I Didn’t Pass the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)- But I Have a Plan

I Did Not Pass the FSOT

I was mad, upset, and angry at a test, my abilities, and a system. Three terms that describes the same thing, but all to emphasize:

I was disappointed.

I was disappointed in myself (it almost felt like I experienced a distorted version of the five stages of loss).


I had not passed the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) for a second time in a row. I did not pass in June 2013 when I missed the minimum passing score by 5 points, and I had not passed the June 2014 test by less than 1 point. Understandably, not passing the second time had a greater effect on me than the first. Not solely because I didn’t pass, but because of how close I was to passing.

For those unfamiliar with the FSOT, here is the quick breakdown.

  • The exam is made up of 4 different parts
    • Job Knowledge- multiple choice
    • English Expression- multiple choice
    • Biographic Information Questionnaire- multiple choice and short answer
    • Written Essay
  • You only have 30 minutes to complete the essay
  • The essay is only scored if you pass the multiple choice sections with a minimum score of 154
  • To pass the essay section, you need to score a minimum of a 6, in a scale from 0 (the worst score) to 12 (best score)
  • Your scores are calculated on a T-score (imagine a bell curve)

The quick ones will realize that my essay was not assessed as I did not meet the minimum multiple choice score, which is too bad (they were good).

So now what?

Am I defeated? Should I stop trying?

Hell no!

Luckily, or unluckily depending on the situation, I am a persistent bastard and will take the test again around June 2015 (you have to wait 11 months between tests). Until that time, I’ve decided to lay it “all out” with this website/blog (thanks to Nike “risk everything” campaign for part of the inspiration).

Basically, the site will be used to put everything I learn about, and for, the FSOT into a navigable space, interesting articles I find that I want to mention/critique/write about, interesting books, helpful sites, what’s going on in the world, etc.

Furthermore, the name of the site is ‘Path to Foreign Service’. Now, the majority of the content will be all about taking and (hopefully) passing the tests and clearances to become a Foreign Service Officer. However, there are numerous ways one can serve their country abroad, or if you follow social responsibility (specifically overseas), helping others because you believe it is your duty- and not necessarily becoming an FSO. I will also try and mention these when I can.

In the end, this is supposed to be a resourceful site. Comments and questions are welcome and appreciated, but please be respectful.

Let’s see what eleven months will bring!

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12 thoughts on “I Didn’t Pass the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)- But I Have a Plan”

  1. When you retake the test are the questions basically the same at least or do they throw in surprises the second time around?

  2. I just took the practice test on the website and thought WOW that sucks. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one! I plan on taking the test in June or perhaps October. I haven’t decided yet.

  3. You said you missed passing by less than one point. Try 153.99. Similar to one of the other comments, I went in feeling ok, and I came out feeling very good. I didn’t find there way any section I really struggled on, and I was comfortable with my essay (which was never even graded). Oh well. Will try again soon.

  4. I’m retaking the test this fall and hope to pass after failing by one point last year. I’m going to try to spend the next year getting as far in the process as I can and hopefully get accepted. I’ll keep checking your site for inspiration!!

  5. I have passed the FSOT twice, each time with a buffer zone from the minimum score. The area I studied for the most was the Job Knowledge section, as you can’t really “study” for the other two. You didn’t write your scores for each section, but here’s my advice: start reading everything you can get your hands on for the birth of the U.S. A lot of the “official” recommendations, like the Cultural Literacy dictionary, aren’t that helpful. I have always found that a broad but shallow knowledge of many subjects can help one to make educated guesses. If you know the why and how of the Constitution and the shaping of U.S. legal history, you will start seeing patterns–which is a whole lot better than trying to remember random facts! Another tip: use the app from the State Department to gauge your knowledge–whatever you get wrong, write it down. Then, start googling everything on that list and reading about it. Again, it can help you to make connections and start seeing patterns. Good luck on your next attempt!

  6. Best of luck in June. I took it earlier this month and am hoping for the best. I took the practice test on state and got a 97 percent chance of passing so I feel pretty good with JK and EE. The bio has me worried and of course the essay. I was able to do my 5 para with three supporting details…just hope it was good enough.

  7. I took the test in October and did not pass. I was overconfident going in, which made it a surprise and a big let down when I got my results. Taking it again next year. Good luck next time, sounds like you’re right there. Keep on keepin on

    1. Thanks Mike! Sorry to hear you didn’t pass in October. I know many people, including myself, need to take the exam multiple times before becoming an FSO. Hopefully we will both make it to the QEPs in 2015.

  8. Didn’t pass myself…UGH! I laughed at your “persistent bastard” comment, thank you for that 🙂 Better luck next year.

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