Improvements in the Foreign Service Selection Process



Office of the Spokesperson

To meet the Secretary’s goals to modernize American diplomacy, win the competition for talent, and ensure that all applicants can present a full picture of their qualifications, the Department of State is making changes to the Foreign Service assessment process, beginning with the June 2022 Foreign Service Officer (FSOT) test takers. The Department will no longer use the FSOT as a pass/fail gateway test. Going forward, the education, experience, and personal narratives submitted by candidates will be evaluated alongside the FSOT score. This will allow the Department to take a more holistic view of candidates before determining who will proceed to the Foreign Service Oral Assessment (FSOA).


The steps of the new process are outlined below:

Submit Foreign Service Application and Register for the FSOT: Candidates begin the process by completing an application that includes personal data, education and employment history, and responses to six Personal Narrative questions. Once the application is complete, candidates can register for the FSOT.


Personal Narratives (PN): The PN responses describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities the candidate would bring to the Foreign Service. The PNs offer the opportunity to highlight not just what the candidate has done, but how they did it. PNs are linked to core precepts that are predictors of success in the Foreign Service: leadership, interpersonal, communication, management, and intellectual skills, and substantive knowledge.


The FSOT: The FSOT is a series of multiple-choice questions that measure a candidate’s job knowledge, English expression, and situational judgment. It also includes a 30-minute essay on an assigned topic. The FSOT can be completed at home or at designated test centers in the U.S. and abroad and takes about three hours to complete.


Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP): Once the candidate has completed the FSOT, their file, including their FSOT score, biographic information, personal narratives, and their response to the FSOT essay prompt, are sent to the QEP. The Panel evaluates all candidates’ complete packages and rank orders them according to their career track. The best-qualified candidates are invited to oral assessments.


Foreign Service Oral Assessment (FSOA): The FSOA is a day-long exercise consisting of a group exercise, a case management exercise, and a structured interview. Candidates who reach or exceed the minimum FSOA cutoff score will receive conditional offers of employment. Once candidates receive medical and security clearances, they will undergo a suitability review before being placed on a register of cleared candidates for hire.