This is how the FSOT is graded.
Though the Department of State does not explicitly state their different methodologies at arriving at the final scores for the FSOT, these are the three areas they score: Job Knowledge, English Expression, and Biographic Information. The minimum score to have your written essay graded and move on to the Qualification Evaluation Panel (QEP) is 154 out of 200.
A combined scale score of 154 out of 200 is required on the multiple-choice portions of the test to have your Written Essay scored and move onto the QEP. The combined parts of the FSOT you are required to complete at the testing center include the following:
- Job Knowledge
- English Expression
- Situational Judgment
- Written Essay
Be aware that the Department of State does not release the methods they use to grade the FSOT. You receive a score based on correct answers, though there may not be any score justification.
Though some candidates can find the scoring and grading processes for the FSOT to be somewhat mysterious, being prepared and knowing what is graded can help you be more successful. Read on to discover what is graded on each section of the Foreign Service Officer Test, which will go a long way towards a higher score.
The Job Knowledge section consists of two sections: the general section and the career track section. Brush up on your multiple-choice test-taking strategies and knowledge of multiple subjects. Altogether there are around 60 questions that you have about 40 minutes to answer. Though these two parts of the test are separated, the scores are combined.
The general section wants to test your knowledge over eight different subjects deemed necessary to becoming a Foreign Service Officer:
- United States Government
- United States Society
- World History and Geography
- Mathematics and Statistics
This section takes the most cumulative knowledge. To achieve higher success and a more significant score, you’ll need to study and take practice tests to get a feel for the actual test. The questions are multiple-choice and combined with the next section.
Career Track Section
Hopefully, before deciding to become a Foreign Service Officer, you have looked into the different career paths. The FSOT asks questions based on the track you choose. This section is equal in length to the General Knowledge section and is split into five different career tracks:
- Management Officers: These positions usually are business managers at the consular level and the highest levels, the ambassador.
- Political Officers: You need a high degree of cultural and political understanding of the geographical area you serve to become a political officer. These are the people who work with the local society in communicating US policy and views.
- Economic Officers: These officers work with local economic liaisons in developing treaties and trade negotiations.
- Consular Officers: Consular officers assist American citizens with issues, adjudicate visas, and as they get more senior, manage parts of the embassy.
- Public Diplomacy Officers: These are the Public Information influencers of the Foreign Service Officer world. They work with local media and other vital members of the society they are serving to promote democracy and free speech.
These career tracks are vital for your future as a Foreign Service Officer. The track you choose will drive your future career path, so be sure to study your area of choice thoroughly. For example, if you wish to serve as a Management Officer, studying business and having the knowledge to answer multiple questions on economics and finance would help your score well in this section.
Remember in high school when you had to name the parts of speech and map out sentences? Well, those skills will come in handy on this portion of the exam. To achieve a better score on the English Expression portion of the FSOT, you need to have a firm grasp of these four areas to be successful on this part of the exam:
- Grammar: Brush up on your verb tenses and parts of speech. You will need to know how to use proper Grammar and correct it in written form.
- Vocabulary: Can you use homonyms correctly? Do you remember how affixes affect words? Check your knowledge of words and their meanings.
- Sentence Structure and Errors: You not only need to know the different parts and pieces but can you put together a sentence well, without errors? Does it sound articulate? Can you find errors in usage, punctuation, and capitalization?
Keep in mind there will be about 65 questions you will have to answer in 50 minutes. The best way to score higher on this portion is to review and practice. There are also many different types of study materials out there. If the English class was not your strongest class in high school or college, it might be time to strengthen those skills.
You feel your colleague is giving preferential treatment to another colleague. Your boss makes a decision with which you disagree. What would you do in these situations? In 2019 this section of the FSOT took the place of the Biographical Information section of the exam. There are specific answers they are grading and looking for based on the 13 Dimensions of Being a Foreign Service Officer. Review and master those as they play into all parts of becoming an FSO.
To many, this section of the exam appears to be subjective but is not. It is meant to test your ability and reactions to the following areas:
- How well you handle workplace situations
- How adaptable you are
- How you make decisions
- How operationally effective you can be
So, what will this look like on the exam? You will have 28 scenarios. Each one is multiple– choices to handle a given situation. You will then choose which answer is best. Interestingly enough, they also want to know which answer you think would be the worst. You will have 42 minutes to answer these scenarios.
This part of the test can often be the most difficult for candidates. You are required to write for an extended period of time and have a firm grasp of English composition.
To be successful in this portion of the exam, you should focus on the following areas:
- Stamina: This portion of the test lasts for 50 minutes. Utilize those skills tested in the English Expression portion of the test. You will need to craft a well-thought-out essay. To be successful, complete a practice several times before taking the actual test. Build your stamina if you have not recently written for an extended time.
- Organization and Composition: Outlines are essential in organizing your thoughts. While taking practice tests for this portion of the test, which you can find online, remember to practice the whole process: Dissect the prompt, quickly outline your response, then compose your essay.
- Knowledge: The topics to choose from could come from multiple areas. Those topics include culture, economics, education, history, international affairs, religion, social issues, and employment issues.
Interested in learning more about what to expect? Read more here: https://civilservicehq.com/fsot-guide-what-to-expect-and-how-to-prepare/
A successful score requires a thorough analysis of your chosen topic with good supporting arguments. The structure of the text needs to follow standard grammatical rules and syntax. Review your capitalization, punctuation, and spelling as well. Though these are not graded as heavily, they are still relevant.
Remember, the FSOT is a challenging exam. The pass rate is only around 20%. If you want to have a good chance of making it to the QEP, you need to have a firm grasp of what’s required.
How is the FSOT essay graded?
This part of the test is graded on your ability to support a sound argument and analyze a topic. You have to pass the Job Knowledge, English Expression, and Situational Judgment sections with a 154 or higher to have your written essay graded. Though you do complete the Written Essay along with the other parts of the FSOT, as of 2019, its scoring was moved to the Qualifications Evaluations Panel.
What is a good score on the FSOT?
Though the Oral Assessments are the only scores on the register, a higher passing score on the FSOT can help get past the QEP. What does this mean? A 154 is the minimum passing score on the multiple-choice portion, including Job Knowledge, English Expression, and Situation Judgment.
This means that scores from 160-179 are average, 180, and above are impressive. These are all out of a maximum score of 200.
Does the FSOT score matter?
Yes, the score does matter. There is some belief that since it does not show up on the register, it is not as important as the oral assessments. To get past the Qualification Evaluations Panel, you need a passing score. Many believe the higher the combined score with your essay, the better chance you will have to move on in the process.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your foreign service exam click here!
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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.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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