Friday, June 10, 2011

Finalist Notification, Written Exam

From this moment on, you only have to beat out 20 other finalists. 40 finalists for 20 spots. The letter scheduled my online written exam in a little over 2 weeks from when I received the email. The interview was scheduled to be a week after the written exam. The Fellowship Foundation paid for the hotel right outside of D.C. and reimbursed our travel to and from the site. Under all of this was the finalist acceptance form, where you agree to participate and it suddenly also seems a bit more real. :) For the students who are abroad during this, they will be taking the interview over Skype.

The time slot for the written exam was given on the letter. Mine was right in the middle of finals which made the process for nervously studying all the more fun. The written exams vary greatly from student to student. I was tested on a domestic issue, while others at the interview recounted their essay question was over the Middle East. Thus, I can safely conclude there is no real way to be able to study for this exam since there is no limit to what may be included. I received an email later to add the private testing company to my Skype. They gave me the log in information but it would only be active during my time slot. Many of the finalists reported some small problems in terms of timeouts with the timer on the screen counting down the hour, but most were resolved. There is NO SPELL CHECK available for the essay. The key is to work quickly and not spend too long on the outline. A timer on the top of the screen will count down the minutes and seconds of this epic hour of your life. I was told to finish mine outside of the browser because my timer stopped working (not uncommon). Afterward, everyone felt as if they did okay but were worried about the time they lost having technical difficulties. A few were actually given more time, or another essay, because of the technical nuances. I worried way too much about this. It's really a test over if you can express yourself coherently and quickly in writing, which is a critical skill for all Foreign Service Officers.

After this, the next event is counting down for the actual interview. In my opinion, it's easier to get to hotel from the airport via the D.C. Metro. Google ahead of hand to see if it is easier to walk to the hotel from the nearest metro station. Ronald Reagan airport has a Metro station and Dulles will be getting one soon. Taxis are also an option since you will get reimbursed, but you still have to pay it all up front and it may be a bit cumbersome because of traffic. You'll have to tell the taxi driver to make a receipt for you. Carry cash because not all taxis take cards. Make sure to keep all receipts and metro stubs!

10 comments:

  1. I am in the process of preparing for my interview and essay. Were you given your essay question on the day of your test?

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    1. Yes, you receive the prompt right when the testing starts. My test was done with someone on Skype watching me, and you will do the writing online in an editor that is within the browser from a link that they give you. There was no spell check and the timer was at the top! Good luck. :)

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  2. Thank you! I'm getting more and more nervous about everything as the examination and interview draw closer!! How has being a Pickering Fellow been for you so far? How are the internship(s)?

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    1. I have loved it and the internship was great too! It's an organization like any other with fantastic opportunities and some day to day lows, haha. :) It has changed my life. I'm sorry I missed this comment. I am sure by now you have found out if you were selected. I hope you were, but even if, not coming this far speaks greatly of you and you can accomplish your dreams in other ways. :)

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  3. Hi Abi,

    Were you able to select among various topics or was it just one topic, no option to choose?

    Thanks!

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    1. It was only one topic, actually. It's kind of scary because you could get an essay prompt on an issue you know nothing about. For example, another Pickering got an essay entirely on a middle eastern country I do not know much about. They may or may not have asked him that question based on his academic interest in the middle east, but I cannot be sure. If it is random, and I would have gotten that topic, I would not been here. I had not studied the middle east as much as I should have. :) Make sure to study all the big issues of the day. You'll be fine.

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    2. Abi, thanks for your response! I appreciate all the valuable information you provided on the blog... money can't buy this ;) I heard back from the program and it looks like they may have changed things up. This year, we will have an option between 2 topics, thankfully.

      My interview follows the exam in the coming weeks. Any tips on that? This year, if you are not local, interviews are over Skype! I don't know if that's good or bad. Do you recall doing a brief presentation on your essay topic during your interview? Would you say the interview was more technical in terms of what you know or was it more of a way to judge your character? Any tips or advice for this nerve-racking process?

      Again, I'm so glad someone did a blog on this... thank YOU!

      Cheers,

      A Hopeful Fellow and (future) FSO

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    3. I am SOOO glad they added that option of another topic!

      I guess it depends on whether or not you're better at Skype interviews. There were a few people who did Skype interviews in my cohort if they were out of the country. I am unsure if they were at a disadvantage but at least now there is probably a lot more people on Skype, making it a bit more equal. I didn't do a presentation on my essay topic at all. I don't think the essay and interview will be related. The interview was definitely a way to judge character. There were even questions about "what would you do if..." and "when was the last time you...", "how would you contribute to", etc. It's definitely to get to know you, your creativity, your personality. They do want to know that you know something about the FS though, so that might be the only technical part, like tour length, etc, so you know what you're getting into and are sure of it, but not that much.

      I think the best thing, or what worked for me, was staying cool-headed, reminding myself that if I don't get this, it's not a big deal. In another blog post, I wrote about how I assumed I wouldn't get it so thought of this as practice! This made it so I was not nervous AT ALL. That's the sort of thing they want in an FSO, someone who will find ways, however you decide to do it, who won't crack under pressure. :) The interview is to get to know you, so there's nothing you need to worry about having to memorize. Do know what cone you want to be in and why, though. Breathe, meet the other finalists (and you're realize they're all pretty normal, mostly chill people and not superhuman).

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  4. Thanks for your response, Abi! I will definitely take all that into consideration. Hopefully, I can go in cool and level headed as well :)

    I know the essay topics will be very broad, but do you recall if they were argumentative or analytical? Anything like the GRE writing portion?

    Cheers,

    A Hopeful Fellow and (future) FSO

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    1. Mine at least was argumentative. I had to argue a side. I'm not sure about everyone else. I totally can't recall the GRE. :)

      Good luck!

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