Microsoft Certificates - Office Specialist (MOS)

The Microsoft Office Specialist qualification is aimed at those wanting to become more expert in the software packages that come with Microsoft Office. There are three grades on offer:

  1. Master
  2. Expert
  3. Specialist

You can become a Specialist by passing just one of the following exams:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Access
  • Outlook

As an Expert, you'll concentrate on either Word or Excel. To attain the title of Master, you need to pass the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint exams, plus either Access or Outlook. To give you an example of what's involved, if you've already done the first half of our Excel course, you should have no problems becoming a Specialist. Our full Excel course is equivalent to the Expert grade.

The Exams

The MOS exams are said to be performance based. That is, you are given a set of instruction to follow, typically modifying a business document. For example, if you were doing the Excel exam, you'd open a spreadsheet at a specific location and then answer questions like:

Modify the worksheet in the following manner:

1. Calculate the Average price for the cell range H2 to H29, and place you answer in G29

Each question will be worth 1 to 3 points. For the Specialist qualifications, there will be 15 to 20 questions, and you'll need to perform about 30 to 45 tasks. You don't need to get them all right to pass. But Microsoft being Microsoft, they convert the tasks to a 1000 point scale and then give you an overall grade accordingly.

The exam itself will last 50 minutes, and you take it at an Authorised Testing Centre.


Where to take the exams, and how to study

You can sign up for MOS courses at a training centre close to you. Just ask the provider if they do the Microsoft Office Specialist course. They should be able to advise you. (But see the Authorised Testing Centre link below for your nearest training provider.)

One thing you need to be aware of is that Office 2007 is now on the market, and that it is vastly different from previous versions. Microsoft will soon offer exams for this version, but training providers will have the older versions. This is not a bad thing because businesses will only slowly move to Office 2007, if at all.

You can also buy books, training CDs and sign up for online course, if you want to self-study. When you think you're ready, you would then book an exam at Authorised Testing Centre. To see what's available close to you, see this page on Microsoft's site:

Microsoft's Authorised Testing Centre

Look for training providers who use the Certified Courseware, and who have Authorised Instructors. Many don't, so don't forget to ask!



If you're looking for a first job in an office environment, then becoming a Microsoft Office Specialist (especially a Master) could put you ahead of the competition - it looks good on your CV, and shows that you are willing to learn and train.

If you're not looking for employment in an office environment, then we recommend you leave it on the shelf - there are less expensive ways to get to grips with Microsoft Office. Then again, there's that CV to think of!