The definition of skill level in Microsoft Excel is still agreed by many to be relative- I inclusive. Yet, work organizations keep seeking ways to determine the level of skill of job candidates in the application of Microsoft Excel. In this post, I attempt to define levels of skill and the content of these levels of skill in Microsoft Excel.
Levels of Skill in Microsoft Excel
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I propose four levels – the basic Level, the intermediate Level, the expert Level and the Advanced Level. It is important to point out here that in my opinion, these levels are in a continuum and therefore, anyone claiming any of these levels implies progressive skill acquisition through the continuum. Put other ways, the intermediate level users must have acquired all the skills a basic level user should have and use. So is the expert level user who must have been through all it takes to be a basic user and an intermediate user.
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- The advanced level, on a scale of one to ten is an eight `or nine. The knowledge and use of Excel never seem to End. So a 10/10 is reserved for any who possess infinite knowledge of Excel.
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The Basic Level
What should define the basic level of skill in Microsoft Excel? When you first open Microsoft Excel, there are those tasks that you can do just by simply responding to the user friendly interface of the application. Especially for persons who may have used such application as Microsoft Word. The Clipboard, Font, Alignment and Number groups in the HOME tab are similar to those found in Microsoft Word. With these tools, a user can present static data on a spreadsheet and afterwards claims that s/he uses Microsoft Excel appreciably well.
On a standard note, I propose that the basic skill level for Microsoft Excel should be an in-depth knowledge of three ribbons Tabs and their tools – The HOME Tab, The PAGE LAYOUT Tab and the VIEW Tab. The only permissible exceptions (just my opinion) are using formulas in conditional formats and the ARRANGE group in the Page layout tab. On functions, I accept as default, the list of functions you get when you click on the drop-down button of the auto-sum icon – SUM, AVERAGE, COUNT NUMBERS, MAX and MIN. Basic users should know how to apply these functions in formulas within spreadsheets. Additionally, an understanding of the spreadsheet inter-face and the ability to do subtractions, multiplications and division are inclusive in the calculation skills that a basic uses should have for use. Armed with these, the basic user can do a lot in number computation, data presentation beyond static data presentation and printing. This level should score at most three on an Excel Skill- Scale of one to ten. Indian paintbrush logo.
The Intermediate Level
The intermediate level is the basic level plus more. The more here is defined by depth. The intermediate Microsoft Excel user, driven by what can be done with Excel functions learned in the basic level, delves into the tools in the FORMULA tab and the function library therein. S/he learns and knows how to use the function wizard to enter function arguments/inputs. The function wizard enables basic users to understand, through use and overtime, two things: (1) The arguments/inputs that some difficult- to- comprehend functions require e.g Lookup functions and (2) The order at which arguments/inputs are entered. The intermediate Level is a level where more on TEXT Functions, DATE Functions, LOOKUP functions and MATH functions should be learned and used. Formula Auditing is also a group in the FORMULA Tab that should be learned and used in the Intermediate level of Excel usage. This prepares users for auditing more complex use of functions in formulas such as those found in complex/compound formulas – formulas that have two or more functions.
It is worthy of note here that an Excel FUNCTION and an Excel FORMULA are not the same thing. A function is a named program that process inputs and returns a result (output) within a spreadsheet cell. An Excel formula is a user defined cell entry that has at least one Excel function (could be two or more functions) to derive a result. In other words, functions are the building blocks of formulas in Excel.
The intermediate level of Excel skills should be where the user learns how Excel functions “think” or how they “behave” when you use them in a cell and copy/paste/drag or move them across sheets. Such depth of understanding will come handy when implementing such things as absolute and relative referencing and when the user starts entering formulas without the formula wizard. This level may include introductory use of such tools as PivotTable, charting and recording macros for repetitive tasks.
On a scale of one to ten, the intermediate level falls on or between four and five.
An Expert is one who knows so much, over time and through practice that s/he can act as a teacher, an implementation-lead and hand-on knowledge worker. How will this be possible if s/he know nothing of the basic and intermediate levels of Microsoft Excel usage?
This user level incorporates more. S/he must become a data specialist and therefore must delve deeper in the use of Excel tools in general. Here, s/he adds the DATA Tab tools to all previously learned and being used. Connecting to external data, Consolidating data, using PivotTables and Subtotals beyond the introductory level, Charting data and formatting Charts (The INSERT tab) are skills the Expert must have and use.
Armed with an understanding of how Excel and Excel functions think, the Expert is able to create compound and complex formulas (such as array formulas) in other to achieve much with less. The Expert is marked with depth of spreadsheet knowledge and efficiency in its use. With this disposition, the expert is able to build spreadsheet models, dashboards and automated templates for use by lower level users of Excel. On a scale of one to ten, the Expert level falls on or between a six or a seven.
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In my opinion, The advanced level is one in which a user acquires the skill to extend the default tools/offerings in Microsoft Excel in other to carry out more customized data processing and presentation. This Level is beyond mere macro recording. It is deep in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) programming. The advanced level user must have the ability to write VBA codes in the form of sub procedures, user defined functions and further build entry forms for data inputs and updates. This level of Microsoft Excel can be called the developer level and that calls for the DEVELOPER Tab. All tools in the developer tab are necessary for the advance level user of Excel. The advanced level user now combines Basic, intermediate, expert and advanced level to deliver, almost often, customized spreadsheet applications.
The advanced level, on a scale of one to ten is an eight `or nine. The knowledge and use of Excel never seem to End. So a 10/10 is reserved for any who possess infinite knowledge of Excel.
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Note that I did not include keyboard shortcuts in my attempt to define Excel skill levels. This is because; again in my opinion keyboard shortcuts are not unique to Excel. All office applications have keyboard shortcuts and there are there as options to mouse clicks. Excel users can achieve any level of skill in Excel using either mouse clicks or keyboard shortcuts or a combination of both.