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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Foreign Service Officer's Exam (Round 4) (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Foreign Service Officer's Exam (Round 4)
BlackBlade
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Links to my previous attempts for those interested,

Round 1.

Round 2.

Round 3.

I don't even know how I feel about this right now. To have failed, then passed, then failed, I suppose leaves the possibility that the next outcome in the pattern is to pass right? But the third time is supposed to be the charm! I've had a lot of time to do personal introspection, I've thought about where my life is going, where it will go if I pass or fail again.

I've decided that ultimately I want to beat this thing, even if it takes a decade. I might fail again, in which case I will probably go forward with grad school or push hard in another agency, but this is still what I want to do. I don't think, "There's always next year" because to me, there isn't. I don't want to get distracted by some other path where I know I would look back on this and wonder if I would have ever done well enough to get through these exams. There have only very few things in my life where I set out to do it, and in the face of continual failure I just kept trucking until I found success. I feel this endeavor needs to be one of those things. Even if ultimately I find something better and say, "Thanks, but no thanks" I feel like this is important to me. It's not just a formal exam that puts me on a career path that will define me as a person, though it is certainly that. The test itself represents something that has come to define me after all these years, and I can decide to surrender to it, or punch it in the face.

I'm tying my gloves to my hands again. Lets see who comes out of it looking prettier.

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Scott R
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Best of luck, bro.

quote:
The test itself represents something that has come to define me after all these years, and I can decide to surrender to it, or punch it in the face.
[Smile]
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The Rabbit
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When is the next exam? I have confidence you can beat this thing.
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BlackBlade
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Today! In just two hours in fact. I'll post how I felt about it when I finish.
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Xavier
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I can't imagine myself being this determined to accomplish something. I'd probably have sour grapes'd it long ago. I admire your persistence.

Best of luck!

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pooka
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Good luck Blackblade. I think I've only possibly felt that way about getting married.
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Orincoro
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I took it tuesday. You don't have anything to worry about- I don't know if I passed or not, but I didn't find it insurountably difficult. The scuttlebutt anyway is that they are passing about twice as many people these days onto the personal response questions to get a clearer picture of the candidate pool. That means there is now close to a 50% pass rate on the first exam.
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BlackBlade
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Just got back. In one way that was probably the hardest iteration of the exam I've ever taken. The questions were sharper, and just as diverse as ever.

Just like my second attempt, I skirted disaster on the essays. This time I felt confident in the topics I was writing about, but ran out of time before I could finish glossing over it for coherency and punctuation. Gah! I felt my personal narrative questions had more diverse examples of the things they were asking about.

The grammatical section went smoothly, it's never been very difficult for me, but this time I really felt like I got virtually all the answers correctly.

All in all, I'd say it was the hardest one ever, but my attempt was as good if not better than any I've ever done. Now I wait for about 3-5 weeks.

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The Rabbit
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Good Luck BB.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
The grammatical section went smoothly, it's never been very difficult for me, but this time I really felt like I got virtually all the answers correctly.

Lol. Isn't there some internet law out there stating that if one talks about grammar, the likelihood of their committing a grammatical error while doing so increased dramatically? It's just funny. Maybe we only notice it because you call attention to it.

And BTW, I'm with you there- I was virtually certain that I had 100% on that section. It can't be very important can it? It was very easy.

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JanitorBlade
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I went back and forth on writing correct or correctly there. I'm fairly certain I knew correct was the right one to use there, but it just jarred me a bit.
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Orincoro
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Your mistake here was probably referring back to an absent verb, "answered," when you used the verb "got," which doesn't handle adverbs in the same way. A good trick I teach my students is to self-edit by mentally noting the operative verb in a sentence and pairing it with the adjective or adverb that modifies it. So, for instance, you say to yourself either: "answered correctly," or "got it correct." This also helps you notice that the problem is not really what part of speech it is, but that it is the wrong word for your choice of verb, because "got" collocates much better with "right," as in "got it right."
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BlackBlade
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Boom Baby! I passed the written exam! Did well with background knowledge, fantastic with biographic information, alright with English expression, and I knocked the essays out of the park.

I am one pleased individual. [Big Grin]

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SoaPiNuReYe
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What type of questions are asked on the exam? I'm looking to join the foreign service after I get out of college in a few years and it would be nice to get a heads up.
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BlackBlade
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SoaPiNuReYe: There is a study guide with the exact types of questions you can be expected to answer on the exam available from the Department of States website. I believe it costs $20. I'll look around and see if I still have the one I bought two years ago, if you're interested.
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TomDavidson
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Congrats, BB. [Smile]
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SoaPiNuReYe
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
SoaPiNuReYe: There is a study guide with the exact types of questions you can be expected to answer on the exam available from the Department of States website. I believe it costs $20. I'll look around and see if I still have the one I bought two years ago, if you're interested.

That'd be much appreciated! Are you applying to the Foreign Service straight from college, or do they only look for people with more experience in government work?
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Kwea
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Good deal, BB!
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The Rabbit
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Wooohooo!!! Way to go BB!
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Corwin
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Congratulations! [Smile]
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advice for robots
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Nice.
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Bokonon
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Woohoo, BB!
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Orincoro
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BB, you'll have to let me know when you are going to take your orals, I passed with a 182- that's around 96th percentile, at least according to my napkin math after looking at the scores that have been posted online at the FSOT wiki (not a complete sample by any means). The cut off for this round was 154. How did you do? The difference this year unlike some others is that there's a pretty low cut-off, so in fact though a lot of people passed, that doesn't mean everyone that passed will be moving to the next round- the QEPs are going to cut around half the pool (but remember, the QEP ranking is not based solely on test scores).
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BlackBlade
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Orincoro: IIRC I got a 163. I'm actually more confident with the QEP as I tend to excel at short essays. I've only passed the QEP when I've gotten to it so far. I also get bonus points for speaking a mission critical language. Finally, I do believe my candidacy file has the advantage of having been submitted before.

Congratulations on your passing though! Are they going to interview you for Czech?

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Week-Dead Possum
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They havenīt approached me about the interviews. Iīve been told they may choose to interview me in Czech and Spanish if they need additional info for the QEP, but these arenīt mission critical language areas. Although a Czech background might give me a decent advantage bidding on posts in Slavic countries, particularly Russia or former soviet states, although this is not my area of interest necessarily. I indicated general proficiency in Spanish, and limited proficiency in Czech, so they may not need to interview me for the qep on those grounds. Itīs doubtful they would post me in Czech or Slovakia because of my long tenure in the region, now going on 3 years, and the language is only useful in these two countries.
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Armoth
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Awesome, BB!!!
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BlackBlade
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After playing some phone/email tag I finally managed to find out if I need to retest for Mandarin proficiency. It appears that it would be in my best interests to test again, so I registered.

That test was positively terrifying last time, but I know my Mandarin is significantly better than it was back in 2008. If nobody minds, I might revert back to typing all my posts (when I post at home, I can't type in Chinese at work) both in English and Mandarin just so I can get my brain back into the swing of things.

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BlackBlade
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Examination scheduled for Monday morning at 9:30am. Time to start crunching, arrange for somebody to watch my son, and all that jazz.
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Threads
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Good luck!
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rivka
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Indeed, good luck!
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Kwea
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Kick some (more) butt!
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Lupus
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Congrats on the test, and good luck on the monday exam.

I've been absent from the boards for quite a while now (life can be hectic), but I've followed your previous attempts and wish you all the best.

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BlackBlade
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Test day! T-minus 60 minutes precisely.

Mandarin, don't fail me now!

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rivka
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Good luck!
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Derrell
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Best of [Hat] luck

[ March 14, 2011, 11:40 AM: Message edited by: Derrell ]

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Jake
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Good luck, BB!
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BlackBlade
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Wow, that was only a 10 minute exam. It felt much longer two years ago. I don't know if that means I clearly had the minimal command of the language and they didn't need to keep testing me, or if I was falling flat on my face and they decided to terminate the exam.

More than likely they are doing so many of these exams they have to conduct them very quickly. I'm not too nervous, I didn't pass last time, and I still went on to take the oral exams. I'm fairly certain I had spot on answers to their questions.

I did get a bit tongue tied on describing the products the company I work for sells, I can't believe it, since I often take questions in Chinese about those products. Whatever, I did my best, I think I passed, and the most important thing I need to focus on now are my essays.

------

SoaPiNuReYe: I haven't forgotten about you, I haven't found my study guide yet.

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Jake
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I'd be more than willing to bet that it's your command of the language that has improved.

Any idea how soon you'll be getting the results?

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Jake:
I'd be more than willing to bet that it's your command of the language that has improved.

Any idea how soon you'll be getting the results?

I can send an email requesting my results in two weeks. My results will of course be automatically forwarded to the review panel.
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BlackBlade
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I just sent in my QEP responses, just a few hours shy of the deadline. I felt so tense when I hit submit, but it's done now. Now, I wait until May rolls around.

edit: In one more week I'll request the results from my language exam, finding out that I passed would definitely make me feel better about the matter.

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Lupus
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Good luck!
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BlackBlade
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Turns out I passed my Mandarin phone interview, so I'll get that benefit when they review my QEP responses and candidacy file entire. I'm pleased as apparently I did not pass the previous time I took it.

I'll still be finding out about mid-May if I am going to the oral exams again. [Smile]

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The Rabbit
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Great news. I'll keep my fingers crossed for the QEP.
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scholarette
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Glad its good news and hope more good news in May.
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Jake
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[Smile] Great news, BB! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.
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Kwea
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[The Wave]
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Belle
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Hopefully we will continue to hear good news about this. [Smile]
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Scott R
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Awesome, BB.
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BlackBlade
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Bad news, I won't be progressing to the oral exams. I'll have to wait until 12 months will have elapsed until I can even begin again at the written exam.

I honestly expected to proceed, I felt my candidacy file was stronger than the year I did make the oral examination, but it's also very likely that the number of candidates is quite high this year, as it has been for two years or so. I've got to decide what this means for me, what other options I can pursue. I can't just work until I get a crack at the exam again.

I'm a bit discouraged, but I'll respond to this. I'll find a new direction for the time being.

Sucks that I can't exactly get a break down of what was lacking in my candidacy file, but there it is. There are definitely things I can do in the meantime to get better, so I'll start with that. While I'm already 29, it might be time to go back to school, since my not passing this many times seems to suggest I need more qualifications.

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rivka
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I'm sorry, BlackBlade. Good luck deciding how to tackle this.
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