Bottom line: Check out the replay video of four Excel experts solving a complex case and watch my detailed walkthrough/explanation of the challenge.
Skill level: Beginner to ADVANCED
The Expert Battles are So Much Fun!
I recently had the honor of co-commentating one of the Expert Battle events at the Global Excel Summit. These events were put on by the Financial Modeling World Cup (FMWC), which is an organization that hosts several types of Excel and financial modeling competitions.
The Expert Battle event featured four players (Excel experts) that were tasked to solve a complex Excel problem in 30 minutes. The battle was streamed live and you get to watch the players' screens as they solve the case.
I had a blast commentating the event with my co-host and founder of the FMWC, Andrew Grigolyunovich. We did our best to explain the case and the formulas/functions the players were using as they attempted to solve the challenge in 30 minutes.
After the event, I did a walkthrough of the case and explained one way to solve it. More on that below.
The Case: Square of Fortune
For this battle, the four players had to solve a series of problems for a game called Square of Fortune. This was loosely based on the popular TV show, Wheel of Fortune.
The premise is that there are two players trying to guess a word. Each player takes a turn spinning the arrow in the square and guesses a letter that might be in the word. The player that guesses the last letter to reveal the entire word is the winner of the game.
There were 5 levels of questions with increasing difficulty.
The first level required a relatively simple formula to determine the points scored for one spin of the square.
Level 3 introduced sequences of both the spin strength and letter guessed. The challenge was to calculate the score of the winning player that guesses the last letter to complete the word.
By level 5, the player had to write formulas to determine the winner of the game based on a series of letters guessed, spin strengths, repeat turns on correct guesses, multiple letter scores, and double points to the solver.
If you think that sounds complex, you are correct! Formulas must be written to handle the logic of each rule of the game and determine the correct answer.
In the screenshot above you can see David Brown's screen as we watched him attempt to solve level 2. The APM number in the lower left is his Actions Per Minute. That's a count of his keystrokes and mouse movements during the battle.
It's a very interesting metric, but it did NOT correlate to the winner in this game. Check out the replay to see what I mean.
The four players in the event were:
- Lianna Gerrish – runs ratemyexcel.com and lives in Colorado.
- Harry Gross – a Senior Consultant at Operis and lives in the United Kingdom.
- David Brown – a professor of finance at the University of Arizona and lives in Arizona.
- Jason Sindler – a consultant for FP&A and financial modeling and lives in Colorado (LinkedIn).
These players are regular competitors in many of the FMWC events, and they are INCREDIBLE at solving puzzles like this.
I was blown away at how fast they were able to come up with solutions. One player made it all the way to level 5 in the 30-minute time limit!
I don't want to spoil the results, so check out the replay to see who won.
I Got to Cheat…
As I mentioned above, after the battle was over I spent about 30 minutes explaining how to solve the case.
In order to do this, the organizers sent me the case file about a week before the event. So I had plenty of time to look at it and solve the five levels of questions.
However, I also wanted to challenge myself. As I mentioned during the broadcast, I pretended like I was a player and attempted to solve the case in 30 minutes.
I did record myself attempting the challenge. I haven't published the video yet, but leave a comment below if you want to see it. It's slightly embarrassing but I had fun!
I was able to get through level 4 in 30 minutes, but my answers were not correct for levels 3 and 4. I didn't take enough time to fully read the rules. Rookie mistake!!
These challenges are INTENSE and I have a lot of respect for the players. You have to think quickly and sometimes your solutions won't use the most elegant formulas or simplified methods.
I then spent extra time solving the case for the correct answers, which I share in the case walkthrough at the end of the replay video.
The “Everyday” Functions I Used
Here's a list of the functions I used to solve the case. How many of these functions do you know?
I called these “everyday” functions. They are not overly advanced functions or formulas, but the solutions show how you can combine them to solve complex problems in Excel.
My walkthrough of the case starts at about the 55-minute mark in the replay video.
Get Involved with the FMWC
The FMWC events and battles have been called Excel as an eSport, and they are becoming very popular.
I absolutely love this concept. Not only is it fun to watch others solve these complex cases, but you will also learn a lot about Excel in the process.
I'm a big fan and look forward to commentating more events in the future. I might even get up the courage to be a contestant someday.
They have past case files available for download so you can test your skills. And I encourage you to get involved as a player if you're ready for the challenge.
I also wanted to give a shoutout to Andrew, Max, Emils, Dana, and everyone at FMWC. A ton of work goes into these productions and I'm grateful to be a part of it. And a huge shoutout to all the amazing players that provide the entertainment and leave us in awe of your incredible Excel skills. Thank you all!