Caution! LibreOffice Calc is NOT the same as MS Excel

Caution! LibreOffice Calc is NOT the same as MS Excel

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India’s (IBBI) valuation examination is conducted as an online examination of 2 hours consisting of multiple-choice questions. The exam is administered by National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) at their various centers across the country.

While most of us have experienced using Microsoft Office products either at home or office, the NISM centers don’t own this rather expensive product. Instead, they use free license software such as LibreOffice Calc or OpenOffice. These are close imitations of the ubiquitous MS Excel. Yet, there are several differences which you experience only when you use it under time constraints.

If you are a pro at Excel in office, and you are the go-to guy for Excel-anything problems, then there is news for you. LibreOffice is not the same as Excel. If your fingers carry the memory of Excel shortcuts over the years, you are in more trouble! Ok that’s a little exaggerated. But I am saying that don’t over-rely on Excel type short cuts when using Libre.

This is a good reason for you to get acquainted with LibreOffice and/or OpenOffice before appearing for the valuer examination. For instance, click and drag is slightly different between Excel and Libre. Another example is absolute referencing ($A$1) and the way one copies cells don’t work the same way. Here is a detailed list of differences between Libre and Excel (

In the exam center you shouldn’t be worrying about knowing how to use Libre. In the IBBI valuation examination, especially the caselets requires one to calculate cash flows across few years and discounting them back to present value.

While you may be an Excel pro and could possibly tackle a DCF problem in under two minutes, the same would cost you five to seven minutes in Libre. This is both annoying and a major source for distraction while taking the exam. Perhaps, 20 minutes a day during the last week of the examination would be more than sufficient to gain enough familiarity with open-source products.

The point to note is that NISM does not offer you a choice of software. We don’t have a list of software's at every NISM center. There are anecdotal stories of people having accessed MS Excel at certain NISM centers. We are not sure about these claims. But there is a 95% chance that you would be given a free, open-source software such as Libre or OpenOffice.

So, get acquainted with these so that all your mental energies are focused on the valuation problems than anything else. Go download Libre today and try out a simple discounting exercise.