A Pop Quiz On Civil Service Exams


This week, I took the time to sit down with our Exam Administrator (EA) to find out a little bit more about the exam process.

Me: Thank you for sitting down with me. What do you want people to know about exams?

EA: First thing – Make sure that you meet the qualifications. What kind of schooling do you have? Are you meeting the minimum qualifications? Bottom line – If you don’t meet the qualifications, you can’t take the exam. Look at the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for that position. Do some studying. Look over the exam bulletin. The bulletin is going to list the different tasks that are going to be expected of the position.

Me: Are there any misconceptions that you want to clear up with folks?

EA: Not to discount the hard work that people have put in for their Associates [degree], but graduation actually usually means a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) or a Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) degree. Also, oftentimes people think, “I have clerical.” You do have clerical. Sometimes, it’s just not the clerical that we are looking for. When the qualification is one year, two years, and so on of experience, you need to have the full year of experience. Twenty hours is only twenty hours within a year. The biggest misconception occurs when people try to transition from the private sector to the public sector. It usually occurs around terminology. I always get phone calls and emails asking, “What do you mean by that?” Send in your application, and we’ll take a look at it. Oh, that reminds me – The process takes time. Once you take the exam, you still have to actually start applying and going to interviews.

Me: In your opinion, what changes or updates need to be made to the exam process?

EA: The first thing that comes to mind is a “qualification assessment.”

Me: What is a qualification assessment?

EA: A qualification assessment is a self-assessment of your education and experience. Even though it is a self-assessment, it’s an exam nonetheless. People do not think it’s a good exam. Ultimately, it’s on the hiring manager. People can say one thing, but they might not actually have the experience. Basically, the truth will come out in the interview.

Me: Other changes or updates?

EA: Oral exams are much better. You are testing the person with them actually in the room. On the other hand, basic written exams can be tricky. You might get someone who just answers “C” to every question. A lot of agencies use the qualification assessment because it’s easy for the exam analyst. Then, the hiring manager complains because of the heavy lifting.

Me: Do you have any tips or tricks for anyone facing an exam?

EA: Review the position. Ask questions. Find people. Ask those people, “What kind of work do you do?” Ask them, “What is expected of you?” Go into the exam feeling good. Tell yourself, “I’m going to do the best that I can do.” People who do that usually pass with flying colors. Like I said before, people just need to look at resources.

Me: Just like school.

EA: Just like school. Do your research. Definitely don’t wait until the day before.

Me: Anything else? Any parting shots?

EA: Don’t ever give up. Take all of the exams that you qualify for. Don’t talk yourself out of an exam. It could end up being the job that you really enjoy. Don’t give up even if you are way down on the list. When I took my entry-level exam, I scored way down on the list. After a while, I started inching my way up the list. When the time was right, I started getting interviews and finally got hired on.

I really like that last message. Don’t ever give up. Don’t eliminate yourself.

TS Hamilton is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply