Monday, March 27, 2006

Experience on Microsoft Office Specialist (PowerPoint)

Introduction
I just took and passed the Microsoft Office Specialist Certification for PowerPoint today. Basically, this certification is to test your skills on using Microsoft Office. The time limit given will be 50mins, which is short. It uses a live system which basically tracks what you are doing, then compile the score. You are also not allowed to backtrack after you proceed to the next question. You will be required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) before you take the exam.

So here I am, gonna share some general experiences (which does NOT include anything found inside the Exam, because I am not allowed to reveal anything inside as stated in the NDA.) to anyone who is interested in taking one in the future. :)

If you have never ever heard of Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) before, check up this link for more information: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/officespecialist/default.asp
You can also check out the Exam Preparation Guides found here:
http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/officespecialist/requirements.asp

Here goes...

Understanding more about MOS certification
Currently, I am participating in WorldSkills Competition for IT Software Category (http://www.worldskills.com). Participants are required to compete locally and then selected, compete again, and finally send one national champion to overseas to compete against other participants. A very tough competition I would say. We attended Workshops on Ms Office and also took some mock tests on the past national skills papers. (A little off-topic here, but I will explain more about this later on)

I then came upon my school's site ( http://www.sp.edu.sg/departments/ms/Events/MOS2005-after/MOS2004-05.htm ), which brought me interest on the Microsoft Office Specialist certification. I browsed through the competition within my school, where the winners comprise of students from School of Business, Chemical & Life Sciences and Electrical & Electronic Engineering. Out of the winners, two which I personally know of. I was quite surprise though, that there aren't any winners that comes from School of Info-Comm Technology. I remember seeing this event on SP's site, but didn't heard any lecturers mentioning about it. I then gathered more information through sites like Singapore 2004 and 2005 Microsoft Office Academic Skills Challenge ( http://www.officespecialist.com.sg/challenge2004/index.htm | http://www.officespecialist.com.sg/challenge2005/). I also saw a part saying some winners completed exam within 8 minutes of the 50 minutes given. This is like, "wow", that simple? I don't know. Since i'm bored at home, I decided to try one. Of course, I did start with PowerPoint since that's my forte. ;)

Locating for an Authorized Training Centre
This seems harder than taking the test. I first start off with contacting the auhorized training centres in Singapore at this page ( http://www.officespecialist.com.sg/trainingcenters.htm ). Have a first few tries which doesn't seem successful. I even got a number which ends up telling me they don't give MOS exams here. So why is this company stated in the Authorized Training Centres page? I have no idea.

I then called up Singapore Polytechnic Maths and Science department since I might get a cheaper price taking the exam as a student in my school. The result was that the receptionist answering the call have no idea on the MOS exams, which I then have to make a call to the organizer for Singapore Polytechnic Microsoft Office Academic Challenge instead. Unfortunately again, the call was directed to a voice mailbox. So I have to go all the way searching the Singapore Polytechnic intranet for another organizer. The organizer/lecturer told me that to give a date. I was pretty sure I wanted to do the test right now, immediately, this moment or ASAP. But it ends up that the organizer is not free at the moment, and I am only allowed to do the test about two weeks later.

Starting to feel despaired, I contacted NTUC CertCentral Pte Ltd ( http://www.certcentral.com.sg/ ) which I previously emailed them to ask for information. The price wasn't cheap though. They told me that I have to pay around S$120 dollars. Fortunately, my parents have agreed to pay for me previously. So I have to tell them that I will be taking the test today before I make a trip to NTUC CertCentral. I will need to bring my Identification Card and also passort (which contains signature). The passport has expired, but I was told me to come to NTUC CertCentral so they can have a look.

Registration period
Didn't really prepare much, just spend around 30 minutes looking through all the aspects which will be tested on. So I went all the way to NTUC CertCentral. Took a lift to 34th floor. Took out my passport, which I think it wasn't accepted since it has already expired. I was then prompted to take out any identification which contains signature and etc. I replied that I have none. Luckily, my SP Concession card was accepted. I was also asked whether I am taking this test as an individual. They also asked how I got to know CertCentral is having the MOS certification. This sounds weird to me, so I answered them that I found CertCentral from Microsoft site.

After some double checking, I was allowed to take the certification at a student price of S$88+ dollars. I registered and signed the Non-Disclosure Agreement. Next, I need to put my belongings (mobile phone, keys, wallet, etc) into a locker.

Taking the exam
Finally, I entered a computer room. I was briefed with some instructions. You can't do a trial run, hence, you will have to adapt quickly on the live system. There is also a bell button which I can press to ask for help if needed. So I read through the Exam and started shortly. The exam isn't hard, but isn't easy either since the duration is also taken into account. It consists of 15-20 questions. Each question may involved a few tasks. The exam went through breezily. At the end of the exam, the system will take some time calculating my score. So I thought I gonna get near full marks, which I was quite confident on. But unfortunately, no. After which, I had to print out the Examination Score Report. My score is:

Score: 818 out of 1000
Grade: Pass

Section Analysis
1. Creating Content (78%)
2. Formatting Content (82%)
3. Collaborating (75%)
4. Managing and Delivering Presentations (89%)

Quite confident that I got all correct, but I guess I took my time reading the questions and double checking my answers. But I didn't expect the time would eat off pretty amount of marks.

The Comparison
If you will to compare Microsoft Office Specialist with WorldSkills, I wouldn't say which is easier or harder. Both actually cover different aspects. In WorldSkills' IT Software Category, you are required to build a presentation from scratch or modify the presentation. And some of the questions may go into details such as macro and handling VBA. The competition isn't straightforward as you will need to compete to become national finalist before participating in the WorldSkills internationally.

On the other hand, Microsoft Office Specialist (I only took PowerPoint for now) covers every aspect of the Office product. There will not (probably never) be 2 questions which covers same topic. Hence, if you are asked to apply slide transitions (Requirements found here: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/officespecialist/objectives/PowerPoint2003.asp), you will probably see this question only once. In addition, you can't use the Help feature or Office Assistant. That is to say, you must be very familiar with the Office product/s to obtain a good score by completing the questions given as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Summary
So that marks the end of my Microsoft Office Specialist Certification for PowerPoint. I'm glad that I am now a Microsoft Certified Office Specialist (MOS - PowerPoint), now having another certification to add on to my resume. The actual certificate will arrive after 4 - 6 weeks.

After my exam, I went to MOS Burger (Mountain, Ocean, Sun :D) to have a bite. Ahh, what a MOS day :)

Heard that 2006 Microsoft Office Academic Skills Challenge is coming soon at around May 2006. I might take the chance to participate at Word and Excel categories if I get the chance to. The price is certainly cheaper, but the challenge is only on Word and Excel.

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