To certify for Microsoft Office Specialist is a step in a person’s life that could help earn an entry-level business position and an increase in salary. In order to get certified you need to make a plan and a strategy to help you stay on track and minimize the time and effort on this journey as much as possible.

First, after you recognized the need for getting certified you need to get familiar with the exam, although it comes at the end. The best way to start the search is to look up the exam objectives and content, and since it is a Microsoft’s product you should hit their website first: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/microsoft-office-specialist-certification-2016.aspx . Here you can chose whether to take MS Office 2016, MS Office 2013, MS Office 2010, or 2007 MS Office System exams. What would be the best choice depends on the job you are aiming to. Also, you will notice that you can take the exam either for only one or more Microsoft Office applications like MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, and MS Access and so on.

After you decide which exams you want to take look for available study resources online, at your educational institution if you are a student, and check the public library. There are books for MOS certification on Amazon for about $22, Testout’s online course for about $110 for the MS suite which is good for 18 months if you are a college student, or $79 a month if you are not a student. Microsoft also offers online and on-demand training. Find some time to read other people’s experiences and to find out what is the best material that people who passed the exam used. At the end purchase the material you think would be the most convenient for you depending on how much money you want to spend. Allow seven days for all these tasks.

Being armed with all the resources, you need to think how much time you might need to prepare. If you are planning on taking the full suite which includes Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, SharePoint, and One Note then you should account for at least two months if you know that you will every day find time to study.

When you think you are ready to take the exam, try taking some practice tests just to get familiar with the real exam and see how you feel about that. Certiport charges $40 for a single app, and $75 for the whole suite https://shop.certiport.com/category-s/1906.htm, whether ACCELERATED-IDEAS website offers some tests for free http://www.accelerated-ideas.com/free-77881-practice-exam.aspx#.WpgGMujwbMU.

Okay, you worked hard, you practiced and you are ready to go for it. Research testing centers and check if you can purchase a certification voucher there. There is also plenty of websites that you can buy a voucher from. Some websites will offer Certiport’s vouchers for $110 for example, whether you can buy the same thing from Certiport for $96, so pay attention to avoid resellers. For example, Certiport offers bundles which contain MS Office Specialist Exam voucher with a retake, GMetrix (Single Title) which is a practice license for any one of the MS Office apps and MS Office Word 2013 Book for $180. There are other options, too. (https://shop.certiport.com/category-s/1905.htm). To find the best deal allocate one whole day because you want to make sure that you are not adding up to the total cost of the certification.

Finally, pick a certification center. On www.certiport.com/locator you can locate the nearest one to you by searching by your zip code. Usually it would be between 10 and 15 miles from your home, but, of course, it depends on where you live.  Before you get the list of the locations a pop-up message warns you that you shouldn’t buy anything before contacting the testing center of your choice. This is very helpful because prices vary from center to center, proctoring fees may apply, and not all vouchers are accepted by all testing centers. Check if the exam that you wish to take is offered by the testing center you chose and whether you should or should not bring your own voucher. This task might take one day also. Keep in mind that testing centers offer preparation courses, so it would be a good idea to make a contact with them in the phase of collecting the studying material.

It can happen that you can only schedule an exam in two weeks, depending on how busy the center of your choice is, so account for that. Use the time in between to reread the material. Finally, take the exam! The good thing is that you know the results right away, so if you passed – congratulations! If not, you can re-take the exam within 30 days. The re-take could lengthen the process for up to a month, so you get that period of time to go back to study the areas you are weakest at.

No matter if you passed the first or the second time, this is definitely a success! You should be proud of yourself. Update your information on LinkedIn, tweak your resume, and start applying for jobs. If you have a job already, check if there is room for a promotion.

A great tool for keeping track of your actions and to always know where you are, what you’ve done and what you still have to do is a Gantt chart. By creating one you can visualize your certification path, and a great website to find one and create it for free is teamgantt.com.

Here is an example of a Gantt chart with tasks described in the previous text.

Gantt chart