June 2015 FSOT Results

The June 2015 FSOT Results

I held off on writing this post for a few reasons.

  1. It is not a fun post to write.
  2. I have been communicating with FSOT administrators over the last few weeks regarding the test and wanted there to be an opportunity for follow-up from all parties.

A warning now, it is a longish post, and it is a personal one. I am writing about my experience with the system over the last few weeks.

The FSOT Results

I did not pass the June 2015 FSOT.

Even though I did not have a good feeling when I left the exam, the results were still a shock for me. Before we get to that:

THE GOOD: I greatly improved in the bio section. How this is scored, I do not know. What I do know is that I was more affirmative in the scores I gave myself. What I do believe to be true is that you must remain consistent with your answers. A lot of the questions are similar in scope, and the FSOT administrators are looking for consistency.

THE BAD: my score dropped on the Job Knowledge, which I was expecting, and significantly dropped on the English Expression, which surprised me. There were a few questions on the JK I thought were impractical to ask, but there were also a few that were on point.

As for the EE, I am stumped and I was hoping this score would help bring my total above the minimum.

There was an incident while I was taking the test where the EE section was not functioning correctly with a few of the questions. I was asked questions that had nothing to do with the passages.

For instance (not real questions), question 31 and 32 on their own page asked how the fruit referenced in the passage affected the character, but the passage was about space and no fruit was mentioned. I didn’t know what was going on so I clicked ‘next’. The page then refreshed and a new 31 and 32 appeared that were directly related to a new passage. If I clicked on the ‘back’ button though, then the old 31 and 32 would appear. I mentioned this to the Pearson rep who told me they would make a note of it.

THE UGLY: first, a reminder that you need a score of 154 before your essay is graded and that your score is measured via T score. Second, check out my score:

Biographic Questionnaire: 50.13
English Expression: 52.26
Job Knowledge: 51.54
Multiple Choice Total: 153.93
Essay Score: 0*

* The essay is only scored if you pass the multiple choice section.

That’s 0.07 away from passing…. Ouch.

Let’s let that sink in….

Yup, big sigh.

It didn’t even hit me the first time I saw it. I just knew I didn’t pass.Once I saw how close I was though, what followed can easily be described as the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial (a little, though more shock)
  2. Anger (most definitely yes!)
  3. Bargaining (the “rescore” process)
  4. Depression (…at the thought of waiting another year)
  5. Acceptance (more like disgruntled acceptance)

Well, being so close I decided I just had to take a chance with the rescore.

Requesting the FSOT Rescore

This has been a frustrating request and I will try to remain ‘level’ while I write this out for all of you. Also, I’ve already written a post on the FSOT Rescore with more information on it.

The results came out on a Friday but I waited till Monday to request the rescore.

On the phone, I spoke with a representative who took me through the process- request and payment submission.

I was still concerned by my EE score and asked the representative if she saw a note on my file about the technical glitch I had experienced. She did not. This was an immediate warning flag to me since I know there was a problem with the exam and had made sure the administrator at the testing center knew about it.

After communicating this to the rep she said she would make a note, the rescore request was submitted, and that I would hear back from them in 2-3 weeks.

To my surprise, two hours later I received an email stating that my scores did not change. Warning flag number 2. It wasn’t that I was surprised that my scores did not change, but that the turn-around was two hours and not two weeks.

If you do not know, the FSOT rescore is supposed to be done by a person.

I wrote to the representative who sent me an email, explained the situation and my understanding that the rescore was supposed to be done by hand. This was the rep’s response:

All multiple choice answers are scored through the computer; there is no way for us to “hand-score” the multiple choice section. I had our Exam Review team check your exam for errors and to look through to make sure every question was presented, viewed, answered and recorded. All questions were, and there were no errors in the exam, therefore your score does not change. I do apologize if you encountered any issues at the test center, but rest assured they did not affect the outcome of your exam.

***A note: I will not use names and I will just say the ‘rep’ in order to keep all folks anonymous. I would also like to mention that during the correspondence with the representative all email communications I received were cordial.***

Alright, so there are no errors found… supposedly. Yet, there is not much I can do about it now.

The real purpose for requesting the rescore is because of the short answer portion of the Biography Section. This is the only written portion, all the rest are multiple choice, and the only place where a ‘hand scored’ assessment may, I repeat may, increase the score.

For Pearson to turn around and state that the computer rescores the test was frustrating.

I next asked the representative about the short answer rescore, and the response given was:

Unfortunately Pearson does not have access on how the short answer questions are scored. Please direct your question to [email protected] and they will be happy to assist you.

Warning flag number 3. If Pearson is administering the test should they not be knowledgeable on how the short answer questions are scored?

So I wrote to FSOTQuestions, cc’d Pearson, and explained the situation. Their response:

It may not be the case for all tests that Pearson VUE rescores, but per the terms of the contract between State and the company any request for rescore of the FSOT is undertaken by a human being. The information on the link that you included in your email is correct. The multiple-choice sections of the test are all T-scored.

Icing on the cake, and this is how I felt:

The contract between the two groups stipulates that it has to be undertaken by a human being and not a computer. Also, FSOTQuestions dodged my question on the short answer.

Long story short, I am frustrated by the responses, and lack of responses, I received by both parties. Pearson is not keeping to the contract they have with State, and State is not making them uphold it. I pointed this out to both parties in a follow-up email, mentioned that if the contract will not be upheld then the money should be refunded, and neither has decided to respond.

A friend of mine asked the question, and made the joke at the same time, if this is what working for the State Department would be like.

All that said though, I am most frustrated with myself.

There were a couple of questions I stumbled on even though I should have known the answer right away, I also could have been better on timing, and I also know I could have done better on the EE (I am still surprised by the results). Sadly, my essay will not be scored even though I believe I did a decent job with it.

Additionally, the idea of emailing this much and arguing this much with both parties to just hit the minimum bothers me as well. If I know the material then I should bmove forward. Clearly I did not and waiting another year to take the test again is ‘heavy’ on the shoulders. Especially when I am less than a tenth of a point from passing (and last year I was also less than a point from passing).

The one silver lining, I am happy to see that I increased my Bio Section quite a bit. Now I know how to answer this section for next year.

If you read this entire post then I thank you. I know this piece is a divergence from the data collection I normally do and much more personal.

I very much welcome any comments you have but I ask you to remember one thing: this was my experience and my opinion.

Additionally, if a representative from Pearson, FSOTQuestions, or State happens to be reading this and would like to write to me, I am more than happy to share all communication and restart a dialogue with you.

On a happier note. For all of you who passed the June test your QEPs should be due soon. I wish you the very best and I hope you move on to the Oral Assessment!

Good luck!

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12 thoughts on “The June 2015 FSOT Results”

  1. I tested in late 2014. 153.99. Just took the test again. Hoping I pass this time, but will be waiting a bit. Just wanted to share the feeling about the scoring. Good luck

  2. I’m scheduled to take the FSOT for the first time in about a week and a half. I know I will fail the first time. I’ve never purposefully allowed myself to move down a path of guaranteed failure, but I know I need to take it for the experience and to see in what areas I need to improve. I have a feeling my only weak spot will be the JK. Thanks for your blog/ website. I just discovered it and have a feeling I’ll be exploring here more in the coming weeks.

  3. Hi Jack,
    Thank you your website. I feel encouraged knowing that there are people out there who are going through the same process as me; who may have not passed the first time or the second time. I look forward to more posts from you.

    Perhaps you have already addressed this in previous blog posts, but I was wondering if you could write more in-depth about your experience as a Foreign Service brat?

    Also, while waiting for the next cycle of exam, are you working on learning a foreign language or improving one that you already know?

  4. Glad to see your update and sorry about your frustrations. I also had a similar experience in the EE with questions in improper places. One didn’t make a bit of sense no matter which page I was viewing. I eventually proceeded with an educated guess. A few others were taking the FSOT at the same time and seemed to be having similar problems. Best of luck to you, sir!

      1. I passed, but my scores were lower. I felt the questions were a little harder this year, at least against my knowledge. I passed the essay with a six, but I thought I would have scored an eight. I focused nearly all my efforts on the essay since my other scores were good last year. Bio was up, JK and EE down. Net loss of 2 (168/170)

        You’ll ace it next year since you raised your bio and can focus on JK. Hopefully no EE glitches next time. PNQs were no fun at all. It took me several revisions to strip them down to the space allotted. When you pass next time, be sure not to wait until the last minute for those.

  5. Truly sorry for the compounding frustrations. Hope you are able to relax and just breathe soon. Have you tried looking at going straight USAID instead of the FSO route?

    1. Thanks for the kind words! I have considered USAID before and I think I will have to give them another look. They used to have an interesting Junior Officer program, but I am not sure if they are still doing it. Time to look into it…

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