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How to Take the ACWA Test

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Some United States federal agencies use the Administrative Careers with America, or ACWA, written test to assist with hiring decisions for certain entry-level positions at the GS-5 and GS-7 grade levels. The ACWA replaced the Professional and Administrative Career Exam, or PACE, which was the focus of a class action suit on behalf of minority job applicants for entry-level federal positions. The ACWA, which includes the ACWA Ability Test and the Individual Achievement Record, is not mandatory for any federal agency, but those who choose to administer the test do so within the guidelines of the Office of Personnel Management.

About the ACWA Test

The 1981 class-action suit resolution limits use of the ACWA test for the 111 GS-5 and GS-7 grade level occupations that were included in the lawsuit. Excluded from the resolution are occupations in accounting and the sciences. The two-part ACWA Ability test includes Part A for Verbal and Part B for Mathematical Reasoning. The Individual Achievement Record, or Test 975, asks questions about behaviors and personal characteristics. The ACWA questions, which are customized for specific occupations, help to assess the applicant’s job-related abilities and suitability. An applicant is rated and ranked among other applicants based on his combined test scores.

Answering Test Questions

The ACWA test is designed to assess applicants who have little or no work experience. The Ability Test measures your knowledge of basic vocabulary and math that you would encounter in the relevant occupation. The Individual Achievement Record, or IAR, elicits detailed information about unpaid work and life experiences, such as school and volunteer work, and about skills, abilities and knowledge developed through other activities. Provide information about achievements, awards, training and any additional personal information that demonstrates your suitability for the position.

Online Tests

Most job applicants take the online ACWA test. OPM posts job opportunity announcements on the USAJOBS website. Select the job announcement and go to “How to Apply” for the “on-line assessment questionnaire.” This questionnaire is the ACWA written test. Your completed test becomes part of your job application and is transmitted to the hiring agency. Note that the USAJOBS system requires you to create an account in order to submit applications online.

Paper and Pencil Test

If you choose to take the ACWA test with paper and pencil, ensure that the test is given by trained test administrators, as required by OPM. Contact the hiring agency to ask about alternate accommodations for taking the test. The contact information is listed on the job opportunity announcement. You can also contact OPM or send an email to [email protected] for information about the ACWA.


Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.

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