How to prepare for an Excel Test.

How to prepare for an Excel Test.

With Microsoft Excel skills  vital for most  jobs now , many employers are  testing prospective employees  on their Excel skills by giving practical Excel tests at interviews. So what should a student know and how should they prepare for an Excel test.

We will look in details  at the following factors.


  1. Can I bluff an Excel Test.
  2. This one Test Question reveals your Excel skills .
  3. Testing your current Excel  skills.
  4. What is meany by jobs needing ‘ basic’  Excel Skills.
  5. What is meany by jobs needing  ‘ intermediate’  Excel Skills.
  6. What is meany by Jobs needing  Advanced Excel Skills with Data Analysis.
  7. How long did it really take to learn Excel?

Watch a trained and untrained Excel user.

In  this short video,  watch a ‘ trained‘ and ‘untrained‘ Excel user tackling common everyday Excel tasks. Notice the huge difference in time and effort. What one would you employ ?

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With Excel becoming more important for so many jobs, many employers are now giving
Excel tests at interviews. So what should a student know and how should they prepare for an Excel test.

First of all, an experienced Excel examiner can gauge very quickly the depth of your Excel skills. Even the simple example below can be enough to tell them all they need to know about your Excel Skills as it  can reveal so much. Let’s see .

Most times now, the examiner will be watching as you complete the question(s).

You are required to create a simple formulas in cell C5  to C9 which will work out the commission due to each salesperson. The commission will be 5%   of their Sales.  Try it out yourself now and then we will analyze the various answers to this question.

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Answer One:      =c5*100/20  copied down.

It took the person  5 minutes to complete.

Mark awarded:  45%



Why such a low mark.  Well on the positive side, this answer shows that the person can build a basic formula and knows the  basic Excel formula operators. But the interviewer noted that the person did the formula for each  person instead of copying it down.


Answer 2: =C5* 5%

Take taken:  1 minute.

Mark awarded: 55%


This answer shows the same as above but also knowledge of percentage formatting and the person copied the formula down by double clicking on the file handle.


Answer 3:    =C5* $C$1

Mark: 95%

Time taken: 40 seconds


As above  but this student shows he/she  understands and uses the three essential Excel concepts, namely

  • Using Cell references
  •  Relative references
  •  Absolute references.


Answer 4: =C3*C$1

 Time : 40 seconds

 Mark: 100%



As above but this student also shows that they know about Partial references. If the above question was set to find a user with intermediate Excel skills, answers 1 and 2 would have failed straight away. If set for a basic Excel skills, answer 1 would have failed and answer 2 would face more questions.


This question would have come with other questions, like format the values to currency format, add another  column, total and average sales figures , put a border around the values and print out the spreadsheet etc  but the questions would have been weighted differently  with over 50%+ of marks  going for the formula question above.

How to prepare?

 You cannot bluff an Exam test, so be honest.

If Excel skills are vital for the job you are going for and you don’t have  these Excel skills, then  book into an Online Excel training   or public  Excel course  beforehand and tell them. This shows initiative, honesty and ambition.

Before we look at how to prepare to pass your Excel Test, let’s test your current Skills levels.


Test your current Excel Skills:

We have created  a  free ‘  Testing  Workbook’.  It   requires  you to complete seven Excel  tasks. It will  time and  Auto-Correct your work  and  produce  a personalized report of your performance in terms of efficiency and  Excel knowledge.

There are seven special Tasks to complete. (Max time 20 Minutes)

You can download a free copy from here.


Armed with your Test results, how can I prepare?

If you’re Excel skills are rusty, then generally for an Excel test I’d recommend the following as areas to revise by creating a sample spreadsheet like a personal budget or membership list.

Job seeking just Basic Excel skills:

You will need to know the basic Excel Functions like – SUM, AVERAGE, MIN and Max. Also you will need to be competent in Formatting , such as Borders & shading, Word wrap, alignment and number formatting, especially currency formatting. Also know how to delete formats properly. Knowing how to access cell references in different worksheets and workbook is a vital basic skill.


Finally to give yourself the edge over other candidates, learn about Relative and Absolute references ($ sign). These are two of the most important concepts in Excel .


Jobs seeking  Intermediate Excel  Skills:

You will need to have and show a real understanding of Relative and Absolute References and using cell references. In terms of Excel Functions and Formulas, knowledge of the following will be important to have.


  • IF Function
  • VlOOKUP Function
  • Text Functions like LEFT,RIGHT, MID


You must also show that you can use these Functions to their optimum by using cell references, relative and absolute references.

Also you will need to be comfortable with – Conditional formatting, page and print layout. Intermediate users would be expected to be familiar with times and date calculations, creating custom charts, data validation especially creating drop-down boxes.

Data  Analysis Skills.

Intermediate Users need to be able to filter, advance filter,  subtotal and be able to create basic Pivot Tables.

Jobs needing  Advanced Excel Skills:

Functions & Formulas.

An advanced user of Excel must have the ability to flawlessly write & combine formulas with …


  • IF
  • SUMPRODUCT Functions
  • Array Formulas.

Keep in mind that an advanced Excel user should know which function or combination of functions to use on which occasion, as well as the ability to debug and audit formulas.


Conditional Formatting:

While even basic users should know how to do basic conditional formatting, an expert Excel user needs to be able to combine formulas with conditional formatting, so you can highlight data that meets almost any condition.


Reports : Formatting and Tables

Advanced Excel users need to be able to structure and present their reports in an effective professional manner .This will require excellent knowledge of Excel techniques like Tables, cell styles and formatting options and of course advanced Pivot Tables skills.

Advanced Charting:

Charts are vital for communicating data effectively and clearly. The main skills required for advanced charting are,

  • Having the ability to choose the right chart for any given situation.
  • Use features like in-cell charts & conditional formatting charts
  • Have the skill to create dynamic & interactive charts
  • Know how to combine various charts in to one.


Pivot Tables:

Expert Excel users need to be able to analyze massive amounts of data quickly so you be required to be very well acquainted with all features of Pivot tables, such as – grouping, show values as, slicers and calculations fields & items.

Need to learn Excel quickly for your Job .

Online Excel Course

Try out our UK certified Online Excel Course.

The ‘Complete Online Excel Course” 

  1. Covers Excel from absolute Beginners to Expert Level.
  2. Comes with Live Chat Support as you study.
  3. Certified by the UK CPD standards office.

Click Here to Learn More.

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