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I Survived the PMF Assessments – Part 1

*** The blog below was originally posted on February 22, 2011. ***

I am a second year Master of Public Policy candidate at American University in Washington, D.C. I decided to apply for the Presidential Management Fellows this year because it’s a great opportunity to work for the federal government and get 160 hours of management and leadership training over 2 years—Plus you get paid with benefits. The program is open to graduate students that will be graduating this year. For the eligibility guidelines and more details, check out the Presidential Management Fellows Programwebsite.

I won’t go into the generic details of the deadlines but talk more about my experiences through the 5 step process. I’ve made it to Step 4 thus far- the In-Person Assessment.

The First Step- OPM Application period – last year it was between October 1st– 15th, 2010

First, I submitted my application on USAJobs. The key is to use the resume builder, this is super important because it makes your resume searchable for recruiters. Also, note this initial uploading of your resume has nothing to do with getting through the first two testing rounds. It will be used later on for agencies to find you.

Second, I submitted a nomination form to my Dean’s office who is the nominating official at my school. It might be different for each school. We were asked to submit along with an unsigned nomination form, a resume, and an essay with the reasons we think we would be a good fit for public service. (Keep this topic in mind as you prepare for the both testing phases)

The Second Step- Online Assessment-Around mid-November 2010 I got notified and then a couple weeks later we had 2 weeks to take the online assessment around Thanksgiving.

There are three parts to the PMF On-line Assessment: Each assessment is timed.

A. Situational Judgment- 30 – 48 Questions – (30 – 40 minutes)

B. Life Experience- 125 Questions- (45 minutes)

C. Writing- 1 question- (10 minutes)

The following sample questions are from OPM’s Assessment Prep Guide.

Part A. Situational Judgment Assessment

Sample Question 1. You are a member of a project team in your office. During a project meeting a colleague gives you a task that you do not feel qualified or trained to handle. Which of the following actions are you most likely to take?

A) Complete the task as best you can.

B) Complain to your supervisor.

C) Ask someone in the office who knows how to do the task to help you.

D) Explain to the colleague that you do not feel qualified to work on the task and you would prefer that the task be given to someone else.

Part B. Life Experience Assessment

Sample Question 1. In the past when I have given a speech or presentation, I was likely to have prepared ahead of time:

A) much less than others did

B) less than others did

C) about the same as others did

D) more than others did

E) much more than others did

In my opinion these questions are common sense. The hard part about these questions is that at least 2 answers sound right or maybe all four.

The standard advice is to answer the questions based on what you would do, but I disagree. Since these questions are geared at seeing what kind of management and leadership skills you have… I would try to channel your inner manager to answer the questions. (To be clear I’m not saying you should be dishonest) Many of us do not have management experience, but have the qualities to be a manager, so I think this is important to keep in mind. They are after all looking for the next government leader. Check out GovLeaders and Young Government Leadersfor some helpful advice. The series of questions in both sections ask the same question in various different ways, the key is being consistent. Do you really understand what the question is asking? Take your time, I had friends whiz through it, but I took every minute to re-read the question and make sure I understood it before answering. Don’t forget it’s timed so don’t take too long, pace yourself. I had about 5 minutes left over to go back. I also wrote down on a piece of paper the questions that I wanted to come back to.

Part C. Writing Sample

Sample Question. The PMF Program provides many potential opportunities and challenges for individuals interested in working for the Federal Government. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a career in public service.

All I have to say is 10 minutes will feel like 60 seconds. This was by far the most stressful part of the online assessment. There is no grammar or spell check in the writing box. Sorry there are no squiggly red, blue and green lines to tell you what’s wrong. (Thank you Word for making us so reliant on you.) My advice is type out as many coherent sentences as you can while trying to not make spelling errors. Give yourself 2 minutes to re-read it and fix errors. I heard that these writing samples are computer corrected. So try not to get too fancy, just simple sentences with correct spelling and I think you are golden.

I got my notice that I was a Semi-Finalist around mid-December.

Keep in mind I have no idea what next year’s PMF Assessment will look like, but I can’t imagine it would be that different.

Stay tuned for my In-person Assessment experience!

Other helpful Resources:

GovLoop PMFs and Alums

Application Prep: Spend Some Time with USAJOBS Blog

Applications Are In, But… Blog

Intro to the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) application process Blog

PMF PowerPoint by OPM

The Presidential Management Alumni Group

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Tarryn Reddy

I don’t think this part of the assessment is something you can study for. I did Google search situational judgement test prep today and it looks like there are some online training services that may be helpful. This might be useful since many companies make you take this similar test for employment.