Passing the FSOT

OK, so you insist on taking the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) instead of trying to by-pass it. Up to you. To minimize the amount of time you spend banging your head against the wall preparing for this test, here are my pointers for each section of the FSOT:

  1. Job knowledge – Go purchase the official study guide here. Take the practice test, find out where you’re weak, then go out and study the areas where you’re weak. For me, that meant memorizing the Constitution and becoming familiar with federal EEO policies. Then, read the New York Times front to back for the next three months until test day. If that doesn’t do it, then it probably wasn’t meant to be.
  2. Biographic questionnaire – Like the FSOA, you can’t really prepare for this section. You are who you are. If you don’t have any experience or you feel like you’re not a high-caliber applicant, then go out and find opportunities to show you can perform: volunteer at a soup kitchen, work for a community organization, take on a leadership role at work, etc.
  3. English expression test – This tests your reading comprehension and English grammar skills similar to SAT and GRE test questions. I’ll be proposing some resources in a later post.
  4. Written easy test – If your writing sucks, you better go start practicing. My quick advice: have a friend pick a hot topic at random from the presidential elections but not tell you the topic. Sit down with pen and paper, and have the friend reveal the issue to you and start the timer. Within 30 minutes, you’ve got write an essay in support or against the issue. Have a few friends critique the essay. Do this a few times until you feel comfortable knocking out an essay in 30 minutes. Again, I’ll cover possible strategies in a later post.

In sum, how to prepare is easy. Actually doing the hard work to prepare is very hard! So if you’re serious, you’ll actually do what I say, which isn’t easy, but it’ll do much to prepare you for the test.


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