If you're in Europe, the ECDL is a good first qualification for those who have no computer experience at all, and are just getting started. It is a basic qualification which tells an employer that you are IT literate. It will also demonstrate that you are keen to learn. Don't expect a high-paying job with this qualification; use it as an entry-level certificate that you can build on.

If you just want to make a start with computers, and don't particularly want a job in computers, gaining an ECDL certificate can be a real boost to your confidence.

A lot of ECDL training can be had for free in the UK, if you're on certain state benefits.

ECDL - What's involved?

The ECDL qualification consists of one theory test, and 6 practical ones. A Skills card, known as a log book, is issued to the student. Once a test is passed, the log book gets updated. When all 7 tests are passed, your get the ECDL.

For Module 1, you need 27 out of 36 multiple choice questions correct for a pass. For the other 6 modules, you need 24 out of 32.

An example question, taken from Module One for the 2003 test, is this:

Q. Which software would you use to create a mail shot letter

a) Web browsing software
b) Spreadsheet software
c) Accounting software
d) Word processing software

The other 6 modules are in a similar vein, but you are asked to perform tasks while at the test centre. In the word processing exam, for example, there will be a document that you have to open and make changes to. Each successful change might be worth one mark. If you get 24 marks out of 32 then you'll have passed that module.

The seven modules are these:

  • Concepts in Information Technology
  • Using the Computer and Managing Files
  • Word Processing
  • Spreadsheets
  • Database
  • Presentation
  • Information and Communication

If you wanted to save a bit of money, you could buy an ECDL book, study it for a few months, and then book a test at your nearest ECDL test centre. Each test lasts for 45 minutes, though, so you're not going to be sitting all seven exams in one go!

If you'd rather not learn alone, then there will probably be a training organisation close to where you live that does the ECDL qualification. Shop around and you may get some free training! (The exams won't be free, however.)

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