked me about them.
I was lucky to have a teacher who knew low vision extremely well, as they have a parent with macular degeneration. As a result, they were more than willing to help me with accommodations and ensure that I could access everything. Here are some of the tips and tricks we used for training and testing for the Microsoft Office Specialist certifications. We used Certiport for testing, and I received my Microsoft Office Specialist Master certification in 2015.
My teacher requested accommodations for the following:
- Use of a magnification tool
- Double time on the test
We never had any issues with getting these accommodations. However, it was determined that it was impossible for me to use Microsoft Access, so I never became certified in that.
Accommodations for the Microsoft Office Specialist certifications were filed over a month before I sat for the first exam. We did not need to re-submit them for the other exams, they were automatically approved.
Enlarging Office applications
I had my own special computer in the computer lab that no other student was allowed to use. On this computer, there were two types of magnification software, one created for testing and one for normal use. The display was scaled to 200% so images and windows were larger. Text was also enlarged as large as possible. The Microsoft applications had a colored tint as a background and high contrast buttons too.
For class exercises, we used a software called GMetrix, which allows students to practice doing different tasks and creating documents.
- Instructions can be enlarged by clicking on the white box with text. Next, hold down the control (ctrl) and plus (+) keys until desired text size is reached.
- Before submitting work for review, the user must scale the font size down to the original size from when the document was opened. Otherwise, the software will mark the question as wrong. The same goes for the certification exam.
How the certifications have helped
While studying for these certifications, I learned a lot more about the functions of Microsoft Office. I learned how to create accessible materials quickly, a skill that has benefitted me many times. In addition, I was able to learn how to create high quality projects, and have consistently had the most impressive PowerPoint class project designs. I’ve also been able to help many of my fellow students with Microsoft projects- my suitemates last year would frequently ask me questions about using Microsoft Excel.
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Overall, I couldn’t have been more lucky when it came to getting my certifications. Not only were they a great addition to my resume, but I have been able to use skills I learned from them every day. This class also helped prepare me for taking the Information Systems CLEP exam. Getting one of these certifications is way better than taking an AP class, in my opinion- after all, most employers will be more impressed that you passed an Excel Expert exam than if you passed an AP History exam. I highly recommend taking these exams, no matter what you may study in the future, as this technology is used in every career.