Registrants should fully educate themselves about the five Foreign Service careers tracks: Consular, Economic, Management, Political and Public Diplomacy. Review the five career tracks infographic, read the descriptions contained in the Guide to the Foreign Service Selection Process, or visit careers.state.gov.
Registrants will NOT have the opportunity to change career tracks after submitting the online FSOT registration, so careful thought should be given to making this decision. During the course of a career, however, you can expect to serve in more than one career track and it is not unusual for FSOs to have assignments in two or three different career tracks. Moreover, all new FSOs can expect to serve their first and/or second tour in a consular position.
The Foreign Service Officer Test measures your knowledge, skills and abilities, including writing skills that are necessary to the work of a Foreign Service Officer.
The FSOT is administered online at designated test centers in the U.S. and abroad and takes about three hours to complete. It includes three multiple-choice sections:
In addition, you will be given 30 minutes to write an essay on an assigned topic. You must pass the multiple-choice tests in order to have your essay graded.
The Foreign Service Officer Test is administered by Pearson VUE, and offered three times each year in February, June, and October. Information about upcoming FSOT dates and locations can be found below in Step 3: Take the FSOT.
The registration process, which includes concurrent application submission and seat selection, opens approximately five (5) weeks prior to each testing window. To register, go to http://www.pearsonvue.com/fsot/ during the five-week period prior to a specific testing window to create an account, submit completed eligibility verification and application forms, and select a location and seat for that specific test date. The registration process closes three (3) days before the testing window opens.
When registering, keep in mind that all of the information you submit to the Board of Examiners through Pearson VUE is subject to verification. Any exaggeration of your experience and qualifications, including your language ability, will weaken your candidacy. Misrepresentations may be grounds for terminating your candidacy, or for dismissing you even after you have joined the Foreign Service, and may be punishable by a fine or imprisonment.
Note: You may submit an application and select a seat for the announced testing window only. Applications are valid for a specific test only and will expire when that testing window closes. The number of testing center seats for each window is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Once an application is submitted it cannot be changed for that testing window. You may, however, reschedule your appointment for another date during that same testing window up until the close of the five-week registration process. Once the five-week registration process closes you can only cancel an appointment. You will need to register again if you cancel or to retake the FSOT. You may update your application and change your chosen career track during any subsequent registration period for which you are eligible. You may take the FSOT during any of the three annual testing windows but only once in a 12-month period.
If you have technical problems/questions regarding the registration process, click on the contact Pearson VUE link for assistance.
The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) is administered three times per year, generally in February, June, and October, each time for a period or “window” of eight days.
The Board of Examiners is continuing a pilot program to offer the FSOT exclusively at certain overseas Pearson Professional Centers (PPCs). U.S. embassies and consulates in the cities where the 23 PPCs are located will no longer offer the FSOT. Note: Pearson Professional Centers may not be located in the capital. Embassies and consulates that are not participating in the pilot program will continue to offer the FSOT as their resources permit.
|Upcoming Foreign Service Officer Testing Windows|
|This chart contains relevant dates for the next three Foreign Service Officer Tests. As a reminder you will be able to register—apply and select a seat—for approximately five weeks before each testing window.|
|February 2016||June 2016||October 2016|
|Testing Window Dates||January 30 to February 6||June 4 to 11||October 1 to 8|
|Registration opens||December 16||April 27||August 24|
|Registration closes||January 27||June 1||September 28|
|List of embassies/consulates* offering the FSOT available at careers.state.gov||December 15||April 26||August 23|
|*The FSOT is offered at both domestic and overseas locations.|
The deadline for candidates to cancel test seats without incurring penalties is 48 hours (two business days) before the start of your test. NOTE: Pearson VUE work days include Saturdays, but not Sundays worldwide.
It’s best to give yourself plenty of time — avoid waiting until the deadline.
The test is administered in both domestic and overseas locations. The list of test sites is available in a searchable database after candidates have submitted their applications.
The Board of Examiners is continuing a pilot program to offer the FSOT exclusively at certain overseas Pearson Professional Centers (PPCs). The embassies/consulates in the cities where the 23 PPCs are located will no longer administer the FSOT. Embassies/consulates located in other cities will continue to offer the test as their resources permit. BEX chose among the PPCs that are wholly owned by Pearson VUE for this pilot so the PPC may not be in the capital. Candidates testing in these locations must use their U.S. passports for identification verification.
The FSOT will be delivered exclusively at Pearson Professional Centers in the following cities: Melbourne and Sydney (Australia); Sao Paulo (Brazil); Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver (Canada); Paris (France); Frankfurt (Germany); Athens (Greece); Osaka and Tokyo (Japan); Seoul (Korea, South); Mexico City (Mexico); Manila (Philippines); Singapore City (Singapore); Johannesburg (South Africa); Madrid (Spain); Taipei (Taiwan); Bangkok (Thailand); Istanbul (Turkey); and London (United Kingdom).
The February 2016 FSOT will be offered at the following embassies and consulates:
|The list of embassies and consulates that will be offering the Foreign Service Officer Test is posted below.|
|Ho Chi Minh City||Hungary||Hyderabad||Islamabad||Jakarta|
|Oslo||Ouagadougou||Panama||Port of Spain||Port-au-Prince|
There are many resources available to help familiarize you with the test. Below are some tips that may help:
The night before the test, get a good night's sleep!
Your personal narrative will answer questions describing the knowledge, skills, and abilities you would bring to the Foreign Service. The firm deadline for submission will be three weeks after the request is sent to you.
The PN offers you the opportunity to highlight not just what you have done, but how you did it and what you learned. You should provide examples from your experiences that show you have the skills to be a successful FSO. This is an important part of the application and is read carefully by each member of a Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP) made up of trained Foreign Service Officers. Each career track is reviewed by a different panel made up of officers from that career track.
The panel assesses the candidate’s file based on six precepts that are predictors of success in the Foreign Service. These precepts are:
To help write your PN, focus on your own experience in answering the questions. Use these precepts as a guide to (1) give positive examples that demonstrate your abilities; (2) identify learning experiences; and (3) indicate how your learning experience will contribute to success in your chosen Foreign Service career track. Make sure you show why you have skills or interest in the career track you have selected. Please make sure you answer the question.
Although the QEP is a total file review, with no one element dominating all the factors considered, you have the most control over your responses to the PN. Your responses can be influential in determining your standing in your chosen career track. This is your chance to tell your story to the Foreign Service assessors. Bear in mind that your responses are subject to verification by the Board of Examiners.
Once the QEP is completed, Pearson VUE will inform you of the results via an online letter that you can access using the personal login ID and password you chose when registering.
In recent years, more than 20,000 candidates have taken the Foreign Service Officer Test annually. A much smaller number advance to the QEP review, and then only a few hundred are invited to the Oral Assessment. Please note that Foreign Service Officer candidate hiring targets are adjusted regularly. Many candidates with excellent qualifications who may have received an invitation to the Oral Assessment at a time of increased hiring authority will not receive one when the Department’s hiring targets are lower or if there is an increase in the number of candidates. The process is highly competitive, and many candidates repeat the process.
The Oral Assessment is conducted primarily in Washington, D.C. Resources permitting, the Board of Examiners will also offer the Oral Assessment in San Francisco, California, each year in January and May. The dates below are updated as each Foreign Service Officer Test window is announced.
Candidates who are invited to the Oral Assessment are only guaranteed an appointment during the dates associated with their FSOT. Candidates who know that they will be unavailable to take the oral assessment during the dates associated with their specific FSOT should select a different test window.
The day-long Oral Assessment measures your ability to demonstrate the 13 dimensions that are essential to the successful performance of Foreign Service work. It includes a group exercise, a structured interview, and a case management writing exercise.
Oral Assessment exercises:
Foreign Service Officer Test Window
Oral Assessment Locations
Oral Assessment Dates
October 4-11, 2014
San Francisco, CA
Early March 2015 – early July 2015.
January 2015 or May 2015
|January 31 - February 7, 2015||
San Francisco, CA
Mid-July – Late October 30, 2015
May 2015 or January 2016
|June 6-13, 2015||
San Francisco, CA
Mid-November 2015 – Late February 2016
January 2016 or May 2016
The Oral Assessment is a job interview. Oral Assessment exercises are based on a job analysis of the work of the Foreign Service and the skills, abilities, and personal qualities deemed essential to the performance of that work. These resources will help familiarize you with the process:
When you come to the Oral Assessment, you will be asked to read and sign the following three forms pertaining to the conditions for taking the Oral Assessment and conditions of employment in the Foreign Service. If you are not willing to abide by these conditions, you should not schedule an Oral Assessment.
Those who pass the Oral Assessment will receive a conditional offer of employment and instructions about obtaining medical and security clearances in order to continue their candidacy. There is no guarantee of employment at this stage.
The Office of Medical Services of the Department of State determines a candidate's medical fitness and ability to serve overseas. Many Foreign Service posts are located in remote areas with extremely limited medical support. Each candidate, therefore, must meet rigorous medical standards in order to qualify for the required worldwide medical clearance. Medical clearance determination by Medical Services is based on its thorough review of each candidate's medical history and a physical examination, including an individual assessment of his/her specific medical needs and the medical capabilities of Foreign Service posts to meet those needs.
After receiving a conditional offer of employment, each candidate is provided with the necessary examination forms (with instructions) to give to the examining health care practitioner (MD, DO, NP, PA). Visit the Career Resources Download Center for a list of forms intended for those who have received conditional offers of employment after the Oral Assessment.
Candidates, who live within 50 miles of Washington, D.C., must schedule their medical exams at the State Department’s Office of Medical Services. Those who live more than 50 miles from Washington may have them done by their own physician or at the State Department. Children under the age of six must be seen by their own pediatrician, regardless of location. The Office of Medical Services will provide an authorization for the Department of State to pay for outside examinations as a secondary insurer once a candidate’s primary insurance provider has paid its share. Candidates will have 90 days to complete this process.
Regardless of who administers the medical clearance exam, the Department's Office of Medical Services determines whether a candidate is medically eligible for assignment to all Department of State posts worldwide. While a candidate may effectively manage a chronic health condition or limitation within the United States or in specific areas outside of the U.S., the Office of Medical Services might well determine that the same individual is not eligible for a worldwide ("Class One") medical clearance. Such clearances may only be issued to candidates whom the Office of Medical Services deems able to serve at the most isolated and restricted overseas posts.
Some posts could face extreme isolation due to limited air and other transportation service, and unreliable Internet, telecommunications, and postal and delivery systems. Any of these limitations can have a severe adverse impact on the availability of required medical services and supplies or delay timely medical evacuations. Some countries have inadequate infrastructure such as a poor or negligible public health care system, poor sanitation, unreliable electricity and a lack of potable water. There may also be infectious and communicable diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, tuberculosis, rabies, encephalitis and gastrointestinal diseases. There may be no health unit at the post and next to no local medical facilities. The local emergency room, for example, might be completely inadequate, without ventilators, defibrillators, x-ray capabilities, etc. There are often no blood banks or limited medical supplies and medications available locally. Due to political instability, security could be a concern.
Candidates should be aware that these posts are neither few in number nor confined to a specific geographic region. There are numerous posts where conditions appear similar to that of the U.S. but which also suffer from some of these restrictive characteristics. As a result, stress levels among employees may be very high. Given these concerns, the Department of State only assigns employees with unrestricted medical clearances to such posts and is unable to hire new employees without such clearances.
While the candidate must be medically cleared for worldwide service as a condition for being offered employment, the Department of State does not consider the medical condition of eligible family members for pre-employment purposes. The Department does, however, require that each eligible family member have a medical clearance before they can travel overseas at U. S. Government expense when accompanying an employee on assignment.
Please note that employees with a family member who has been issued a limited rather than a worldwide medical clearance, nevertheless, may be assigned to posts where that family member cannot accompany them. We strongly advise candidates to consider this situation as they pursue employment with the Department of State.
On request, the Director General of the Foreign Service, or designee, may consider granting a waiver of the worldwide availability requirement for a candidate who is unable to qualify for a worldwide medical clearance. Candidates should be aware, however, that the granting of such waivers is rare.
Candidates who pass the Oral Assessment must apply for the security clearance required for appointment to the Foreign Service. A comprehensive background investigation, conducted by the U.S. Department of State in cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies, will provide the information necessary to determine a candidate's suitability for appointment to the Foreign Service and for a Top Secret security clearance. The process considers such factors as: failure to repay a U.S. Government-guaranteed loan or meet tax obligations; failure to register for the Selective Service; past problems with credit or bankruptcy; unsatisfactory employment records; a criminal record or other violations of the law; drug or alcohol abuse; and less than honorable discharge from the armed forces.
Candidates who hold dual citizenship (pdf), have had extensive travel, education, residence and/or employment overseas, or who have foreign contacts, a foreign-born spouse, immediate family members or relatives who are not citizens of the United States, should be aware that the clearance process will take longer to complete. The background investigation includes interviews with current and previous contacts, supervisors and coworkers. Candidates who do not receive a security clearance are ineligible for appointment. Potential candidates who have any serious issues that may prevent them from receiving a clearance should give some thought to the likelihood of their being found ineligible before starting this process.
Upon completion of the background investigation and medical examination, a Suitability Review Panel will examine your file (minus any privileged medical information) to determine your suitability for employment with the Foreign Service.
The attainment of U.S. foreign policy objectives depends substantially on the confidence of the public (both American and foreign) in the individuals selected to serve in the Foreign Service. The Department of State, therefore, requires the highest standards of conduct by employees of the Foreign Service, including an especially high degree of integrity, reliability, and prudence. Given the representational nature of employment in the Foreign Service, employees must observe proper standards at all times. The purpose of the suitability review is to determine, from the candidate's total record, whether the candidate is indeed suitable to represent the United States. The Suitability Review Panel has the authority to terminate a candidacy.
In evaluating suitability, the Suitability Review Panel takes into consideration the following factors:
If you successfully pass the Foreign Service Officer Test; Qualifications Evaluation Panel; Oral Assessment; security and medical clearances; and a suitability review, you are placed on a hiring register. You are rank ordered on the Register based on the specific career track you chose at the time you registered for the Foreign Service Officer Test and your Oral Assessment score, plus any additional credit for language ability or veterans’ preference you receive.
You should be aware that your placement on the Register does not guarantee an appointment as a Foreign Service Officer. Hiring depends on the needs of the Foreign Service.
Your position on the Register is dynamic. People with higher scores will be placed above you regardless of when they are placed on the Register. Likewise, you will be placed above candidates with lower scores, regardless of how long they have been on the Register. Your name may stay in the Register for a maximum of 18 months. If you do not receive an appointment offer within that period, your name will be removed.
Veterans Preference points or credit for demonstrated foreign language proficiency (see below) may raise your standing on the Register. Instructions on how to receive additional credit in these areas will be provided on successful completion of the Oral Assessment.
You may also seek to improve your place on the Register by re-taking the Foreign Service Officer Test again after 11 months. You will need to complete the FSOT, Oral Assessment, medical and security clearances and suitability review processes successfully again before your name will be re-entered on the Register. You may choose a different career track through this process.
If you rise to the top of the Registrar in your chosen career track, based on the hiring needs of the Foreign Service, you may receive an offer of employment. This often entails locating to Washington, D.C. with only a few weeks’ notice in order to begin training. You may decline the first offer of employment. If you decline a second offer, however, your name will be removed from the Register.
In rare cases, such as a military deployment or other overseas obligation to the U.S. government, you may be eligible to defer your appointment. These cases are not common.
New Foreign Service Officers begin their careers with a six-week orientation program (known as the A-100 course). The focus of the orientation is on introducing new employees to the structure and function of the Department and its role in the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy; developing an understanding of the terms of employment; and enhancing core skills needed by all Foreign Service Officers.
The A-100 course, based at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Va. is primarily a classroom experience. It also includes trips to Capitol Hill and to other federal agencies, as well as a two-day offsite training exercise at a nearby conference center. In addition to presentations by guest speakers and U.S. Department of State officials, A-100 also includes a series of practical exercises and case studies.
At the end of orientation, Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) receive their first assignments, which will govern the type of specialized training that follows. For FSOs that may include training in consular affairs, political-economic tradecraft, public diplomacy, or resource management. Any required language training can last for an additional six to nine months. Overall, newly hired FSOs can expect to spend from three months to one year in training before departure for their first overseas assignment.
Active Military and Veterans
Qualifying, active military duty candidates may request unrestricted additional time to schedule the Oral Assessment after passing the QEP. Candidates must notify BEX when they are discharged from the military and reschedule an Oral Assessment within the next six months.
Foreign Service candidates who can document creditable veterans' service by submitting form DD 214 or other certification will be eligible to receive additional points on the Hiring Register: 0.175 for a five-point standing and 0.35 for a 10-point standing.
In all cases points are awarded once a candidate has passed the Oral Assessment. Instructions on how to claim these points are provided at that time.
Qualifying, preference-eligible veterans may be appointed from the rank-ordered Hiring Register at any time before they turn 65. If appointed between the ages of 60 to 65, a qualifying, preference-eligible veteran may serve five years prior to being mandatorily retired.
While knowing a foreign language is not a requirement to be considered for the Foreign Service, demonstrated proficiency in a language will enhance a candidate’s competitiveness on the Register by giving a slight increase in points. Beginning with the June 2012 FSOT cohort, generalist candidates can receive .17 bump-up points for any one language listed here (pdf) if they pass a telephone language test at a speaking level 3 after passing the Oral Assessment. The following eight languages are currently eligible for higher bump-up points: Arabic; Chinese (Mandarin); Hindi; Persian (Dari); Persian (Farsi); Pashto; Urdu; and Korean. Candidates testing in the eight languages eligible for higher points need only a level 2 speaking ability (as measured on the telephone test) to obtain the .17 language bump up points.
Generalist candidates, who pass the Oral Assessment, receive a link to the Career Candidate Handbook, which describes how to arrange a telephone language test conducted by the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI). Candidates may test as soon as they pass the Oral Assessment and do not need to wait until they are on the Hiring Register.
To receive the higher bump-up points, candidates who pass the telephone test will then need to pass an in-person, two-hour speaking and reading test conducted by the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Any costs associated with the in-person test (travel, lodging in Washington, etc.) are at the candidate’s expense. Those who achieve a minimum score of 3 speaking and 2 reading (S3/R2) will be eligible to receive a total of .38 bump-up points. Candidates who receive a rating of at least 2 speaking and 1 reading (S2/R1) but less than 3 speaking and 2 reading (S3/R2) will be eligible to receive a total of .25 bump-up points.
Generalist candidates who choose to take the in-person test and do not meet the minimum S2/R1 score will forfeit ALL language bonus points in that tested language including any they may have earned through the earlier telephone-administered test.
Language points will be granted for one language only. Candidates may test in another language only if they fail the initial test or if the second language has a higher point value. They may telephone retest in the same language after six months. Candidates who do not pass the in-person FSI test may take a first retest after six months; any further in-person retests are authorized only after a one-year interval from the last full test in that language. Telephone language scores are valid for 18 months or the length of any candidacy initiated during the 18-month language score validity period. In-person tests are valid for five years or the length of a candidacy initiated during the five-year period. A candidacy begins on the date a candidate takes the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT).
Most candidates will need a security clearance specific to the country where the language is spoken before being granted the higher language bump-up. Generalist candidates who seek a .38 language bump-up must agree to serve in a position where that language is required once during their first two assignments and once after reaching mid-level grades of the Foreign Service. Candidates must complete their second service commitment prior to being able to compete for the Senior Foreign Service. Generalist candidates who qualify for .25 bump-up points must agree to serve once during their first two assignments in a post where that language is spoken.
Candidates whose candidacies began prior to the June 2012 FSOT (June 2, 2012) will be grandfathered under the previous policy (outlined below).
For information to help you assess your own speaking level, visit http://www.govtilr.org and click on "Speaking" under the skill-level descriptions for a general description of the expected proficiency. The speaking self-assessment tool, available on the same site, will also help you estimate your language proficiency.
For candidates whose candidacies began prior to the June 2, 2012 FSOT
For those Generalist candidates whose candidacies began prior to the June 2, 2012 Foreign Service Officer Test, demonstrated language proficiency can also enhance your competitiveness on the register by giving you a slight increase in your overall score.
Generalist candidates in this category, who have passed the Oral Assessment, can receive .17 bump-up points for any one language listed here (pdf) if they meet the specific speaking-level threshold required in the tested language during a telephone-administered language test conducted by the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington (FSI), Virginia. In order to receive the .17 bump-up points, a speaking level of 3 or higher during the telephone test is required for the following languages: Danish, Dutch, French, German, Haitian Creole, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish. All other listed languages require a minimum level 2 speaking proficiency in order to receive bump-up points.
Those Generalist candidates in this category who can demonstrate a speaking proficiency of level 2 or higher in the following recruitment languages – Azerbaijani, Bengali, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz, Nepali, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Singhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Turkish, Turkmen, Urdu, and Uzbek – and make the required service commitment – may earn a total of .40 points. Those with a speaking score of at least 2 in Arabic can earn a total of .50 points.
To qualify for these additional points, Generalist candidates must agree in writing to serve in a country where that language is spoken at least twice in their careers: once during the first two tours and again after being promoted to the mid-levels of the Foreign Service.
Pre-employment language tests for candidates under this category are conducted by telephone only, not in person. Upon entry on duty with the Department, those claiming competence in a given language must take a formal speaking and reading examination in person at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington, Va. in order to be judged competent in that language.
For qualified candidates who will require accommodation upon appointment, the Office of Employee Relations determines reasonable accommodations. To qualify, a candidate must meet all requirements for appointment to the Foreign Service.
Reasonable accommodation for candidates with disabilities during the FSOT or Oral Assessments
We welcome candidates who have special needs. In accordance with Federal law, we will provide reasonable accommodation to enable qualified applicants with disabilities to take the Foreign Service Officer Test. We will provide similar accommodation to candidates who are invited to the Oral Assessment.
In addition to preparing and administering the FSOT, Pearson VUE is responsible for all special accommodation requests for candidates with disabilities.
Candidates who need accommodations to take the test must apply for special accommodations at least 30 days before the next testing window.
The accommodation approval process can be lengthy. To allow sufficient time for approval and the necessary arrangements, submit accommodations request in writing with accompanying documentation to Pearson VUE at least 30 days before the requested test date. Follow the detailed instructions for accommodations requests provided at: http://www.pearsonvue.com/accommodations/
Requests that are incomplete or are not supported by appropriate documentation by the registration deadline may not be approved. We cannot guarantee that the accommodation can be in place if requests are not received at least three weeks prior to the test date. In that case, Pearson VUE will ask you to schedule for the following window.
Those receiving accommodation will receive a letter from Pearson VUE confirming the accommodation to be provided. If your request is incomplete or does not support the accommodation request, Pearson VUE will notify you in writing. You may then provide complete or updated documents prior to the deadline. Every effort will be made to provide accommodation at your chosen test center. However, be aware that some test centers may be unable to provide certain types of accommodation.
For a comprehensive description of accommodation requirements, please see the Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process.
For those who are invited to take the Oral Assessment, reasonable accommodations are also available for those who may need them. Contact email@example.com at least three weeks before your scheduled Oral Assessment.