Help your students pass the MOS Word certification exam
Teachers' Lounge - Stevie George and Allan Escobar from TestOut are joined by three fantastic teachers to answer questions you've had about "Preparing Students for the MOS Word Certification Exam" using TestOut's Office Pro and how they have been successful, including the following:
Do teachers use the videos and if so how?
Alice: It is not a questionable item that it is part of our curriculum that we feel is integral to our success. We have a special needs student and the videos have been most beneficial to him. He listens so attentively to the videos, when I do assist him, he will refer back to the videos and say: “I saw this in the video.”
Kelly: I try and assign the videos for homework and then keep the labs and the practice tests in the classroom.Tricia: We use the pre-videos to introduce the lesson, but we really like the videos that are inside the lesson. If they ever have a question on how to do something, the hint video shows them how to do it, which has been really helpful.
TestOut offers 3 different labs – Skills, Challenge and Applied for each section topic. Do you use all 3 labs and how do you incorporate those?
Alice: I use the skills and challenge [labs] for daily grades and then we use all the applied for the test grade. Most students really like to make 100 on the skills labs, and so they will redo the entire lab in order to get 100.
Kelly: I try to encourage the students to use the leaderboard, and some of them seem to get excited about it, and then others don't. Sometimes I have the students partner up together to do the labs, because you can learn from working side-by-side with someone else. Sometimes a student is reading the question, and the [other] student's doing [the task] and then switching back and forth between. That role helps them learn from each other. Then, I like for them to do the challenge labs independently. We use Applied Labs for their actual grade for each of those sections. That's how I use the different labs, and I really like the partnering during the Skills Labs, it seems like they enjoy working together and learning from each other.
Tricia: We use all three labs. We do the Skills labs together in class, and we walk through each of the tasks together. I have the skills lab projected onto my screen in the front of the classroom and the students follow along on their computers. Then, I assign the Challenge Labs and Applied Labs to be done on their own, at their own pace, this is what I use for their grade. The students are allowed to do the labs as many times as they would like to get the grade they want. Having both a Challenge and the Applied lab also allows me to help the students. I have some students with IEPs and it has the students with 504s. I am able to still assign them a Challenge lab, and maybe cut back on one of the Applied Labs because it takes them a little bit longer to go through it. It gives them enough time to still feel like they're accomplishing what they need to accomplish, but they don't have the same kind of workload because they're not able to do it quite as quickly as some of the other students.
How do you help students read and break down the tasks?
Kelly: One thing that I found that works really well was breaking down the question and the task into different sections. I did make some slides to kind of just help break that down. I took an actual example, right out of TestOut, It's from the Microsoft Office.
- Step one: Read through the entire task.
I teach the students that here's the task, and it says, on the second page, “Apply yellow highlighting to the words unified semantic algorithms at the beginning of the first body paragraph.” Reading that just one time, they might think it seems a little much. They probably aren't grasping exactly what they're supposed to be doing and where they're supposed to be doing it. But I just read through the entire task, even if you don't understand it, from the first word to the last word, and then we move on to step two.
- Step two: Separate all the information into categories.
It says, “On the second page, apply yellow highlighting to the words, unified semantic algorithms at the beginning first body paragraph. The first thing we would be doing is, we would locate where we're going to make that change in the document. On the right side of my screen, you should be able to see it says, location in the document. We pull out exactly what were the location is. It says, on the second page, beginning of the first body paragraph, and we're going to be altering the words unified semantic algorithms. That's our location in the document.
The second thing we would look for is the location on the ribbon. The word highlighting is their key word there. When we practice location and navigating on the ribbon tabs in the groups, they should see the word highlighting, and know exactly [that] they should be on the home tab, in the font group.
Then we find the action. The action is apply yellow highlighting. If you look at that whole task, the only thing you're actually doing is applying yellow highlighting. But, when you add in the location, where you should be, and what you're doing, it can tend to make the task look a lot bigger than what it actually is.
This takes practice. When they get into the Microsoft Office certification test, if they'd never practiced this method before… they can't sit there and break it all down in categories. With practice, you start noticing, on the second page, beginning first body paragraph, and then you automatically navigate to that point. And then you see highlight, [you] get to where you're going on the written [document] and then you're applying yellow highlighting. You don't have to look for where you're going to place that highlighting because your cursor should already be there as you navigate to it by the prompts that you had.
- Step three: Complete the task.
After they've walked through and categorized and chunked everything down into smaller tasks, basically, completing the whole tasks should be a little easier. So, that's one thing that I feel like we've had a lot of success with, is students being able to chunk those questions and tasks down by categories.
Tricia: Reading through the directions, and breaking it down bit by bit, forces the students to slow down, break it into chunks, and to process it that way. I think one of the great things about TestOut is learning how to read and follow directions.
- Step one: Read through the entire task.
What do you do to incentivize your students?
Alice: This is one of my favorite questions because we celebrate. I've been known to run around the room when we've had a certification with an Excel expert. And they get so excited, because I'll just say, I have to run. Each morning, when we begin our day, congratulations to for earning his or her certificate in certification in Word 2019. We do that on Facebook and I'll do a picture in an article every nine weeks.
And then, we just recently did a video out in front of our school, and all the people that had certified were included in the video that we submitted to our state capital. I really think the positive reinforcement to compliment them, to brag on them, they love that. We cover the board with their certificates. So as soon as they certify, I'll make a copy for them. And then I put one on our whiteboard but that is so important, to see their name on that board.
Kelly: We have a board in our classroom that has big stars on it, and it says, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and Access. And then every time a student does their exam, they get a golden star, and they get to put their name on it. And then they put it up on the board. And it goes under whatever exam that they had just passed.
Tricia: What I did is just put a chart up on the wall where they could track their progress. Every time they got a lab done, they got to fill in a box. And my wall got very, very colorful very, very quickly. I have a couple sibling pairs in different classes and different sections. But they would look at each other's and see, ‘Oh, so and so has got this. I need to catch up.’ They liked that visual record keeping, kind of a race to the end to see who's going to get there first, get their labs done, and have the best scores. Having that visual piece where they can see their progress and show it off to the rest of their classmates in the other sections has really worked well for me.
Outside of the course material what other LabSim resources have been valuable to you?
Alice: What helps us most probably is the practice MOS A and B [forms] that we go through. And then, the sheet in the teacher's manual, which shows that we need to reinforce the skills. And I'll make every student a copy of that in Word and hand it for additional practice, and we really think it helps us to do well on the test.
Kelly: We typically just use the curriculum… and just work through each section like that.
Tricia: I do something very similar to what [Alice] does. I think that those two A and B practice exams are a tremendous help. And having that kind of checklist of tasks that need to be reinforced is helpful for the students as well. I think when they see that all written out, and they say, “Oh, I know how to do that well, I know how to do that.” It's just helpful to them in building their confidence and getting ready for the certification exam.
Some students run out of time on their MOS exam, so what do you do to ensure student proficiency?
Alice: We have a flex schedule just for high school. What that means is, we have presentation days three days a week, and then we have two days that we can request students. And even though they're prepared, they sometimes are nervous of, “I'll need to hurry and get to my next class,” or, especially in the afternoon, to catch a bus. So, what that means is, I would request a student for two consecutive periods. So, when they come in, that gives us time for me to get them signed into the test. And then, just knowing that they have plenty of time, it makes it go so well. I rarely have a student ever not have enough time on the test. And I have found that this has really helped in that they just sit down with confidence that [they´re] not going to be rushed because [they only] have the allotted time 50 minutes. And they usually have plenty. But it's that fear because we're on 45-minute periods, and it's impossible to do that otherwise. So, we just have plenty of time to sit down, take your time, breathe, and we're ready to go.
One other thing is, I always advise my students, if you have a question that you are struggling with, just flag it and continue on with the test until you finish the test. Then go back if time remains because sometimes one of the most difficult questions will occur early on, and toward the end of the test, they can answer all of those so easily. We learn to just flag a question that causes us to stumble and then they go back and try. Sometimes a question [will] help them figure out the one they were struggling with. So, I would advise any person to just flag that question, finish the test, and then tackle those questions that they are struggling with [later].
Kelly: I do two things. I think one of them, I touched base on my other question that I answered about breaking down each task. I think knowing the location is key. You can have students go through those practice Office exams before they take the actual test, but if they don't know the location, they're not going to make the time. I really enforce that location. And I've taught location a couple of different ways, one thing [thing was] breaking down the tasks, which has been great. Another one I've done are hardcopy sheets with the Ribbon and then [the students] have to fill in what each tab is [and] what each group is. We've done those before in the past. Also, I think making sure you've had that time. It's not just being able to read and do this stuff really quick. You have to know location, you don't have the time to hunt for stuff. And that's what I tell my students. When you get into a test, you don't have time to click, and hunt and click and hunt. Before I let my students take the actual test, they have to be able to get through one of the TestOut practice exams, from sitting start to finish, and get it done within that 50-minute period that TestOut allows. And they have to have an 85% passing score. So until they can do that, I don't even let them sit for the actual certification test. I think [the] key is practicing, knowing how to break down those tasks, knowing the location, and knowing that ribbon, rather than knowing exactly what you're looking for, I think, is the key to hitting it within that time limit.
Another huge one that I tell my students as well is that if you get to a question, and you do not know it, just flag it and move on. Because chances are, they're going to come to another question that triggers, “I remember what I was supposed to do on that last one.” So yes, I second what Alice just said, and I think it's huge. It's teaching the students to, “if you don't know, you flag it, and you move on. You will have the time at the end of the exam to go back and review everything that you flagged.” That's a huge one. Top three tips on time management during the test, for sure.
Tricia: What I typically do with those practice exams and tests, though, is let the students go through them at their own pace, and become familiar with the tasks, and not put pressure on them. Make sure they're really paying attention. Like Kelly said, locations of tasks, and they know how to do the different things. And then we do time them. They have to get it done within the allotted time that the certification exam is. And so, they're already familiar with the tasks but just repeating those same tasks again in a time limit. I think it's helpful just with helping them to remember and build that confidence. Confidence is half the battle in their certification exams.
How do you know when your students are prepared for the MOS Word exam?
Alice: I have one little girl, unless she can make 100 on both A and B, she will not test. And then I have some that I just have to say, I just feel like you're ready today. I had one little girl who wrote me and said, “[Your] encouragement helped me to believe in myself,” and so I will say, “You're ready. Let's do it.”
And well, mostly, if they have completed all of the work. I use 80% on the A and B test, and I'll say, “I just feel I think you should try it. And I believe in you.” You won’t believe how much stuff that enforces their learning for me to believe in them. Because I will say, I believe you're ready. And like I said today, this young lady had e-mailed me over the weekend, and she said, “Your encouragement makes me believe in myself.” And they just amazed me. Sometimes I'm wrong, I'm wrong at many things, but sometimes they will be so thankful that they stepped out in faith and took the test. When they're just a little bit apprehensive. They're scared of the test somewhat. They don't like to fail. That builds their confidence tremendously, when they pass that test, and I have some passes on 700 more than one time. And so, they also are tasked with, “it was just 700.” I said, “It's like a driver's test. You pass. So we celebrate with the 700.
Tricia: I have just started to implement the Microsoft Office part of TestOut second quarter of first semester. And I have one student who was able to go through the certification and was certified. So one for 100% right now. I have multiple students who are now ready, but we had an outbreak at our school, and we are all now virtual. And so they're unable to certify right now until we get back to school. What I will probably do with those students is backtrack a little bit, go through the A and B exams again, just to make sure that they are confident [and] don't feel like that they have lost… I just want to make sure they're competent, remember the tasks, and are confident going into the exam.
What are the benefits of certification?
Tricia: So, as you had said in the introduction, and I'm a second-year teacher and I spent 20 years in industry. I'm a self-taught Microsoft Office user. I never had classes on it. I grew up in the age before there were computers for a while, and so I learned from scratch on my own. I walked into a teaching job at a school [and] we are Chromebooks one hundred percent or 1 to 1 Chromebooks. The kids are using all Google applications. Having 20 years of experience in industry, with also my oldest child in college, and knowing that the need for students to know Microsoft Office, I pushed very, very hard in my first year teaching to work toward a certification program. In fact, the first thing we do before we even start working on Microsoft Office, is we do a job search. We go to three different job search engines and we did a little project in which the students have to type in words like Microsoft Office specialists, Google Docs, and compare the number of jobs available for people who are certified in Microsoft Office compared to people who know Google Docs. And there is an astronomical number of jobs available in Microsoft office and a mere fraction of those available for those who are proficient in Google Docs. So, that alone tells my students that it's important. Even if you are not furthering your education, not doing any post-secondary education each one of them is going to work for some sort of business that is probably going to have a computer and probably going to be using some version of Microsoft Office. It is very important for them to know Microsoft Office products. Gone are the days of people saying that they are proficient in something are on their resume. Saying that you were proficient and proving that you were proficient are two different things. I tell my students [that] all the activities and things that you're involved in in school, those are resume builders, so are Microsoft Office certifications. They are resume builders. You having that certification lets to not just talk the talk but walk the walk. They know that you having that certification says that you are proficient in Microsoft. And they're buying into it.
How do you prepare students to work thru unfamiliar tasks?
Kelly: We run into that issue sometimes. Sometimes they will take a test, and when they're done, they'll say, “it asked me something about da da da, and I don't remember learning that. And this was kind of a new concept to me to deal with.” What I do is, before they take the test, I remind them, “you may come across something that you haven't seen before.” So I, one, warn them that it might happen. Two, they're going to flag it if they're not sure what it is. But prior to that, before they take the test, I always encourage them to, (we do have Microsoft Office installed on our desktops at school), so I encourage them to just get into Word, open a document and explore. Look at stuff that maybe you didn't look at while in TestOut. Go open up a dialog box and do work on some tabs that you've never worked on before. Just maybe try to familiarize yourself with something that you haven't seen before. Those are the three things that I do. Let them just kind of mess around in it without being in TestOut first. Number two, warn them that they may see something that's unfamiliar. Three, makes sure that they just immediately flag it and move on.
Have any of you at TestOut taken the MOS Certification tests?
Paul: Absolutely. We do take the Microsoft exams. Everyone on our content development team does. That's a key component to what we do before we begin development. So, absolutely, many of us have taken the MOS exams and we need to retake them right when we have the new version, 2019 exams right now being the latest. So yes, we do take the exams.
What about the parts where we don't have a lab covering certain MOS objectives? We only have video or text content for?
Paul: A couple of instructors actually refer to a sheet that's pretty important right now. There are some skills that the students may not have practiced within our lab simulations and it is important for them to have experience in the real application for some of those features. But for our update that we're going to be releasing on March 29th, and I will show you. We are in the process of updating and releasing at the end of March. We wanted to provide a more targeted practice section for students who are specifically preparing for the Microsoft exams. We have we have added a skill lab for every objective domain for the students. Even though they've gone through the material, now they're ready to really prepare for the exam, and so we have a skills lab for every one of those. We have actually simulated more features significantly than we simulated in the course. This material will eventually be integrated back into the course, but for the March release, we encourage everyone to take advantage of these new resources. For the skills labs, once they feel comfortable with the individual skills then, we still recommend that they go through form A and form B of our practice exams. We've also significantly updated the practice exams. We have 35 tasks in each one of these and there's no overlap. So, students really should go through both of those.
One other thing that we have done, that I'd like to show you, is just one other feature that will be included in our March 29th release for both Word and Excel. In addition to the domain skills lab practices, we have updated significantly updated our practice exams, both form A and form B. And they have additional tasks and additional questions for much better coverage. I also wanted to show you another nice touch that we've added specifically for these exams. When you bring up one of the labs, you can see here that we have simulated much better the MLS interface that the students will see on the actual exams. The navigation is here down at the bottom. You can go to the individual tasks, back and forth for this particular project. And then also students will submit the projects by clicking a button here as they would on the exam. This is something that, that instructors have asked for. And we just want the students to be a little bit better prepared for what they will see on their exam, and I think this is going to help quite a bit. So that the students are not surprised when they see just a slightly different user interface to work through the tasks.
On the MOS tests, it asks for specific colors and themes...where often within the TestOut labs usually the students get to pick a color or theme of their choice will this be changing?
Paul: Yes. We have modified several questions in these practice exams where it asked specifically about exact color or a style. So, yes, those will be much more like the actual exam.
Will you be working on content for Word Expert labs?
Paul: So, the answer is yes. I can let you know that we are working right now on the expert level content for both Word and Excel. It's been a couple of months ago that I actually took the Excel expert exam myself and I did pass. So, we are working on that content right now. We finally have development resources that we have been able to devote to this project. And I don't have a date for you yet when those will be coming out, but we will get it done as quickly as we can. The material for those exams will be the same level of level of quality that you're used to seeing with Office Pro and the same type of exam preparation materials as well.