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Thread: Prep for Foreign Service Officer exam

  1. #41
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    I took the language test for the FBI, and I'm sure it will be the same. You sit in a room by yourself and take the test over the phone. It lasts about an hour, and no specific questions are asked. You take the test over the phone with two native speaking individuals in whatever language you're testing. You start off with basic information about yourself (your background, what you like to do, etc.), and then transition in to conversation about politics, etc. There is no specific question that is asked, it's just a long conversation to test you in all tenses of a language in a variety of settings.

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    Okay, I just got a letter emailed to me today, which reads as follows...

    Dear [Schmedlap],
    Congratulations! The scores you achieved on your Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) qualify you for the next step of the Foreign Service Officer selection process, which is your prompt submission of a personal narrative for review by the Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP).
    Any tips on the narrative?

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    When I took the test last year, the narrative was submitted with the application for the written test. If I had it to do over again, I'd have probably gone into more detail than I did. Judging by what I've read in your posts, I'd say you have a background that will be interesting to the review panel, & you express yourself well. Respond to the questionnaire, & tell them who you are & where you've been.
    The big challenge seems to be the Oral Assessment. The explanatory materials on the DoS website explain the process well. There are three main components: a role-playing exercise with a group of applicants, a written exercise where you address a management problem, and a structured interview with two FSOs. The DoS website explains the process as well as I could ask for.
    I'm waiting for the security clearance before the next round before an evaluation panel.
    Best wishes.

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    Default Narrative for FS Oral Exam

    Schmedlap:

    I would suggest that you stress some of the following issues:
    1. experience in foreign countries
    2. interaction with foreigners and understanding of foreign cultures
    3. understanding of, and experience with, the interagency process
    4. leadership experience
    5. program management experience

    At the risk of impugning your intelligence, I would also advise avoiding the following:
    1. personal political, social, or religious opinions
    2. personal views about foreign policy execution
    3. pronouncements about grand strategy

    A caveat: I do not know any FSOs who have actually served on the Board of Examiners (the entity that conducts the oral interviews). These positions are open to FSOs of any cone who have the appropriate rank but this is a niche area outside of the mainstream - not an assignment that usually attracts the ambitious or those identified as water walkers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pol-Mil FSO View Post
    At the risk of impugning your intelligence, I would also advise avoiding the following...

    2. personal views about foreign policy execution
    3. pronouncements about grand strategy
    Ha! I spent enough time riding Metro while in uniform to grow very weary of hearing those from every random yahoo who thought that I had a direct line to the SECDEF.

    Good info, though. Thanks.

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    Just looked over the questions. For each question, they want a name and phone number for someone whom they can call to verify the information. This sounds like the most difficult part of the entire exam - finding phone numbers for people who have PCS'd twice and may or may not be deployed or living abroad or ETS'd.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    .....finding phone numbers for people who have PCS'd twice and may or may not be deployed or living abroad or ETS'd.
    AKO people search. Although for ETS'd folks its no help, but for the rest - and for retired - it can still help dredge up a few lost POCs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Just looked over the questions. For each question, they want a name and phone number for someone whom they can call to verify the information. This sounds like the most difficult part of the entire exam - finding phone numbers for people who have PCS'd twice and may or may not be deployed or living abroad or ETS'd.
    I know this is a nightmare, I'm trying to find people to prepare my TS paperwork. AKO helped a lot, just like Jedburgh said; but you want to know where I found most people's info?

    Facebook.
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

  9. #49
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    I don't have AKO access (added: but I've got some contacts who do). I'll give Facebook a shot, though the Facebook link below is the sum total of what I've dabbled with on Facebook. I guess I'll finally have to give in and set up a personal account.

    This should be interesting. For most of my former commanders, I don't even know what country they're in (Korea, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan???)
    Last edited by Schmedlap; 10-29-2009 at 10:51 PM.

  10. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Just looked over the questions. For each question, they want a name and phone number for someone whom they can call to verify the information. This sounds like the most difficult part of the entire exam - finding phone numbers for people who have PCS'd twice and may or may not be deployed or living abroad or ETS'd.
    Use AKO White pages. Most people update their profile including address/position, and then cross-reference with whitepages.com or similar.

    At a minimum you can get an organizational location/address from AKO.

    Niel
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

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    Two questions about selecting references...

    1) Is there any significance attached to who the reference is? For example, in regard to one of my narratives, I think a former peer (now a CPT) can speak more specifically to the narrative than could a former commander (now a LTC). Will the folks attach any significance to rank? Or are they simply looking to verify the facts of the narrative and nothing more?

    2) I could use one reference for 3 out of the 5 narratives. Is there a preference for more references? Or, again, are they just looking to verify the facts in my narratives? I'm thinking that if I only use 2 references then it looks like I can't find 5 people to vouch for me. All 5 individuals whom I have in mind will talk a good game. But the select 2 individuals whom I have in mind would talk a better game. Does it matter?

    Two questions about selecting a response...

    1) One of the questions pertains to interaction with people from another racial/ethnic/religious background. I've had a lot of interaction with locals in Iraq. I've also had a lot of meetings with ISF leaders. Would interactions with locals versus interactions with elites play better or worse? I think the interactions with locals better convey my ability to bridge cultural divides, but I think my interactions with elites (ISF officers and tribal sheiks) better convey my ability to actually get something accomplished in that setting. Is there a preference?

    2) Obviously my experiences in the military will weigh heavily in my responses. For one of the five responses, I think that I could include something from graduate school. Should I do that simply to show that I've done something other than the Army? Or do they care?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Two questions about selecting references...

    1) Is there any significance attached to who the reference is? For example, in regard to one of my narratives, I think a former peer (now a CPT) can speak more specifically to the narrative than could a former commander (now a LTC). Will the folks attach any significance to rank? Or are they simply looking to verify the facts of the narrative and nothing more?

    2) I could use one reference for 3 out of the 5 narratives. Is there a preference for more references? Or, again, are they just looking to verify the facts in my narratives? I'm thinking that if I only use 2 references then it looks like I can't find 5 people to vouch for me. All 5 individuals whom I have in mind will talk a good game. But the select 2 individuals whom I have in mind would talk a better game. Does it matter?

    Two questions about selecting a response...

    1) One of the questions pertains to interaction with people from another racial/ethnic/religious background. I've had a lot of interaction with locals in Iraq. I've also had a lot of meetings with ISF leaders. Would interactions with locals versus interactions with elites play better or worse? I think the interactions with locals better convey my ability to bridge cultural divides, but I think my interactions with elites (ISF officers and tribal sheiks) better convey my ability to actually get something accomplished in that setting. Is there a preference?

    2) Obviously my experiences in the military will weigh heavily in my responses. For one of the five responses, I think that I could include something from graduate school. Should I do that simply to show that I've done something other than the Army? Or do they care?
    I thought you were coming back on active duty?
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jkm_101_fso View Post
    I thought you were coming back on active duty?
    I'm pursuing multiple options. What if I can't come back? (Got some med issues that are iffy)

  14. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    I'm pursuing multiple options. What if I can't come back? (Got some med issues that are iffy)
    Based off some of your recent comments and blog posts, I'm assuming that you aren't pursuing a job as a Fox News Military Correspondant or NYT Op-Ed writer.

    Good luck with your search.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Based off some of your recent comments and blog posts, I'm assuming that you aren't pursuing a job as a Fox News Military Correspondant or NYT Op-Ed writer.
    I would sooner opt to be a drug dealer, pimp, or politician - they are more respectable, imo.

  16. #56

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    I would sooner opt to be a drug dealer, pimp, or politician - they are more respectable, imo.
    Did you send in the fax to see your score break down? I took the october FSOT as well, and didn't pass, but found out I was quite close - 147.99 out of the 154 minimum.

    My breakdown was pretty interesting: 61.22 job knowledge, 40.01 biographic, 46.76 english expression. Honestly I didn't realize before taking it that biographic mattered as much as job knowledge and english expression, though as a 22 year old two credits short of a bachelor's I didn't have many leadership experiences and whatnot to draw on. And I opted for the unfortunately popular political track. Analyzing politics for the government has been my dream job for the last couple years, and I have a deep passion for international relations theory. Oh well, there's always academia.

    Good luck on your narratives/orals!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyrano View Post
    Did you send in the fax to see your score break down?

    ... Honestly I didn't realize before taking it that biographic mattered as much as job knowledge and english expression, though as a 22 year old two credits short of a bachelor's I didn't have many leadership experiences and whatnot to draw on.
    I didn't ask for my score breakdown, but now that you've reminded me, I will.

    My understanding is that you can take the test as many times as you like (though I think you have to wait 11 months). I guess one advantage that you have now is that you know what is expected. You can tailor your internships/jobs/courses accordingly. As I finish up my PNs, my impression is that they are looking specifically for good communication skills, ability to function in other cultures, problem-solving skills, and leadership experience. Foreign language proficiency also can't hurt. If I were ten years younger, I would be looking for jobs/internships that help me to check each of those blocks. That way, when they ask for an example of my communication ability, I can tell them about X internship in which I needed to draft written communications and occasionally give presentations to various groups of folks.

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    Default Books for FSO Exam Preparation?

    I realize this is an old thread, and a comprehensive one to boot.

    Still...

    I have the FSOT (Foreign Service Officer Test) Study Guide, 3rd Edition, copyright 2008. I think I am relatively well-prepared for the test in terms of educational background. That said, I was taken by how difficult the questions seemed (at least to me), and hence, wish to prepare myself further. The logical way to do it would seem, to me, to read the appropriate books. However, the "Suggested Study Materials" at the end of the Study Guide are too many to read in time for my exam, and moreover, I don't know how to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of what to read in a somewhat time-constrained situation (I'm taking the exam in early June).

    Thus, to get to the bottom line, do people have *specific* recommendations on what books or textbooks to obtain and study from with respect to the specific subjects covered on the exam? The study guide lists some, but again, there are too many to read in the time available, and I imagine they vary in quality as well. Any suggestions, particularly from those who have taken the exam on topics such as American history, economics, etc., would be appreciated.

    Thanks
    Jeff

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    I really don't know how one can prepare. And after talking a bunch of old retired FSO guys recently, they agreed. Either you are genuinely interested in international affairs and you read the news regularly and digest it - or not. That seems to be all that the test confirms. I did not look through any study guides or practice exams other than the one posted on the website, which was more difficult than the real exam. The real exam was so ridiculously easy that I thought I was misreading the questions. Where they really weed you out is the oral exam - which you also can't prepare for. I think the best advice is to simply be confident and recognize that if you don't "pass" you can take the test again and again and again.

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    Thanks, Schmedlap. I appreciate your comment (sincerely).

    Regards
    Jeff

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