Mastering the SHL Excel Test: A Comprehensive Guide for Applicants

Gone are the days when accountants, bankers, and other professionals get drowned in giant sheets of tables and records every end of the month or quarter. The advancement of spreadsheet editing software now provides faster and easier ways to store valuable data and turn it into information that businesses can use as a basis to make critical decisions.

Microsoft Excel is inarguably the most used spreadsheet editor software in the world. For professions that heavily use the program, it is not enough that job applicants are only familiar with its basic features. Intermediate to advanced knowledge is usually required, and is tested during the pre-employment process. One of the tests used to assess a job candidate’s proficiency is the SHL Excel Test.

What Is an SHL Excel Test?

The SHL Excel Test is developed by Saville and Holdsworth Limited, a psychometric test developer that works with businesses and organizations with hiring processes and employee development. SHL offers various aptitude tests, personality tests, general cognitive assessments, and skills tests in multiple languages. 

Skill tests gauge specific competencies in various programming languages, software, and other occupational skills depending on the needs of the client company. The SHL Excel Test is one of the hundreds of tests offered by SHL. Companies use it to ensure that their future employees have a grasp of the program as part of their job requirements. Microsoft Excel is one of the programs in the Microsoft 365 Suite, which also includes Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Publisher. 

SHL offers three kinds of Excel Tests, depending on the requirements of the client or the company, all of which are timed:

  • SHL Interactive (35 minutes) – An interactive exam using a Microsoft Excel simulation with up to 30 questions or tasks to complete;
  • SHL Interactive (Essentials) (25 minutes) – A basic version of the exam, with up to 20 questions or tasks to complete; and,
  • SHL Adaptive (varying time limit) – A multiple-choice exam also known as a Computerized Adaptive Test (CAT), where questions and their difficulty changes according to performance and previous answers, with up to 30 questions.

There is also a new, shorter version of the multiple choice MS Excel Test that only has 12 questions and can be done in ten minutes, which covers more basic skills, including track changes.

SHL Excel Tests vary in difficulty, depending on the position or job description. It is important to take note that the Interactive versions do not allow trial and error in completing a single task. The difficulty levels of the SHL Excel Tests are as follows:

  • Basic – skill set for most administrative and clerical positions, focusing more on basic skills such as formatting, printing, shortcuts, find and replace, and more.
  • Intermediate – skill set for those in entry-level sales, accounting, or marketing positions, for professionals who work with the data in spreadsheets; skills include creating charts, graphs, pivot tables, filtering information, and managing data.
  • Advanced – skill set for those who need to analyze data within the spreadsheets in order to produce information for financial decisions, such as statistical modeling, forecasting and prediction, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) in Microsoft Office, macros, and index match functions.

SHL Excel Tests are regularly updated to match the changes released by Microsoft. Take note of the version you are using, the company you are applying to is using, and the one you will be practicing with to avoid mistakes during the exam.

Which Companies Use the SHL Excel Test?

As a leading psychometric test developer, the SHL Tests are used by many companies all over the world. Some of them include:

  • Microsoft – an American multinational technology corporation; developer of the Microsoft Office/365 Suite
  • Heineken – a Dutch multinational brewing company
  • Campari – an Italian branded beverage company
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb – a global biopharmaceutical company
  • Wills Group – an American multinational company focusing on convenience retailing, fuels marketing, and commercial real estate

SHL offers solutions to these partner companies, from pre-employment to employee development and leader training. Their tests are also available in many different languages, making them more accessible for companies looking to streamline and advance their hiring processes.

Jobs That May Require the SHL Excel Test

Spreadsheet editor or software knowledge is essential to many positions, especially in clerical, accounting, banking, and sales positions. The following are some of the professions that require basic to advanced knowledge of Microsoft Excel, and may thus require taking the SHL Excel Test for applicants:

  • Data Entry ClerksData entry clerks use spreadsheets almost every day to input and organize data, digitize old records, and similar tasks as assigned by the employer
  • Teachers – Many schools require teachers to use provided forms and spreadsheets to input student grades and keep records of test results.
  • Project Managers – Project managers deal with huge amounts of data that can be kept track of in one spreadsheet, which can be used to make sure all resources are allocated properly, all tasks are being completed, and the project is moving forward
  • Auditors and Accountants – Auditing and accounting professionals should be experts in Microsoft Excel. They deal with thousands of data and turn them into usable information for stakeholders and decision-makers. They also ensure the clarity and transparency of a business, which should reflect in its finances.
  • Sales Officers and Managers – Product sales, pricing, and other important information are placed on spreadsheets for faster access and data organization.
  • Credit and Collection Officers – Their main job is to keep track of outstanding invoices and debts from clients. These professions usually use spreadsheets to help mitigate company losses and provide clear feedback when it’s time to report to upper management.
  • Bankers and Financial Analysts – The financing industry depends on spreadsheets to store thousands of data from clients and other information. While most banks use specialized programs for more intimate data, knowledge of Excel is still a basic skill needed for bankers and financial analysts.

These are just some of the professions that require knowledge of Microsoft Excel. Due to its diverse features and universal format, proficiency in Microsoft Excel has become a desired skill, if not required, in many other jobs.

Why Is the SHL Excel Test Used?

Companies nowadays require some employees to be already proficient in certain programs before applying for the job. The SHL Excel Test is used to make sure that job applicants are prepared to take on the data and work they will be dealing with if hired. The test also speeds up the hiring process and provides objective data to the employer when making hiring decisions.

What Questions Are on an Excel Test?

Preparation for the SHL Excel Test takes time, especially if you are only familiar with the basic features of Excel. Here are sample test questions to start with:

Sample Set (Multiple Choice):

1. Which formula would you use to add up the values in cells A1 and B1?

a) =SUM(A1, B1)

b) =A1 + B1

c) =A1 – B1

d) =A1 * B1

Answer: b) =A1 + B1

2. What does the function COUNT(A1:A5) do?

a) Counts the total number of cells in the range A1:A5

b) Adds up the values in the range A1:A5

c) Multiplies the values in the range A1:A5

d) Counts the number of non-empty cells in the range A1:A5

Answer: d) Counts the number of non-empty cells in the range A1:A5

3. How do you change the font color of a cell in Excel?

a) Right-click on the cell and choose “Font Color”

b) Go to the “Home” tab and use the font color drop-down menu

c) Press Ctrl + C

d) Press Ctrl + V

Answer: b) Go to the “Home” tab and use the font color drop-down menu

4. How do you delete a worksheet in Excel?

a) Right-click on the worksheet tab and choose “Delete”

b) Go to the “Home” tab and click on “Delete Worksheet”

c) Press Ctrl + X

d) Press Ctrl + Z

Answer: a) Right-click on the worksheet tab and choose “Delete”

5. How can you change the width of a column in Excel?

a) Right-click on the column letter and choose “Change Width”

b) Go to the “Home” tab and click on “Column Width”

c) Drag the column boundary in the header row to the desired width

d) Press Ctrl + Shift + Arrow keys

Answer: c) Drag the column boundary in the header row to the desired width

Sample Set 1 (Interactive):

 1 Order Item Price Quantity
 2 1 Apple 0.75 10
 3 2 Orange 0.50 8
 4 3 Banana 0.40 12
 5 4 Grape 0.90 15

1. Calculate the total cost for each item (Price * Quantity) in column E


  • Select cell E2.
  • Enter the formula: “=B2*C2”.
  • Press Enter to calculate the total cost for the first item.
  • Click and drag the fill handle (a small square at the bottom-right corner of the cell) to copy the formula down to the other cells in column E.

2. Calculate the overall total cost (sum of all items) in cell E6


  • Select cell E6.
  • Enter the formula: “=SUM(E2:E5)”.
  • Press Enter to calculate the overall total cost.

3. Find the item with the highest price and display it in cell G2


  • Select cell G2.
  • Enter the formula: “=INDEX(B2:B5,MATCH(MAX(C2:C5),C2:C5,0))”.
  • Press Enter to find and display the item with the highest price.

4. Find the item with the highest quantity and display it in cell G3


  • Select cell G3.
  • Enter the formula: “=INDEX(B2:B5,MATCH(MAX(D2:D5),D2:D5,0))”.
  • Press Enter to find and display the item with the highest quantity.

5. Calculate the average price per item and display it in cell G4


  • Select cell G4.
  • Enter the formula: “=AVERAGE(C2:C5)”.
  • Press Enter to calculate and display the average price per item.

Sample Set 2 (Interactive):

 1  Name  Gender  Country  Age  Score
 2  John  Male  USA  25 85
 3  Sarah  Female  Canada  30 92
 4  Mark  Male  USA  28 78
 5  Emily  Female  Canada  32 95

1. Calculate the average age of the individuals in the table.

Solution: Use the AVERAGE function on the Age column. The formula would be “=AVERAGE(D2:D5)”.

2. Find the highest score among the individuals and display their name

Solution: Use the INDEX and MATCH functions to find the name corresponding to the highest score. The formula would be “=INDEX(A2:A5, MATCH(MAX(E2:E5), E2:E5, 0))”.

3. Sort the table based on the score column in descending order

Solution: Select the table, go to the “Data” tab, click on the “Sort” button, choose the Score column as the sort by column, and select “Largest to Smallest” or “Z to A” as the sort order.

4. Insert a new row for an individual named Alex with the following details: Male, USA, 27 years old, and a score of 90

Solution: Right-click on the row number below where you want to insert the new row, choose “Insert”, and enter the details for Alex in the respective columns.

5. Apply conditional formatting to highlight individuals with a score above 90?

Solution: Select the Score column (E2:E5), go to the “Home” tab, click on “Conditional Formatting”, choose “Highlight Cells Rules” and then “Greater Than”, enter “90” as the value, and select a formatting style.

Find more sample questions over at our partners at JobTestPrep! Please take note that its SHL Excel Test prep pack is currently not available for Apple operating systems.

How Do I Prepare for the SHL Excel Assessment Test?

The SHL Excel Test can be a breeze or extra challenging, depending on your current skill set and the required proficiency for the position you are applying for. Nevertheless, it is important to prepare for the SHL Excel Test. Here are some tips to help you get a passing score:

  • Choose hands-on learning. The best way to improve your Excel skills is with hands-on learning. With this, you can get a feel of the program, try out basic commands, and familiarize yourself with the layout.
  • Take practice tests. Practice tests or prep packs are the best way to improve your proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Taking initial tests will help you assess your current skills level, and practice tests will help you eventually improve. Other study materials as well, such as shortcut commands charts, can also help in your study plan.
  • Take note of key Excel skills. Don’t just memorize Excel features. You must also know when and where to apply them. Some of the key skills needed in Excel include graphs and charts, dynamic visuals, pivot tables, basic macros, and conditional formatting. Because Excel is used to manage a lot of information, the ability to find problems within a sheet and address them is a value-added skill for employers.
  • Clarify with Human Resources. Find out the exact tests you will take. Take note that the SHL Excel test may not be the only SHL assessment you will take. Read the job requirements thoroughly or ask your interviewer about key skills needed for the position so you can prepare properly.
  • Show off with shortcuts. Shortcuts are precise key commands that help professionals organize spreadsheets and extract data. Make sure you are familiar with them – who knows, there might be shortcuts your employer isn’t even aware of! As mentioned earlier, however, the SHL Excel Test doesn’t allow candidates to perform trial-and-error shortcuts during the simulated tests. Be precise in learning them.
  • Stay updated. While most big companies stay updated with the Excel versions that they use in their companies, some still use older versions. If you can ask the hiring manager or team leader about the version they are using, since some commands may execute different functions depending on the version (2010, 2013, 2016 or 2019/Office 365)
  • Stay relaxed. Keep a cool head when taking the test. Prepare a list of questions to ask the testing officer or human resources officer if you are still unsure of the test/s you will be taking. Stay relaxed and don’t let anxiety fog up your head and cause you to blank out.

Microsoft Excel is a tool used by many professions. While it is understandable to be intimidated by new technology, it is now considered an important skill to have. Familiarize yourself with the program and in case you don’t get offered the job, you have a new skill learned for the next job application.

SHL Excel Test Results

SHL test results bear weight depending on the position you are applying for. Thus, passing scores will depend on the standards set by the hiring company. For example, if you are applying for a data entry clerk position versus an accountant position, SHL Excel tests will bear heavier weight for the latter, as it needs more intimate knowledge of the program.

Take note that the SHL Excel Test Results are not the only basis for recruitment managers; your resume, interview results, and other assessments will all factor in the decision of whether or not you will be offered the job.

If you have more questions about SHL Tests, you may refer to SHL’s official Help Center.

Excel with Microsoft Excel

The SHL Excel Test is an assessment used to gauge a job applicant’s knowledge of Microsoft Excel. Spreadsheets are important tools for all companies in all industries, and a certain level of proficiency in the program has become a norm for many job openings. As not all jobs require expert knowledge of Excel, there are different forms of the test, with varying difficulty levels.

Preparing for the SHL Excel Test requires learning about the relevant versions of the program, focusing on key skills and features you will be using on the job. Taking relevant practice tests will help you see if you are improving, along with hands-on practice. With enough effort and determination, you can excel in the program and excel in your chosen career.


1. What is an SHL Excel Assessment?

The SHL Excel Assessment is a test used by hiring companies to find out how skilled a candidate is in Microsoft Excel. There are three different kinds of tests, varying in difficulty: interactive tests use a simulated Excel program to test practical knowledge, while multiple-choice tests assess technical knowledge.

2. How do I pass the SHL Assessment Test?

Find out which SHL Assessment Test you are taking, and duly prepare for it. For the SHL Excel Test, taking practice tests and making sure your skills are updated is one way to pass the SHL Assessment Test. Read the job requirements as well so you can focus on the skills that will be tested. Learn about basic formulas and shortcuts as needed.

3. Is the SHL Test hard?

The SHL Excel Test difficulty depends on the position you are applying for. Essential skills are needed for positions such as data entry clerks, administrative assistants, and the like. However, for higher positions or management positions that deal with the data itself, expect the SHL Excel Test to be more difficult.

4. What is the SHL Test?

The SHL Test refers to the assessments offered by psychometric test developer and solutions provider SHL, which is used by hundreds of companies all over the world. It may refer to one of the hundreds of tests that they offer to clients. To make sure which test you will be taking, clarify with human resources or the hiring officer you are coordinating with.

5. Will my job need to use Excel? Do I need to take the SHL Excel Test?

To find out if the job you’re applying for needs Excel skills, read the job requirements thoroughly. If one of the desired or required skills include a certain level of proficiency in Microsoft Excel, then you might be asked to take an Excel test. Clarify with human resources or the hiring officer you are coordinating with.