Interested in becoming a foreign service officer, but unsure about the preparation for the US foreign service exam? Don’t worry — we have some organizational and preparational tips we can offer to help you stay composed, well-prepared and most importantly, successful.
The US Foreign Service Exam
First, familiarize yourself with the logistics of the Foreign Service Officer Test (known as FSOT) and all of its components. You’ll have a written exam, a personal narrative, an oral assessment, and a security clearance. Utilize the State Department website to develop a solid foundational understanding of the test — details like how much time you will have to take it, how many questions are in each section, and how often the test is offered.
A computer-based written exam encompasses the first aspect of the US Foreign Service Exam. It tests you on a variety of subjects. To avoid stress and frustration, make sure you adhere to the usual cliches like getting a good night’s sleep and eating a substantial breakfast. Also, be sure to arrive at the testing center 30 minutes prior to your appointment time with a valid government-issued ID, such as a passport or driver’s license. Arriving early with all of the necessary materials can help you feel calmer and more prepared.
The Material On The Written Test
As far as the actual content included on the written exam, you can expect questions about current events and geopolitics — so make sure you keep up with the news. The test also gauges your writing ability in a short biographical question, where you’ll delve into topics like your personal work experience and how you respond to challenges. Practice your essay-writing skills by studying tips offered by standardized tests like the SAT or ACT.
The Personal Narrative
After passing the written exam, you’ll need to submit a personal narrative. The Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP) will review your personal narrative to see how well you were able to express your qualifications to be a foreign service officer. The test will prompt you to write about yourself as well as your experiences. Think about the most relevant and attractive information to include, highlighting your leadership, communication and critical thinking skills. Also, have you had any foreign relations experience in schooling or at work?
The Oral Assessment
If the QEP accepts your personal narrative, you will be invited to take part in an oral assessment. Here, you’ll be evaluated on the 13 Dimensions crucial for a job in foreign service. The oral assessment is a day-long exam with several different parts, so prepare yourself for a long and demanding day. While participating in a group exercise with fellow candidates, you must solve a problem and present your solutions. Then, two assessors will conduct a personal interview. You must give input on how to respond to their hypothetical scenarios. Also, you will provide information about your experience and background. Prepare yourself for public speaking (loudly and clearly, with appropriate eye contact with your peers and assessors). Furthermore, you must clearly articulate the reasons behind your desire to become a foreign service officer; the assessors will examine both your passion and potential for success.
Wrapping Up The US Foreign Service Exam
Lastly, expect to engage in 90-minute case management writing exercise. You’ll summarize articles in a concise way after reading through and absorbing the material of the case studies quickly. The U.S. Department of State offers prep sessions for the oral assessment, and since you are likely already perusing their website to familiarize yourself with the exam, booking one of these prep sessions would be a wise idea.
The written exam, personal narrative and oral assessment prove the most daunting parts of the FSOT. If you succeed, the security and medical clearance component will be a breeze. Simply fill out paperwork, and after you submit your file, a panel will conduct its final review.
Overall, while you may find yourself discouraged throughout the process, remember that the FSOT is designed to be difficult and arduous. It is fairly common to take and retake the US Foreign Service Exam until you pass. Be persistent, and employ all of these tips to help you study, prepare and kickstart your career in foreign service.
Visit our Best Employers page to discover some of Arizona’s top companies and browse their career opportunities.