UIL Computer Applications Contest Tips

UIL Computer Applications Contest Tips

Published by Beth Mader on 17th Feb 2020

If you FIND yourself having to LOOKUP formulas, rules, or notes all the TIME, this is the EXACT information you need! Whether you are new to the contest or gearing up for State, the following is designed to help you succeed while competing in the Computer Applications Contest.

If you haven't read the UIL Computer Applications Handbook, or if yours is relatively dusty, spend some time paging through it. It contains tons of helpful resources including a glossary of terms and document templates! Be sure to create and save these templates onto your computer. You might also consider purchasing a Hexco templates CD as it has all the work done for you.

Students Are Allowed to Use Help Files and Shortcuts

Contestants are also allowed to use 'help' files. If concatenating two fields scares you, arm yourself with some backup. When you're panicking because the FirstName and LastName fields are not meshing together right, pull up your concatenation file! Fill it with examples and screenshots if you're more of a visual learner. And if you don't know what concatenate means, you certainly NEED to refer to the handbook!

Another help file you should consider creating is a collection of format switches. When the test instructs you to add a format switch so that the number format is immediately preceded by a dollar sign with two decimals, you can simply copy and paste \#$,#.00 instead of stumbling over pound signs. Anything you have on your computer is acceptable at a contest, including templates for documents, help files, and personal files with information.

One of the determining factors that distinguishes first place from third place is the use of the keyboard. Shortcut keys are vital in this contest. Mastering CTRL + Z does wonders, but knowing the shortcuts for Open, Print, Save, Start the Report Wizard, Create a Query in Design View, Center, Left Justify, Right Justify, Format as Currency, Format as Percent, etc. can save you precious minutes and launch you to the top.

Students Should Be Able to Use Functions

In addition to help files and shortcuts, students should be familiar with grading in order to see where value is placed.The Word document on most tests is worth 50-60 points by itself. Consider doing the document first regardless of where it is in the sequence of the test. You should print it without whatever chart, formula, or merge data to get credit in the event you don't complete the entire test.

You don't need to memorize functions or understand how they work, but you should be able to use any function. Knowing how to navigate the Expression Builder in Access, or the Insert Function in Excel, can be helpful if you don't know certain parameters.

UIL Computer Applications Resources 

Several resources are obtainable from the  Computer Applications page on the UIL website. You can download the handbook, starter files, and several lesson plans. Coaches are encouraged to save the starter files each year so that you can continue to use old Region and State Tests for practice. New to the page are two instructional videos including a walk through of the grading process and a tutorial on how to build a database in Access. If you're looking for more study material, Hexco offers an array of options from concepts books to practice packets to instructional videos.

Technology is always changing, and with it, Microsoft Office. Hexco currently writes tests in the latest version, and so far, we have not encountered any differences between MS Office 2016 vs. 2019. If you are using Office 365, new features are added frequently. MS Office 2010 is no longer supported by the contest, so be sure to upgrade when time permits.

Hopefully you have found some of this information useful! The more you prepare yourself for competition, the better your score will be. Best of luck, and we hope to see you at State!