Tag Archives: Foreign Service Oral Assessment

German Language Testing Update- I passed!

Things in my life apparently tend to happen all at once- Saturday I graduated from Rice University, Sunday I moved out of college, and this morning I found out I passed the State Department’s German phone test for language bonus points!

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My oral assessment score will now be raised to a 5.77, with .17 bonus points added to my original 5.6. This puts me in an amazing position to get an offer for the next A-100 orientation class once I get my security clearance. I’m really hoping that will be in time for the proposed September 8th class later this year! Of course, it’s hard if not completely impossible to know how long the clearance should take. I’m still pending with the investigations unit, but the person on the phone I spoke to seemed to think things were wrapping up.

Passing German makes me feel a ton more certain that I will actually be employed as a Foreign Service Officer soon and won’t just time off the register. I’m especially glad that my chosen cone, public diplomacy, is not the most competitive at the moment. With a 5.77 in PD according to the Yahoo group’s shadow register, I’m ranked somewhere between number 2 and 7 out of 124 total candidates on the register. That’s a very solid place to be when offers for the next class go out! Now if I could just get that security clearance and pass final suitability review…

Just Keep Saying Yes! Foreign Service vs Fulbright vs Peace Corps?

My supervisor from the US Embassy Vienna and I have stayed really close since my internship a year ago. I even got to visit her in DC after taking my Oral Assessment- it was one of the proudest moments ever when I got to walk inside Main State with her and think, “I passed the Orals- I’m actually going to work here for real someday!!!” She had some incredibly useful advice (as usual) on my post-college plans: Say yes to everything. Don’t reject any opportunity at this point, because you never know how it could turn out.

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Here we are on the Embassy Instagram page matching in polka dots at a UN Vienna youth event!

I’ve wondered a lot lately what I will eventually end up doing after graduation. To be honest, I never really expected to even have the problem of deciding which program I would choose if I actually got all three. It’s looking more and more like at least both Fulbright and the Foreign Service might work out!

Anyone who knows me well understands that I absolutely hate uncertainty. I’d prefer to know months, even years ahead, what I’ll be doing with my life. I frequently dream of fast-forwarding several months so that I can find out what I’m doing after Rice- if things work out and I get an A-100 call. Right now, I’m focusing on enjoying the several possible scenarios that could happen to me in the new year. 2015 is going to be full of excitement- I just wish I knew what kind! Until I know for sure and have an unconditional job offer, I’m going to just keep saying yes.

Taking the Foreign Service Oral Assessment as a College Student

About a week ago in Washington, I got some of the best news of my life. I had actually passed the Oral Assessment on my first attempt! I was incredibly lucky to score a 5.6 for the public diplomacy career track, passing the group exercise, case management, and structured interview sections. I’m planning on taking the German language phone test in a month or so, which would bump me up to a 5.77 if I pass. Once all my clearances are in, I’ll hopefully receive an official job offer and invitation to start A-100. (ich drücke die Daumen! fingers crossed!)

Though I can’t go into the details of my test due to the non-disclosure agreement, I’d like to share some of the preparation strategies that I think really made the difference in my oral assessment score.

  • Utilize the State Department’s official resources for the Orals- including the online Oral Assessment study guide, the in person Diplomat in Residence prep sessions, and the virtual AdobeConnect information sessions. It was extremely helpful for me to be familiar with exactly how the day would play out- how many breaks we get, what we can/cannot bring to the center, etc. Here’s the official study guide: (http://careers.state.gov/uploads/70/c4/70c4fe81ef1513f217ef1e52153804db/FSO-OA-Study-Guide-May-2014.pdf)
  • Join the FSOA Yahoo group (https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fsoa/info), if only to use the amazingly helpful study materials. I think I wrote just about every practice case management exercise available, which made writing in during the test more of a routine. I also met 5-6 times in person with a study group to practice interview questions and the group exercise. Practice presenting your project and achieving consensus as a group several times so that you know what you’re being judged on during the test.
  • If you’re a college student like me, take advantage of any class or campus activity where you have to demonstrate the same skills as the 13 dimensions! I started treating every class presentation or group project as a practice for the FSOA. What also helped me was taking several writing intensive classes the semester before my exam, improving my policy memo-style writing for the case management exercise.
  • For the structured interview, make flashcards and rehearse several stories from your past experiences that show your cultural competency, composure, and other dimensions being tested. I found the excel spreadsheet of potential interview questions on the Yahoo FSOA group to be extremely useful for interview practice. Even answering the questions to myself out loud made me much more comfortable with how I would respond to the assessors. In the end, the test day was one of the best interview experiences I’ve had because I felt very prepared in my answers.

I’m still somewhat in a state of shock that I actually passed the FSOA on my first candidacy. I registered to take the FSOT, the written test, just this June. It was one of my goals to get to the Orals, though I was happy as a college senior to make it through any step of the process. The moment where the assessors briefed several of us together that we had ALL passed is going to be one of my favorite memories of all time.

First Post: A lot has happened lately!

I expected the month of January to be exciting for my future plans, but not even close to this level of awesome.

On January 12, I took and passed the Foreign Service Oral Assessment in Washington. I got a pretty great score that makes it likely I’ll get a job offer off the Register for public diplomacy! January 16 I found out that I was named a finalist for the Fulbright ETA to Turkey. Not much from Peace Corps, but the application deadline for Cambodia was just January 15. It’s been a busy, sometimes nerve-wracking month to say the least!

I have pretty obsessively read Foreign Service, Peace Corps, and Fulbright blogs over the past year or so. I’m really grateful to every blogger who shared their own journey to working abroad- that’s why I’ve decided to share my own! I’ll be posting a short recap on my Foreign Service application process, as well as one on Fulbright soon 🙂