If you are reading this article it’s most likely because you are considering taking the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). The FSOT comes with a variety of sections that require great preparation, and one of those sections is the essay portions. The FSOT essay may be one of the more difficult sections of the exam because it does require great detail and thought.
Six tips and tricks to a great FSOT essay are having a well-structured essay, proper brainstorming, weighing both sides of the argument, good time management, time to review your work, and have access to practice exams.
As an aspiring Foreign Service Officer, you want to make sure that you do everything in your ability to pass your exam. With the tips and tricks provided in this article, you will be one step closer to passing your exam.
Tips for A Great Essay
Try not to pressure yourself way too much about having to write the exam. The tips provided in this section will make it easy for you to apply these elements to your essay so that you can have all the confidence you need on the day of the exam. Although most of these tips seem very standard, they are actually quite important. Typically, people tend to put off the essay section of any exam because they feel that they can “wing it” on the day of the exam. The best thing you can do is not “wing it” and properly prepare for the test.
Properly Structure Your Essay
Any great writer should know that the structure of the essay is extremely important, and the way that information flows will determine the engagement of the reader. With any essay you want to keep the reader engaged, and although this is not an essay based on entertainment you still want to leave the grader with a lasting impression.
When writing your essay make sure that you use the following structure.
- Introduction: Your introduction should catch the attention of the reader and should clearly state the topic at hand and your argument. Make sure that you properly state your thesis at the end of the introduction paragraph.
- The First Paragraph: The first paragraph in the body of your essay should support your thesis. Be sure to provide valid evidence that supports your argument in this paragraph. Remember the FSOT essay tests your ability to properly prove an argument and provide supportive information.
- Additional Paragraphs: The additional paragraphs should also provide additional supportive information to your thesis. Make sure that the body of your essay is about 2-3 paragraphs and consists of about 3-5 sentences.
- Conclusion: Consider this paragraph your closing argument, make sure you state your thesis again, and be sure to provide the bigger picture here. Be sure to discuss why this thesis is so important.
With the layout provided above you will be able to properly structure your essay to make sure that the reader is not only engaged but also well informed. A well-structured essay will ensure that you know exactly what you are writing about and seem as though you are well prepared.
Brainstorming is Key
Remember in school when our teachers would tell us to brainstorm our essay? You should definitely apply that here as well. The essay portion allows for 25 minutes so you want to make sure you do not take too much time here. Use the first 5-10 minutes of the section to fully brainstorm your essay on a separate sheet of paper. Take this time to get all your thoughts on paper and use it as a brain dump, the last thing you need is to scramble on your essay due to time constraints.
In your brainstorming session be sure to write out your thesis and bullet point the arguments that will support that thesis. Once you have properly brainstormed your ideas you can begin writing your essay in the booklet. Although this may seem like a waste of time to some, it is actually quite useful and will allow you to write a fully organized essay.
Weigh Out Both Sides
Any great writer knows that when it comes to writing an essay that involves critical thinking and presenting an argument, you’ll need to weigh out both sides of the argument (yes that means the opposing argument), this shows that you can properly present a case. Although this is not necessary for you to do it shows that you can properly present a case that will show very well with the reader.
Start in The Middle
A great trick that we all learned in school was that it is best to start off with the middle of the essay first since this is the most important part of the essay. If you are concerned about the time crunch then the best option is to start off your essay in the middle, this allows for you to take the time to plan out your essay. Once you have your body written out you can focus on your introduction and your conclusion which will be easy to write because all your point has already been made. You just need to tie it all up!
Make Sure You Review
The important thing about writing an essay is that you need to take the time out to fully review your work. There is nothing worse than writing a career-changing essay to only find out that it is full of spelling and grammatical errors. Although this is not an essay on your English writing capabilities, and more on your ability to present an argument, you still want to make sure that you are providing a presentable piece of work.
Therefore, make sure that you allocate enough time to your essay to confirm that you have enough time to properly review your work. You’ll need about 5 minutes to carefully review your work and to check and see if you want to add or make any changes.
Take Simulator Exam
Consider taking the FSOT simulator essay exam online. There are several online sources where you can take a practice exam online to test out your writing capabilities and give yourself time to prepare. The simulator contains essay questions that are very similar to the questions on the exam and allow for you to get a good look at what the exam will include. It is highly recommended that you take a few of these exams so that you can have a good idea of what to expect.
Although these tips seem very standard, they can easily be applied to any essay that you plan on writing. The truth is that you do need to properly prepare for the exam and study, however, you also need to put a lot of thought into your essay which is also an important part of the essay writing process. The grader will really respect the fact that you took the time to write out a well throughout the essay and it will really contribute to a passing grade.
What is The FSOT Essay?
The FSOT essay is a very important part of the exam and examines your capabilities for the position, therefore it is imperative that you take the time to really practice for the essay portion. This portion of the exam consists of several essay questions that will take no more than 25 minutes to complete. You will be examined on some of the following topics:
- Customs and Culture
- Economics and Finance
- Employment Issues
- Internal Affairs
- Social Issues
This essay will test you on multiple abilities such as analyzing the topic at hand, properly organizing your thoughts about the topic, and ensuring that your work is readable. In addition to properly analyzing the topic, you will need to present a proper argument and be able to provide valid points that support your argument.
If you are someone who has recently finished school and find yourself taking this exam then you are in great shape for the essay portion, think of it as writing an essay for school, except this essay will be going towards your career. It may seem a bit overwhelming but with the proper preparation techniques, you will be able to go into the essay portion exam with all the confidence you need.
So, What Happens Next?
Now that you have taken the exam you are probably wondering to yourself what your next steps are. Although you have passed your exam there are still more things that you should prepare for, it is a long process and passing the exam was only one small hurdle you needed to jump. The waiting process is always a bit of a drag, especially after a career-changing exam. Here are a few things to look out for after taking your exam.
If you have successfully passed the multiple-choice section of the exam, then your essay will be graded by the review panel. Once you have been determined for a passing grade then you will be invited for your oral interview in which you will be asked a series of questions related to the position, and your background. You will be interviewed on the 13 dimensions that are key for this position, the dimensions are as follows.
- Cultural Adaptability
- Experience and Motivation
- Information Integration and Analysis
- Initiative and Leadership
- Oral Communication
- Planning and Organizing
- Working with Others
- Written Communication
- Quantitative Analysis
Before you go on your interview make sure that you take the time to properly prepare for it by doing sufficient research and watching tutorials on YouTube where you can get a more in-depth view of what the interview consists of.
Medical and Security Clearance
If all goes well with your oral interview you will be asked to submit medical records and agree to a security clearance screening which is very similar to a background check. This is a very prestigious position so passing the security clearance is extremely important. Although there is no preparation for this you will have an idea of whether you’ll pass or not if you have a clean record and have no ties to crime.
Once you have completed all the steps of the process, then all of your documents will be reviewed by the suitability review panel to ensure that you are a fit for the position. All of your documents with the exception of the medical documents will be reviewed in this step.
This is the final step and if you have passed all of the previous steps then you will be registered into the system and ranked in accordance to your eligibility for this position. The best candidates will be ranked at the top of the list.
This is the exam of your life and you want to make sure that you do your very best to pass it. Although the tips in this article are very standard and can be applied to any form of writing it is important that you apply them to this exam as well. Remember when writing your essay to go back to your writing basics.
Make sure your essay is well structured, shows valid arguments, and also contains supportive information in an eloquent format. With great preparation and proper writing techniques, you are on the path to acing your exam. Best of luck!
Is the FSOT exam difficult?
The FSOT exams are said to have a pretty low passing rate, during the time of this article the pass rate is at about 30-50%. However, with the right preparation and studying, you can increase your chances of passing.
What is considered a passing grade for the FSOT?
A passing grade for the FSOT must consist of a score of 154 or more for the multiple-choice section and a grade of 6 or more for the essay section.
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.
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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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