Blog · Professional

How the FSOT Tackled Me

I received the results of my FSOT on October 30. Unfortunately, I did not pass. From what I understand, the FSOT is scored as a T-score (see better explanation). Basically, it rates test takers against each other, meaning, a fixed percentage of takers will pass. If everyone’s scores are clumped together, one question can make a difference between passers and failers.

The Test consists of 4 sections:
1. Job Knowledge (60 questions)
2. Biographic Information (77 questions)
3. English Usage (65 questions)
4. Essay (30 minutes)

To pass, you need to:
Score 154 or higher cumulatively on the first 3 sections
Score 6 or higher on the essay (1-12 scale)

See my results (Not proud of it but thought posting it here will motivate me to do better next year. Guess I’m just a sucker for pain and public humiliation):

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.26.52 AM

Clearly, I know myself more than I know what’s out there and failed by a gazillion points. My score was pretty low, so my “dazzling” little essay was irrelevant.

My Biographic Info score was not too shabby. I LOVE to work, so I know what I’ve done in the past and how my experience and skills will benefit my future employers. For this section I pretty much prepared by looking at the 13 dimensions which are available on the careers.state.gov website. I jotted down a few examples for each of the Ds on things that I thought would demonstrate those dimensions. I highly recommend you do that, seeing as this strategy paid off.

On the English Expression, I pretty much feel like you either learned grammar in middle school or you didn’t. I actually thought I had aced the section, I thought it was really easy. I remain puzzled. Seeing my EE score made me cringe and face-palm about 100x. However, in my last post, I did mention the anxiety I was feeling when I saw that the EE section was loading questions too slowly while the clock was running.

For the Job Knowledge section, I’ve heard it described as “broad but not deep,” and that is pretty accurate. I played a lot of geography games before I took the test, so I believe I did okay when it came to that area. Hmm, what may have killed me is the history and pop culture questions. My advice on this section is stay informed.

On the Essay… well, remember they are looking for how you write not what you write. My question was on education and I used the “Five paragraph essay” style. Wish I knew how I scored..

I’m thinking, it will be back to square one with the JK and EE section. Because with scores this bad, the only way to go is up, right. Plus, I hear it gets easier the second time around. And the third 🙂

>> Some tips for myself. I plan on utilizing the FSOT Yahoo! Group and actually participate in active conversations concerning the challenges of the exam. Since, I’m in the area, I plan on visiting and getting to know the Diplomat-in-Residence. Hopefully, picking her brain and working through some sample questions will give me an edge next year. May have to dust up an elements-of-style type of grammar do’s and dont’s book guide.

I’ve heard that some candidates get in the low-mid 30s on the JK and high scores in the other sections, some get high scores in the JK but low ones in the other sections, and some get high scores in all the multiple choice sections and do not receive a passing score on the essay. Not that it makes me feel better but this explanation opens my eyes to the scoring process.

So Yes, I plan to reapply and retake the FSOT next year. There is no limit to the number of times you can do so. Prior attempts are not/not held against you at any stage in the application process. Applicants who wish to retake the FSOT must submit a new registration package, and are eligible to retake the test after a year has elapsed since their previous test. In practice, this means that a candidate who took the first of the three tests offered one year would be eligible to take the first of the three tests offered the following year — even if, due to minor shifts in the dates of test windows from year to year, slightly fewer than 365 days might have elapsed since the candidate last took the test.

If you have any other ideas/suggestions on the sections, please, send them my way. I would greatly appreciate them! I look forward to any comments or corrections!

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