It’s Not Failure If You Keep Trying: The FSOT

I’ve heard it said before, some of the best things in life only come after failure.

This is great, and very supportive in a father to son kind of fashion, but there is a piece missing. I think that the important lesson to take away from failing at something, is to understand that the only way you succeed in the future, is by learning from the reasons why you have failed, and improving on them.

If you read the previous post then you know I did not pass the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). I did not pass the test by 0.91 points, just missing the minimum score of 154.

In short, I failed the test.

My Results

What you don’t know from reading the previous post were the scores I received for each section. So, in the spirit of transparency (something I hope to continue with this site) here is the breakdown for the June 2014 FSOT:

Biographic Questionnaire: 43.02
English Expression: 57.72
Job Knowledge: 52.35
Multiple Choice Total: 153.09
Essay Score: 0*

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

There is no such thing as failure. There are only results. – Tony Robbins

The results shown are clear. I did really well in the English section, I passed the job knowledge, and I did a poor job in the biographic questionnaire. It really is frustrating to think I was only 0.91 points away from passing the multiple choice. However, this is not a blog to complain about not passing, to come up with excuses, or to be angry at the FSOT.

This is a blog to learn from, so that I, and hopefully you, can pass the test next time.

Learning from the FSOT

If we do a very basic breakdown mathematically, in order to pass the multiple choice section of the FSOT, one needs to score an average of 51.33 points in each section. Of the three sections, my bio brought me down the most (missing the mark by about 8 points), and I just passed the job knowledge by 1 full point.

That said, ‘just passing’ should not be the goal. You shouldn’t just try to pass your school exams with a C, you should study for an A. You shouldn’t just kick the soccer ball at the goal, you should aim for the corners. I think you get the point here…

The things is, I cannot get all bent out of shape on the biographical section, because if I had answered just one more question correctly on one of the other two sections, I would probably be over the ‘hump’. That said, you should not get bent out of shape for the questions that could have made a difference.

Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it. – Mia Hamm

So what does this mean? This means I will need to pay particular attention to any information that may assist me in passing the biography section of the FSOT, and keep studying the different parts that encompass the Job Knowledge.

To do this, I will put what I find and learn over the next 10-11 months onto this blog. In essence, this website will be my tool to help me stay on track to increase my understanding of all topics related to passing the FSOT.

Here we go.

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9 thoughts on “It’s Not Failure If You Keep Trying: The FSOT”

  1. Hi! I just got my results back from the October 2016 test and I just missed passing the multiple choice section! But it’s okay, I definitely did not expect to pass my first time taking the exam. I scored a 153.68:

    JK: 38.48
    BQ: 59.84
    EE: 55.36
    MC Total: 153.68

    I was curious what would be your feedback? Obviously my JK is weak, but I shall continue reading, etc. I was curious what was the individual total of section because I’m surprised I scored higher in BQ than EE.

    Love your blog and thanks so much for maintaining it!

    1. Hi Jaubs! Sorry to hear about the results. That’s very close to hitting the minimum, and having been there myself, I know the feeling. My feedback is to keep practicing for the Job Knowledge section, which as you said was weak. Besides reading/watching material, the best way to study in my opinion is to take routine practice tests. In this way, you know what areas of knowledge you need to improve. I recently published a JK practice test, that’s helped many, that you can find here:

      Thanks for reading the blog and I wish you the best the next time you take the test! I’ll be there again myself in June!

  2. Just got my test results back and am pretty much in the same boat as you:

    Job Knowledge: 51.98

    Biographic Questionnaire: 40.67

    English Expression: 58.69

    Multiple Choice Total: 151.34
    So how do you prepare for the biographic part? (I’m not sure more studying helps on the other 2 sections)

    1. Hi Mark, I’ve been there and I know that feeling… it sucks. I was able to improve my biographic score last year by deciding to not be modest about my accomplishments. I truly believe the change in mindset was what pushed me forward in the bio. Another option is this, now that you know what the bio section asks for, try to take assignments, volunteer opportunities, and/or leadership roles (at work, social sports, etc.) that will give you the experience over the next year.

  3. Joseph Scavone

    This was news to me….. So I could never understand why there were so few dates available to take the exam. It didn’t make any sense to me that there wasn’t a single date 6 months out regardless what test center I chose. I called Pearson several times and this last operator finally explained my issue. What I didn’t know is that each window to chose your test date is open for about a month. The actual test is given for only a week. For example the next window opens August 25th, closes September 30th and the test dates are from October 3rd to the 10th. Did everyone else know this? Am I the only dope that didn’t see this? I am certain this was never communicated to me.

  4. Here we go, indeed! I’m taking the test tomorrow (2/7/15) at 6:30PM and so many things are swirling in my head: what was the significance of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense? What does the IS-LM model show? How are supply side and Keynesian economic theories different? Or are they? What does Article 9 of the Constitution signify? How does the Senate use cloture? AAARRRGH!
    I’ve wanted to take the FSOT since graduating college (in 1998) but never got around to it. I took the practice test on and, accordingly, received a high probability of passing the Job Knowledge and English sections. So I filled the application in haste (Management track) and selected to take the test on the last time slot of the last day it’s offered…with about three weeks left to cram the entire universe into my brain.
    I don’t know if I’ll pass. I just want to take it, see how I do, and use the next 11 months to really prepare for it. I’m weak in US History and Government so I need to focus on those topics. The next year will also give me time to fill up any vacancies I have in the 13 dimensions. The Biographic section really worries me. Just like your experience, I know others who did not fare too well on it.
    But good luck to you in June, brother! I hope things are moving along. I’ll let you know how I did when I get the results.

    1. Zia, great to hear your story and I wish you the best of luck tonight! There really is a lot of information to know. As I have heard others say, they are looking for breadth and not depth for the FSOT, which makes studying all the more difficult. I look forward to hearing your experience and that the results are positive. Good luck!

  5. Hello,

    I know I’m quite late to this, but I am only just discovering your blog. I am sorry that you did not pass your June test, but your dedication to passing the next one is inspiring. I plan to take the test in February, and plan to employ the same kind of attitude, should I not pass it. A couple questions, if you have a moment: 1) so, at minimum, one needs a 154 to pass? What is this out of? and 2) you mentioned that through the next 10-11 month (from July), you’d be using this blog as a method of study; so that confirms that, if you do not pass the first time, you must wait a full year to sit for the test again?

    Thanks, and best of luck next summer.


    1. Hi Tony,

      Thanks for the support. To answer your questions first, 1) at minimum you need to score a 154 to pass the multiple choice section. Only if you score at least a 154 will the essay then be scored. Next, to pass the essay you need to score at least a 6 out of a possible 12 points. 2) If you do not pass the FSOT, you need to wait 11 months before signing up for the next FSOT- thus the year wait.

      I might not be posting regularly on this blog, but as you wrote I am using it to keep up dated with FSO information. Its been working.

      I am also looking to the readers. If you have any suggestions for material let me know or better, if you can answer this question, ‘if you could ask a senior foreign service officer one or two questions, what would they be’?

      Cheers mate and best of luck in February!

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