Can You Use a Calculator on the FSOT? 

To become a Foreign Service Officer, you need to be able to use mental math and complete math calculations long-hand. Due to this requirement, the use of calculators is not allowed on the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). This process will truly test your in-depth knowledge of math and statistics.  

No, you won’t be able to use a calculator on the FSOT. This may have you wondering about what you‘ll need to prepare for the exam and how you can familiarize yourself with not only the possible math questions but what will be expected on this part of the testThe following article will assist you in learning about what types of math you’ll come across, how you can prepare, and some test-taking tips to get through the multiple-choice portion of the exam 

I‘ve been in a position where high-stakes testing is the key to getting your dream job. Read on to glean tips and discover the information you may need to answer mathematical questions encountered while taking the FSOT 

Brushing Up on Math Concepts and Statistics Language 

Can You Use a Calculator on the FSOT? 

Dust off those old math skills you learned in school! The FSOT wants to test your ability to solve real-world problems that may arise as a Foreign Service Officer, including some of thmath you thought you’d never see again. This holds for any statistics knowledge you may have gained over the years. You may be wondering, what does this mean in terms of what I need to knowThough not all of these terms and concepts will be tested on your particular exam, you may run across any number or combination of the following list:  

  1. Percentages applied to money are big areas to review or learn about. These include but are not limited to the percent of profit margins and interest gain.  
  2. Refresh your memory on the differences between mean, median, mode, and range 
  3. Almost everyone else in the world uses the metric system. Familiarize yourself with converting miles to kilometers, meters to yards, etc. Know the metric system front and back. 
  4. The same holds with Celsius and Fahrenheit 
  5. If you haven’t done it in a while, review how to change fractions into decimals.  
  6. The multiplication table is your friend. You really should dust off all basic math skills and algorithms if you haven’t done it by hand for a while. There are further examples under the preparation part of the article. 
  7. Economics and money conversion are key areas while serving as a Foreign Service Officer. Go over the steps on how to convert currency on the fly and calculate living expenses while traveling. Know what drives the economy in which you’re serving. 
  8. Review the following terms: quotient, descriptive statistics, standard deviations, inferential statistics, central tendency, types of variables in statistics, fixed ratios, calculating probability, digit, area, perimeter, estimating cost, parameter, and sample in statistics.  

There are many different resources out there to study for the math and statistics portion of the FSOT. The list above is just the start. Continue reading for ways to prepare and study for this part of the exam! 


Preparing for FSOT Math 

They say preparation is the key to success. This is true for any number of things but especially while taking assessments. This part of the article will give a refresher on ways to study, resources out there that can help, and a few tips on taking multiple-choice tests. 


 Study Tips 

Can You Use a Calculator on the FSOT? 

Most of these study strategies will work on any part of the exam. My biggest piece of advice to any student or person being assessed on a knowledge-based test is to see what you already know and go from there. Here are three things you can do to maximize your study time:   

  1. Take a practice FSOT math exam on a test prep site (one is listed below under resources). Remember, all of the math concepts above won’t all be on the same test. Those are just the possible areas that may be covered. It’s good to have a general knowledge of all of them, though, and brush up on how to do some of those calculations. You can take that exam and generate a list of items that would be most beneficial to review.
  2. A checklist of known math conceptsAnother good idea would be to take the list of probable math concepts in the first section and check off the items with which you are completely comfortable. Does this mean you ignore the items you’re comfortable with? Absolutely not. You’d be surprised. Many of us haven’t done a long-division problem or calculated averages and percentages long-hand for years. Sometimes the basic math skills are the ones that trip us up the most. All because we’ve been using calculators or math programs on the computerThis strategy will also give you an idea of what areas you should focus on first.
  3. Use a paper and pencil with your review. You’ll also need to review the algorithms for some of the math problems and practice them using paper and a pencil. I would do it this way, rather than on a computer or with another electronic tool because most likely paper and pencil is the way you learned it. Tactile memory can be a strong and powerful tool. The very act of putting pencil to paper can help jog your memory on those types of problems. 

Want to know what to bring to a FSOT test? Read more here:


My final tip would be to collect as many resources as possible and practice, practice, practice. I’m listing a couple of ideas for the internet and hard copy resources below: 

  1. Third-party internet sites like TestPrepReview have a mixture of sample questions for you to answer and research. Review these questions and terms and take the practice tests. Similar to the official practice FSOT, it will give you areas where you may need to focus your time and energy. 
  2. Find ACT and SAT math prep books. The questions in those books will allow you to practice infrequently used math skills. 
  3. This may sound intuitive but Google scenarios math conversion” or something similar. An abundant number of websites with real-life situations will pop up that will trigger your critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Both important in math and as a Foreign Service Officer. Try switching up conversion with different keywords from the first list for realistic examples of math problems you may run across during your service abroad. 
  4. YouTube FSOT practice videos. These videos will give you multiple options in practice, not only for the math portion but other practice examples for the rest of the exam. 
  5. Join an FSOT forum on your preferred social media site. There are many people like you out there going through the same process as we speak! 

Tips on Taking Multiple Choice Tests 

Can You Use a Calculator on the FSOT? 

The math questions you’ll come across on the FSOT will be multiple-choice. I’m including some steps to take which can be applied to not only the math questions but other parts of the multiple-choice portion of the test as well. Though we all want to ace any exam we take, sometimes that’s just not possible. The FSOT Information Guide states that it is best to answer all the questions, even if you have to guess. So, if you’re stuck, remember these valuable methods of taking a multiple-choice test: 

  1. Be sure to read the directions and the question carefully for keywords and ideas. This includes the answer choices. Pay attention to words such as “approximately” (which can indicate an estimated answer rather than an exact one). These can key you in that another answer choice might be the best one. 
  2. If you’re struggling with a question, move on. You can always come back to that problem before ending a section. There’s even a chance another question later will help with what challenged you. This is called chaining memories where one memory links to another helping you recall certain information. 
  3. Narrow your choices. Mentally cross out the least likely answers, then make an educated guess if you’re still struggling.  

I can hear my old teachers to this day telling me that practice makes perfect. These strategies and resources may not make perfect but will definitely help guide you to a better score! 


Related Questions

Are there any assistance tools I can use on test day? 

Any tools will be provided on test day. All math calculations will need to be performed without a calculator by hand or using mental math. Any items such as earplugs are also available at the test center, though you may also bring your own. All personal items will need to be stored in a secure area outside the testing room. The center will provide the space. 

What other types of questions will be on the FSOT? 

As stated in the FSOT Information Guide, knowledge-based questions using multiple choice and a timed essay will be on the exam. They will cover many different subject areas that will be of assistance in Foreign Service. 

 What are the subject areas being tested? 

The following subject areas will be included on the test: 

  • Writing and grammar  
  • U.S. Government and History 
  • World History and Geography 
  • Economics 
  • Math and Statistics  
  • Management Principles and Human Behavior 
  • Communications 
  • Technology: Computers and the Internet 

These areas will be tested through multiple-choice questions and a timed essay. 

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.