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How to Prepare for the Foreign Service Officer Exam

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Before you can work as a foreign service officer -- essentially a representative of the U.S. government in a foreign land -- you have to pass a written exam, write a personal narrative and participate in an oral interview. While the last two portions will dive more into your background and personality, the Foreign Service Officer Test covers an array of topics such as economics, public policy, government, computers and language skills. As you prepare, this section should get the most focus.

Study U.S. History and Current Events

The U.S. State Department has an online practice exam for the FSOT. Take it before you begin your prep to find out where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Next, dive into the Department of State's Suggested Reading List, which includes reading major daily newspapers such as The Washington Post, magazines like U.S. News & World Report, English-language materials such as the Chicago Manual of Style, and U.S. history and world policy books. Take another practice exam again and see how you fared after all that reading. Ideally, you'll read these materials over the course of several months, or even close to a year, as cramming at the last minute is not likely to help you.

Prep for the Oral Exam

If you pass the written exam, the next step is to submit a personal narrative. You'll receive instructions and questions to answer, but in general, the review board will want to see that you have good communication and interpersonal skills, leadership, intellect, management skills and knowledge of U.S. history and government. Describe experiences you've had that demonstrate your knowledge in these areas. Following that, prepare for your oral exam by downloading the Department of State's oral assessment study guide to give you an idea of the problems and solutions you'll be expected to discuss and how best to prepare.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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