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AAT level 3 unit SDST Core Topics - 2013 syllabus

Spreadsheet software

The exam is a computer based project, consists of 5 tasks and it's 2 ½ hours long (plus 15 minutes reading time):

  • Task 1: Design a spreadsheet
  • Task 2: Produce a chart or graph
  • Task 3: Use techniques to calculate data
  • Task 4: Use analysis tools
  • Task 5: Spreadsheet knowledge questions

Each task on the assessment will include a number of instructions that will test your competence under the learning outcomes for this unit.

What to look out for in the exam

Basic spreadsheet skills

Although this is a level 3 qualification, you will still need to remember your basic spreadsheet skills. What you already know will also be put to use so make sure you read the questions carefully to ensure you carry out instructions as required. For example, skills will include opening spreadsheets, naming a spreadsheet and saving data.

Designing a spreadsheet

You will also be tested on the presentation skills of your spreadsheet and will need to take care that you present the information in the required format.

Formatting skills to think about may include looking at the font that is used, including titles, presenting headers in bold, adjusting cell width to ensure the data is visible. Think about how your spreadsheet looks as well as making sure you follow the instructions on the tasks. Your spreadsheet data should be visible to the reader so this may involve you changing a cell height or width.

You should be able to insert headers and footers onto a spreadsheet and you should also be able to name tabs within a workbook.

You need to think about the print format of your spreadsheet as well as the design. You will be required to select the most appropriate scaling of the spreadsheet to ensure your data would be present in the correct way.

You may be required to change the orientation of the worksheet and will also need to understand how to adjust the page scaling as required to fit a particular print format.


You will be tested on the formatting skills mentioned above, but additional tasks you may be expected to carry out include formatting cells to a particular currency, percentages, date formats, including a set number of decimal places in your data.

Formatting data could also include underlining information, cell alignment, changing the colour of the text or including shading and borders.

More complex formatting skills you will need to know include conditional formatting. You will be expected to know how to use the relevant tools to enter the criteria required so your data is presented in a particular way.

Charts and graphs

You will need to know how to present your data in the form of a chart or graph so you will need to be familiar with the different types that are available.

As well as being able to create the charts and graphs you will be expected to include information such as a title, axis titles, axis scale, and will also need to include a legend.

Any chart type could be assessed, including bar, pie, doughnut bubble and the graphs could include line or scatter. Make sure you follow the instructions in the task to create the correct chart or type that has been requested.

Formulas and functions

A requirement of the assessment will be to create a relevant formula to meet a particular calculation requirement.

The more straight forward requirements of this may be to use a formula to add together a set of data.

Make sure you do use a formula if you have a calculation to complete, for example a SUM function, as you need to demonstrate your competence.

The other functions you need to be aware of are max, min, average, count, and you will need to know how to apply these correctly.

It is highly likely you would be expected to include an 'IF' formula in a spreadsheet so you need to know how to structure such a formula in a way that would give you the information required.

You will need to understand how to apply cell referencing in the correct way as your formulas will need to be constructed using the relevant referencing. This includes absolute references, relative references and mixed references.

Please note there are different ways of structuring a formula that would give you the required answer, so when you are working through practice assessments do not worry if your formula looks slightly different to a suggested answer. If your formula still produces the required answer, then it works.

You will also need to know how to display a formula in a worksheet.

Password protection

Another skill you will need to have is to be able to demonstrate that you can use a password to protect the information in your spreadsheet or open a spreadsheet.

Knowledge questions

There are a few short knowledge questions. There are not many questions you will be required to answer and they are likely to be multiple choice.

General advice

Remember to read the question carefully and carry out all the tasks that have been asked for. Read the instructions of the assessment carefully to ensure you meet any presentation requirements for your worksheets. You may lose out on vital marks by missing a requirement for headers or footers to be included.

To give you the best chance of passing, we recommend that you join a Kaplan course. There are various options available: Classroom, Live Online, and Distance Learning. Alternatively, you could purchase separate Kaplan Publishing study text and or revision kit.