Preparing for the SBE Spreadsheet
Competency Waiver Exam
School of Business and Economics
Seattle Pacific University
pursuing an undergraduate major in the School of Business and
Economics must successfully document their proficiency with
Microsoft Excel. Most students will satisfy this
requirement by passing the
1-credit BUS 1700
Achieving a passing score on the SBE Spreadsheet Competency Exam
described below is another way you can document your
proficiency with Excel. The full waiver policy can be
read here. Required courses such as MAT 2700
Statistics for Business and Economics, ACCT 2362
Managerial Accounting, and BUS 3250
Business Finance also require this documented
competency as a prerequisite.
Overview of the Challenge Exam
The SBE Spreadsheet Competency Exam will assume that you
will be using
Excel 2007 or a newer version. (Excel 2013 is
excepted at SPU in autumn 2014.) The exam can be divided into six
parts. These six areas will be found on each version of
the exam. The Excel program is 'feature-rich.' Many of its advanced features will not be needed to pass the
exam. However, to help you prepare for the exam, a
summary of the specific features required is given here.
1. Obtaining the data.
to be prepared to locate and use raw text and numerical data
from any of a variety of sources. The exam data
may be provided in a Word document or a text (.txt)
file. It may be on a web page. It may be in
a table already or compressed in a delimited format.
You will need to open the data file and, if necessary,
copy and paste it into Excel. Once in Excel, you
may need to spread the data across the columns using the
Text to Columns feature found on the Data ribbon.
2. Preparing the data.
normally one does little or nothing to a data file
except to make sure that proper column headings are
entered into row one on the data worksheet, occasionally
it is necessary to sort the data or format it in some
specific way to prepare it prior to being used.
3. Preparing the output with 'Page Setup' features.
the Page Setup features (found on the Page Layout
ribbon) are ignored until one is preparing to print a
document. It is a better idea to take care of
layout questions before one begins to design the output.
On this exam you will be expected to prepare your
solution in portrait orientation, centered horizontally
on the page, with specific headers and footers, and
without gridlines. Gridlines should appear on the
computer screen but not on the paper output.
Gridlines are not to be confused with the thick and thin
lines to be drawn around cells in a table.
4. Formatting a summary table.
time, it is best to format your results after you
have calculated them. Drawing lines, adding
shading, or changing fonts, often has to be redone if
begun too early. You should master the features on each
tab of the Format Cells dialog box (except Protection). It is accessible under Font,
Alignment and Number on the Home ribbon.
5. Using formulas properly.
the key item on the exam. You should be able to
translate basic mathematical formulas for use in Excel.
You need to be familiar with a number of Excel
functions. And most especially, you need to use
functions and formulas properly. This means that
when you enter formulas on the solution worksheet,
if the values on the data worksheet were to be
updated, the answers on the solution worksheet
should change automatically. In general,
using Copy and Paste with formulas will likely produce
errors. Simply using the "=" on the solution
worksheet will simplify this task. (See the sample
exam videos below.)
There are over 300 functions in Excel. You
should at least be familiar with these:
MAX, MIN, SUM, AVERAGE, MEDIAN, PI, EXP, SQRT,
FACT, COUNT, COUNTA, COUNTIF, and TODAY.
You may need to use the CONCATENATE function or
learn how to use the & symbol in a formula. (For
example: =A4&" "&D4&" "&B4 )
6. Creating a graph.
feature where Excel 2003 changed greatly in Excel 2007
is the area of graphs and charts. Excel can create
dozens of types of graphs. However, the only ones
you will need to be familiar with are Bar, Column, Line,
Pie, Area, and Scatter.
Online Learning Resources for Excel
If you are
new to Excel 2010 , please watch the online demonstration
provided by Microsoft titled
Getting Started with
also find this Microsoft lesson series helpful.
Make the switch to Excel 2010.
tutorial help is available by searching the web for sites
Sample Challenge Exams
The Excel "Problem Files"
below provide the basis for these two sample exams.
Scheduling a Challenge Exam
Spreadsheet Competency Exam is scheduled with
Dr. Dick Sleight.
It can be taken between 9:00AM and 3:00PM on most weekdays.
The exam can be completed in as little as 20 minutes by a very
proficient Excel user. Students are allowed up to 60
minutes to complete the exam (prepare the data, create a summary
table with formulas and functions, and create a graph.)
The challenge exam may be repeated once (taking a new version)
at the discretion of Dr. Sleight, the technology manager of the
School of Business and Economics.
(pronounced "Slate") can be reached at 206.281.2265 and at
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