Civil Service Exam Practice Test

How to Take and Pass the Civil Service Exam 

What is the Civil Service Exam?

The Civil Service Exam is the test taken by those who want to apply for civil service jobs. It helps determine the candidates that have the necessary ability and aptitude for learning the job quickly. Before it was the United States Civil Service Commission that managed the civil service, but the agency has long been abolished. Today, the OPM or the United States Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board manage the civilian workforce.  

According to the Civil Service Exam Study Guide 2019 & 2020, the exam varies depending on the position applied for. It’s substance, content, and format differs based on the local government, state government, or the specific federal agency that is offering the exam. Thus, this means that there is no uniform civil service test.  

What is the definition of civil service?

It is the service performed by civil servants who are hired by the country’s government. They work for the public sector. The federal jobs in the U.S. before used the spoils system. But, when the Pendleton Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Act was passed, the civil service system started to change and reform.   

What are the different services in civil service?

The United States civil service includes two kinds of services: the competitive and excepted services. The applicant must take either of the two exams stated below.

2 main types of the Civil Service Examinations:

  1. Competitive exam – those applicants who want to apply for a certain civil job must compete with each other for the position.
  2. Non-competitive exam – those applicants are tested to identify whether they have the qualifications for a certain position, and the only thing they need to do to become eligible is to pass. 

As previously mentioned, the civil service exam will vary depending on the federal position applied for. Based on the book, Master the Civil Service Exams,  here are the main categories that applicants can choose from so that they’ll know what exam to take:

7 Major Categories of Federal Positions

  • Professional – these are jobs that require applicants to have knowledge in a specialized field. They should have completed a college or postgraduate education.  Examples of these jobs are accountants, biologists, engineers, and attorneys.
  • Administrative and Managerial – these  jobs entail the overseeing of contracts with the private sector and purchasing for the government goods and services. Examples of these jobs are personnel officers, contract specialists, administrative assistants, and personnel officers.
  • Investigative and Law enforcement – these are the jobs that are often employed by government agencies such as the U.S. Postal Services, the Department of Justice, the Treasury Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The positions for this require their employees to guard property, patrol borders or be involved in operations that need highly technical intelligence.
  • Technical – these are jobs that involve their employees in support work such as Electronic and Computer Technology.
  • Clerical – these include a lot of varying jobs such as mail clerks, secretaries, information clerks, administrative assistants, and court reporters, among others.
  • Labor and Mechanical – these are civil jobs that include positions such as food preparation and service workers, mechanics, and maintenance and repair workers.
  • Unskilled – these are the jobs that are open to those that do not have enough skills or only have a small amount of training. Examples are janitors, housekeeping aides, and laundry workers. 

Format and Content

What is the test type for the exam?

Most exams are dominated by multiple-choice type questions, and it will last for several hours. The applicant will often be given a question booklet and an answer sheet, but there are several agencies, localities, and states that use computer version tests. Also, during the taking of the exam, an examiner will supervise.  

What is the scope of the Civil Services Examination?      

Since there is no uniform exam, then there wouldn’t necessarily be any uniform scope and content. There are varying test requirements and subjects that each job position might have. That is why it is crucial that the applicant must first research it. They can go to https://www.usajobs.gov/ to know more about job announcements. The announcement will indicate the instructions regarding the test. It will describe the kind of exam that will be given and the content areas and subjects that are covered in the written test.

A General Scope of the Civil Service Exam

There are different content and formats for the exam, but most civil service tests have a common scope. 

The Civil Service Exam Study Guide 2019 & 2020 shows that most exams cover these topics:

Section Description
Basic English Language This section involves subjects such as spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, and analogies.
Problem-Solving This section covers basic mathematical skills and recognition of patterns.
Interpersonal  This section contains questions regarding situations in a hypothetical workplace. The applicant will be asked, which is the most appropriate or effective response.
Clerical This section contains basic tasks in the office. It includes filing, reading charts, alphabetizing, verifying names, and completing forms, among others.

In the civil services examination, your verbal ability will be tested. This section tests your knowledge about word meanings and relationships. It will also have questions concerning how a word should be spelled correctly. It will also cover your ability to recognize grammatically incorrect sentences. Lastly, it contains items that determine your comprehension of written materials.

Moreover, there are questions that determine your arithmetic capabilities. Not all exams for civil servant jobs will have this section. It all depends on the kind of position you are applying for. Jobs that require this skill are cashiers, clerks, etc. Their understanding of topics such as graphs, tables, fractions, ratio,  and proportion will be tested. 

Hypothetical workplace situations will also be asked. As an applicant, one of the jobs of civil servants is to communicate with the public sector. They have to have the necessary skills for public relations or public education campaigns.

The clerical section, on the other hand, is considered an exam that requires its applicants to be quick and accurate. Often this section is closely timed than the others. The applicant shall be tested on their name and number checking, typing, and alphabetic filing. 

How is the exam scored?

Most civil service exams scores are on a scale of 100. The average passing score is 70. The number of points coincides with those you answered correctly, while wrong answers are not counted. If you have a passing score, you will be placed on the eligible list. The list is ranked by scores. So, those with the highest scores will be at the top and will be the first ones to be considered for any available jobs.   

What are the preparation methods for the civil service?

Method 1: You have to read the whole question. 

Test-takers often make the common mistake of not reading everything carefully. The time limit may seem daunting, but it is always best to be calm when taking the exam. You must read it down from the first word to the last. There might be trick questions that on first glance might seem familiar to you. Thus, it is always advisable to read it all fully. 

Method 2: You shouldn’t overthink it.

Normally, you might feel anxious and worried when taking the test. You might overthink a particular question because of your nervousness. It is best that you try to take in deep breaths. You have to reorient yourself and focus. Otherwise, you’ll end up panicking. Before taking the test, you can do the things that make you feel stress-free so that on test day, you’ll be able to take the exam with no worries.

Method 3: You should take note of the subtle negatives.

In most multiple-choice questions, there are many that make use of subtle negatives. For example, the meaning of a question might be reversed with words like except or not. So, if the question was something common like “What is included in…?” but then the question is reversed to “What is not included in…”  then it is an example of subtle negatives. Thus, as stated in the first method, always read the question carefully. 

Method 4: You can restate the question to understand it better.

If you have a hard time understanding a certain question, you can always rephrase it. This might help you answer it, or it might help you figure out how to approach the problem. Also, changing the words into something you can understand will help make the process easier for you.

Method 5: You must always remember that there are no patterns for the answers.

Some test-takers might think that they have the exam resolved through patterns. This is absolutely erroneous since the author of the questions will not resort to such methods. You should not rely on patterns or guesswork and instead study and prepare for it. You can take some civil service practice exams or civil service practice tests to help you through. By taking such study materials, you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with the content and format of the exam. 

Here are some practice questions that are taken from the book  Civil Service Exam Study Guide 2019 & 2020:

Basic English Language

For each question below, pick out the word that is spelled incorrectly:

      1. a. alliance
          b. interpret
          c. militery
          d. cylinder

      1. a. legitimate
          b. mecanical
          c. statue
          d. restaurant

      1. a. subsequent
          b. tenent
          c. naïve
          d. checked

Mathematics

1. How will the number 847.89632 be written if rounded to the nearest hundredth?

  1. 847.90
  2. 900
  3. 847.89
  4. 847.896

2. If Danny takes 48 minutes to walk 3 miles, how long should it take him to walk 5 miles maintaining the same speed?

  1. 32 min
  2. 64 min
  3. 80 min
  4. 96 min

3. What are all the factors of 12?

  1. 12, 24, 36
  2. 1, 2, 4, 6, 12
  3. 12, 24, 36, 48
  4. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the steps to become a civil servant?        

Step 1: You should take the Civil Service Exam. To take it, you must create an account at https://www.usajobs.gov/ and enter your basic information. 

Step 2: You should create a resume or upload one that you already made. You can have at least four that are catered to specific jobs that you want to apply in. 

Step 3: You can search for available jobs at the USAJOBS homepage.

Step 4: Once you find your desired job title, you can read the full job posting. The posting will include some of the following: Series and grade in the civil service system; Salary range; duties and benefits; required documents and other key requirements.

Step 5: Read the “Qualifications and Evaluations,” so you’ll know if you are qualified for the position. You should also complete the “Occupational Questionnaire.”    

Step 6: You should pay the appropriate application fee. It will be stated in the Job Announcement. You should also pass the necessary documents.

Step 7: You can then take the exam at a testing center.

Step 8: If you pass the exam, then you will be qualified as a candidate for employment in civil service jobs.

What is the eligibility for the civil service exams?

The eligibility varies, but there are standard requirements that most exams have. Most civil service exams require their applicants to be proficient in speaking, reading, and writing in English. They often require that the applicants should have certain educational or licensing requirements and that they be at least 18 years of age. Some states might also require their applicants to be a legal resident.

How many exams are held for the civil service exam in a year?

Most often, those who want to apply for a federal job have to look for available positions at Job Announcements. If one of the requirements is a civil service exam, then the applicant will be notified of the testing date and location of the exam if they do apply. Thus, the number of exams may vary, but it is safe to say that it might be offered continuously throughout the year.   

What is the difference between bureaucrats and civil servants?

The difference depends on the kind of work that they do and the location. Bureaucrats are civil servants, but they work in the ministry or the bureau and help frame policies, etc. Civil servants, on the other hand, are those that work in the district office, postal offices, and other government agencies. They also work for the public. 

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