Business & Management
Excel With Business Review: Must Have For Excel Newbies
Posted 02/27/2013 12 minutes
By Brad Zomick
By Brad Zomick

There are as many tutorials in the Microsoft Excel niche as there are financial analysts on Wall Street. Despite the crowded space, the Excel With Business MS Excel tutorial not only holds it own, but stands out from the crowd. The course includes over 36 hours of materials, starts with basic navigation and goes all the way to power pivot tables and VBA macros, which is appropriate for Excel beginners and advanced users alike. 36 hours of material may feel overwhelming, but the course includes testing and diagnostic modules to accurately assess your level and select a tailored curriculum just for you. There are now 5 major versions of Excel out there, and Excel With Business training covers them all, including two versions for Macs, so this course is also great for Excel experts who have been leary about making the leap over to a Mac. If you are aspiring to be one of those thousands of financial analysts on Wall Street who make a living using Microsoft Excel, consider Excel with Business to help take you there!

[Editors Note: The EwB has just launched a new brand and learning library called Filtered. With Filtered, they have completely rewritten their curriculum. The original curriculum has been condensed and expanded upon, with more video, exercises, quiz questions, and advanced content. On top of that they've added a slick new user experience. Check out our review here. EWB as it is described below no longer exists. It now has a shiny new appearance but is pretty much the same as Filtered, just with different branding and pricing.]

excel with business course

Excel with Business now bears a striking rresemblanceto its sister platform for Filtered.

The Excel With Business (EwB) online excel course comes to us from a small team of 12 across the pond in London, all of whom come from diverse backgrounds but have all used Excel in a working business capacity before coming into the EwB fold. The inspiration for EwB came out of frustration. The founders, Marc, Chris, and Vinit all worked for consulting firms and were shocked with the quality of training provided by their employers, and wondered why such an important business tool was not taught in way that people actually needed to use it. Now with their flagship product, they are confident their program can take someone with absolutely no Excel experience all the way to the level that would be required of consultants, analysts, and accountants. The course has been on the market since 2008, but has really taken off in the last year, and has sold 90,000 subscriptions in over 30 countries.

Stat Sheet

Subjects Covered Customizing Excel, Housekeeping, Connecting Workbooks, Sharing & Protecting, Editing, Viewing, Outline, Cell reference, Data validation, Sorting & Filtering, Data & Time functions, Text functions, Lookup & Reference functions, Logical & Information Functions, Named ranges, Macros, Mathematical Functions, Summarizing data, Pivot tables, Formula Auditing. What-If Analysis, Modeling Principles, Modeling Techniques, Cell Formatting, Number Formatting, Conditional Formatting, Graphs & Charts and Page & Print Set Up.
Total Courses 32 Units
Student Level Beginner to Experts
Format Audio Intros, PDF Summaries, Instructional Videos, Exercises in Actual Excel Spreadsheets
Certification Valid for ITQ certification in UK
Cost $250 (£192) for lifetime access

Full Review

[Editor's Note: We recommend you stop reading here. The version of Excel with Business described below no longer exists. Reading about Filtered (from the same creators) will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. The big difference between the two platforms is pricing. EwB costs $250 for lifetime access, whereas Filtered is available as a monthly subscription starting at $15/month.]

For those who have a negligible amount of Excel experience, the team at Excel With Business recommends starting from Unit 1 and working slowly through the 32-unit course. However, for students with prior knowledge of Excel, it is suggested they start with the Excel skills test, which uses a 30-minute, 40-question multiple-choice test to create a proxy for each student’s level of Excel acumen. The test is adaptive, meaning it becomes more difficult with each question that is answered correctly. The test bank has over 300 questions with the higher difficulty questions receiving higher weighting, allowing EwB to get a reading on a student’s ability without asking a ton of questions. The result is your “Excel IQ” and happens to be calculated in a similar fashion to normal IQ. One of our reviewers thought that he was proficient in Excel, but he scored an Excel IQ of 99, one point below the mean, and according to the Excel With Business scale that translates to barely competent!

After taking the Excel with Business test we were provided with an Excel IQ. Our reviewer thought he had reasonable Excel chops but according EwB he was barely competent!

After taking the Excel with Business test we were provided with an Excel IQ. Our reviewer thought he had reasonable Excel chops but according EwB he was barely competent!

If you are not sure how to read your Excel IQ Ewb provides this handy Excel IQ bell curve chart. Good luck on your Excel IQ test!

If you are not sure how to read your Excel IQ Ewb provides this handy Excel IQ bell curve chart. Good luck on your Excel IQ test!

Once the test is completed, students should move along to the diagnostic test, which really sets EwB apart. It further tests user knowledge in key Excel functional areas – ascertaining exactly what a student knows and does not know. Many students may have some level of experience and Excel and will not want to sit through all 36 hours of content. The adaptive diagnostic analyzes each student’s unique Excel skill profile and creates a course curriculum that emphasizes specific course modules and units that require special attention. The readout is a simple traffic light system that helps students understand which units need a simple review or intense scrutiny. Essentially, if you see a green course you go, skimming the info quickly, if at all, but if you see red, you are going to want to stop and study the material intently.

At the MyEwB page you are greeted with an introduction to your tailored course and EwB's traffic light system.

At the MyEwB page you are greeted with an introduction to your tailored course and EwB’s traffic light system.

Thus there are no beginner, intermediate, or advanced classes, rather each student gets their own tailored class assignment instantly. Once the diagnostic is complete, students simply go to their My EwB page to see there prescribed curriculum. The actual course material is divided into 32 units covering editing, printing, cell referencing, data validation, connecting workbooks, sharing/protecting, cell references, in-cell functions, data summaries, macros, pivot tables, what-if analysis, graphs/charts, and modeling techniques. We could list more but all you need to know is that it is incredibly comprehensive.

EwB's custom course curriculum is intuitive and easy to follow.

EwB’s custom course curriculum is intuitive and easy to follow.

Once you dive into any particular unit, you will find multiple ways to digest the content. Each unit has a short audio introduction that gives an overview of what to expect. To be honest, we didn’t find too much value in this feature, but those who are prefer an audio based learning style will appreciate it. It is also a little cumbersome that the audio intros and special subtitled video (for hearing impaired) are all listed in above the course unit list, as opposed to the PDF’s, videos without subtitles, and Excel files which are all nested within each respective unit.

Neither of these small issues detract from the user experience but the for sake of organization it would be helpful to have not one but two different ways to organize the content: by unit and by content type so you can download all the PDFs or XLSs in one shot. The good news is that EwB has informed us that they are planning an overhaul aimed at improving user experience this year.

On top of the course curriculum, you will find audio intro's for each unit.

On top of the course curriculum, you will find audio intro’s for each unit.

Once you click into a unit, you will find the PDF, embedded video content, and XLS files for each unit. Not all units have all three media types, especially the earlier units that cover rudimentary excel skills. In those cases, the concepts are simpler and do not require the extra content, but you will know exactly what you are getting into before each course. On the course curriculum page, there are columns for Resources, Time required, and Difficulty. In most cases, the more difficult material requires more time and resources to learn.

The course curriculum headings tell you what type of file formats the unit will be presented in, the unit difficulty level, and how long you can expect to spend in the unit. Once you complete the unit, simply check off the empty box and move on!

The course curriculum headings tell you what type of file formats the unit will be presented in, the unit difficulty level, and how long you can expect to spend in the unit. Once you complete the unit, simply check off the empty box and move on!

At the top of the unit page is the written course material in the form of PDFs. This is where you can begin to ascertain the level of effort and detail the team at EwB has put into this course as they are providing an separate instructional guide for 4 different versions of Microsoft Excel, two versions for Windows, 2003 and 2007/10, and two versions of Excel for Mac, 2008 and 2011. Windows Excel and 2007 and 2010 are similar enough that they did not warrant separate guides, but the tutorials include the finer details between versions and different instructions when appropriate. Once you chose your version, simply click through to read the PDF in your web browser or you can save to your desktop and read at a later time.

Each unit is covered for 5 different versions of Microsoft Excel. Click on the your version and you will an instructional PDF file.

Each unit is covered for 5 different versions of Microsoft Excel. Click on the your version and you will an instructional PDF file.

The individual PDF files themselves are impeccably formatted, with lots of white space, and the pictures are clean and crisp. The PDF’s not only explain concepts but also give step-by-step how-to instructions. In general, the files are easy on the eye and very digestible.

The EwB PDF files are impeccably formatted with lots of white space and clean images.

The EwB PDF files are impeccably formatted with lots of white space and clean images.

With in each unit, the PDF’s are followed by embedded pre-recorded Vimeo video clips that walk through the step-by-step of on how to implement the functionalities described the PDF. The instructional video provided is on the latest versions of Excel but from what we could see, using the PDF text and video you can still follow the process well despite minor changes from version to version.

After reading the PDF file, scroll down the unit page and find instructional videos for both PC and Mac versions of Excel.

After reading the PDF file, scroll down the unit page and find instructional videos for both PC and Mac versions of Excel.

Finally, each unit wraps up with a downloadable excel file that includes exercises to help you apply the concepts you have just learned.

Once you complete the video instructions, download an excel spreadsheet template and practice what you have learned!

Once you complete the video instructions, download an excel spreadsheet template and practice what you have learned!

The excel exercise spreadsheets are in a format that is readable by any version of Excel, and have been designed with precision. Each workbook is set up with an intro with instructions, and separate pages for each exercise, as well as a detailed answer section that covers the exact steps for each version of Excel. They also provide quality data and formatted templates (except when its an exercise in formatting). The files are easy to follow and really help reinforce the learnings from the unit. It is a crucial piece of the learning experience and one of the best parts – if not the best part – of the EwB platform.

The EwB excercise templates contain instructions, high quality data and templates, and detailed answers for all version of Excel.

The EwB excercise templates contain instructions, high quality data and templates, and detailed answers for all version of Excel.

4.5/5

Cost of Program

With 36 hours of material a student is paying about $7/hour of training. This is the type of course that can help you land a job in finance where entry-level salary is over $80k in year one. Even if you just land an Excel temp job with a wage of $20/hour, the cost benefit analysis works out in your favor.

4/5

Ease of Use

The test and diagnostic modules run smooth; course curriculum is highly organized with videos streaming; and downloads complete uninterrupted. However, the course requires lots of clicking around and different content mediums need to be digested separately.

4.5/5

Quality of Content

Excel with Business has both written, video, and Excel workbook instructional content that is professional in appearance, accurate, and detailed. However, it is a little light on advanceWe encountered a small gap in keyboard shortcut documentation for a Mac laptops but EwB assured it will be fixed with the next wave of course material updates. (We will, of course, check)

3/5

Quality of Support

We noticed there was no help or support center to go to. Eventually we found a support email in the FAQ and Contact pages. This is meant for technical support issues is there is no learning support.

5/5

Employment Value

When it comes to Excel in the workplace, you either know it or you don’t, and this course is guaranteed to give you all the skills you need to even the hardest Excel jobs done. Excel continues to be among the most important skills of many jobs

4.3

Overall

Mac vs. Windows

Many people wonder about the usability of Excel for Mac so the Excel With Business team was kind enough to fill us in on the differences the Windows and Excel versions. Most of the functionality is now almost the same with the major discrepancies lying in keyboard shortcuts. The older versions of Excel for Mac typically lagged behind their Windows based counterparts. For instance, Excel for Mac 2008 came out a year behind Excel 2007, and lacked the “Ribbon” feature. Mac for Excel 2011 caught up considerably. However it missing the latest and greatest feature, the PowerPivot, which some are calling “the best new Excel feature Microsoft has created in years.” The PowerPivot is a free plug-in extension of the classic pivot table that allows users to perform deeper data analysis on larger complex data sets in an easy way. If you are one of the many Excel users who are not active with pivot tables, this feature will not mean much to you, but, if you are doing complex data analysis, the EwB team recommends you stick with the PC version of Excel for now.

For those transitioning from PC to Mac, the Mac for Excel tutorial was quite comprehensive and provides training that can help former PC users relearn Excel in a way that will surprise the staunches of Mac naysayers. Thus if your hesitation for using Excel on an Apple computer was usability, this guide puts that to rest.

On the topic of versions of Excel, we would be remiss if we did not mention the newest version, Excel 2013, which just launched. The team of EwB team had advance access to the new version and are particularly excited about two features: the ‘Flash Fill’ which makes separating a single column of data into multiple columns quicker and easier; and ‘Recommended Charts,’ which means exactly what it sounds like. This will be particularly useful for people who don’t make charts often because Excel will be able to recommend the best chart based on the data that is presented to it. EwB already has an Excel 2013 introductory guide online and plans to update the course materials to include full documentation for Excel 2013 by summer.

Test Your Excel Skills

Will You Excel in Excel?

In a competitive market, the team at Excel With Business has put together an impressive course that stands out from the crowd in many ways. Firstly, it provides a pleasant looking yet detailed course content in a variety of formats that suits both visual and audio learners. Secondly, it uses smart testing tools that can accurately pinpoint students’ abilities and create each unique student a tailor-made curriculum. Thirdly, there are enough versions of Excel to make your head spin but somehow they manage to cover all the major versions in circulation. Finally, they have crafted great Excel spreadsheet exercise templates that help put your newly learned knowledge to work in just minutes. AND they do it all for the low price of $250. We see a lot courses pass through our doors, and we just don’t see packages with this type of value that often. In summary, whatever level of Excel you are and whatever version of Excel you are on, Excel With Business is one course that can get you on your way to becoming an Excel spreadsheet jockey!

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