CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, January 25, 1999

Test your computer skills
by taking on the MOUS

When is a mouse not a mouse? When it's a MOUS, sans the "e". For years there have been specialized certification training courses in the technology field, but most have been specific to the technical side of computing, such as warranty, repair, maintenance and network configurations. MCSE, Microsoft certified system engineer, MCP, Microsoft certified professional, and A+ are just a few examples of user certifications that authenticate a particular level of technical proficiency.

Now there's a standard for user literacy in the Microsoft Office applications called Microsoft office user specialist, or MOUS. Pronounced like the pointing device, the MOUS certification program was developed by Microsoft for users who wish to measurably demonstrate their expertise in the Office 95/97 suite of applications. MOUS certification is available for proficient and expert levels in programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and FrontPage.

A "proficient specialist" is defined as a user "who can handle a wide range of everyday tasks with ease.

"Expert specialists are expected to do all those everyday tasks, plus handle more complex assignments that require advanced formatting and functionality."

In addition, users who are certified as "expert" in four of the five core Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook), qualify for the Office Integration exam which certifies that they are a "Microsoft office expert." This prestigious title denotes a user who is expert in all Office applications and can effectively integrate them into a "cohesive whole."

The MOUS program, although Microsoft certified, is actually administered by Nivo International (previously known as Marketshare) which holds the exclusive contract from Microsoft to develop and administer the MOUS program. This is done as a two-part process: certifying independent courseware vendors, who publish training materials and establishing authorized testing centers to administer the tests.

Having an actual performance benchmark of computer literacy can have tremendous business benefits. Employers can specify proficient or expert levels when seeking job applicants, or use these standards as performance objectives within the workplace. MS Office literacy standards are also helpful when utilizing temporary personnel or planning for staff training.

The actual tests are paperless and administered at a computer within the application environment. The user is not asked questions, but rather directed to perform specific tasks. This approach truly tests the user's proficiency within each program. In Excel, for example, a sample Expert problem presents the user with a worksheet chart and prompts: "Rotate the category axis titles so that the text appears horizontal 0 degrees."

In addition to being either right or wrong, each question has a baseline time frame in which each task is expected to be completed. Slowpokes are penalized since most tasks have baselines ranging between 20 seconds and 1 minute.

Once the test is complete, the user receives immediate feedback from the testing software and knows the exam results right away. The scores are then transmitted electronically to Nivo in Orem, Utah, and the actual Microsoft certificates are generated from that location.

If you'd like to test your own skills right now, you can download practice exams from the MOUS Web site at www.mous.net You must be connected to the Internet while taking the practice exams as they are synchronized with the testing center. After taking the practice exam, you'll receive immediate feedback on how well you scored. The location of testing centers and approved training courseware are also available through Web site.

OfficeCert.com at www.officecert.com is a related Web resource that offers users assistance in acing the MOUS exams. This website contains sample questions and test reviews that outline the highlights of each exam and direct the user toward specific study guides.

If you think you're an expert in Microsoft Office applications, now is your chance to prove it by taking one of the Microsoft office user specialist exams. Presently, the closest authorized testing centers for Stockton residents are in Sacramento or Modesto, however you can expect that situation to improve in the near future.

University of the Pacific has been approved as an Authorized Testing Center and plans to begin offering preparation courses and MOUS testing in the spring, through the Lifelong Learning department. In addition, New Horizons is preparing to incorporate MOUS testing into its programs and projects so testing will be available within the next two months.

As this industry continues to grow and expand, being a Microsoft Office Specialist will be a valuable credential in the marketplace. It will be proof positive that you possess the skills required by employers to get the job done.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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