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Microsoft Excel Certification - Frequently Asked Questions

The Microsoft Excel Certification Program has raised a lot of questions for a lot of students. We've tried very hard to collect them all and pare them down to a set of the most common ones, and we hope that this FAQ addresses your own questions. If you have a question that isn't covered here, please send an email to and let us know about it.

I have a Mac. Can I use it?

Yes, sort of.
You are required to use Microsoft Windows and windows-only based software to complete the study and prep work, but that doesn't mean you can't use a Mac. For more information about Excel Certification on Non-Windows computers, click here.

I already have Office on my Mac. Can I use that instead of getting Windows?

No. The exam is for a Windows-only product. Additionally, the software used to take practice exam is a Windows-only product. Even though Microsoft Office for Mac exists, it is not the same product. It is built differently, and in many cases, does not do the same things that Microsoft Office for Windows does/will do.

I'm trying to install Gmetrix on my Mac, but it isn't working. Why not?

Gmetrix is only compatible with Microsoft Windows.
Click here to learn about Gmetrix
Click here to learn about Excel Certification on Non-Windows Computers.

I already have Microsoft Office 2007/2010/365. That should work, right?

No. A Certification Exam is specific to a version of a product. In this case, we are using Microsoft Excel 2013.

My computer has Windows XP. Will that work?

No. Microsoft Office 2013 requires that you have at least Windows 7.

I just got certified in Excel 2010. Do I need to recertify? Is my certification any less valuable?

No, you don't need to recertify, but you can if you want. While there are some differences between Excel 2010 and 2013, the majority of what you have already learned is still valid and valuable knowledge.
Additionally, your certification is no less valuable if it's for Excel 2010. Whitman tends to be ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting new software, so most of the rest of the world is still using Excel 2010.

I already know Excel really well. Do I really need to do all this extra stuff?

Yes, you do. Lots of people say the same thing, and even though you may be confident in your knowledge, having a refresher on things that you don’t use all the time will be helpful to you, and you may learn some things you didn’t know before. Excel isn’t just a simple spreadsheet program – it’s an extremely powerful, capable tool. Also, remember you can't take the actual test until we see you’ve completed the practice requirement with Gmetrix.

What score is needed to pass the MOS Excel 2013 exam?

A minimum passing score is 700ish.
This sounds odd, but it's because not all questions are weighted the same. In other words, some questions may count more than others. A Score of 700 equates to 70%. So you must have at least 70% of the highest possible score to pass.

Why am I required to score 800 or better using Gmetrix?

You’ve probably heard that a passing score on the Excel Certification exam is 700. This is mostly true; however, the questions are weighted. Some questions count more than others, so it is technically possible to fail the exam with a score of 700.

For this reason, we set the bar higher than just a passing score. We ask you to consistently score well above passing so that you have the best chance possible of passing the exam on your first try.

This method has a demonstrated success rate of over 95%. Simply put, doing the practice exams and fulfilling this requirement is the highest predictor of success on the actual exam.

There are a lot of practice exams. Which ones should i take?

The exams that count towards the prep requirement are the ones that are named with "Excel 2013 Core" for the Excel Specialist exam. There are class-specific and skillset-specific exams that don't count, because they do not cover the full spectrum of what you'll be asked on the exam.

How can I tell how many/which Gmetrix exams I've taken/passed?

You can do this by opening a web browser and logging in to with your Gmetrix username and password. There will be a button on the left side of the page that says "Completed" which will allow you to review the practice exams you've taken and see your scores, and what areas you need to work on.

Can I take the same few exams over and over again and have that count?

No. That doesn't adequately provide a wide enough spectrum of content for you to prepare with. The practice exams do not change - if you take Project 1, it's going to be the same set of questions all the time. 

The actual exam, however, is randomized. 

So, the intent of the prep requirement is for you to pass five different exams with a score of 800 or better in testing mode.

I'm having a tough time getting a passing score. What can I do?

A lot of the time, very small, simple mistakes or misinterpretations can cause a question to be marked "incorrect". If you are asked to do something in a practice exam in a particular way, and you answer the question using a slightly different method, you may receive less points than you would had you answered it the way it was asked.
Usually, questions will be phrased in a way that indicates how they should be answered. Follow them to the letter.
And please remember - these questions are designed to evaluate how well you know the entire program, not just the fastest way to do something. The "how" is always just as important as the end result.

I didn't pass the MOS Excel Certification Exam on my first try. When can I take it again?

As of July 1, 2014, the Microsoft Office Specialist exam retake policy states the following:

  1. If a candidate does not achieve a passing score on an exam the first time, the candidate must wait 24 hours before retaking the exam.
  2. If a candidate does not achieve a passing score the second time, the candidate must wait two (2) days before retaking the exam a third time.
  3. A two-day waiting period will be imposed for each subsequent exam retake.
  4. There is no annual limit on the number of attempts on the same exam.
  5. If a candidate achieves a passing score on an MOS exam, the candidate may take it again.

I've passed the MOS Excel Exam. Is there an expert-level exam?

Yes, there is! Contact Chris Mead ( to find out how to proceed.

Are there certification exams for Word, Powerpoint, and/or other Microsoft Office Applications?

There certainly are. Contact Chris Mead ( to find out what certifications are available and what you can do to attain them.

I have a technology-related question that is not addressed here. Who should I contact?

Contact Chris Mead, the Whitman Student Computing Services Coordinator. You can send him an email at

Why can't I find the Exam Registration on Whitlink?

Excel Certification Exam registration is done on OrangeLink, not WhitLink. Please follow the directions found here.