FSOT Guide: What to Expect and How to Prepare.

   There are sixteen different subject areas on the FSOT that are tested. Thankfully there are also numerous study guides and resources to assist in your preparation. You’ll need ample time to prepare for the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). Most say you should study for a minimum of six months before your exam date; it is not an exam you can cram for.  

Any Foreign Service Officer  

candidate taking the the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) should expect multiple-choice and written exam questions over sixteen different subject areas. Knowledge of these will reflect the thirteen dimensions of a Foreign Service Officer the Department of State is seeking when it reviews qualifications. You will need an in-depth guide to assist you in preparing for this exam. Here is a list to guide in preparation for the FSOT:  

  1. Read the Department of State FSOT Study Guide 
  2. What practice tests are the most useful and where to find them 
  3. What to expect on the FSOT  
  4. How to prepare for the FSOT  
  5. Which general study guides and reference materials will give you the maximum preparedness 

Studying for any test can be stressful, but studying for the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) can be especially difficult. Don’t worry! The following guide will help break-down steps you can take to not only achieve a passing score but excel on the FSOT!

FSOT Guide: What to Expect and How to Prepare.

Read the Department of State FSOT Study Guide 

Nothing can be more intimidating than opening a study guide from a government website. The FSOT Study Guide is no different. I want to break down what you’ll see on the study guide and highlight what you’ll see when you open it. This isn’t a replacement for reading it entirely, but it will give you a general idea of what you will need to focus on. 

  1. Introduction. The introduction gives you a run-down of processes, the purpose of the FSOT, and any testing accommodations needed, and when the test is offered. It even explains what the FSOT is, including what the four different parts to the exam are: Job Knowledge, Situational Judgement, English Expression, and Written Essay Test (only scored after passing the other areas with a 154). 
  2. 8 Steps to a Foreign Service Career. This section gives you the break-down of the entire qualification process, including what happens after you take and pass the FSOT. These are things like choosing a career track, registering for the FSOT, taking the FSOT with extensive details on doing so included, the personal narratives and Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP), taking the oral assessment, security and medical clearances, suitability review, and passing on to The Register.  
  3. Study Questions. The last sections of the study guide have example questions and scenarios for the FSOT and beyond. They cover Job Knowledge, Situational Judgment, English Expression, Written Essay, FSOA (Foreign Service Oral Assessment) group exercise, FSOA interview scenarios, FSOA case management exercises, and reference materials. 

Though the study guide covers more than just the FSOT, it is good to read it thoroughly to get an idea of the entire process beyond the first exam. 


What Practice Tests are the Most Useful and Where to Find Them 

There are several sample questions in the Department of State study guide, but it is by no means comprehensive. As with any major exam, taking a practice test should always be your first step. It guides you towards your strong points and gives you a direction for working on your weak points. We all have them!   


Here is a list of practice tests that will guide you towards success: 

  1. https://careers.state.gov/fsopracticetest/. Your first stop should, of course, be the Department of State Foreign Service Officer practice test. They will also provide you with areas to study and some materials. 
  2. https://www.ugoprep.com/free-fsot-practice-tests/. This has practice tests for free and a paid option for study materials and guidance. 
  3. https://www.mometrix.com/academy/fsot-practice-test/. Another free practice test with good reviews. 
  4. https://practicequiz.com/fsot:-500-test-prep-study-questions. This isn’t exactly a practice test but will give 500 questions where you can gauge what subject areas will need more work. 

No matter what test you choose (or choose them all throughout your studies), always practice like you’re actually taking the test with the same time constraints. You’re not only practicing for the questions but the testing conditions as well. From beginning to end, you have three hours total to take the test. 


What to Expect on the FSOT 

FSOT Guide: What to Expect and How to Prepare.

The FSOT is described as demanding on the best of days. What does this mean as you work your way through the process? For starters, sixteen subject areas are covered in four different categories: Job Knowledge, Situational Judgment, English Expression, and finally, the Written Essay.  Except for the essay, all the other categories are tested through multiple choice. 

  1. Job Knowledge. This category is split into two different sections. In the first section, you’ll be tested over general knowledge of economics, mathematics and statistics, world history and geography, US government, US society, management, communication, and computers. The second section is career-related questions based on your career track: management officers, consular officers, economic officers, political officers, or public diplomacy officers. The scores for both sections will be combined for your overall job knowledge score. You may only choose one career track, so know ahead of the test what career you’re going to focus on.
  2. Situational Judgment. In this category, you will be given multiple scenarios, most of which will place you in confrontational situations with your co-workers and/or boss. Your job will be to examine the scenario and choose the BEST resolution for the scenario and the WORST resolution. This part of the test tries to determine your judgment in given situations you may run across while working as a Foreign Service Officer. 
  3. English Expression. This part of the test focuses on grammar, sentence structure, usage, and vocabulary. It is all multiple choice, so you’ll be determining what is correct and incorrect within sentences. Also, brush up on knowing the difference between word usage like “who” and “whom” and when to use “affect” vs. “effect.” 
  4. Written Essay. The written essay used to be scored alongside the rest of the parts of the test. Since they switched from the Biographical Information section to the Situational Judgment section, they now won’t score your written essay unless you receive a combined score of 154 on the other three parts. It means you still have to take this section. They will give you a prompt which you will have to answer in 30 minutes.   

All the categories are relevant, but remember, the entire test is timed for a total time limit of 3 hours! 

 Learn how the FSOT is graded here: https://civilservicehq.com/fsot-graded-submission/

How to prepare for the FSOT 

Sixteen different subject areas are covered on the FSOT. There is a certain level of required knowledge the Department of State is looking for in a Foreign Service Officer. The most important thing you can do to prepare for the FSOT is to read various material over multiple subjects. The areas below are areas to study and some suggestions for ideas outside the usual reference materials: 

  • English Composition/Rhetoric. If you did well in English during High School or Undergrad, you should do well here. Though even some people who consider themselves as doing pretty decent writers have struggled with this section. Here are some materials to study and review: 
  • American Studies. Approximately four different subject areas have to do with the United States. These include the US Political System, US Economics and History of Economics, and American Politics. This knowledge is usually gained from multiple classes throughout High School and College, but there are ways to review and refresh your understanding of these areas:  

International Economics. International economic systems can be a little trickier. You might buy or rent a textbook-like International Economics Study Guide and Workbook by Dana Stryk. You can find this in most mainstream book marketplaces. 

Mass Communication. In a social and mass media world, it is crucial to understand how the rest of the world uses and manages these tools. Books like The Dynamics of Mass Communication: Media in Transition by Dominick will give you the scope of what this entails. 

  • Introduction to Management Principles. As with Mass Communication, looking into renting or buying books dealing with Management Principles specifically will help you understand these types of questions on the test. Books like Fundamentals of Management by Ricky W. Griffin. There are flashcards as well: 
  • Psychology. This topic also plays into management and any type of human interaction you may encounter as a Foreign Service Officer. Textbooks will be your best bet for studying for this part of the test. Books like Psychology by Gleitman, Cross, and Reisberg. There are also flashcards: 
  • Introduction of Statistics. There is an entire section based on Mathematics and Statistics on the Job Knowledge portion of the FSOT. You’ll need a firm base of mathematical knowledge and statistics verbiage to pass this section—all without a calculator. Here are some sites to help review and refresh your memory on the types of math and statistics you’ll come across on the test: 

These specific materials will help you study for every part of the FSOT. Even if they may be a review, go over each as thoroughly as possible to achieve the highest score possible! 

FSOT Guide: What to Expect and How to Prepare.

Which General Study Guides and Resource Materials Will Give You the Maximum Preparedness 

Remember to set up a good study schedule and give yourself plenty of time—most people say at least six months. Since the FSOT is only offered three times a year, this is more than achievable. Some people say you can pass it after minimum studying, in just a few weeks. Still, you will want as high of a score as possible to make it past the Qualifications Evaluation Panel and Oral Assessment. 

The information above is for the specific parts of the test you will encounter, but what about some useful general study guides that cover the entire test? Here is a list that will get you started: 

  1. https://youtu.be/dGxRlshnxmw. This youtube link is an introductory video to the Mometrix FSOT study guides. They offer a lot of materials, practice tests, and guidance for the exam. 
  2. https://pathtoforeignservice.com/department-of-state-suggested-fsot-reading-list/. This is the official suggested reading list for the FSOT from the Department of State. Some of the above books come from this list. Most are textbooks. 
  3. https://quizlet.com/subject/fsot/. There are many, many, many different sets of flashcards to help you study for the FSOT on Quizlet. 
  4. https://www.ugoprep.com/FSOT-prep/?gclid=CjwKCAjw4MP5BRBtEiwASfwAL7LaMXjbBwcBECUvYQ2Npk27x1EqLKm1RvkwEl1o2z5Vkv11OXtzxxoCy5kQAvD_BwE. This is the Ugoprep 14-day test prep. The reviews are good, but if you don’t have time to do this in 14 days, you could probably stretch it out and use it as a base for your study.  
  5. FSOT Study Guide 2020, and 2021-FSOT Test Prep Secrets, Full-Length Practice Test, Step-by-Step Review Video Tutorials [3rd Edition] by Mometrix. Mometrix has a lot of online and hardcover review materials to help you study. 

Good luck with taking the FSOT! 


Related Questions

How do I receive my score reports? 

You will receive score reports through your email. Make sure your Spam folders can receive correspondence from PearsonVUE, and they have an updated email. 

What happens if the computer quits working?  

If the computer quits working, the candidate won’t lose any of their test-taking time. The computer automatically updates and will save any answered questions. 

Related Articles

Firefighter EMT vs. Paramedic: What’s the Difference?

To learn how to best prepare and study for your foreign service exam click here!

Interested to learn more about the civil service? Check out our free guide here: https://civilservicehq.com/ 

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.