2022 Edition

Governmental Agencies Test Guide

By Mary Kay Radnich, Tests.com Contributing Writer

As with most employers, the federal government requires job applicants to meet specific criteria for each position so that the employee will be able to perform their position effectively and competently. Currently, approximately 20% of US government jobs require testing as a precursor to employment. According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which handles the release of jobs postings and related information, these jobs are known as competitive service jobs. The purpose of testing for competitive service jobs is to distill applications via a variety of physical and written tests, so that an employee may be ultimately selected from a highly qualified pool of applicants.

Types of government employment tests include:

  • Transportation Security Administration Screener Assessment Battery
  • 473, 931 and 932 Postal Exams
  • Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)
  • Clerical and Administrative Tests


The Office of Personnel Management is the government agency responsible for handling all competitive civil service job information, with the exception of the US Postal Service. Once the type of position being sought by the applicant has been determined, the applicant can determine the requirements of the position through a variety of sources, including books and the OPM’s website, www.usajobs.gov.

Transportation Security Administration: Screener Assessment Battery

Applicants desiring to be considered for employment with the TSA must be able to pass an initial drug test, background investigation and credit check. Applicants must also be proficient in English, have good customer relations skills as well as meet the criteria for hearing and visual acuity, joint flexibility and blood pressure. Once these have been met, the applicant is then invited to take the computerized Screener Assessment Battery of tests, which assess English fluency and the aptitude for x-ray interpretation.

Once the applicant has passed the required drug, background, credit and aptitude tests, the applicant’s name will be forwarded to the supervisor or hiring official for an interview.

As this test screens for English language skills and the ability to read x-rays for TSA contraband, the successful candidate may want to prepare by reviewing sample x-rays and language skills. Test preparation manuals are available.

473, 931 and 932 Postal Exams

Applicants seeking employment with the US Postal Service as mail handlers, clerk, mail carriers, and distribution associates must pass the 473 Postal Exam. This test examines the applicant’s ability to check addresses, complete forms, assign codes, ability to memorize codes and a final section of questions regarding personal experience and characteristics. The inventory of personal experience and characteristics, Part D, is now available online. Upon passing Part D with a score of 70 or higher, the applicant will be ranked with other applicants for a particular job vacancy.

Exam 931 covers testing for skilled maintenance positions, such as building equipment mechanic, engineman and general mechanic.

Exam 932 specifically covers testing for electronics technicians.

Postal Service Exam 473 practice exam manuals are available for learning the various types of information needed to pass exam 473. Postal Exams 931 and 932 are for skilled maintenance and technical positions. A review of these fields before the test is indicated.

Once the completed 473 Exam is scored, the candidate will receive an Applicant Eligibility Notice containing an Exam History Code, which can be entered online to see scores. As the application procedure is conducted via the USPS website and email, it is imperative that the applicant diligently checks their email regularly for communications from the USPS.

Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)

The FSOT seeks to measure the applicant’s knowledge, skills and abilities, including writing skills needed to perform the duties of Foreign Service Officer. The three multiple choice sections of the test cover such areas as job knowledge, English expression and biographic information. The job knowledge section of the test covers a very broad range of topics, from US government history and function to world affairs, psychology, finance and economics. In addition to the three multiple choice sections, the applicant will be given 30 minutes to write an essay on an assigned topic.

Following successful completion of the FSOT, the candidate’s credentials will be reviewed by the Qualifications Evaluations Panel. Then, the successful candidate will be asked to schedule an Oral Assessment, judging the candidates abilities to perform the skills necessary for the position. After passing the Oral Assessment, the candidate will then be subject to a medical and security clearance. Finally, the candidate’s credentials are reviewed by Final Review Panel to determine the candidate’s overall suitability to represent the United States abroad.

Clerical and Administrative Tests

The clerical and administrative tests are for support positions in a wide variety of government agencies. The tests for these positions cover a broad range of topics, from vocabulary, reading, tabular, and arithmetic reasoning questions. Many of these positions also require proficiency in typing and stenography. Once initial contact has been made thru the OPM, the candidate will receive information about that particular job, and a form to submit to OPM, which will in turn reply with information regarding testing dates and locations.

It is practical for the candidate to be proficient in all clerical skills as required for a particular position.

Once the test(s) for a given clerical job have been completed and passed, the applicant will be contacted by the hiring officer for that position.

Postal Practice Exam