Microsoft Excel: The highly coveted ceramic chicken award

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q: At the June AICPA Tech+ Conference, you began your Excel presentation by asking the audience if they had ever used specific Excel features and functions; can you please share that list with me?

A: I frequently begin my Excel presentations to large audiences by finding the most Excel-savvy CPA in the room, as follows. I ask the audience to stand and to remain standing if they answer "yes" to the Excel questions listed in the table below. The questions start off easy then escalate in difficulty. I continue asking questions until only one CPA is left standing. I then designate that person as the most Excel-Savvy CPA in the room and present him or her with an autographed ceramic chicken that declares the CPA to be the most Excel-savvy attendee. Below is the list of Excel questions (with answers, where appropriate) I asked the audience during the June 2015 AICPA Tech+ Conference.


Most Excel-savvy CPA list of questions

Remain standing…

1. If you have ever created a chart in Excel.

2. If you have ever password-protected an Excel worksheet.

3. If you have ever password-protected an Excel workbook.

4. If you have ever saved an Excel workbook to the cloud.

5. If you have ever used Excel’s split-screen tool.

6. If you have ever created a PivotTable in Excel.

7. If you have ever written a macro in Excel.

8. If you have ever queried an accounting system from Excel.

9. If you have ever saved an Excel file as a webpage using Excel’s “Save as a web page” tool.

10. If you have ever saved an Excel file as an XPS document.

11. If you know what the acronym XPS represents (XPS is an abbreviation for “XML paper specification”; XML is an abbreviation for “extensible markup language.” You might note that the word “extensible” begins with an “e,” not an “x”).

12. If you have ever used Excel’s “Get a Link” tool.

13. If you know how many rows there are in Excel 2013 (1,048,576).

14. If you know how many columns there are in Excel 2013 (16,384).

15. If you know what the last column is called in Excel 2013 (the last column is labeled XFD).

16. If you have ever created a Power View.

17. If you have ever used the Solver add-in.

18. If you know who created VisiCalc—the world’s first electronic spreadsheet, which led to the creation of Excel (Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston created VisiCalc in 1979).

I can usually identify the room's most Excel-savvy attendee by the 12th, 13th, or 14th questions; I have yet to reach the 18th question for any group of CPAs.

About the author

J. Carlton Collins ( is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2013, 2010, and 2007 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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