Ladies and gentlemen: it’s time to start your spreadsheets, fine-tune those formulas, and ready yourself for the inaugural Excel World Championship! That’s right — the world’s favorite spreadsheet software now has a Microsoft-sponsored competition, complete with a grand prize for the overall winner.
Excel World Championship entrants will be tested in several key Excel areas. They’ll be competing for “a trip to Seattle, USA and a meeting with Excel Product Leads to provide feedback on the next features added to Excel.” And of course, the title of “Excel World Champion” will be bestowed upon the eventual winner. Add that to your letterhead!
The brave competitors must display exceptional skills in the following areas:
- Data Relays — Accessing, structuring, managing, and manipulating data.
- Chart Gymnastics — Visually representing data to best tell a story, as judged by our panel of experts and this Excel community.
- Formula Wrestling — Using formulas to dynamically solve questions, even if the data changes.
As you’d expect with a competition, it won’t be straightforward. Competitors will receive a notification when a test spreadsheet becomes live. Those competing must download the test, complete it, and return it to the email address provided at the time (“Details on where to send your workbook will be provided with the test”).
This is a skill-based contest. The objective of this contest is to empower people to learn and do more by creating awareness of the modern features of Excel and how to access and use these new features through Office 365. In this contest, Excel fans can show their skills and creativity as they work through a series of questions around data manipulation, data visualization, and formula writing.
Competitors will be scored based on their performance in the aforementioned areas. The weighting for those areas is as follows: Data Relays (35%), Chart Gymnastics (30%, driven by community), Formula Wrestling (35%).
— Office 365 Community (@Office365_Tech) September 18, 2016
“Driven by community” refers to the Excel Tech Community. Competitors will upload their Chart Gymnastics into a public area and receive votes. This seems like an interesting idea for a competition. Given that this will be a public vote, I’m sure it will be susceptible to the same “hivemind” social influence bias we see in other open voting systems.
Competition Dates and Entry Requirements
If your interest has been sufficiently piqued, take note of the competition start and end dates.
- Round 1 “Trials” — October 3 00:00 UTC to October 9 23:59 UTC
- Round 2 “Qualifying Heat” — October 12 00:00 UTC to October 21 23:59 UTC
- Round 3 “Semi-Finals” — October 26 00:00 UTC to November 2 23:59 UTC
- Round 4 “Finals” — November 18 00:00 UTC to November 18 23:59 UTC
The first two rounds are open to everyone. After round two, all entries will be graded on the criteria detailed in the following section.
If Excel is like a Swiss army knife, Google sheets & LibreCalc are like the foldable plastic fork that comes with supermarket salads.
— Grant Trebbin (@GPTreb) September 12, 2016
Determining a Winner
All entries will be reviewed at the end of each round. The following criteria will be used to select the winners:
- 25% — Data Accuracy
- 10% — Data Access and Structure
- 30% — Social Score
- 25% — Formula Accuracy (answers question with current data and answers question with refreshed data)
- 10% — Formula Efficiency (higher score for using fewer formulas and arithmetic operations)
After round two, the top 20 highest scoring entries will progress. Following round three, the top 3 highest scoring entries will progress. Round four will see the highest scoring entry declared Excel World Champion.
The competition will be run under the Excel World Championship banner, but there are entry restrictions for a number of countries:
Residents of those countries can find information on how to enter by following this link.
Otherwise, you’ll be testing your mettle in the International group. Whether or not this increases the competition difficultly is yet to be seen. I imagine the bar will be set pretty darn high!
Tips for the Trial
The first trial workbook can be downloaded via this link.
Here are my immediate impressions: Power Query and Power Pivot are definitely going to be your friends in the first task. However, some users have reported difficulty using those tools within the protected workbook. This means to complete the trial, you’ll have to devise a workaround.
The second task tests your chart skills. The data provided should give you ample opportunity to display your prowess. That said, if you’re stuck for an aesthetic, why not look at the existing submissions (scroll down to the comments) for some inspiration?
Caveat — Upvote those you find interesting and display the data accurately. This section considers the community opinion too.
There's an Excel World Championship.
I've been preparing my whole life for this moment.
— Lumin Sperling (@Lumin_S) September 20, 2016
The final section requires you to answer a series of questions using formulas. You should find the questions relatively easy, especially for those using the integrated functions offered in Excel 2016. Remember, the judges want the correct answer, but also want a nice, efficient formula. You’ll lose points if your formula is convoluted or overly complicated. Keep it simple!
Compete With the Finest
Do you have what it takes to become the first Excel World Champion? Microsoft regularly provides sponsorship for other competitions. They provide a healthy backdrop for technological development while allowing Microsoft the first glance at anything groundbreaking. Most importantly, they give competitors a chance to illustrate their expertise in any given area, with the chance of winning exciting prizes.
And let’s face it, everyone loves an exciting prize.
Do you think you have what it takes? Do you think the level of expertise will be too high? What Microsoft-sponsored competitions would you like to see next? Let us know your thoughts below!