Change to the FSOT & Why You Really Need to Practice Writing

The Department has decided to change the format of the first part of the Foreign Service Exam. Starting with the February FSOT instead of having one topic on which to write, applicants will choose one out of three “short topics.”

In the past, some test takers were actually asked to write two essays, not just one. I don’t know how this change squares with that.  In those cases, I’ve heard that the testing company and the Department didn’t score the essay, but used it to “improve” the test.

One of the Easiest Ways to Improve Your Score

Remember, the graders reviewing your essay are not looking at your opinions, but judging you on your writing skills — fluency, clarity, word choice, and grammar.

This is another reason why writing practice remains the best way to boost your score on the Foreign Service Exam. Writing is a major skill inside the Foreign Service and it is also a major stumbling block for test-takers. The trick is to draft clearly, succinctly, and with some humor and flair. If you emulate the journalists at The Economist, NY Times or Washington Post, your scores will be higher.

How to Improve Your Writing

Okay, it might be tough to add humor and elegance to your writing in the two weeks remaining before the February exam, but you can become a better writer. To do so adopt the following:

— write for 30-60 minutes every day;
— pick news stories that you find interesting, and practice rewriting them in your own voice;
— practice writing your autobiography.

Writing is a muscle that becomes stronger the more you use it. The goal is to write faster and more clearly. This will give you a major edge on the FSOT and once you pass the first test, it will give you an edge in the next round of the exam process — the Personal Narratives.

Good luck!

How to Prepare for the Foreign Service Exam

Quick step-by-step guide to pass the first exam of the FSOT: 1. Take the State/Pearson Vue practice test; 2. Based on your score, Identify your strengths and weaknesses.; 3. Study areas where you’re weakest. 4. Use general overview books to review subjects such as economics, US history, international relations, European/Asian/African histories, etc. 5. For English Expression, […]

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Download the DOSCareers Mobile App (Apple, Android)

Make sure you get the right one. The DOSCareers app is free, gratis, $0.00. Developed by the State Department and MetroStar Systems, the FSOT app is excellent and mirrors what’s on the State Department Career website — Careers.State.Gov. Be warned there are a bunch of apps that offer to teach and test and prep you […]

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ForeignServiceExam.org Primer: How to Pick your Career Path (Part 2)

I’ve promised to produce a primer for applicants taking the FSOT in Jan-Feb 2017.  One of the first steps you take is to choose your career track, also known as your cone.  It’s a big choice as it will be how you are judged, how you are promoted, and how you spend your 20+ years […]

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Ivy League Applicants Still Have Edge on the FSOT

ForeignServiceExam.org has learned that graduates of Ivy League schools pass the FSOT at a higher rate than other applicants.   Exam officials are probably scratching their heads after spending spent enormous time and money to recraft the Foreign Service Exam — at least the first (or written) test — to make it more diversity friendly. […]

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Foreign Service Exam Primer for FSOT Feb 2017 (Part 1)

I’m going to give you the best advice I can on prepping and passing the Foreign Service Exam (aka FSOT). It’s changed a bit since I took it in 1985 ?!  There’s more writing now, including the brutal Personal Narrative requirement. There’s also a final scrub that was probably there in the 1980s, but now […]

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Registration for February FSOT Opened December 15

    You can register for the next Foreign ServiceExam starting December 15.  The Exam dates will run from January 28 to February 4.  If you start now, this will give you plenty of time to prepare for the test.   The State Department has listed these dates for 2017.   President-elect Trump intends to […]

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FSOT Coaching?

To FSOT Applicants, I’d like to know how many of you would be interested in coaching?  I was thinking about offering six lessons — one per week — in the month in half before the next Foreign Service Exam.  We’d connect by telephone or by Skype.  I’d recommend books and go over concepts that you’re […]

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The Easiest Way to Find a Job at the State Department

The easiest way to get a job in the State Department is through an internship. Of course,  there are other ways to land a position inside the Harry Truman building or one of the satellite offices dotting DC and northern VA. But in my experience as a Foreign Service officer and manager, those with good […]

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4 Free Ways to Prep for FSOT English Expression Questions

I have always done poorly on the English Expression part of the FSOT.  I don’t know why.  I’m a reasonably good writer and after graduating from college I worked as a reporter/editor for United Press International.  In any case, when I took the practice exam last month, I scored in the high 70s in English […]

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