Excel skill testing

3 tips to improve your Excel skill testing

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Microsoft Word isn’t the only software skill expected for nearly every office position. It’s increasingly common for employers to also expect experience and expertise with Microsoft Excel, even for positions that don’t involve accounting or bookkeeping tasks. Try these three workbook ideas to expand your comfort level with Excel, while also improving your Excel skill testing.

  1. Create an Excel spreadsheet to use as your check register for your household checking account.
    • Basic: Create columns to match those in your printed check register. Format the columns that will be for actual dollar amounts, including 2 decimal points. Add a column for “category” of expense (such as income, home/house expenses, car expenses, healthcare costs, donations to nonprofits, property taxes, contributions to IRA savings).
    • Basic: Create a formula that adds the previous line’s balance with the current line’s transaction to create a new register balance. Learn to use the highlight-click-drag shortcut that will repeat the pattern for calculating the balance on subsequent rows.
    • Intermediate: Once you have a few months of entries in the spreadsheet, experiment with sorting the data (eg, by amount of the transaction) and filtering the data (eg, filter by one of those categories in the first step).
    • Intermediate: Freeze the header row in different ways to see which style works best for the check register you created.
    • Intermediate: Set-up the page to print with/without gridlines; add a header or footer that auto-completes with some information such as the path where your workbook is saved or the date-time that you printed it.
  2. Create an Excel spreadsheet to track your mortgage loan payments or student loan payments.
    • Basic: Include columns for the actual payment amount, the payment date, the principal paid, the interest paid, and the amount of loan principal remaining.
    • Basic: If you have a recurring auto-payment, learn to use the highlight-click-drag shortcut that will repeat the pattern for assigning payment date to each entry.
    • Basic: Set up a formula so that the spreadsheet calculates the principal paid by subtracting the interest paid from the actual payment amount. Once you have several rows set up, use the highlight-click-drag shortcut to repeat the pattern for coming months.
    • Intermediate: When you have several entries recorded, create a custom chart or graph to help you visualize how your payments are making a dent in the principal owed!
  3. Create an Excel spreadsheet to track your contacts and interviews for your job search.
    • Basic: Columns might include the company/agency contacted, the person contacted, the position title, where you found the job advertised, date of the first contact, notes on the first contact, date of the second contact, and so forth.
    • Intermediate: With several rows of records created, try hiding the content of some of the middle columns. For example, let it display the company, the person, and the position title …. and then the second contact for that job.
    • Intermediate: Insert a comment in the cell that has a company’s name to make note of the website, email address, and/or phone number for that organization.
    • Advanced: Create a formula that counts the number of resumes you submitted within a particular date range (hint: this will use the “count if” function).

These tips are intended as illustrative, not exhaustive. You may think of other workbook or spreadsheet ideas that are even more useful for your household. The concept is to set up projects that will be helpful for your daily life, involve using the same functions several times over a period of weeks (to burn it into your long-term memory), and have similar transactions for business. You’ll be surprised how quickly this kind of practice improves your Excel skills and skill testing!

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by Elyse Williamson

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