I have about 24 hours left until it is likely that the results of the FSOT February exams are released. There will be an email from PearsonVUE sitting in my inbox with answers I have been dreaming about for weeks. I won’t actually get the scores from the test in that email (you have to request those) but I’ll get the pass/fail information.
Before we get there, I thought I’d share my test experience with anyone who was curious. Now, mind you, everyone has to sign NDAs when you take the test and it would be ridiculous of me to risk my chances for a blog. However, while I can’t tell you what was on the test, I can tell you what it was like to take it in Seoul, South Korea.
FSOT Gangnam Style
Tourist hotspots aside, if you take the test in Seoul, you’ll need to go to the PearsonVUE Testing Center near City Hall. It is inside of the building called “The Exchange” on the 6th floor. Hint: if you go in the side with a revolving door and restaurants, that’s not the main entrance. The stairs only go up two floors! Head around to the front of the building, facing Mugyo-ro, and take the elevators up.
The night before the test, I stayed in the Best Western New Seoul Hotel, which was literally across the street from the testing center. With a 9:00am testing slot, any bus I took from my home in PyeongChang would have been too late. I wouldn’t recommend that hotel (housekeeping missed a spot of blood on new sheets they put on the bed; I was moved rooms, but ew), but there are plenty of other hotels within walking distance of the testing center should you need them. It’s also right by all of the City Hall subway stops. Head toward the plaza (going north) and it’s about 2 blocks past the grassy area.
Pearson recommends that you arrive to your appointment at least 30 minutes early to fill out paperwork. If you are more than 15 minutes late for your testing time, you will be turned away and fined $72USD. They are serious about this! You will be joined on your test date by a myriad of other test takers for other tests. I only spotted maybe three people who were there for the FSOT, but there were at least 25 of us there to test for some reason.
I arrived at the testing center around 8:15 and there was a note on the door saying that it would open at 8:30. There were a handful of people in the hallway studying, but I decided to go back down to the first floor’s Starbucks to study and grab a drink. Sadly, the line was too long and by the time I got near the front, I knew there wasn’t enough time. I abandoned my hot chocolate quest and went back up to the 6th floor. By the time I had gotten up there, a line had formed outside the door.
At promptly 8:30am, two ladies stepped out of the testing center with clipboards and laminated test instructions. One by one we presented our passports, confirmed our tests, and were instructed to take a seat inside to read our pamphlet. These are test-specific instructions, so be sure they hand you the right one. Mine told me about any breaks that were allowed on the test (spoiler alert: there aren’t any) and what I could/could not bring inside. In addition, it included the text of the Non-Disclousure Agreement.
After you had read your pages, you were supposed to grab a number from the front desk. The quicker you read, the faster you’ll be seated for your test, but don’t worry, at this point they won’t call you late, even if your testing time-slot is later than what the appointment said. Once your number is called, go to the front with your passport, and the laminated cards. For the FSOT, you’ll need to sign your name and take your picture. Other tests sometimes require palm scans or fingerprints.
Next, pick a locker and dump your stuff. This is NOT the moment to cram any last notes because no study material is allowed out in the testing center. The security is strict! You’ll need to take off your rings, necklaces, or bracelets. Obviously no jackets are allowed, but you can wear long sleeves. You will be asked to roll those sleeves up and turn all your pockets inside-out. If you wear glasses, the test proctor will need to inspect those. You can leave to use the bathroom during the test, but you’ll have to go through all of the inspections again if you do.
Finally, after one more passport check, you are led to a computer station with a laminated sheet of graph-paper/instructons, a whiteboard pen (note: no eraser, and it doesn’t erase well, but you can ask for another sheet if you need it), and your locker key. At the desk there are noise cancelling headphones with little disposible ear covers if you wish to use them. I highly recommend this! Don’t let some random person’s fidgety noises distract you at a critical moment.
When you are ready, you confirm your identity one more time and the test begins. This is where I must stop talking in great detail about the test and switch to my experience instead. If you need more information on the format of the test, check out my earlier blog post.
Overall, I felt pretty good about the Job Knowledge section. I answered all of the questions, though I was unsure on maybe 10. I checked an answer after the test, so I know I got at least one wrong. But here’s hoping educated guesses help me out. The truth about the Job Knowledge section is that you just can’t study for everything; it’s too broad. Go with what you know, don’t leave any questions blank, and flag questions to review at the end of the section if you’d like. I made a point not to review too many questions, as I find my gut is usually right more often than not.
The Biographical Information section was the one I am most thankful that I studied for. You wouldn’t think that studying could help you much for this part, but you’d be wrong. Bio Section is all about speed. There’s barely enough time to answer all the questions, so training yourself to have pre-developed, bullet point answers for the most common types of questions will set you up for success. Remember, if you’re short on time, get those multiple choice questions done first and stress about short answers second.
Personally, I have always done pretty well on tests like the English Expression section. This is the part I spent the least time studying for. However, every point counts in this test, so don’t neglect it. I didn’t have any surprises in this section and was satisfied with most of my answers. Hopefully that is reflected in my score. To study for this test if you are relatively confident in English, just do the available online practice questions and review any weak points. If you struggle with this area, try the SAT study books and practice tests.
The final section was the essay section. This was actually a new format this testing round. We got three prompts with seven minutes to read the prompts and then 25 minutes to write. The only tips I’m going to give you are:
a) decide on a prompt quickly and use the remaining time to outline
b) you must click on the radio button next to the prompt you want or you’ll be given a random one of the three
c) once you click next, the time to write starts immediately
You’ll have limited space to write (2,800 characters, including spaces) and no spellcheck, so tread carefully. Now is not the time to experiment with new vocabulary that you don’t know how to spell. It’s a rushed process, so practice writing timed essays as often as you can stomach. I was pretty happy with mine, but worry that it could be graded down for not being persuasive enough. Hopefully I pass that section. Your essay is only graded if you pass the other parts of the FSOT; you need (historically) at least a score of six to pass the essay.
I wrote and revised until the last seconds and the test timed out. I assumed that even though I never clicked “next,” my essay was recorded. At the end of the test, you are told when scores will be made available and how to access them. You are given a print out of this information at the front desk. When you leave, collect your passport and all your gear in the lockers. You might be a bit dazed, so take a second to make sure you have everything with you. You have a three week wait (minimum) for the FSOT results. Go celebrate and take your mind off it for a while. You can stress about the results later (like me).
Updates on my future will be coming soon. I hope it’s good news. If I pass, I’ll move onto the next step of the process: the personal narrative. If I fail, I can’t take the test again until next year. I want this job so badly! I think I’d be a good fit, it’s perfect for the lifestyle Jarrod and I are already planning to lead, and more than ever, the USA needs good people in government. I hope I can tell you all happy things soon, but even if I can’t, this has been an excellent learning experience. I won’t give up on this process, but I will move on for a while and try to get more/better life experiences before I try again. Thanks for reading.
‘Till next time!