If the word "exam" fills you with horror and turns you into a bundle of nerves... there's no need! These days, it's not just enough for someone to state on their CV that they are "experienced" in Microsoft Office - sometimes you may be asked to do a test or tasks to show that you understand what you'll be required to do in a certain role. If you're already in a job, having a certificate is a great advantage when applying for promotion or looking for your next step up the job ladder.

Many people aren't aware that Microsoft themselves both encourage and support people to get their official exam, known as the Microsoft Office Specialist, or MOS for short. There are a couple of exams you can take based on your skill level, but if you have one of these certificates under your belt, you can be assured that both current and future employers will be impressed.

So what does the exam entail? First of all, if you're planning on taking it, it's best to make sure that you have a chance of passing by knowing what kind of skills are required, and if you need further training to brush up on them. A MOS exam is task-based, so you'll be doing tasks in a "live" office environment, in real time so that the adjudicator can see that you can combine knowledge with execution. When you pass, you can put the MOS logo on your CV, instantly showcasing your new skills - and higher earning potential!

The MOS exams can be taken in most of the Office suite's software. A note, though - although exams exist for the older versions of office (2000 or XP for example), it's better to have the mainstream versions under your belt such as 2007 or ideally, 2010. This shows that your knowledge is up to date and who knows, your employer may still be using 2007 and will hope that you can show your colleagues a thing or two about new versions.

There are standard MOS exams and then there is an "expert" exam in some topics such as Excel and Word, for the more advanced (or ambitious) users. Once you've passed a couple of expert exams, you may wish to go the final plunge and get the much-coveted title of Microsoft Office Master - if that sounds good to you, it will certainly sound good to the next interview panel you find yourself sitting with.

If you're interested in starting your path to become a Microsoft Office Specialist or even a Master, then contact your nearest training centre. A caveat, though - make sure that they are Microsoft Certified and able to give you a genuine exam experience, training and certificate. There are many training centres offering exams in a multitude of subjects, but only the official MOS exam is recognised by Microsoft themselves. Once you've got the official certification, get it on your CV, and enjoy the benefits of having proven that you have mastered Microsoft Office.