3 Steps to Passing the FSOT

Embassy Ottawa (Image courtesy stock.xchng user canuckboy)

Embassy Ottawa (Image courtesy stock.xchng user canuckboy)


I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, especially those who are going to take the FSOT in February 2016.  Many of you will be thinking about the best way to prepare for the exam, whether it’s the first time you take it or the fifth.  Trust me, there’s no shame in taking the FSOT multiple times.  I know many (most?) Foreign Service Officers who flunked the test more than once, even if they no longer admit it.

With the February FSOT still two months off, it’s a good time to start preparing, and my advice is to do the following right now:

  1. Take the Pearson practice test;
  2. From your results, identify your weakest areas, and then start review those areas — US history, economics, management theory, English expression (grammar), etc.  (I put English grammar because it was always my poorest area, and in fact when I recently took the practice FSOT, I scored a 92 in Job Knowledge and, yes, a 71 in English expression);
  3. Practice writing six days a week at least 500 words a day.  This writing regimen will not only improve your writing on the FSOT, but will also help you in your Foreign Service career.   The State Department is still an institution that relies on cables  (telegrams) and memoranda to carry out its business.  Sure you’ll use PowerPoints at Main State and overseas, but writing — clear, focused drafting — is the way to pass the test and do well in your FS career.

Six days a week sounds a bit much, but trust me that the more you write, the faster and clearer you’ll get.  For the first few weeks, you can write about anything to get to the 500 word mark.  Love affairs, Donald Trump, ice cream.  After that, start pulling news articles from the NY Times and The Economist and rewriting them in your voice or analyze the subject or review a policy position that you think is wrongheaded  or right from current day (Why the United States’s Syria policy is failing) or the past (How the the United States dropped the ball in the Suez Crisis).

That’s it, three ways to help you pass the upcoming FSOT.  I’ll be posting resources shortly to help you bone up on your weak subjects soon.

Good luck!









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