help me Excel
July 26, 2010 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Passing an MS Office test with flying colors.

I am applying for a job that will, apparently, test me on my MS Office skills. I'm very proficient with Word, Excel, etc., but my technique is more "use common sense to figure it out" than "of course I know this trick directly off the top of my head!" What do you think are the things I should make sure to know how to do, going into this interview?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Mail merge is the first thing that comes to mind, that you might not already know but will be expected to.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:44 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm always asked about macros on Excel tests. And I still manage to get the job without understanding them.
posted by something something at 12:45 PM on July 26, 2010

Which version of Office, and will you be expected to know Access and PowerPoint as well? And sometimes Outlook and Internet Explorer are included.

I teach Office, and have a 2010 textbook sitting right here...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:48 PM on July 26, 2010

Have you ever taken a software test before? In my experience, software tests are run in simulators rather than the actual program, meaning that your knowledge of keyboard commands and option-clicks won't help you-- you have to know where in the menus various commands are kept, because that's the only way the sim will allow you to perform a task.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:50 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

I took a lot of Office tests this past year while applying for jobs through temp agencies. Almost all of them used the ProveIt! tests. They are very, very easy, except that they don't recognize keyboard shortcuts- you have to do everything with the mouse. This is harder than it sounds if you're used to doing things with the keyboard. Other than that, it was easy to figure things out- I picked up a few things right on the spot.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:51 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry - just noticed you're posting as Anon, so answering questions will be difficult.

Here is a link to the textbook I mentioned (for a semester-long undergrad course.) (NOTE: Crappy web site!) Look right below the big word GO! at the top, and choose from the list of chapters. Then on the left, choose the online study guide. This will give you quizzes on each chapter of the book. If you can pass these quizzes, I'd say you're doing well, because they are pretty detailed. At the very least, they will give you an overview.

GO! with Microsoft Office 2007

posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:57 PM on July 26, 2010

Oops. The textbook I have is the updated version for 2010. It looks like they haven't updated the web site yet.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:57 PM on July 26, 2010

A friend of mine just had to take a test like that for a temp position at a shipping type place and came out with only one problem. She didn't know how to use formulas in Excel. She got the position, but came over to my house after the interview and about hit me and her husband because when she hypothetically asked who knew how to use formulas her husband and I both raised our hands.

From hearing her talk about it though, it is just a lot of common sense stuff. But make sure you know how the test is being scored. I also had a friend do terribly on a final exam because he used keyboard shortcuts instead of going through the menu to get to everything.
posted by theichibun at 1:12 PM on July 26, 2010

Take a look at Pivot Tables.

For some reason, everyone in my office assumes this is the hardest task you can do with Excel.
posted by teabag at 1:45 PM on July 26, 2010

I was going to suggest making sure you know how to use the Help function to find out how to do things that you don't know how to do off the top of your head, but this may not work if you're in a simulation environment.

If it's a test on the real application, however, the Help function is your best friend - it shouldn't be about knowing how to do everything, but about how to find out how to do something new. And if you can do it in the time allowed, then who cares how you get there?

In any case, my suggestions would be:

Word - formatting text, headers / footers, style (headings etc) and creating an index / table of contents, adding a table, page setup, bullets / numbering

Excel - formatting, basic formulae, sort / filter including custom filtering, pivot tables, Vlookup. Macros would generally be for a more specialist role

Powerpoint - formatting (including screen layout and master slide amendment), custom animation, embedding a table / picture

Outlook - usually a given but flagging emails, setting dates for response, use of calendar function to set up recurring appointments / see who's available when

Access - unlikely to be tested unless the job specifically requires it in which case it would be specified

Publisher - uncommon to be tested on
posted by finding.perdita at 1:49 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll second pivot tables and also recommend knowing the vlookup command. Knowing how to reference other cells will also be important.
posted by nalyd at 8:07 AM on July 27, 2010

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