Eek! It’s a MOS!

This time of the semester, you’ll hear a lot of talk about MOS among students in the Office Professional program. For some students, MOS is something they’d just as soon run away from. For others, it is viewed as a valuable opportunity to hone their skills and prove their expertise.

What’s a MOS?

So what is a MOS, anyway, and why can it be so scary?

MOS is an industry certification. It stands for Microsoft Office Specialist, and attaining MOS certification means you have demonstrated a certain level of expertise in an Office application. The certification is gaining recognition among employers who are looking for staff who not only know applications, but know them well.

There is a different MOS exam for each major Microsoft Office application. For Word and Excel, there are two levels of certification: Core (which requires passing one exam) and Expert (which comes in two parts, or two exams).

MOS exams are challenging. It’s not enough just to know how to use the software; you have to know how to use it to solve problems without being given step-by-step instructions. Sometimes they even test on skills not covered in class. As noted above, this is an industry certification, which means your Parkland instructors have no control over how it is created or scored. And though many of us are MOS-certified in one or more applications, we don’t even know exactly what’s on them. And if we did, we couldn’t tell you.

Here are a few more details regarding MOS exams:

  • MOS exams are project-based. The test candidate is presented a project to complete and some specific instructions regarding how to complete it.
  • Practice exams are available.
  • Taking a MOS exam requires agreeing to a non-disclosure agreement. This means that test-takers agree not to tell anyone the details of what’s on the exam.
  • Test results are given in the form of categories and percentages. We never know exactly which questions we got right, and which we got wrong.
  • Passing a MOS exam results in an immediate sense of accomplishment, which almost always translates to a big smile, happy feet, and perhaps even a spontaneous “Woohoo!”

How can you take a MOS exam?

MOS exams are administered at approved Certiport testing facilities, and you have a couple of options for taking them:

  • Purchase a voucher through Certiport, where the cost ranges from $100-$150, depending upon retake and study material options. Then, arrange a time with the testing facility of your choice, present your voucher and photo ID, and take the test.
  • Take an applications class through the CSIT Department at Parkland. Students who successfully complete CIS 131 (PowerPoint), CIS 134 (Excel), CIS 135 (Word), CIS 138 (Access) or CTC 119 (Outlook) are offered the opportunity to take the MOS exam for that application. Students who complete the courses via the equivalent CTC sequences are also eligible. For some courses, the MOS exam is required. For others, it is optional. In either case, work with your instructor to arrange an exam time at no additional cost to you.

What about multiple MOS certifications?

Some students take full advantage of the opportunity to get certified and take as many MOS exams as their program (or budget) allows. A few things can happen here:

  • They might earn Parkland’s Microsoft Application Specialist Certificate, which requires 14 hours of coursework (five courses, four applications) and passing at least three MOS exams.
  • They might become certified as a MOS Master.
  • They might advance professionally by their documented deep knowledge of software applications.

So, the next time you hear someone fretting about a MOS here on campus, there’s no need to glance nervously around the floor or jump onto the nearest chair. This is only a test.

2 thoughts on “Eek! It’s a MOS!”

  1. Students taking the MOS this semester did extremely well. I’m looking forward to seeing the cumulative statistics on how many exams were passed.

  2. Useful commentary – I am thankful for the details. Does someone know where I would be able to obtain a blank HBS Non-Disclosure Agreement form to work with ?

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