Are you interested in becoming a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) and pursuing a career in diplomacy and international affairs? If so, one of the first steps you must take in pursuing this career is completing the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), a challenging exam assessing your knowledge and skills in various subjects.
One of the best ways to increase your chances of scoring highly on the FSOT is to take practice tests. Over the years, several have popped up, but only a couple stand out. This article will briefly review the FSOT, how we evaluated the practice tests, and our recommended practice test.
What is the FSOT?
The FSOT is the Foreign Service Officer Test. It is a multiple-choice test and essay used by the U.S. Department of State to assess the knowledge, skills, and abilities of individuals interested in joining the Foreign Service as diplomats. The test covers various topics, including the U.S. government, economics, management, math, psychology, English expression, situational judgment, and more. Pearson VUE administers the test.
These various topics are broken down into four different sections within the FSOT. These sections, and a brief description of each, follow:
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. Learn more on how to prepare.
This section will present scenarios (i.e., descriptions of situations) that a candidate might encounter on the job. Learn more on how to prepare.
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. Learn more on how to prepare.
As the name implies, you must write an essay on one of three available topics within a time limit.
How did we evaluate FSOT practice tests?
Showcasing our best FSOT practice test award will only make sense if we share how we evaluated the options. We’ve broken down our metrics between the must-haves and nice-to-haves.
Does it simulate the experience of the actual test?
Determining this question is the most significant factor for our review. Studies show that the best way to prepare for an assessment is to practice as close as possible to the environment of the test and how the test is offered. For the same reason, it is best to voice your responses instead of just saying them in your head when practicing for an interview.
So what do we mean by the actual experience? We want to see the following for the multiple-choice sections:
- Opportunity to skip questions and mark for review
- Dashboard to see the questions you answered, skipped, and marked for review
- Similar design
- Time and questions given align with the FSOT
For the essay:
- Timer, represented in each section
- Three prompts to choose from
- No grammar tool to assist your writing
If the practice test is no better than a page full of questions, then we do not rank it highly. This statement applies to both online and print options.
Are all sections of the FSOT represented?
We want to ensure all of the sections (Job Knowledge, English Expression, Situational Judgment, and Essay) are represented in the practice test.
Are the questions FSOT-specific?
Essentially, are the questions in the practice test closely aligned with what you would find on the actual FSOT? A great example here is the situational judgment section. Practice questions for this section are generally not written in the style of the FSOT or within the theme (i.e., the questions are retail-oriented, not FS).
Are explanations for the correct and incorrect options provided?
Questions you may answer could have similar options with slight differences. As such, you want to know why option A is better than option B, especially if they are similar.
Does the source provide multiple practice tests?
One solid practice test is beneficial. Multiple practice tests can be a game changer, especially if you – the candidate – space out your practice and learning. The more, the merrier, so long as each practice test is high quality.
Are you directed to learning resources to help expand your knowledge on a question you got incorrect?
With online search tools, a need for direction is not mandatory, but it is nice because it can help speed up the learning process.
Best FSOT practice test
For our top pick, the award goes to FSO Compass.
FSO Compass provides comprehensive online training for aspiring U.S. diplomats. As part of the platform, it contains several practice tests and short quizzes for the different sections of the FSOT. The practice tests on Compass also simulate the testing environment of the actual testing experience, meeting all of the components of this specific evaluation criteria.
As of this review, FSO Compass includes over 1,000 questions to help you prepare for the Foreign Service Officer Test.
In addition, Compass includes:
- Comprehensive study material on all sections of the FSOT
- A course to help you write strong, concise personal narratives, including the personal narrative challenge
- Through the practice tests and quizzes, performance tracking and feedback on areas to improve.
- The opportunity to interview current Foreign Service Officers and Specialists to learn more about their role
- An active community to interact with others, share study plans, and support each other throughout the application journey.
- An overall user-friendly interface
At the time of publication, FSO Compass charges $9/month or $49/year.
For our runner-up, we choose the State Department practice test.
What’s great about the DOS practice test is that the questions come from State, providing some weight to your practice. Unfortunately, there are several limitations, which we will note:
- There is no essay section on State’s practice test.
- An applicant must wait six months before accessing the second practice test offered.
- The question review does not explain why an answer is correct or incorrect.
- The navigation is not similar to the actual test (e.g., skip logic, save, and review).
- Furthermore, unlike FSO Compass, the practice test does not include comprehensive material to help you study and prepare for the sections.
At the time of publication, the State Department does not charge for the practice test.
An online product you may find is Mometrix. After review, the material is similar, if not the same, as the study guide you will find linked below through Amazon (for cheaper). Unfortunately, this service asks for $60/month, which is very high for the product you receive.
Mometrix includes three sections of the FSOT for you to practice. The functionality is also similar to the actual test. There is no essay section to practice. However, FSO Compass wins out because of the immersive option when practicing.
An unfortunate but important note to make, during our review, it was clear that the English Expression practice tests only contain one question type, essay review, for you to practice. The actual English Expression test includes five different question types, which you will find represented in Compass and State’s practice test.
For this price, there is no course to help you prepare for the personal narratives, no community, minimal review of the content on the FSOT, no community, and no opportunity to interview members of the Foreign Service.
Study guides you find on Amazon, book store, or your local library
There are several options out there if you are interested in this approach. Here is a link to Amazon if you would like to review them. Some significant limitations include that the practice tests are in a book, which does not accurately reflect how you take the test; the material may need to be updated; and reviews often note typos and incorrect information.
Prices range from $25-50.
Hands down, the best Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) practice test is through FSO Compass. We were very impressed with the available practice quiz and test options, the representation these tests have with the actual experience, and the growing question library (currently over 1,000).
Furthermore, the resources available on the site, in addition to the practice tests, knock this site out of the park, especially when considering the price and the comparison with the other available options, which are not even close.
If you are practicing for the FSOT, you will not go wrong with FSO Compass.
Know of another FSOT practice test? Let us know, and we will review and update this page!
Join the pFS Newsletter!
Receive 5 lessons to help you prep, study, and practice for the FSOT.
Plus! By signing-up you are also joining hundreds of other FSO applicants in a communal pursuit to join the Foreign Service.