I recently convinced a friend to take the Foreign Service Exam – she registered for the last day of the October round. I really hope she makes it – she’d be an excellent FSO (good luck Carmel!). As we were talking about the examination process, I realized that I’ve never written about how I studied for the exam. I believe, despite Hankk’s last comment that studying DOES help. I didn’t pass the first time I took the test, so I increased my preparation efforts and passed the second time around. Here’s what I think.
Use the links I have over the left for the Foreign Service Exam. The Yahoo groups and Wiki are much more comprehensive and valuable as a study guide. Know them, love them, get the daily digest. Everything below
For the General Knowledge Section:
1. Buy, then take the practice test. Enlist someone (husband’s are handy) to proctor and grade your test – try and make it as real as possible. Star or otherwise mark the questions you guessed on. Take a look at the questions you missed and stared and work on that subject matter. For me, I needed to brush up on management theory and basic statistics.
2. Know your world geography. There may not be a whole bunch questions about geography on your test, but don’t throw away points because you can’t pick out Mauritania on a map. Sheppard Software has some great geography quizzes, take them regularly!
3. Know about America. The book that really helped me was The Words We Live By, Your Annotated Guide to the US Constitution. It goes in depth about each article and amendment in the Constitution (and there might be a question or two specifically about the Constitution), which is very helpful in and of itself. However, the other benefit of this book is that it also looks at how milestones in American history affected or were affected by the US Constitution. So you get an added history benefit!
For the English Expression Section:
1. Take the practice test. If you ace it, spend your time studying doing something else. If you don’t, prepare as though you were studying for the English language section of the SAT. The Internet has many resources to help.
For the Biographical Section:
I have no idea how this section works, is graded, or what they’re looking for. It’s my weakest section and ummmm….I can’t help you. Best bit of advice I have: be honest and do well on the other sections!
Essay Tips (FYI if you don’t pass the other sections, your essay will not be scored)
1. All you need to pass is a standard 5 paragraph essay. This means:
Supporting paragraph 1
Supporting paragraph 2
Supporting paragraph 3
2. Practice makes perfect. Write daily if you need to, but get to the point where you can write (and edit) a decent 5 paragraph essay in 20 minutes. On test day, you’ll have no trouble with nerves on this section.
3. Don’t pick ‘easy’ topics. You will need to make an argument one way or the other. If you don’t feel strongly either way, then just fake it.
4. State doesn’t read your essays, a grader from ACT does. They don’t care about content, they just want to see if you can write.
5. After your intro, write a couple lines for a conclusion just in case you run out of time. Since you’re typing, copy/paste isn’t an issue.
So, that’s what I did to prepare/study for the Foreign Service Officer Test. It all seems so long ago! For a quick recap, here were my (passing!) scores:
Job Knowledge: 60.63
Biographic Info: 46.58
English Expression: 59.74
Would anyone else out there care to contribute their tricks/tips/ideas/methods?