View Full Version : FSOT anyone?

January 5th, 2010, 08:33
Anyone (US citizens) planning to take the foreign service officer test in February?

January 5th, 2010, 12:10

January 5th, 2010, 13:07
i started looking into it this year, but man not only am i not ready for a test like that, i thnk i would fail any and all background checks..haha

good luck!

January 5th, 2010, 14:44

@ Upgrayedd: Super-cool! What track are you signed up for?
Its public diplomacy or bust for me. Are you taking it in Tokyo?

...time to start kicking back the books on that reading list... **daunting**

January 6th, 2010, 09:16
I took it last year in Nagoya, and passed, but I didn't make it to the interview stages, so it's back to square 1. I will take it in June (you have to wait 1 year to take it again). Just giving you some things I picked up on the way.

You should sign up for it as quick as you can, because space is usually limited (although I'm sure Tokyo has more spaces available). Nagoya only has 3 computers to take the test, so they can only do 6 tests a day (3 in the morning, 3 in the afternoon).

Dust off the books you got from the US Embassy at Tokyo Oreintation and study them. They are for all intents and purposes FSOT study guides. They provide a ton of excellent information that you will see on the test.

The most important thing for the multiple choice part (IMHO) is to know the basics of the Constitution in and out. Know the amendments and what they mean, what are the basic powers of each branch of government, and some important supreme court cases (when I say 'Marbury vs. Madison', you say 'judicial review', even if you have no idea what it means).

The most difficult part of the test is the essay. You have 30 min. to write an essay, and last year's topic was....interesting to say the least. Yahoo has some great groups that are dedicated to the test, you should look them up. I was able to link up with a group of people, and we timed ourselves and wrote essays. We would then post them on the site for the other members to critique. We did the basic 5-paragraph format (intro, 3 arguments, conclusion). This group helped me quite a bit. I wouldn't have passed it if it wasn't for them helping me refine my writing style, especially when you are stressed and have a short time limit.

If people have any other questions, let me know. Good luck to everyone taking it. It's a long road to the Foreign Service, but somebody has to make it, so why not us?

January 6th, 2010, 12:18
@Yeti99: Thanks for the info! :^_^: I`ve been messing around looking for active forums but its been a bit of a pain. Oddly enough yahoo forums slipped my mind- I`ll check it out once I`m out of the Firewall Zone of work. I have found lots of FSO bloggers and former FSO bloggers- those people have loads of interesting stories and advice.

As for the test, I`ve already signed up but I`m still waiting for the link to go live to grab a testing slot. I keep checking the website (much like I did for JET) hoping the damn thing has turned on. It has become my new at-work OCD.

Question: Do they ask about international cases or just US supreme court cases? I would think US cases would be enough...but I could be very wrong.

January 6th, 2010, 12:47
I thought that once you passed the first test you just go to a pool of others who passed it to be selected for the interview test....So you have to take it multiple times if you pass to get a higher score?

January 6th, 2010, 13:18
@upgrayedd: this is a copy from an FSO blog.

"I passed the test, but I won't find out until early March if I get to move on to the oral assessment phase. In the meantime, information from my registration package (application form and lots and lots of personal narrative essays), along with my FSOT results, will be reviewed by a Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP). Once the QEP has completed its review, they will tell me if my overall score qualifies me to move on to the oral assessments... From what I know, the FSOT is the most selective federal exam in the U.S., with a pass rate of about 30%. Of those who pass and are asked to move on to the oral assessment phase, about 10% pass. "

complete with linky-goodness! [URL="http://bringtheherd.blogspot.com/2008/12/i-passed-foreign-service-officer-test.html"]http://bringtheherd.blogspot.com/2008/12/i-passed-foreign-service-officer-test.html (http://bringtheherd.blogspot.com/2008/12/i-passed-foreign-service-officer-test.html)

January 6th, 2010, 15:43
Exactly, I passed the test, but I didn't pass the QEP stage. The QEP is a series of 5 questions that you have to write an essay (1300 words or less) to answer each one. If you pass the QEP, that's when you can schedule an interview at the Oral Assesment. The QEP is a new step, it was added a year or two ago. The way these are judged are a complete mystery. I tried for the diplomatic cone (which I later heard is much more competitive than the consular cone, which was my secondary choice). I took the test in June, found out I passed in late July, wrote the QEPs in August, and found out I didn't pass in mid-September.

As for Supreme Court cases, they don't ask for nitty-gritty details, only basic info for some landmark ones, or the historical implications of the decisions. The ones are usually Marbury vs. Madison (judicial review), the Dred Scott case, Plessy vs. Ferguson (upheld the 'seperate but equal' Jim Crow laws), and Brown vs. Board of Education (struck down seperate but equal). There are some other ones that might be on the test, especially that have to do with labor laws about union orgainizing, but again, check the books from the embassy. They are pretty good. Check out this link for some good ideas for the multiple choice questions:

FSOT Test Practice Questions - Help your FSOT Exam Score with free FSOT Test Preparation (http://www.testprepreview.com/fsot_practice.htm)

January 7th, 2010, 00:08
Hey~This is something I can actually help with!
In addition to applying to JET again this year, I started the process of becoming an FSO hopeful in Feb '09.

I took the FSOT and passed, did the QEP and passed, and went to the OA (the interview stage) and passed. Right now I'm in the midst of security and medical clearances. And yet, through aaaaaall of that, they remind you at the last stage that just passing all the tests doesn't mean you have a job yet. :| After the interview, I go through my clearances, and if I make it through all of that then I end up on a register where I can remain for up to 18 mos until the DoS decides if they want to bring me on or not.

For those of you in the QEP or prepping for the OA stage, I recommend this yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fsoa/). There is one for the FSOT (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fswe/) as well. I only joined the OA one, and for the FSOT I just studied a whole lot - from US history to geography. After taking the test I realized I had over-studied, but better to over study than show up and have no idea what I'm doing.

I would be more than happy to help those of you starting the process now (or those somewhere in the murky middle of it).

Oh, and I'm public diplomacy track, by the way.

January 7th, 2010, 14:06
Yayah public diplomacy! It has to be popular 'cause its soo cool, right?

@ Cielya -
Did you apply with a language? I read they test via phone call to a native speaker...did you have to do that?

If its 'how`s the weather' type stuff then I won`t worry. Ask me in Japanese if the US should pull out military bases in Japan, and how I think it`ll affect the local/national economy, and I start scrambling for a dictionary faster than my highschoolers avoid after lunch cleanup.

Also- Link! exactly like it sounds it is a practice test site. http://www.testprepreview.com/fsot_practice.htm

January 7th, 2010, 14:33
Cielya, I'd be curious to pick your brain about the QEPs. What were your topics? What did you write about? I'm going to try again for the consular track in June. Hopefully, I'll pass the test again and have a better shot at the QEPs. I tried to incorporate as many of the 13D's as I could in my QEPs, but it obviously wasn't enough.

January 8th, 2010, 04:23
Re: onyxori
PD and Political are the most popular, with political being #1 in terms of applicants in that pool. Consular needs the most people. I just a) didn't know this before I applied and b) didn't think that was what I wanted to do. For what it's worth, at the OA they told me it really doesn't matter which track you pick and that, outside of consular, your chances are really the same. The DoS is just hiring a lot more people than they have in past years.

I didn't apply with a language. It had been a good year since I had studied Japanese by the time I was applying, so I just left it out. At the OA, they encouraged me to do the language test for Japanese to give me a boost to my overall score, but I have yet to do it. I've been studying some, but I'm just not sure I'd be up to par. It doesn't hurt you if you don't pass it, and you can re-take it after like 6 mos or something, but I want to make my first effort as good as possible.

I've heard the test is rather extensive. It's a phone interview, like you read, and (from what I heard from my friend who tested for Arabic) while they begin with general things like your name and background, they quickly jump right in to some current topic. He said it's possible to direct the conversation (ie. during his background, he brought up a topic about economics and it became what they talked about - which was good b/c he's an econ major who did studies in Arabic-speaking countries). Needless to say, not sure I'm to that point. Some native speakers even fail the test sometime! BUT, to be fair, the test is harder for the super-critical-needs languages - things like Arabic, Farsi, Korean, etc.

Re: Yeti99
My QEP is like everyone's I suppose - dumb crap like "tell about an experience when you showed leadership" rinse and repeat with nouns like "cultural adaptability" other 13Ds. I think the key to passing is to not "try" to sound like anything.

I'll put it like this: Throughout all the steps leading up to the OA, I kept feeling like it was a practice round, that there was no way I'd make it to the OA and it took a lot of the stress off. I just answered the questions without sneaking in any of the 13Ds. My personal narratives were incredibly mundane things, too - from living with my host family to arranging travel for my honor society at uni. Maybe they just wanted a better idea of who you are (outside of those 13Ds)? So maybe you put in too much? I have no idea what they're looking for (obviously - I was shocked and awed when I passed each time), and hell, it's probably even more random than JET. I had people in my OA group who had lived in China, Nigeria helping children, and they didn't pass; so who knows?

And technically, the QEP is just a panel of mysterious people that look at your FSOT scores, look at your personal narrative (the thing most people are referring to when they say QEP), and they look at both of them and, using some magical scale, determine if they want you at the OA or not.

January 8th, 2010, 11:19
Thanks Cielya! That was very helpful. BTW congrats on making it to the Orals. That's a pretty amazing achievement in itself. Good luck at the orals, and keep us posted on how you do.

January 8th, 2010, 12:11
Thanks Cielya! That was very helpful. BTW congrats on making it to the Orals. That's a pretty amazing achievement in itself. Good luck at the orals, and keep us posted on how you do.

Passed the Orals in Nov. ;) Doing clearances now, but still no guarantee. Yay federal jobs! :rolleyes:

Glad I could help, though!

January 8th, 2010, 12:39
Passed the Orals in Nov. ;) Doing clearances now, but still no guarantee. Yay federal jobs! :rolleyes:

Glad I could help, though!

Oh jeez, I guess I didn't read your original post carefully enough! That's awesome! Good luck!

January 9th, 2010, 10:37
Good luck with your clearances!

They'll let you take your language test anytime between your Orals and passing Clearance? Nice!:D

January 10th, 2010, 23:58
Good luck with your clearances!

They'll let you take your language test anytime between your Orals and passing Clearance? Nice!:D

They'll actually let you take it anytime between passing the OAs and being on the list of eligible hires (the register - you get on it once you pass your clearances). So like, if I continue to chicken out and I manage to clear everything and make it on the register, then sometime in my 18mos or less on register, I can take the test and give my score a boost (to raise the chances of me being picked off the register faster).

January 11th, 2010, 10:23
Just to reiterate, don't underestimate the test. I'm a pretty smart cookie, if I do say so myself, and I do well on standardized tests, but I took it at the same time as cielya and failed it. So some studying may be required.

January 12th, 2010, 13:29
Just to reiterate, don't underestimate the test. ... So some studying may be required.

::nods:: total agreement.
I`m in love with Sheppard Software - educational games and activities for kids of all ages. (http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/) for easy study at work.
You can also find some cool tools for your classes on there too- though maybe more so for the higher level highschool kids.

January 16th, 2010, 17:17
A friend of mine just passed the orals this week. Exciting!

... do you think it makes more sense to leap right into the Foreign service, or to go to a top-flight grad school program for two years, get a degree in IR (maybe focusing on East Asia) and then take the FSOT?

Congrats to your friend!

In regards to your question- maybe you should ask that to the yahoo groups or to one of the JETs who joined the FS. I don't think taking the FSOT will damage you- if you pass you'll get the opportunity to really learn about IR first hand. If you fail- you get a good lesson on what to expect for the next test, and two years to improve youself while getting a degree. Why not try?

Former JET who became a FSO in Japan- http://kakiser.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_archive.html

January 16th, 2010, 17:32
I'm interested in the economic track but the whole system kind of reminds me of the JET program placement request. I speak Japanese, they'll probably send me to Ghana or Moscow if I am hired.

January 17th, 2010, 07:59
A friend of mine just passed the orals this week. Exciting!

The FSOT is something I've looked into taking, but I'm waiting until after I've gotten out to Asia for another few years (have already spent 2+ years in another Asian country) and hopefully gotten close to fluency in Japanese. One thing I've been thinking about though is in terms of a post-JET career where I'm interested in foreign relations, do you think it makes more sense to leap right into the Foreign service, or to go to a top-flight grad school program for two years, get a degree in IR (maybe focusing on East Asia) and then take the FSOT? Thing about the FS is that those first two postings can be long ones and to get sent abroad for 6-7 years really sends you down a certain path with which you'd better be comfortable... just not sure, if I want to get into foreign policy in the US, if the FS is really the best route.

For what it's worth, I took the FSOT as an undergrad and here I am now. I don't think they care about where you are in terms of your IR career. For instance, I was a soc and english major with a Japanese minor. I took two IR classes right in my last semester. I passed the OA along with a peace corps volunteer, a middle school teacher, and an intern at a global health org.

My view was that if the FSOT was something I wanted to do, then why wait? The absolute worst that can happen is you can fail and try again next time.

As for the last part, are you questioning FS vs private organizations? I think both can be great paths. I chose the FS to start now because it has a very clear process (ie. you past this, then this, then this, etc) whereas private orgs have a more traditional application process (which I also tried this summer and just kept being met with so many "Thank you for your interest but..." emails). But in terms of foreign policy, you really can't beat the service. I mean it IS the Dept. of State after all..

@UPGRAYEDD Ha, exactly. I swear, I think the process might be more random than JET, tbh. You're in a good position being interested in the econ track, though. It's one of the ones with less potential employees in the pool, so you might have better chances of being actually chosen after the clearances.

January 28th, 2010, 18:47
Anyone get registration emails yet? I see they've gone out for some cones overseas...but I'm not sure if there's been anything in Japan.
...just wondering if I should get all panicky yet...

February 8th, 2010, 11:56
Burning a vacation day on the 5th to sit in an office building all day in Osaka. Anyone else?

May 28th, 2012, 01:18
I just took it.

Very hard, but I think I did all right. I studied for it.