Recommended FSOT Resources and Tools


Becoming a Foreign Service Officer is one of the more challenging careers to get into. The majority of us will go through many iterations of trying to complete the process before accomplishing success. For this reason, any type of help is always greatly appreciated.

I figured it would be a good idea to put together a resource page with helpful, and actionable, tools you can use before and after becoming a Foreign Service Officer. As I learn of more resources and this website grows, I’ll make sure to continuously update this page.

Study for the Foreign Service Officer Test

The FSOT Simulator: Want to know what taking the Job Knowledge section of the Foreign Service Officer Test is like? I created The FSOT Simulator to accomplish just that. It comes with 60 questions, 40 minutes, similar functions to the actual test, and an answer page that not explains the choices, but also recommends further reading if you do poorly in a knowledge area. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking it.

FSOT Practice Essay Section Simulator: I created the FSOT Essay Simulator to solve a problem I was having studying for the essay portion of the test. I found it extremely helpful and decided to share it with you. Along with the countdown timer, the simulator also incorporates the character limit.

FSOT Reading List: This is the official FSOT suggested reading list created by the Department of State. The reading list is broken up into the different sections of the FSOT and is a great way to improve your understanding of a specific area. Though the exam tests your knowledge broadly, this “reading list illustrates the kinds of books and readings that can set you in the right direction”.

Current Affairs: For ‘grounding knowledge’, the FSOT reading list is what you need to read first. However, if you want to know what is going on around the world and be knowledgeable of regional political discussion, then you must keep up with current affairs. Over the last decade, I have subscribed to a number of the periodicals, newspapers, and journals listed on this page.

The Foreign Service Officer Life

If you want to learn more about the FSO lifestyle, the career, the cones, and the history of the U.S. Foreign Service and diplomacy, then I strongly recommend reading at least one of these books. Not just written for aspiring Foreign Service Officers, they are also a great read for current and even retired employees. I grew up in the Foreign Service and already know a lot, but these books still had a wealth of information, from the personal accounts to the daily functions of each cone!

Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at WorkInside a U.S. Embassy is widely recognized as the essential guide to the Foreign Service. This all-new third edition takes readers to more than fifty U.S. missions around the world, introducing Foreign Service professionals and providing detailed descriptions of their jobs and firsthand accounts of diplomacy in action. In addition to profiles of diplomats and specialists around the world—from the ambassador to the consular officer, the public diplomacy officer to the security specialist—is a selection from more than twenty countries of day-in-the-life accounts, each describing an actual day on the job. Personal reports from the field give a sense of the extraordinary challenges—the coups, the natural disasters, the civil wars—and rewards of representing America to the world. Inside a U.S. Embassy includes new chapters on the highly competitive Foreign Service entrance process, Foreign Service life outside the embassy, and briefings on topics such as handling high-level visits and service in war zones.
America’s Other Army brings the high-flying world of international diplomacy down to earth and puts a human face on a mysterious profession that has undergone a dramatic transformation since September 11, 2001. Through the stories of American diplomats, the book explains how their work affects millions of people in the United States and around the world every day, and how it contributes directly to U.S. security and prosperity. It shows a more inclusive American diplomacy that has moved beyond interacting with governments and has engaged with the private sector, civil society and individual citizens. Having visited 77 embassies and consulates, and interviewed more than 600 American diplomats, the author reveals a Foreign Service whose diversity and professional versatility have shattered old perceptions and redefined modern diplomacy. But he also depicts a service not fully equipped to address the complex challenges of the 21st century.
Career DiplomacyCareer Diplomacy ―now in its second edition―is an insider’s guide that examines the foreign service as an institution, a profession, and a career. Harry W. Kopp and Charles A. Gillespie, both of whom had long and distinguished careers in the foreign service, provide a full and well-rounded picture of the organization, its place in history, its strengths and weaknesses, and its role in American foreign affairs. Based on their own experiences and through interviews with over 100 current and former foreign service officers and specialists, the authors lay out what to expect in a foreign service career, from the entrance exam through midcareer and into the senior service―how the service works on paper, and in practice.

The second edition addresses major changes that have occurred since 2007: the controversial effort to build an expeditionary foreign service to lead the work of stabilization and reconstruction in fragile states; deepening cooperation with the U.S. military and the changing role of the service in Iraq and Afghanistan; the ongoing surge in foreign service recruitment and hiring at the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development; and the growing integration of USAID’s budget and mission with those of the Department of State.

Realities of Foreign Service LifeMention a diplomatic career and most people imagine high-level meetings, formal dress and cocktail parties. Few stop to think that behind the occasional glitter of official functions are thousands of families facing all the routines and crises of life-births, deaths, childrearing, divorce-far from home, relatives, and friends, in an unfamiliar and sometimes unfriendly country and culture. Realities of Foreign Service Life provides reflections and perspectives on the realities of Foreign Service life as experienced by members of the Foreign Service community around the world. The writers share their unvarnished views on a wide variety of topics they care about: maintaining long-distance relationships, raising teens abroad, dealing with depression, coping with evacuations, readjusting to life in the United States, and many others. These are stories from the diplomatic trenches-true experiences from those who have lived the lifestyle and want to share their hard-learned lessons with others. If you are new to the Foreign Service, this book will offer insights and practical information useful in your overseas tours and when you return home. Even if you are a seasoned veteran of the Foreign Service, the reports and reflections of others may encourage you to compare and evaluate your own experiences. If you (or your partner) are contemplating joining the Foreign Service, this book can serve as a reality check, giving you honest, personal perspectives on both the positive and negative aspects of Foreign Service life. If you are a student wondering what the Foreign Service is all about, this book will broaden your knowledge and provide you with an insider’s view not found in any textbook.

FSO/T Forums

These next three resources are indispensable for interested FSO applicants. The Yahoo group is probably the place to go with any FSOT questions you want an answer to quickly. It’s been around for years, there is daily discussion, and it’s a great way to reach out to others and start a study group in your city. The Reddit group is newer than Yahoo, however, it’s just as useful and the discussions tend to be broader. Finally, the official forum is where you want to go with technical questions concerning the Foreign Service, and the test, and have them answered by a State Department rep (be aware the site has a slow load time).

One note to keep in mind, even though the first two are not managed by State, this does not mean State is unaware of them. Do not discuss FSOT questions on these forums, you will be in violation of the FSOT Non-Disclosure Agreement!

Be Productive

Dropbox: Cloud computing is here, and having used floppies, CDs, external drives, and flash drives, the cloud is 10x more convenient. With Dropbox, you can easily share files between your computers, phone, colleagues, family, and friends. This is great for mobility and not having to worry about device compatibility is fantastic!

Evernote: This is your mobile workspace. Once again platform compatibility is one of the things that makes this software stand out! Any idea I have, whether I am studying for the FSOT, writing my next post or digitizing documents goes to Evernote. A great tool!

Grammarly: This proofreading tool is AMAZING! Through the browser, Grammarly makes sure anything I write online is done properly. Additionally, it can easily process text documents I have written as well! I very much recommend it!

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