Dave Murphy
Ann Murphy

In this article, we answer the most frequently asked questions about official Microsoft Excel certifications:

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What is the Excel certification?

Official Microsoft Excel Certifications are obtained by taking a Microsoft Office Specialist Excel (MOS) exam. An individual earning this certification will show that they have proven, practical skills in Excel. Such certifications are recognized worldwide and provide an authenticated evaluation of your skills in Microsoft Excel.

Excel certifications are available at two levels: 

Further, there are versions of Excel certification available for different versions of Excel.

The exams for Excel 365 or Excel 2019 Certification are:

The equivalent exams for Excel 2016 certification are:

Each certification has approximately 150 hours of training and practice attached. That means that approximately 150 hours of instruction (or approximately 150 hours of hands-on training) will be needed. Both instruction and hands-on training is usually advised for complete mastery.

MO-200 Microsoft Excel 365/2019 Associate Certification

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What skills are needed for Excel certifications?

Microsoft sets out the requirements for each exam in what they call the Objective Domain for that exam. This is a categorized list of the skills you need to master to pass the exam.

As an example, there are five sections in the Objective Domain for Associate Excel Certification. These show the rough shape of the exam requirements.

1.   Manage Worksheets and Workbooks

2.   Manage Data Cells and Ranges

3.   Manage Tables and Table Data

4.   Perform Operations by using Formulas and Functions

5.   Manage Charts

We’ve reproduced one section of the Objective domain in the table below. Each section is divided into numbered items, each of which is associated with a set of specific Excel techniques.

4.2Calculate and Transform Data
4.2.1Perform calculations by using the AVERAGE(), MAX(), MIN() and SUM() functions
4.2.2Count cells by using the COUNT(), COUNTA() and COUNTBLANK() functions
4.2.3Perform conditional operations by using the IF() function

To pass the Microsoft Excel Certification Associate exam, you must be proficient in each of the specified techniques.

Your first step in preparing for Excel certification is to ensure that you are aware of the domain requirements and that you need to cover every technique specified. Since there are multiple learning paths, you need to understand your goals for Excel certification first. 

The MO-200 exam in Microsoft Excel 365/2019 demonstrates competency in the fundamentals of creating and managing worksheets and workbooks, creating cells and ranges, creating tables, applying formulas and functions, and creating charts and objects. Candidates in this exam must demonstrate the correct application of the principal features of Excel and be able to complete tasks independently. So, if you pass the MO-200 excel certification exam, you achieve the Excel certification badge at the Associate level.

The MO-201 Excel Expert Certification demonstrates competency in creating, managing, and distributing professional spreadsheets for various specialized purposes and situations. The exam covers the ability to customize Excel environments to meet project needs and enhance productivity. Candidates for this exam must demonstrate the correct application of the principal features of Excel at an expert level and can complete tasks independently. If you pass the MO-201 Excel certification exam, you achieve the Excel certification badge at the Expert level.

Being a MOS Expert shows that you don’t just know Excel; you’ve mastered it.

How demanding are Microsoft certification exams?

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First, you need to be familiar with the techniques being tested. All Excel certification exams, irrespective of the standard being tested, are 50 minutes long. It’s assumed that you have prepared well and are very familiar with all of the specified techniques. 

Many students who fail to make the grade do so because they haven’t prepared for the pressure of the time involved in the Excel certification exam. So, while knowing the software back to front is obviously of critical importance, being ready for the exam pressure, understanding the exam interface, and understanding the structure and requirements of the exam are just as important.

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Anyone, irrespective of their starting point with Excel skills, can pass the Excel certification exams with the proper preparation. It takes effort, practice, and the will to succeed but is within anyone’s grasp.

You can familiarize yourself with the Excel Certification exam interface by looking through online courses and tutorials.

This Certiport video provides an overview of how the test is presented to you on the day of the Excel certification exam. It’s well worth reviewing this a couple of times before taking an exam:

Are there multiple-choice questions in an Excel certification exam? 

There are no multiple-choice questions in an Excel Certification exam. All of the exams are project-based. 

In the Core or Associate Excel Certification exams, you generally get 7 projects, each of which has 5 project tasks. In the Expert level exams, the questions are grouped into 5 projects with 5 or 6 tasks in each. 

All of the exams are allocated 50 minutes for completion. If you don’t finish on time, the exam is automatically terminated, and your score is generated based on the questions that you have answered in the allotted time. 

The pass mark for an Excel certification exam is 70%, and the result is you’ve either ‘passed’ or ‘failed.’ When you complete an exam, you will receive a transcript of your actual marks. However, they do not appear on either your Excel certification or Acclaim badge. 

We recently tutored a student who received full marks (1000/1000) on the Excel Certification Associate exam. This is an example of her transcript, which has been reproduced with permission.

Excel Certification Associate exam example transcript

Are there practice exams available for Excel certification?

Practice Excel certification exams and solutions are well worth investing in because they give you a better sense of the type of questions asked and the best way to answer those questions. Knowing the style in which the questions are asked, being ready for the project-based nature of the exams, and understanding the best approach to take will make a big difference to your chances of success. MOS University provides Practice Exams and Video Solutions for all Excel certification exams.

Which Excel certification should I start with?

That really depends on your current skill levels. As explained earlier, there are essentially two levels of certification – Associate (called Core for Office 2016) and Expert. The best way to determine your current skill level is to explore the standard of questions posed in the exam. Get your hands on sample exams from our courses on Udemy so that you understand the system and the examination process.

Our advice is to purchase sample practice exams and solutions to assess your existing skills. Remember, however, that you need to factor in the lack of experience you have in taking an exam, the nerves that are inherent in the exam itself, and, in particular, the time constraints involved. You might consider yourself an expert, and in fact, you might well be brilliant at using the product you want to be examined in. But there is a massive difference between being good at using a product and being adept at knowing how to pass the excel certification exam!

Are Excel Certifications shown in my LinkedIn profile?

When you get a MOS certification, you can opt to have the certification badge associated with the exam you’ve passed applied automatically on your LinkedIn profile. Potential employers will know that you are equipped with the necessary skills to make work a lot easier. They also know that you will be more productive. 

With Microsoft Excel skills, you can handle more work than someone who has no knowledge of the same. This will increase the company’s productivity and reduce costs simultaneously. So flagging your Excel badges in your LinkedIn profile will reap the rewards for sure!

Passing an Excel Certification exam awards you with an Acclaim badge which may be shared via your email, website, or any other social media platform such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. When your badge is shared, any current or potential employer can click on the link to view the details of your achievement.

How do I sign up to take an Excel certification exam?

Exams are administered for Microsoft by a company called Certiport VUE. To take a MOS Excel exam, you must have a Certiport VUE test candidate account. You can register your candidacy at this link.

Prior to the pandemic, MOS exams were only conducted in supervised exam centers. Most likely, when the current restrictions are relaxed, those centers will begin to operate once again. If that is the case, you will be able to find an exam center near your location. However, under current restrictions, you can take a MOS exam at home using the “Exams from Home” facility. 

If you use this facility, then you will be assigned an online proctor or supervisor who will monitor you as you take the exam. We have used this facility for many of our University students and, while it works very well, it can be a little stressful for both the student and the supervisor, as it requires additional checking of the test environment, distribution of the exam links in a timely manner and other housekeeping issues which don’t arise in a purely physical testing environment.

When you take a test in this manner, you are presented with a virtual environment for whatever software you are being examined on. So in effect, your screen is taken over and monitored by the Proctor. This is fine, except that the screen real estate is a little more restricted than the standard PC interface available in a physical exam center. This may cause you some minor difficulties if you are unaware of the restriction.

How much does it cost to take an Excel certification exam?

To take a MOS exam, you either must have access to a test account through a certified test center, or you may purchase an exam voucher for the specific exam you want to become a candidate for. Vouchers can be purchased through Certiport.

Excel Certification exam vouchers cost in the region of $100 in the United States. Our courses are designed to ensure that you will pass on the first attempt. Of course, sometimes life takes over, and you can’t devote sufficient time to complete your course as planned. If you want to cover such an eventuality, you can purchase the ‘retake’ option because it gives you two chances for a minimal additional cost – $120 rather than $100. Note that the price to take an exam differs depending upon the country in which you are registered.

Exam vouchers are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase and must be used in that timeframe. If you purchase a ‘retake’ option and do not pass the exam on the first attempt, a retake code will be emailed to you. You will be required to wait 24 hours from your initial exam attempt and retake vouchers must also be used within 30 days of the failed exam. If you have other more specific country-specific questions, contact Pearson VUE.

Is an Excel certification worth the cost?

Excel certifications are valuable because employers can depend on them as authentic proof of your skills. If your CV has an official Excel certificate and badge, then the person interviewing you knows that you can hit the ground running in terms of the skills you possess. If you want to enter the job market or shift to a new position, Excel certification can help show that you have the skills you need. 

Although you may be hired without Excel certification, it’s always good to go a step ahead and get the certification first. Every business uses Microsoft Office products, and certified knowledge in Microsoft Excel is becoming a necessity if you want to be relevant in terms of new technology. Apart from retaining your job, you will also increase the chances of earning more as your employer may find it necessary to increase your salary in order to maintain your skills.

Can Excel certifications get you a job?

If you are starting your career, or if you are uncertain which path to take at the moment, adding Excel certifications to your profile could be very beneficial. This is especially true in a competitive job market. 

Excel certifications allow employers to see your independently proven qualifications even before interviewing you. This will definitely enhance your chances of getting the job! You will come up against other job candidates who may have the same degree as yours, but only a few of them will add other certifications. This is why being certified as an Excel Associate or Expert will make you competitive. It’s all about being distinctive.

Microsoft has conducted research that indicates that certified candidates can command up to 15% more in salary than those without official certifications. This will also land you in higher positions. MOS Excel Certification will advance your career and even open doors to pursue other professions that may need it as a starting requirement.

Where do I start?

The best place to start is to purchase and complete the courses most appropriate to your level of Excel certification. Once you are satisfied that your skills are, or will be, ready for the exam, then book your exam slot with Pearson VUE. 

Our courses will provide you with expert guidance on how to prepare and all of the required techniques, and they will provide you with more than sufficient practice for the exam itself. We are experts in preparing students for MOS exams and have tutored many thousands to Excel certification success. 

You can be confident that we can get you ready for success in your journey to becoming certified in Microsoft Excel.

Page Last Updated: February 2022