Computer Concepts

Category: Objective Test
Type: Individual


60-minute test administered during the NLC.

Objective Test Competencies: Basic Computer Principles; Ethics; Hardware; Networking Systems and Procedures; Programming Concepts; Software Concepts (Applications and Operating Systems); Terminology; Troubleshooting

Skills: Understanding of computers is integral to the successful operation of business. This event provides recognition for PBL members who understand the basic principles involved in computer technology.


Objective Test

Objective Test Guidelines

  • No materials may be brought to the testing site.
  • Electronic devices must be turned off and out of sight.
  • Financial calculators may be used for accounting, finance, and analysis & decision making events; calculators will be provided for all other events.

The general event guidelines below are applicable to all national competitive events. Please review and follow these guidelines when competing at the national level. When competing at the state level, check the state guidelines since they may differ.


  • Dues: Competitors must have paid PBL national and state dues by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 15 of the current school year.
  • NLC Registration: Participants must be registered for the NLC and pay the national conference registration fee in order to participate in competitive events.
  • Deadlines: The state chair, or designee, must register each state competitor on the official online entry forms by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the second Friday in May.
  • Each state may submit three (3) individuals in all events requiring only objective tests and two (2) individuals or teams for all events that require a pre-judged or performance component.
  • Each competitor can compete in two (2) events.
  • Each competitor must compete in all parts of an event for award eligibility.
  • A team shall consist of two or three members. Exceptions are Parliamentary Procedure which must be a team of four or five members, and LifeSmarts which must be a team of two members.

Repeat Competitors

Competitors are not permitted to compete in an event more than once at the national level unless one of the following circumstances applies:

  • Modified Events: A competitor may compete in the same event when the event is modified. Note, if the only modification is a name change, competitors may not compete in the renamed event.
  • Team Events: One (1) competitor of the team may have competed in the same event at one (1) previous NLC; however, they may not compete more than twice in the event at the national level.
  • Chapter Events: Competitors may compete in a chapter event more than once (Community Service Project).
  • Individual Entry: A competitor who competed as an individual entry in a team event at the national level may compete in the same event a second time as part of a team, but not a second time as an individual.
  • Parliamentary Procedure: Two (2) competitors of the team may have competed in this event at a previous NLC; however, they may not compete more than twice at the national level.
  • Pilot Event: Competition in a pilot event does not disqualify a competitor from competing in the same event if it becomes an official competitive event. The participant may compete in another event as well as a pilot event.

Breaking Ties

  • Objective Tests: Ties are broken by comparing the correct number of answers to the last 10 questions on the exam. If a tie remains, the competitor who completed the test in a shorter amount of time will place higher. If this does not break the tie, answers to the last 20 questions will be reviewed and determine the winner.
  • Objective and Production Tests: The production test scores will be used to break a tie.
  • Objective Tests and Performances: The objective test score will be used to break a tie based on the tie-breaking criteria of objective tests.
  • Reports/Projects and Performances: The report/project scores will be used to break a tie.
  • Performances: Judges must break ties and all judges’ decisions are final.

National Deadlines

  • State chair/adviser must register all competitors for NLC competitive events online by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the second Friday in May.
  • All prejudged components (report PDFs, resume/letter of application PDFs, and project URLs) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the second Friday in May.
  • All URLs and PDFs for prejudged projects and reports will be submitted by the state adviser via the competitive events registration form.
  • All production tests must be received at FBLA-PBL by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the third Friday in May.
  • Desktop Publishing—the finished product must be uploaded in PDF format by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the third Friday in May. Label all documents with the event title, competitor’s name, state, and school.
  • All production tests must be uploaded online.
  • State chair/adviser may make name changes only (no additional entries) by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the first Friday in June. Competitor drops are the only changes allowed after this date and onsite.

National Awards

The number of competitors will determine the number of winners. The maximum number of winners for each competitive event is 10. Only one (1) award is given to the schools competing in chapter events (Community Service Project and Local Chapter Annual Business Report).

Additional Materials

  • Financial calculators may be brought to objective testing and used for any accounting, finance, or analysis & decision making events.
  • Certain events may allow the use of additional materials. Please refer to event guidelines.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

FBLA‑PBL meets the criteria specified in the Americans with Disabilities Act for all participants who submit a special needs form.

Recording of Presentations

No unauthorized audio or video recording devices will be allowed in any competitive event. Participants in the performance events should be aware the national association reserves the right to record any performance for use in study or training materials.

Graduate Students

Graduate students may compete in all PBL events.


General Competitive Events Tips
Event Tips
Sample Practice Materials

Format Guide

Website Resources
Basic Computer Principles
1. Define and discuss the core concepts of Technology (e.g., systems, resources, requirements, optimization and tradeoffs, processes, and controls).
2. Identify the basic parts of a computer system and describe the functions and relationships among components
3. Describe mainframe generations and PC hardware development.
4. Describe memory concepts.
5. Use system utilities and explain system utility software and cite examples.
6. Identify file formats and extensions.
7. Recognize file sizes in terms of kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes
8. Select and utilize the appropriate technology to solve a problem or to complete a task
9. Identify how computers share data, files, hardware, and software (networking).
10. Identify how hardware and software work together to perform computing tasks and how software is developed and upgraded.
11. Identify resources to obtain assistance (e.g., HELP menu, software manual, Web site) and demonstrate basic diagnostic skills.
12. Describe the impact of information technology on business and society and the relationships among technologies.
13. Describe the cultural, social, economic, political, and environmental effects of technology (e.g., rapid or gradual change, trade-offs and effects, and ethical implications).
14. Describe data storage concepts (e.g., magnetic media, optical media, and sold state media).
15. Compare different options of backing up and securing data and restoring a system.
16. Identify how hardware components interact and work with software to perform computing tasks.
1. Define the various virus types, potential sources, and their potential effects.
2. Identify basic security risks and issues to computer hardware, software, data, and options in dealing with virus attacks.
3. Explain the consequences of illegal, social, and unethical uses of information technologies (e.g., piracy, illegal downloading, licensing infringement, inappropriate uses of software, hardware, and mobile devices).
4. Demonstrate appropriate legal and responsible electronic communications and Internet use for business (e.g., includes copyright, netiquette, privacy issues, ethics, etc.).
5. Identify cybercrime..
6. Define difference between legal and ethical.
1. Describe the characteristics and functions of CPUs, motherboards, random access memory (RAM), expansion connection floppy drives, hard drives, and CD-ROM drives.
2. Explain the functions and characteristics of system expansion devices (e.g., graphics cards, sound cards, and modems)
3. Demonstrate the use of connectivity devices and peripheral equipment (e.g., portable storage devices, printers, cable modems, and wireless technologies).
4. Identify issues affecting system purchase and upgrade decisions.
5. Compare categories of computers based on their size, power, and purpose.
6. Identify the various types of computer storage devices and compare the advantages and disadvantages of certain storage devices.
7. Create a list of output devices and their functions and install, configure, and test various output devices.
8. Evaluate the performance of core computer systems components (e.g., RAM, CMOS settings, and CPUs).
9. Create and use a list of input devices and their functions
10. Install, configure, optimize, and upgrade computer components.
11. Identify and apply common preventative maintenance techniques for computer components
12. Identify and distinguish between mobile and desktop motherboards and processors including throttling, power management, and Wi-Fi.
13. Identify the major components of the LCD including inverter, screen, and video card.
14. Describe how video sharing affects memory upgrades.
15. Identify differences between types of printers and scanners including laser, ink dispersion, thermal, solid ink, and impact printers and scanners.
16. Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of printer and scanner components (e.g., memory, driver, and firmware) and consumables (e.g., toner, ink cartridge, and paper)
17. Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of interfaces used by printers and scanners including port and cable types.
18. Install and configure printers/scanners and upgrades including memory and firmware.
19. Optimize scanner performance including resolution, file format, and default settings.
20. Optimize printer performance for example, printer settings such as tray switching, print spool settings, device calibration, media types, and paper orientation.
21. Perform scheduled maintenance on printers according to vendor guidelines (e.g., install maintenance kits and reset page counts).
Networking Systems and Procedures
1. Define networking and describe the purpose, benefits, and risks of a network.
2. Identify the types (e.g., LAN, WAN, and MAN), features, advantages, and disadvantages of different networks.
3. Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of basic network protocols and terminologies.
4. Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of technologies for establishing connectivity.
5. Identify the purposes and interrelationships among the major components of networks (e.g., servers, clients, transmission media, network operating system, and network boards).
6. 6. Understand the differences between various network environments (e.g., peer-to-peer, client-server, thin client, n-tier, internetworks, intranets, and extranets).
7. Analyze the advantages and the disadvantages of the client/server model.
8. Install, configure, optimize, and upgrade networks.
9. Describe standard topologies, such as bus, star, ring, and broadband.
10. Demonstrate knowledge of IP addressing schemes.
11. Identify the types of wireless network media and the uses, advantages, and disadvantages of each.
12. Install, identify, and obtain wired and wireless connection.
13. Configure protocols such as TCP/IP (e.g., gateway, subnet mask, DNS, WINS, and static and automatic address assignment) and IPX/SPX (NWLink).
14. Perform preventive maintenance of networks including securing and protecting network cabling.
15. Install and configure e-mail applications.
16. Differentiate areas of responsibilities between the telecommunications providers’ responsibilities and their clients’ responsibilities.
17. Identify fundamental principles of security on a network including authorization, authentication, and wireless security issues.
Programming Concepts
1. Explain the purpose and functions of computer programming.
2. Describe types of computer programs: business applications, Web applications, gaming, and systems software.
3. Define programming structures.
4. Define purpose and use of flowcharting.
5. Identify the types of programming languages.
6. Explain the steps in a program life cycle.
7. List the steps in writing a computer program.
8. Explain the human interface layer: HTML, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Flash, GUI, CLI, etc.
9. Explain the programming layer: PHP, VB, Java, C++ COBOL, etc.
10. Explain the database layer: database types (e.g., My SQL, Oracle, DB II, SQL Server, etc.) and query languages (SQL).
Software Concepts (Applications and Operating Systems)
1. Compare and contrast the functionality of various operating systems.
2. Explain what an operating system is, describe its purpose, and cite examples of different operating systems including DOS, Windows, and Macintosh.
3. Identify the fundamentals of using operating systems (e.g., Mac, Windows, and Linux) and describe operating system revision levels including GIU system requirements, application, and hardware compatibility.
4. Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of the primary operating system components including registry, virtual memory, and file system.
5. Install, configure, optimize, and upgrade operating systems using appropriate procedures and utilities.
6. Describe the difference between an operating system and application software.
7. Identify concepts and procedures for creating, viewing, and managing disks, directories, and files on operating systems.
8. Demonstrate proficiency with file management and structure (e.g., folder creation, format, file creation, backup, copy, rename, delete, move, open, and save).
9. Demonstrate file management skills and perform basic software configuration operations (e.g., install new software, compress and expand files as needed, and download files as appropriate).
10. Demonstrate the ability to recover operating systems (e.g., boot methods, recovery console, ASR, and ERD).
11. Use disk management tools (e.g., DEFRAG, NTBACKUP, CHKDSK, and format), system management tools (e.g., device and task manager and MSCONFIG>EXE) and file management tools (e.g., Windows Explorer and ATTRIB.EXE) to enhance optimization of operating system.
12. Demonstrate the ability to perform preventive maintenance on operating systems including software and Windows updates (e.g., service packs), scheduled backups/restore, and restore points.
13. Document computer system malfunction and software malfunction.
14. Describe Unix vs. Windows vs. Mac vs. Cloud.
15. Identify the capabilities and limitations imposed by the operating system including levels of user rights (e.g., administrative rights, etc.)
1. Identify terminology associated with new and emerging on-screen writing technologies (e.g., electronic whiteboard, graphics tablet, and tablet PC).
2. Define spreadsheet terminology (e.g., cell, row, column, range, label, value, formula, function, worksheet, relative, absolute, and legend).
3. Define database terminology.
4. Identify terminology associated with new and emerging PDA technologies.
5. Explain the difference between memory and storage including RAM, ROM, and other storage devices.
6. Describe the differences between analog and digital technology.
7. Describe the concept of TCP/IP and the Domain Name System (DNS).
8. Define bits, bytes, and words.
9. Describe ASCII, EBCDIC, and UNICODE.
10. Explain the concept of cloud computing.
11. Explain binary number system, decimal number system, and hexadecimal number system and convert between the three systems.
1. Discuss the objectives for diagnosing and troubleshooting.
2. Describe the problems that commonly occur with hardware and their symptoms.
3. Explain how the boot sequence can be used to troubleshoot a hardware problem.
4. Discuss the symptoms of software conflicts and the solutions.
5. Describe common problems that occur with peripheral devices.
6. Discuss the techniques that are used to troubleshoot a peripheral device.
7. Identify and demonstrate resolutions to simple hardware and software problems as they occur (e.g., frozen screen, disk error, and printing problems).
8. Differentiate between a software and a hardware problem.
9. Practice proper handling procedures for components including assembling and dismantling a computer.
10. Identify tools, diagnostic procedures, and troubleshooting techniques for computer components.
11. Recognize and isolate issues with multimedia, specialty input devices, internal and external storage, memory utilization, and CPUs.
12. Identify the steps used to troubleshoot components (e.g., installation, appropriate components, error codes, connections, compatibility, functionality, settings, and drivers).
13. Isolate and resolve identified printer/scanner problems including defining the cause, applying the fix, and verifying functionality.
14. Recognize and resolve common operational problems, such as blue screen, system lock-up, input/output device, application install, etc.
15. Recognize, explain, and resolve common error messages and codes.


PBL Program of Study


States may submit up to 3 entries.
Competitors must be registered for NLC and pay registration fee.
Competitors must pay dues by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on April 15.


Test: 1 hour