Proud of your word-processing chops? Think you’re hot stuff because you know your way around a slide animation? Better (spell)check yourself—unless you’re spending the day in a Dallas, Texas convention center, you’re nothing compared to the teen finalists of the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championships.
Over the past three days, 180 Word wizards, PowerPoint prodigies, and Excel-siors between the ages of 13 and 22 have typed, clicked, and CTRL-ALT-DEL’d in an effort to be named the top users of various Office Suite products, from PowerPoint 2007 to Adobe Digital Design. This incredible computer pageant has been happening for 14 years.
Surprisingly few events combine the three great achievements of the modern era: teens, technology, and competitive sports. But the Microsoft Office World Championship didn’t really mean to hit a nerve. “For us, it was just a way to get students excited about getting certified,” says Allison Yrungaray, a PR rep from Certiport who is watching her fifth competition this year. “I’m surprised other companies haven’t done it.”
To get this far, finalists have already performed better than 700,000 other people on the Microsoft Specialist Exams, which test prowess in different Office programs. “For example, a Word exam might ask a user to balance newspaper column lengths or to keep text together in columns,” the exam FAQ explains. They have then trounced their local competition at the nearest Regional Championships.
The final gauntlet is a timed exam, during which the students must recreate a document exactly, in their chosen program, before 50 minutes are up. (The Adobe exam is newer, and slightly different—“a lot more visual,” with posters, says Yrungaray.) Winners receive $5,000 scholarships.
“The students get pumped, very competitive,” says Yrungaray. “Some of them get a perfect score and perform very fast.”
The competition, hosted this year by Microsoft, Adobe and certification and testing company Certiport, features competitors from 40 countries, along with their mandatory chaperones. The U.S. has 9 students in the running, and other big contingents are from New Zealand, Taiwan, Mexico, and Macau.
If you’re in Dallas, Texas, you can go cheer them on—the day’s events, which include a parade of all 180 finalists, are going down at the Gaylord Texan Grapevine Resort from 9 am to 12:30 pm CDT. (A livestream is also available here.) Afterwards, Clippy will presumably buy the winners a round of root beer.
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