A Bit of Light Reading

Becoming a US Diplomat is one of my goals in life. The most traditional path to becoming one begins with the Foreign Service Officer Test!

What is the FSOT?

I’m 98% lazy and there’s no real reason for me to rewrite the following paragraph, so here it is from the State Department site.

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:

  • Job knowledge: Questions will cover a broad range of topics including, but not limited to, the structure and workings of the U.S. Government, U.S. and world history, U.S. culture, psychology, technology, management theory, finance and economics, and world affairs;
  • English expression; and
  • A situational judgement section that will present scenarios (i.e., descriptions of situations) that a candidate might encounter on the job as a Foreign Service Officer.

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.

What is on the test?

Again, stolen from a State Department website pamplet:

FSOT Knowledge and Skill Areas

Success on the FSOT involves much more than studying for a test. The FSOT assesses knowledge and skills that the candidate has acquired from reading widely from many different sources, study or course work in a number of related fields, and other career or life experiences.

In the development of the FSOT, a job analysis was conducted of the positions held by Foreign Service Officers to identify the knowledge and skills critical to success on the job. Then, a detailed test blueprint was created.

The test blueprint provides an outline of the required knowledge and skill areas and their relative importance to the job. The knowledge and skill areas covered on the FSOT are listed below.

  • Correct grammar, organization, writing strategy, sentence structure, and
    punctuation required for writing or editing reports: This knowledge area
    encompasses English expression and language usage skills required for preparing or editing written reports, including correct grammar and good writing at the sentence and paragraph level.
  • United States Government: This knowledge area encompasses a general understanding of the composition and functioning of the federal government, the Constitution and its history, the structure of Congress and its role in foreign
    affairs, as well as the United States political system and its role in governmental structure, formulation of government policies, and foreign affairs.
  • United States History, Society, Customs, and Culture: This knowledge area
    encompasses an understanding of major events, institutions, and movements in national history, including political and economic history, as well as national
    customs and culture, social issues and trends, and the influence of U.S. society and culture on foreign policy and foreign affairs.
  • World History and Geography: This knowledge area encompasses a general understanding of significant world historical events, issues, and developments, including their impact on U.S. foreign policy, as well as knowledge of world
    geography and its relationship to U.S. foreign policy.
  • Economics: This knowledge area encompasses an understanding of basic economic principles, as well as a general understanding of economic issues and
    the economic system of the United States.
  • Mathematics and Statistics: This knowledge area encompasses a general understanding of basic mathematical and statistical procedures. Items requiring calculations may be included.
  • Management Principles, Psychology, and Human Behavior: This knowledge area encompasses a general understanding of basic management and supervisory techniques and methods. It includes knowledge of human psychology and behavior, leadership, motivational strategies, and equal employment practices.
  • Communications: This knowledge area encompasses a general understanding of the principles of effective communication and publicspeaking techniques, as well as general knowledge of public media, media relations, and the goals and techniques of public diplomacy and their use to support work functions.
  • Computers and the Internet: This knowledge area encompasses a general understanding of basic computer operations such as word processing, databases, spreadsheers, and using e-mail and the Internet.

So I’m pretty sure I can pass English expression without too much time put into studying. I was, afterall, one of few people to get an “A” both quarters in Dr. Schrand’s senior English course *brushes shoulders off*. That’s a feat, truly. I’ll do a quick review on some grammar test sites in January or February right before the test.

Computers and the Internet? I’ve got that one. I’ve worked in tech for years and even have dabbled into programming so I can handle using e-mail.

What about that Situational Judgement Section?

From PearsonVue:

Situational Judgement Test (SJT) items. The SJT section will present scenarios (i.e., descriptions of situations) that a candidate might encounter on the job as a Foreign Service Officer. Each scenario is accompanied by possible responses to that scenario. For each scenario, candidates select the BEST response and the WORST response. The SJT section of the test consists of 28 scenarios administered in 42 minutes.

This  and this site both have some practice test information and I’m sure this section I can pass with maybe a day of studying up to see how they want me to pass. I’ve taken similiar tests at my current job as part of our monthl curriculum.

So what am I worried about?

These areas are my concern. I haven’t taken some of these courses since high school a decade ago and some never.

  • American History
  • American Studies (including cultural and social
  • American Political Thought
  • United States Political System
  • American Economic History
  • World History (Western and non-Western)
  • World Geographics
  • World Religions
  • Mass Communication

At least these ones I studied in college, but it’s still not been knowledge I’ve used since. I could probably explain the general concepts but if you asked me about a specific term or name for a theory I’m going to stumble and fall.

  • Introduction to Economics (micro and macro)
  • International Economics
  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Introduction to Management Principles
  • Intercultural Communication
  • Psychology

So how do I study for such a broad range of topics?

The State Department provides a suggested reading list! You can see it for yourself here.

I’ve started working my way through the list but BOY am I making slow progress! I made the mistake of starting first with the topic/book on the list that I knew the least about but showed up again and again on recommended lists of places to start:

The opening alone taught me more about the Afghanistan war that I knew before reading it, but the book is super thick and not something you can read distracted. I’ve had to reread whole chapters already.

As a distraction and for those times where I know my focus isn’t as high, I’ve started reading this one simultaneously:

I also borrowed this one from the library to start next:

And picked up all of these second-hand from Amazon! I’m taking at least one with me to Norway to read on the flights without wasting battery on a flight that doesn’t have charging ports available:

It’s possible that I finish all 42 books on the reading list (let’s be real here, that’s not going to happen) or might simply need more information in an area after reading the first book. I found an older version of the State Department reading list, combined it with the current version, and threw the entire list together on Goodreads! I have no idea if this link works publicly, but I’ll try: Demeter’s GoodReads List

Books added Oct 2nd are the original list and those added Oct 8th are the additions from the older list(s). Nov 30th are the ones I added from Amazon research myself!

Anyways, I have to go – I have more reading to do!

1 Comment

  1. Usually I don’t read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice post.


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