CFPT vs. FSOT: What’s The Difference?   

There are many differences between being a Consular Fellow and a position as a Foreign Service Officer. The four significant variances that occur on the Consular Fellows Program Test (CFPT) include no written essay, you designate a language, you can take the test on demand once a year, and the score is used differently. 

There are four significant differences between the Consular Fellows Program Test (CFPT) and the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT):   

  1. Availability of exam 
  2. Career track vs. language designation  
  3. No written essay.  
  4. Achieve the Highest Score Possible 

These also reflect how being a Consular Fellow differs from being a Foreign Service Officer who can guide you in deciding what career path to take. 

Though a Consular Fellow is treated like a Foreign Service Officer, their duties are more specific and limited. Many of the same types of questions will be on the CFPT and FSOT, so studying for these portions of the exam will be very similar. But what about the differences? What do these look like? Read on to see how these two jobs and the differences in their tests will help define your Foreign Service career. 

Availability of Exam 

CFPT vs. FSOT: What's The Difference?   

A Consular Fellow used to be called a Limited Non-career Appointment (LNA) due to the length of the appointment, which usually runs about 60 months. Since they are essentially visa officers, their designation as a Consular Fellow is based on need. For this reason, you can take the CFTP  on demand once a year, unlike the FSOT, which is only offered at certain times of the year and is a more protracted process overall. 

Some things to remember: 

  1. You can only take the CFTP once a year. So, it may be on-demand, but if you don’t pass or don’t receive a high score, you’ll need to wait one full year to retake it. 
  2. There is a $5 sitting fee at a Pearson VUE testing center. If you do not show up or cancel within 48 hours, you will be charged a $45 fee. 
  3. If you have to cancel and it’s on time, you do not have to wait a year to retake it. 
  4. There is no limit on the number of times you can retake the exam. 
  5. Once you apply to take the test, it is viable for six months. 
  6. You’ll receive testing results upon completion, and this score will be valid for the length of the process. Meaning if you don’t score into the next steps of the CFPT process, you’ll need to retake the exam a year from the previous testing date. 

Prior planning and preparation will be your friend. Be prepared before you sign up! 

Career Track vs. Language Designation 

Unlike the FSOT, the CFPT will not ask for a career track. They will ask questions related to the job of adjudicating visas for foreign nationals, and a specific language designation will need to be made on the application. Since it is a more specific short-term job, with fewer options of positions, the Job Knowledge portion of the test will look slightly different. Later on, in the application process, you will need to take a language qualification test based on your application designation. The current languages they are looking for are Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish. 

CFPT vs. FSOT: What's The Difference?   

Here are some things to remember about the language designation on the CFPT: 

  1. To be a Consular Fellow, you need to speak a language other than English. 
  2. You will indicate a language on the application, and this may not be changed for six months. Then you’ll need to submit a new application. You may only designate one language on an application. 
  3. There are incentives for Chinese Mandarin and Portuguese as of 2020, so if you speak multiple languages, including one of these, you have a better chance of getting a position right away. 
  4. The language qualification and other portions of CFPT do not qualify you as a full-fledged Foreign Service Officer. If you wish to become one, you’ll still have to take the FSOT even after completing and passing the CFPT.

Please know your skill level with the language before designating it on your application! 

No Written Essay 

Many of the sections on the CFPT are very similar to the FSOT. Even to the point where you can use the same study materials for most of it. The most significant difference is that there is no Written Essay. You will have to have knowledge of what job a Consular Fellow performs. Another slight difference between the CFPT and FSOT is that you complete your personal narrative questions before you take  the test. You will write these on the initial application. 

Plan out your study schedule here:

The sections that are tested on the CFPT are the following: 

  1. The Comprehending Regulations section of the test will give you passages with rules and procedures with multiple-choice questions to answer based on that passage. It might be helpful to know and understand some of the visa requirements before taking this test.  
  2. The Job Knowledge section is similar to the FSOT. You’ll need to know and study United States History, United States Society, World History, Economics, Math and Statistics, Computers, Management, and Communication.   
  3. As with the FSOT, the English Expression section will cover grammar, sentence structure, and errors, and knowledge of vocabulary. For the most part, you’ll read sentences and indicate if there are errors or if the sentence or phrase is written correctly.  
  4. In the Situational Judgement section, you will need to read scenarios and choose the best solution to the situation and the worst. There are many management and study materials for these types of questions to be found on the internet. The biggest 

Achieve the Highest Score Possible 

On the FSOT, a set score will initiate the scoring of your Written Essay, which will then lead to the Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP). People who have taken the CFPT claim you need to score as high as possible on the exam to move on to the QEP. They say that they can use most of the same study materials as on the FSOT, but since a higher score is required, they needed to study more. 

CFPT vs. FSOT: What's The Difference?   

Some things to be aware of:

  1. Though the FSOT and CFPT are similar, you have less time to complete the CFPT. So though the types of questions may not be any more complicated, you’ll need to be able to answer them quicker than on the FSOT.  
  2. Three scores are combined before reaching the Oral Assessment. That means that the CFPT will count as a third of the score to move on. The FSOT does not do this. This means the score from the CFPT is more significant in moving on in the process. 
  3. You’re not going to have a lot of time to think, so go in prepared for each section. A lot of the test, with the exception of Job Knowledge, is logical-reasoning type questions. If you don’t have a lot of life experience, you might focus more on these types of questions. 
  4. Don’t forget to take practice tests and sample questions. The areas where you struggle are the areas where you’ll want to focus your study efforts. 

The CFPT is a big factor in moving on to the Consular Fellow program process. Start early studying and give yourself plenty of time. 

Related Questions

What are the steps in becoming a Consular Fellow? 

You’ll need to follow these steps to complete the process: 

Confirm Your Eligibility 

  • United States Citizen 
  • 20 Years to apply; 21 to accept a position 
  • Speak a designated language: Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, Portuguese, or Spanish 
  • Obtain a security clearance

Submit Your Application 

  • Education and Professional Experience 
  • Personal Narrative Questions 
  • CompleteResume Online 

Take the CFPT 

  • Find a date and sign up at Pearson VUE 

Review by the Qualifications Evaluation Panel 

  • Consular officers look over your CFPT score, work experience, education, and skills and abilities 

Take a Language Test 

  • Language Testing Institute (LTI) 
  • Speaking and Reading 

Take the Oral Assessment 

  • 12 Dimensions for a Consular Fellow 
  • Structured Interview 

Obtain Clearances 

  • Medical, Security, and Suitability Clearances 

Placed on a Register of Cleared Candidates based on Language 

What are the 12 Dimensions for a Consular Fellow? 

These are the qualities identified as necessary for Foreign Service: 

  1. Composure 
  2. Cultural Adaptability 
  3. Experience and Motivation 
  4. Information Integration and Analysis 
  5. Initiative and Leadership 
  6. Judgment 
  7. Objectivity and Integrity 
  8. Oral Communication 
  9. Planning and Organizing 
  10. Resourcefulness 
  11. Working with Others 
  12. Written Communication 

More information can be found at 

Where can I find study materials for the CFPT? 

Many people use FSOT study materials to study for the sections that are similar between the two tests. There are FSOT study guides online, reading lists, and practice tests that can help you study for the CFPT. 

The areas in which the two tests overlap are: 

  1. Job Knowledge 
  2. English Expression 
  3. Situational Judgment 

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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.