Employers used to prefer candidates with technological skills. Now they often mandate fluency in the use of computer applications, most notably Microsoft® Office. With 86% of hiring managers saying IT certifications are part of their hiring criteria, today’s college students are realizing the importance of preparing for — and passing — the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) exams.

A study involving 1,600 students at 30 two-year, four-year, trade, and vocational colleges identified engagement, preparation, and confidence as three components required to drive student success on the MOS exams. The study also found that Cengage’s Skills Assessment Manager (SAM) provides an optimum environment to support instructors in all three areas.

First, 89% of the instructors using SAM believed that its use increased student engagement. Among students who attributed the use of a digital tool to success on the exam, 75% said they were more engaged in their course because of SAM. Two-thirds of the SAM students agreed that doing the SAM online projects were important to their course success; one-quarter of the students using other digital support tools felt the same way about their product. And 80% of the SAM students attributed their work with SAM projects to their being prepared to pass the MOS exams.

A higher number of SAM-using instructors said their tool provided strong preparation for the MOS exam compared to instructors using digital tools such as Microsoft’s IT Academy, Pearson’s MyIT Lab, and Paradigm’s SNAP program.

In the confidence arena, nearly 70% of the SAM instructors agreed that the use of SAM reduced student anxiety; only 40% of instructors using other digital tools made the same claim. As for the students, two-thirds noted that they were more confident in their abilities due to their use of SAM. Among those students, 83% connected SAM with preparation to do well on the certification test, and 72% said using SAM helped to reduce their anxiety about the exams.

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