How to Prepare for The Civil Service Exam: A Step-by-Step Guide.

If you are looking into a career as a public servant, then chances are you will be required to take the civil service exam. The civil service exam is not the type of exam that you can cram for the week before the exam date, this particular exam requires extreme preparation, and discipline to get a passing score. If you plan on taking a civil service exam in the future, then a step-by-step preparation guide should be the first thing you read before you start studying.

To prepare for the civil service exam you need to come up with a study plan, make time to study throughout the week, and utilize as many practice exams as possible. You also need to go into the exam with the right mindset and set your nerves aside.

If you’re ready to take this career-changing exam, then it’s time to take the leap and start preparing. This step-by-step guide will provide you with tips to prepare for the civil service exam so that you can obtain a passing score and potentially secure the career of your dreams.

The Civil Service Exam

Before you start preparing for the civil service exam you must have a full understanding of the purpose of this exam as well as what the exam consists of. The civil service exam is an entry-level exam that is required to be taken by anyone interested in a federal or local government position. This exam will be used to determine if the applicant has the skills needed for the particular position.

If you are interested in working as a TSA agent, IRS employee, postal worker, foreign service agent, or even an air traffic controller then this exam will be a requirement. Higher-level positions such as FBI agent and CIA agent will also require a civil service exam, however, this exam is not open to just anyone. As you can see these are all great careers to have and come with great benefits which is why a high score on the exam is crucial.

Components of the Exam

How to Prepare for The Civil Service Exam: A Step-by-Step Guide.

Now that you have an idea of what the exam is for, it’s important to understand what the civil service exam consists of. As mentioned, this exam is created to test the applicant’s skills to see if they are fit for the position that you are applying for. Here are the topics that the civil service exam is expected to cover.

  • Reading and Writing: This section of the exam will test the applicants reading comprehension, grammatical skills, and basic context skills. Some questions in this section will be made to trick you so attention to detail is extremely important in this section.
  • Math Skills: If math is not your biggest skill there is no need to worry you do not have to be a math whiz to pass this part of the exam. In this section, you will be tested on your ability to understand fractions, graphs, ratios, percentages, and word problems.
  • Additional Skills: This will depend on the type of field you are going into however it is still important to prepare for because they will test you on skills that are specific to the position. Some of the additional skills include but are not limited to the following critical thinking, decision-making skills, memory skills, and other soft skills pertinent to the position.

Just by looking at the sections of the exam it may seem like this exam is easy, but it tricks you at certain points, which is why preparation is key. Although the questions on the real exam obviously will not be the same, taking practice exams will help you get an idea of what this exam could be like.

The Exam Format

The majority of civil service exams are computerized and consist of multiple-choice questions. The applicant will have about 3-4 hours to finish the exam, however, depending on the exam that is taken each section may be timed. In some cases, there may be essay questions on the exam, these are very important sections and require a lot of preparation before you take the official exam.

Now that you have a general idea of what the civil service exam entails it’s time to prepare for the exam itself. Remember, while the sections of the exam may look easy on paper, it is important to take the time to prepare, depending on your schedule it may take a few months or a few weeks to fully prepare for the exam.

Preparing for The Civil Service Exam

So, you’ve decided to obtain a job in the public sector, now it’s time to get to work and prepare for the entry exam. Most applicants may already have a full-time job and find it difficult to take the time out to study, however with the right plan your study sessions will not feel like an inconvenience to your time and will instead make these sessions feel like part of your routine.

So, if you’re ready to begin preparing for this life-changing exam here are just a few tips that will help you properly prepare for the exam without bringing on any stress.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with The Exam

Making yourself familiar with the exam is probably the first thing you should do when you prepare for an exam. This will shape out your study sessions and allow you to focus on key areas where you think you’ll struggle a bit more than other parts of the exam.

Here are just a few things that you should look into when making yourself familiar with the civil service exam.

  • Exam Format: Is this a computerized exam? How many questions are on the exam? Are there different sections? If so, what does each section cover? Is it multiple choice? Is there an essay question? Make sure you look into all How to Prepare for The Civil Service Exam: A Step-by-Step Guide.of these things when making yourself familiar with the exam. Judging by the format you’ll be able to calculate how much time you’ll need to prepare for this important exam.
  • Exam Time: How long is the exam overall? Is each section timed? Chances are the different sections will be time and it is important to make note of that when studying, because not only will you need to focus on learning the material, but you’ll also need to focus on time management.
  • Passing Score: Obviously, you’ll want to pass the exam, but by how much? This will come into play when you take practice exams but, in the meantime, you’ll want to make a note of what is considered a passing score to move on to the next part of the hiring process. You should also investigate if all you need is a passing score or if the selection is based on how high you score, in some cases the higher the score the higher you are on the list which makes your hiring time much faster, especially in a competitive job opening.

As you can see there are important things to make note of when familiarizing yourself with an exam. While it may seem like an extra step it will bring along great benefits to your study sessions, and it will allow you to focus on key components of the civil service exam.

Step 2: Make a Plan

When preparing for anything in life it is important to make a plan, making a plan to help prepare for the civil service exam is no different. While creating your study plan you do not have to do anything too fancy, you just need to create something that caters to your schedule, the more catered it is to your schedule the less likely you are to fall behind in your studies. Here are just a few things to include in your study plan.

  • Decide which exam you want to take. It is likely that you already know what field you want to go into however it is important to note that there is not a general civil service exam. Each agency has its exam; therefore, you want to keep an eye out for when the exam is next available. While doing this you should also research the requirements for the candidates if it looks like you do not meet the basic requirements you may not want to take the exam just yet. The last thing you want to do is spend weeks studying for an exam for a job that you do not meet the basic requirements for.
  • Figure out your schedule. When making this career-defining decision you are likely either working a full-time or part-time job or maybe you’re a student, either way, you do not have all the time in the world to study. Consider taking time on your day off to study or maybe have a quick study session after your day of work. The important thing here is to have a set schedule so that you do not get distracted.
  • Decide when you want to take the exam. It is important to note that civil service exams are not always available and are generally available once every few months. This is good because it gives you enough time to fully prepare. Therefore, make it a goal to take the exam in a few months, you can register and then prepare accordingly.
  • Make a balance between your personal life and study session. Do not feel the need to overwork your brain, make time for your personal life too! Setting a balance between the two will allow you to give your brain a break and will not overload it with too much material. As long as you prioritize accordingly you should be okay, but also do not set your studies aside to go out with friends if you have not taken the time to study during the week.
  • Purchase the materials needed. The important part of preparation is having the materials that are needed to ensure that you make the most out of your study sessions. Once you have an idea of which civil service exam you want to take it is recommended that you purchase the study guide books available for purchase online. The great thing about these books is that they guide you step by step on the contents of the exam, they even include practice exams.

Creating a well-thought-out plan for studying makes it seem like an unnecessary step, however, it will be a great way for you to make the most out of your studying experience and allow you to prepare in the most efficient way possible.

Step 3: Purchase a Study Guide

This is by far the best investment you can make to prepare for this exam. Buying a study guide may seem like an extra expense however you can find great deals on places like Amazon. Not only does this study guide provide you with an in-depth review of each section of the exam, but you will also be provided with practice sections after each section, and also several practice exams.

If you are not able to purchase a physical study guide, then there are many resources available online for you to use. Although it is not the same as an in-depth study guide it is still a great way for you to get a decent idea of what the exam includes, and what to expect on the day of the exam.

Step 4: Focus on Each Section Individually

By now you probably have drilled into your head that there are multiple sections to the civil service exam. Each section has its level of difficulty, and in some cases may be slightly overwhelming especially if it is your first time taking this type of exam.

The best way for you to approach this type of exam format is to focus on each of the topics individually, for example, you can focus on the math section one week and the reading section the next week. What you want to avoid is studying two sections at the same time, this will not only be overwhelming, but it can also cause a bit of confusion.

Additionally, after each study session, you should also do a few practice questions just to get an idea of where you are with the material. Since the exam is timed it is recommended that you time yourself on each question so that you have an idea of how your timing is.

Step 5: Enhance Your Time Management

How to Prepare for The Civil Service Exam: A Step-by-Step Guide.

The fact that this exam is timed can be a bit overwhelming, which is why you should practice your time management skills right away when preparing for the exam. Typically, each section of the exam can range from 15 to 20 minutes with an average of 25 questions per section.

When you are doing practice questions after each section you should time yourself even if it’s not required for the practice section. This will automatically cause your brain to go into exam mode and allow you to properly analyze each question promptly.

During your timed practice questions set 10 minutes on your phone timer, this is way less than the time on the official exam, but it gives you an idea of what the timing on the actual may feel like.

Step 6: Brush Up on Reading and Writing

It may seem a bit odd to ask this of you, but it is highly suggested that you brush up on your reading and writing skills. The reason you should brush up on this section is that this particular section is made to trick you, and in an age of social media where we read and write a more broken-down version of English it’s easy to lose things in translation.

In this case, you want to read every sentence and every context carefully to make sure that you are not tricked by the trick question. Make sure that in your study guide you keep an eye out for any tips that the study guide author has provided you to ensure that you have a full understanding of what you are being tested on.

Step 7: Purchase a Study Guide

This is by far the best investment you can make to prepare for this exam. Buying a study guide may seem like an extra expense however you can find great deals on places like Amazon. Not only does this study guide provide you with an in-depth review of each section of the exam, but you will also be provided with practice sections after each section, and also several practice exams.

If you are not able to purchase a physical study guide, then there are many resources available online for you to use. Although it is not the same as an in-depth study guide it is still a great way for you to get a decent idea of what the exam includes, and what to expect on the day of the exam.

Step 8: Set the Vibe

Anyone will tell you that where you study matters, and that you need to focus on the tasks at hand. A great way to make the most of a study session is to study in a setting that is similar to a testing site.

You want to make sure you study in a setting that is quiet and has minimal distractions, this will program your brain as if you were taking a test and prep you for testing day. So, if you are someone who likes to study music then you may want to consider leaving your music off for this study session.

Step 8: Have the Right Mindset

You need to go into this exam with the utmost confidence, yes, it is a very important exam, but you cannot go into the exam feeling nervous. Remember preparation is key and if you feel that you are well prepared and believe you can pass this exam then that is all you need.

Part of having the right mindset is knowing when you are ready to take the exam. If you’ve read through all the study material and taken all the practice exams and passed the majority of them then chances are that you are ready for the civil service exam. If the exam was scheduled way in advance and you do not feel ready yet, then you can reach out to the testing center to postpone your exam to a later date.

As you can see preparing for the civil service exam is no different than preparing for a final exam in college. The only difference here is that this is one exam that covers multiple topics, so you must take the time to cover each topic accordingly.

The Day of The Exam

Now that you have fully prepared for the exam, it’s time to take the exam. Although it may seem a bit nerve-wracking the idea of taking a life-changing exam, you must relax. Here are just a few things you can do to not go into the exam with your mind at ease.

Arrive on Time

The worst thing you can do on exam day starts on the wrong foot by having a late start to the day. Remember this is not your typical exam where the professor will give you a grace period if you do not arrive on time. Therefore, try your best to arrive at least 15 minutes early, by doing this you will not feel rushed and will have a few moments to calm yourself down before going in to take the exam. A great tip is to look up the route to the testing center the night before if you are not very familiar with the route.

Make Sure You Eat

Yes, this is very important, and it may be difficult to eat when you are feeling slightly nervous, but you must eat. Going into an exam on an empty stomach will not allow you to focus properly and you’ll spend more time focusing on an empty stomach instead of the exam. If you are not a breakfast person then consider drinking a smoothie that is heavy on protein.

The Exam Itself

Now that you are settled inside of the exam room it’s time to put your nerves aside and take the exam. Although each section is timed it is important that you take your time on each question and do not rush through the sections. Some exams allow you to go back to previous questions, so if this is one of those exams you can always go back to a question that you are feeling stuck on. Do not take too much time on one question, keep on moving and come back to that question later.

Remember to review your answers, in these cases, you can only review answers for that sections allotted time, for example, you can only review reading and writing questions you can only review questions in that particular section, you cannot go back to review questions in the math section because that time has passed.

Once you are confident in all of your answers you can move forward to the next sections, and once all of the answers are submitted you have officially completed the exam and can exit the exam room.

This exam is no different than taking any other exam. The important thing here is to feel prepared, take your time during your studies, and be able to go into the exam with a positive mindset.

More exam tips HERE.

Next Steps

Now that you have taken your exam it’s time to wait for the exam results to come back in. In some cases, the results can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to come back to you. If you do receive a passing score then that means you are on the list to start the hiring process, if you are applying for a competitive position then the hiring process may not start right away.

If you failed the exam then the good news is that you can retake the exam, however, it is important to note that you will have to wait a certain period before you retake the exam. When the time comes just remember to prepare accordingly and switch up your strategy and try to focus more on the areas you were weakest in.

Final Thoughts

The civil service exam is not hard, remember that. You do not need to be a genius to pass the exam, you just need the proper tools and good preparation to make sure you pass the exam on the first try. This is a career-changing exam however you should still treat it as a regular exam and not put too much emotion behind it. With the tips provided in this article, there is no doubt that you will pass this exam and go on to do great things in your new career. Best of luck!

Q&A Section

Where can I sign up for the exam?

You can register for the exam online, while there is no specific website, you can search for the organization that you are interested in and check out their website for exam details.

What is considered a passing score for the civil service exam?

The average passing score for the civil service exam is 80%, however, it is advised that you look up your agency’s passing score to see if their score differs from the average.

Is the civil service exam hard?

It is not hard, but it is meant to trick you therefore make sure you take your time to prepare so that you can pass on your first try.

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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.