Happy to Report My New YouTube Channel — FSOT Prep


I am currently posting my videos on how to prepare for the Foreign Service Exam on a YouTube Channel.  I am walking possible applicants through the process of registering for the FSOT and choosing a Career Track. The State Department has linked the two so when you register for the October test, offered from September 29 to October 6, you must select your Career Track. There are five career tracks: Consular, Economic, Management, Political, and Public Diplomacy.

Picking your Career Track

Fortunately, the State Department has provided good information to help you decide your career track. Most of it is on the main recruiting website — Careers.State.Gov

To access the Career Track information, you need to drill down on that site. To learn what an Foreign Service Officer (FSO), including tasks and responsibilities for Entry Level, Mid-level, and Senior officers in each career track, select the following career tracks, aka cones, here.  Consular, Economic, Management, Political, and Public Diplomacy.

In addition, the State Department offers an online, 50-question test that based on likes and dislikes of work can tell you which cone is appropriate for you.This exam is under the rubric of “Which Career Track is Right for You.”


Finally, you can reach out to the 16 Diplomats-in-Residence(DIRs) posted at universities across the United States.  These DIRs are made of Foreign Service Officers with years of experience in their respective career tracks. I encourage you to reach out to ones in the cones in which you are interested.

Now, the State Department may frown at you for contacting, say, a political cone officer in southern Florida, if you live in a state outside of the Sunshine State. However, to me that’s ridiculous and you should contact DIRs in your prospective cones to find out more about the career tracks. Besides, everyone who signs up to be a Diplomat-in-Residence is typically open to any questions. I recommend that you first send an email (and fudge the state, if you’re squeamish) and set up a time to talk on the phone with the DIR.

Gaming the System: One word — “Don’t”

For those few seeking to game the system, applying for a consular or management job in the likelihood it will be easier to get into the Foreign Service. And once an FSO, he or she will just transfer into, say, the political career track. Well, you’re out of luck because the Department only allows “conal rectification” in very rare instances and never/never into the political cone.

My advice is to pick the cone in which you have an abiding interest.  For me, I joined as a consular officer mainly because I wanted to help American Citizens. You can have out-of-cone assignments, especially when you return to Washington, DC to work at Main State (the Harry S. Truman building). But in looking back on my career, I served in three consular positions for a total of 7 years and outside of consular work for 17 years.

Finally, the FSOT registration opened today, August 29 in which you’ll have to select your career track where, unlike me, you are likely to spend the bulk of your Foreign Service careers. It’s a big decision and one that is personal.

The FSOT will run from September 29 to October 6. The earlier you apply, the more likely you are to get the test center closest to you. If you’re living overseas, there will be test centers at most embassy or consulate locations.

Good luck!





Coaching for FSOT


I will resume coaching for the October FS?OT in July.  Details to follow.

Good luck to all taking the June sitting of the Foreign Service Exam.


Pompeo Lifts Hiring Freeze at State Department

More encouraging news from the State Department.  SecState Pompeo in a May 15 tweet announced that he has lifted the hiring freeze imposed by his predecessor, Rex Tillerson.

I’m pleased to announce that I’m lifting @StateDept hiring freeze on Foreign Service and Civil Service employees. We need our men and women on the ground executing American diplomacy and representing our great nation.

This likely means that the Department will offer the FSOT on the pre-Trump schedule of three times per year: June, October, and February. So it’s a good time to start preparing for the next FSOT!



Download the DOSCareers Mobile App (Apple, Android)

Make sure you get the right one. The DOSCareers app is free, gratis, $0.00. Developed by the State Department and MetroStar Systems, the FSOT app is excellent and mirrors what’s on the State Department Career website — Careers.State.Gov.

Be warned there are a bunch of apps that offer to teach and test and prep you for the Foreign Service Exam. All of these apps cost money. Make sure you get the DOSCareers app first. You cmight want to buy them; I leave that up to you.

Ivy League Applicants Still Have Edge on the FSOT

ForeignServiceExam.org has learned that graduates of Ivy League schools pass the FSOT at a higher rate than other applicants.   Exam officials are probably scratching their heads after spending spent enormous time and money to recraft the Foreign Service Exam — at least the first (or written) test — to make it more diversity friendly.

This reminds me of rogue CIA agent Philip Agee’s remarks in his book, Inside the Company: CIA Diaryhow in the Agency in the 1960s and 1970s sought more applicants from the Midwest, eschewing the Ivy League

So why do Ivy Leaguers pass more than graduates of other schools?  I think it’s pretty clear:
  • Ivy League applicants study a Liberal Arts curriculum that the new FSOT — even in its revised form  — continues to focus on;
  • Most Ivy League colleges still insist on clear and succinct writing;
  • Ivy Leaguers have secured admission to the cream of U.S. universities on the basis of test scores and essays.   Someone admitted to Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth has mastered the art of test-taking and completing admission applications with interesting, innovative essays;
  • Finally, FSOT applicants from Ivy League schools are a group that follows the news and probably has for years; that is, they read the NY Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal since they were young.

I will not say that Ivy League graduates are smarter.  Of course, many are brilliant and qualified to serve in the Foreign Service, but you can compete against anyone — if you prepare.

So Why Aren’t There More Ivy Leaguers in the Foreign Service

However, on an anecdotal note, in my last years in the Foreign Service (circa 2006-12) at Main State, I didn’t run into a lot of Ivy League Entry Level Officers (ELO). As I recall, many were from state universities and small liberal arts colleges. Among Civil Servants, there were a large number with master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins (SAIS) and American University.

Why so few from the Ivy League?  I see two reasons: 1) the Board of Examiners may have knocked out Ivy Leaguers in the (arbitrary) Personal Narrative or Suitability Review Panel phases of the exam process, or 2) most of the Ivy League graduates who pass Part 1 of the FSOT end up not joining the State Department. Unwilling to put up with the 12+ month wait and the uncertainty of passing all sections of the test, they opt to take jobs on Wall Street, with international consulting firms or other corporations that could get them overseas.

Again, I bring up this Ivy League edge not to freak you out, but to underline again the importance of preparing for the exam, especially devoting sufficient time to your writing.

P.S.  I went to the University of Chicago.

P.P.S Philip Agee died in 2008 in Havana, and up to his death remained one of the CIA’s fiercest critics.  He was a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.  You can learn more about Agree here and here

Registration for February FSOT Opened December 15




You can register for the next Foreign ServiceExam starting December 15.  The Exam dates will run from January 28 to February 4.  If you start now, this will give you plenty of time to prepare for the test.  

The State Department has listed these dates for 2017.  

President-elect Trump intends to freeze hiring, but the State Department will still have FSOs leaving the ranks, perhaps now more than ever.  The Department will have to hire more Entry Level officers (ELO) so sign up ASAP.

To sign up (and yes pick your career track) start here.

Changes to ForeignServiceExam.org


Thanks very much for being patient while I — a determined, yet clumsy WordPresser — make some overdue changes to my blog.

I will be adding more photos, start a monthly newsletter and publishing more content.

Let me know what you think of the website’s new look.






Get Ready… The next Foreign Service Exam is in October

If you want to take the Foreign Service Exam go immediately to this place to complete your registration application for the test.

Registration, registration, registration.  You’ve got to sign up for the test and there are deadlines.  There are always deadlines.  This post should explain how to secure a seat at the next Foreign Service Exam, which according to the Department of State is slated for October 2012.  But is it?  Or did we miss the deadline?

Two facts, for what they’re worth:

  • Registration for the Foreign Service Officer Exam is open on a continuous basis.
  • The State Department will offer the written test three times in 2012 and 2013.
This is straightforward, so you need to register and you need to plan on a test date. Okay, fill out and submit the online application here.  Remember you will have to select your career track, formerly known as cone, when your are registering for the exam.  There are five:
  • Consular
  • Economic
  • Management (formerly Administrative)
  • Political
  • Public Diplomacy (formerly a separate Foreign Affairs agency, the United States Information Service, until it was reabsorbed by the State Department in 1999)
I will talk about the different cones, er, career tracks, in my next post.  The silly words State uses  led to other wonderful expressions, such as the process of changing one’s cone became known as conal rectification.  And to think people used to say this with a straight face.
Okay, you’ve registered, you select a day and time within the one-week window.  The upcoming Foreign Service Exam will be offered during the window from September 29 to October 6, 2012.  As I mentioned previously, you can take the test in many different spots around the United States, probably where ACT offers its more traditional college-testing services.  They have a nifty map of the United States, so type in your zip code to find the closest testing center.  A few days after you submit your choice, ACT will send you an email with the day and time of your test.  (Note: State expects you to handle the relationship with ACT so if you don’t get a response, it’s up to you to sort it out with the testing firm)
Final points:
  • if you register today — July 14 — you don’t have to take the exam in Sep-Oct.  You can take it during another window over the next 12 months.  If you fail to take it during that period, ACT cancels your registration.  If you decide then to really take it, you’ll have to re-register.
  • You are only allowed to take the exam once/once during an 11-month period.  Of course, if you fail the test or State doesn’t offer you a job, you can take the test as often as you like.
  • Don’t forget to take a copy of the email notification confirming time, test date and location and valid U.S. government-issued photo identification to the test center, according to Career.State.Gov.  They say in the next sentence that a driver’s license is okay so I assume they also mean state government forms of idea.  No, it doesn’t mean you have to get a passport.  Not yet, anyway, and Diplomatic Passports are a neat black color.  Trust me, you’ll like them.
Okay, one final note is a new pain-in-the-butt rule ACT and State have instituted.  The Foreign Service Exam remains free, but to prevent no-shows for the test, they will ask you for credit card information at registration.  If you don’t notify ACT and cancel your seat at least 48 hours in advance, they will charge you $50.  Keep that in the back of your mind.  Fifty bucks is still fifty bucks.