I took the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) on this weekend. The FSOT is the entrance exam for people who want to work in the Foreign Service, i.e., work in embassies and consulates in other countries. I don’t have the results yet, they said to expect results in 3-4 weeks.
The test is in four parts: job knowledge, biographical information, English expression, and the essay.
The job knowledge section was the hardest. Dozens of 4-choice multiple choice questions, covering history, geography, politics, economics, computers, and probably several other topics. The questions were difficult because many of the answers were very similar. I took several practice tests and was scoring in the mid-80s. The real test felt very similar to these practice tests, so my real score is probably similar.
The hardest section was the biographical information section. Again, dozens of multiple choice questions, this time about yourself. For example, how many times in the last six months have people come to you for help resolving a personnel issue? 0,1,2,3,4,5. If you answer anything other than zero, you have to list the specific incidents. This one in completely impossible to get a feel for. I decided it was best not to be humble, but not to stretch the truth either. I answered truthfully, but there’s no way to know exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t try to game this one.
The English expression portion of the test was the most difficult. You have several paragraphs of text, with certain words or phrases underlined. You have to pick the best substitution for the underlined portions, from a list of substitutions. The test measures your grasp of the English language. I wish I would have had more time to think through all the choices, but I think I did alright anyway.
Of all the sections of the test, the essay was the most difficult. You have thirty minutes, including the time it takes to read the prompt (which is itself a small essay) and think of responses. THIS IS NOT MUCH TIME, although I suppose if you had more time, you would just think and type slower. I was able to come up with three points, and intro and conclusion, and beautiful transitions between them all. I don’t know if any of it made sense, but they kept saying they were looking only at the structure of the essay, and not the content. I went right down to the wire, finishing with seconds left on the clock. Also, typing QWERTY rather than Dvorak would be a big help.