Archives for March 2014

Preparing for the FSOT – Part Two

Can you prepare for the Foreign Service Exam?  It’s such a quirky, weird exam that wants to see if you know subjects ranging from Voltaire and Kant to Windows 7 and PERT charts.  How can one really study such varied and disparate subjects.

But I do believe that you can study for the FSOT.  And pass it.

My previous advice hasn’t changed — find the areas that you need help and focus your study there.  And just as important practice writing every day (seriously).

But in February the Board of Examiners has recently given applicants a wonderful present.  If you haven’t checked out the website in awhile, go there right now.  The gift is a full-length practice test, compliments of a Midwestern HR firm, Campion Consulting.

The State Department encourages you to take this test in one sitting when you are rested and won’t be disturbed.  The Examiners want you to prepare for the Exam ahead of time.   This is where I disagree.  To prepare as efficiently as possible, you should take the test without studying.  This will pinpoint your weaknesses.  When you review your results you’ll know whether you need to bone up on economics or British literature or the Cold War.

The Department also gives you a reading list to help you in studying.  Of course, the State Department cannot endorse these texts, and some of them are weak, but nevertheless it’s a good starting place.

I would also add the following books on general knowledge and on writing:







Full-Length FSOT Online Now

The State Department has recently announced that they’ve made available a full-length Foreign Service Exam online.  This is a great way to time yourself and avoid running late on the various sections.  You’ll receive your score after completing the test as well as an “estimate of your probability of passing an actual FSOT.”  Don’t worry about the passing probability, it’s probably a gimmick and inaccurate, but use the test score to show you where you’re weak and you need to study more.  No essays or Biographical Information Questionnaire or Written Essay(s) on this test.

Based your results on the practice Foreign Service Exam, the program will provide you with suggestions on study materials to improve your score.  Meantime, here’s a preliminary list from the practice FSOT

At the same time, the Human Resources announced they have switched FSOT administrators from ACT to Pearson VUE. It’s unclear why they opted to quit ACT, but presumably it was the result of a bidding process.  State insists that the transition will be seamless, and ACT will continue to take in FSOT registrations until March 14, when the registration process changes.

Apparently Pearson VUE will not go live until April 28.  Register here to receive an email informing you when Pearson VUE is stood up to receive registrations.

Pearson VUE will contact all applicants who completed their registrations on ACT with instructions on how to create a new registration profile.  With this new account, you then log in to select your test date and site.

So, plain and simple:

  • you can register on ACT until March 14;
  • after March 14, neither ACT nor Pearson VUE will accept registrations.  Consider it a dead period;
  • in late April, Pearson VUE will go live and accept new registrations; and,
  • if you had registered on ACT, Pearson VUE will contact you to re-register on their system and pick your test date and site.

As always, good luck.