Archives for February 2013

My Test-Taking Strategy and Time Management Tips


Embassy Ottawa (Image courtesy stock.xchng user canuckboy)

Good luck to those taking the FSOT over the next week.  Don’t be nervous, don’t cram (it’s too late for that!), just try to relax and do your best. I remember sitting for the Foreign Service Exam at the Hotel Talleyrand, formerly the U.S. Consulate and Public Affairs annex in Paris.  The year was 1985 — yes, I know, in the olden times.  We were writing in test books, there were no essays, and none of us knew yet our career tracks (cones).  You had four hours to complete the exam, I think, but I tore through it and walked out of the room after three. I’m not boasting.  I finished quickly not because the FSOT was easy, but because I was afraid.   I felt that if I dwelled too much on the questions, especially in the English Expression section, I’d second guess myself and change my answers.  I still believe — at least for me — that on tests like the FSOT my first answer is my best answer.  I also found that treating test like a game of Trivial Pursuit helped me not get hung up on questions where I was guessing.  Everyone’s test-taking strategies are different.  I had taken the exam once before in Chicago, and did okay on the General Knowledge questions but tanked on the English Expression section.  I learned that second-guessing myself was pointless, so I went into the Paris Exam knowing that I just had to trust my first hunches. Answer all the questions: as with my Foreign Service Exam, the new FSOT throws some research questions into the mix.  They are not scored and are apparently designed to help ACT.  You can’t tell the research from the regular questions SO answer all of the questions, even the ones you’re guessing at. TIME MANAGEMENT While strategies differ, test takers may wish to follow these Time Management tactics: What you know already: The test will last three hours, divided up in four sections.  Three sections are multiple-choice and focus on “general job knowledge, English expression and a biographic section.”  The fourth section, which lasts 30 minutes, is one or two essays on “assigned topic[s].  I understand from recent test takers the order of the FSOT is, as follows: —      Job Knowledge —      Bio —      English Expression —      Essay(s).  Yes, they may give you two essay instead of one. Tactics: 1.      Don’t race through the bio and essay sections.  Take the allotted time for these two so you can make your best efforts.  You can always improve your draft on second reading. 2.      Take advantage of the frequent breaks — 5-6 minutes — before the bio and especially the essay portions.  Go to the bathroom, splash water on your face and do some jumping jacks to get your blood flowing.     Remember: If you mess up, it’s not the end of the world.  You can take the test again in 11 months.  No worries, no stress. Good luck!