When I was in high school, I took a class called Computer Information Systems 1 and 2 that allowed me to earn five Microsoft Office Specialist certifications in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, as well as additional Expert certifications in Word and Excel. These certifications were by far one of the most common things I was asked about during college interviews and were considered to be more impressive than taking AP classes, since having strong tech skills and experience in productivity applications is critical for college and workplace success. Since taking the exams in high school, I have renewed my certifications again and earned additional certifications through Microsoft, and use at least one thing I learned from studying for these exams every day. Here are my tips for studying for and taking the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exams, and how to get approved for disability accommodations.
How I practiced for the exam
I use Microsoft products every day, so I was already familiar with a lot of the basics of using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint prior to studying for these certifications. One of the strategies that helped me to learn to navigate through these applications efficiently was to memorize the order that various functions appeared on the toolbar and menus, as well as familiarize myself with various keyboard shortcuts that could help me enable features more quickly.
The first time I earned these certifications, I was in a structured high school class where my teacher would give us structured in-class activities or have us do practice exams with a tool called GMetrix. When I took the certifications again years later, I looked at the exam skills outline listed on the Microsoft website and worked independently with each application to make sure I knew how each function listed in the exam outline worked, referencing support documentation as needed. I probably spent a total of 45 hours studying before taking each certification.
- Designing Accessible Documents With Microsoft Word
- How To Create Accessible PowerPoints
- Seven Accessibility Features You Didn’t Know Existed In Microsoft Office
Registering for the Microsoft Office Specialist exam
With the exception of one exam, I have taken all of my Microsoft certifications in-person and took each exam one at a time. Thanks to a partnership with my high school, I was able to take the Microsoft Office Specialist 2013 exams for free and was able to take additional exams years later through a free partnership with my local library. Without these programs, each exam would have cost around $100, not including any additional proctor fees that might be charged by the testing center. Most exams also offer a free or discounted second attempt for students who do not pass the first time.
Before registering for the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam online, I highly recommend doing some research to see if there are options to get an exam discount or waiver through local programs or testing centers, or free proctoring sites such as libraries.
Getting approved for disability accommodations
When I took the exams in high school, my Computer Information Systems teacher handled the disability accommodations process on my behalf through Certiport. Since I had an IEP for low vision, my approved testing accommodations were very similar to what I received in the classroom and were automatically approved. When I took other certifications outside of high school, I submitted disability documentation on my own through Pearson VUE and shared a copy of my college disability services file, listing accommodations from the Pearson website that I would need. With both instances, it took about three weeks to get my disability accommodations approved before testing day.
Testing accommodations I was approved for on the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam include:
- Use of magnification software and large print
- 200% extended time
- Use of tinted prescription glasses
- Private room for testing
- Additional break time
- Read aloud/ask proctor to read information as needed
- Available exam accommodations and associated documentation requirements | Microsoft Learn
- Testing Accommodations For Low Vision Students
- Seven Unexpected Disability Accommodations For Virtual Learning
What is the exam like?
While each exam varies, most of the Microsoft Office Specialist exam revolves around creating documents with various features or functions included and is 60 minutes long. I strongly recommend checking out the Microsoft Exam User Interface Sandbox prior to taking the exam(s) to see what the testing structure looks like and how to answer questions with assistive technology.
- Exam duration and question types | Microsoft Learn
- Earning The Google GSuite Certification With Low Vision
How MOS Certification exams have helped me
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, my Microsoft Office Specialist certifications were the most-asked about item on my resume while I did college interviews, as my interviewers said that it was impressive to see that someone was serious about learning how to use productivity applications and they had the credentials to prove their skills. I’ve used the skills I learned while studying for these exams across various high school and college classes including general education classes as well as courses for my degree programs in data science and assistive technology, and love being able to create documents quickly and effectively using the shortcuts I learned. These skills were also incredibly helpful for when I held different internships, including a program management internship at Microsoft, as I was able to organize information easily and knew about various features that are used by customers.
- Ten Tech Skills Every College Student Needs
- Ten Tech Skills Every College Student Needs For Virtual Classes
- College Interview Tips For Disabled Students
Additional tips for taking the Microsoft Office Specialist exam with low vision
- Microsoft Office Specialist certifications do not expire, though new and updated exams are released on a scheduled basis
- In most cases, users are notified of their exam score and if they passed/failed as soon as they finish the exam
- Not all Microsoft Office Specialist exams are offered at each testing center or remotely- Microsoft Learn is the best source for finding information on where to take exams