Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Foreign Service Test

Ever since I passed the test, I've becoming a giant fountain of (supposed) knowledge for my classmates (several given the International Affairs focus of our program) who are taking the test. I'm even getting random emails from people who know mutual people. Plus the occassional facebook message from someone I haven't spoken to in 5 years asking for tips. Plus the dinner invitation in exchange for information. And so on. In any case, I just finished writing another lengthy email to a friend outlining the process and general tips. Since I'm a recent passer, I'm going to try to write up a few posts covering everything that I can remember which could be useful (without breaking the nondisclosure agreement obviously).

Personally, I think I got lucky with the Foreign Service Test, both written and oral, passing on the first go around for both. In any case, I recall frantically scouring the internet and googling for test taking tips before. Hopefully this helps others who were like me.

The Process:
The process is a waiting game which will likely drive you crazy. There's a written exam, a panel review called the Qualifications Evaluation Panel (which is also amazingly non-transparent, but more on this later), and then an all day oral exam. If you manage to reach the oral exam and pass, you'll go through medical and security clearances. After obtaining those, you then get put on a waiting list and ranked based on your oral exam score. This means that if you score higher on the oral exam than someone else, you can be ranked higher than him, even if he gets placed on the list first.

People are on the waiting list are then pulled off and given a training course (A-100) marking the start of your career as a Foreign Service Officer! For me, the process took exactly 11 months from when I took the written test to when I received my offer for A-100. Right now, in the spirit of increasing our Foreign Service, people are getting pulled off the waiting list extremely fast. A-100 classes are larger than what they have been in the past from what I hear and significantly shorter (at 5 weeks).

I've read that approximately 5% of people who take the written test ultimately make it through the whole process and pass the orals. This number could totally be a figment of my imagination though since I have no memory of where I got it from. Still, I hope some of the next few posts will cover some helpful ground for anyone interested in this!