The FSO Test Guide

The FSO Test Summary
What: A test that all entry-level Foreign Service Officer applicants must pass before being considered for the position.
Who: Anyone applying for the position of Foreign Service Officer who is a U.S. citizen and 21 years or older but not above the age of 60.
Where: Different testing centers throughout the United States.
When: The test is administered throughout the year. For exact dates go to careers.state.gov
How: A computer test taken in a testing facility.
Type: An intelligence test and an individual’s general personal background.
Why: The test is used to determine if a person is qualified for a Foreign Service Officer position.
Time: Approximately 3 hours
Language: English
Preparation: There are study guides available for all sections of the exam. To download the study guides visit careers.state.gov.
Cost: While there is no cost for the exam itself, the candidate may incur costs associated with travel to the testing location.

By: Pamela Jordan, Tests.com Contributing Writer




The United States government’s Department of State offers exciting opportunities to motivated individuals looking for career opportunities in the field of diplomacy as a Foreign Service Officer. To explore this opportunity one must first take the FSOT (Foreign Service Officer test), which is an exam administered by the ACT that all entry-level applicants must pass before being given the position.

Before entering the exam, applicants must first research the different career tracks that an FSO must choose between. The five career tracks include:

-   Consular

-   Economic

-   Management

-   Political

-   Public Diplomacy

It is essential to know which career track the applicant will be choosing, as test takers must first determine their track before they can take the test. Once a career track has been chosen, it may not be changed after registration.

The first step to taking the FSOT is to register online and fill out an online application that asks about work history and education. Once the application has been successfully registered, the applicant will receive an email from ACT with information about when and where they can take the test. A testing period of approximately eight days will be held within each month, and multiple testing times will be held on each day.

The FSOT can be taken in hundreds of locations throughout the United States and abroad. The test takes approximately 3 hours and measures the candidate’s writing skills, general background, education and experience. The test has three multiple choice sections which include:

-    General job knowledge

-    English expression

-    Measuring integrity, problem solving, and sensitivity to different cultures.

The test also includes at least one 30-minute essay question.

Once the test has concluded, the multiple choice questions will be scored, and if they beat the minimum score that has been established, the applicant will move to the next round. If it does not beat the minimum score, you will be notified that you have failed the exam. If the multiple choice questions achieve the minimum score, the essay will be graded, and if the essay beats the minimum score you will be asked to complete a personal narrative. This means that you have passed the exam and are now moving on to the next stage of becoming a Foreign Service Officer.

Study guides are available to help prepare for this exam. A sample topic for the written essay is available, as well as sample versions of the written exam which includes the English expression and job knowledge questions. Correct answers and explanations also come with the study guide.  To find more information about obtaining a study guide visit careers.state.gov.

Because diplomatic careers can often require difficult work and dangerous conditions, applicants must meet the following conditions:

-    Must be a U.S. citizen

-    At least 20 years of age but no older than 59 years of age on the day you submit the registration

-    At least 21 years of age but not yet 60 on the day you become a Foreign Service Officer

-    Able to travel worldwide for assignments, including Washington D.C.

To learn about testing preparation materials, see our FSO Test Directory.