Foreign Service Officer Language Test Explained

Foreign Service Officer Language Test Explained

If you didn’t know, being fluent in a foreign language can give you extra points for the registry, if you make it that far in the FSO selection process. Although it is only a couple of points, those points can be critical in helping you to get a job as a Foreign Service Officer. Please remember that just because you are entered into the registry, doesn’t mean you will become an FSO. I know plenty of people who were placed on the registry and never made it.Therefore, if you are fluent in a language, then it is imperative that you take the Foreign Service Officer Language test so that you can have a recorded score. Your score will depict how many points you will receive, so it is vital that you do as much as possible to get as high of a score as possible.

Therefore, if you are fluent in a language, then it is imperative that you take the Foreign Service Officer Language test so that you can have a recorded score. Your score will depict how many points you will receive, so it is vital that you do as much as possible to get as high of a score as possible.

 

Two Forms of the Test

While there are articles by the State Department on these Foreign Service Officer Language tests, their explanation of the process and the scoring methods are poorly explained. You can find the two listed below:1. http://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/officer/test-process (

1. http://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/officer/test-process (scroll to the bottom)
2. http://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/lna/consular/language-tests

If you just checked those two sources of information, then you’ll know what I am talking about when I say that they are extremely confusing. So, let me break them down for you.  You have two methods in which to acquire points:

  1. 1. Take a Telephone interview and receive a grade of 3 or higher in the following languages and you will receive an extra .17 points.
  2. If you are proficient in either Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi, Dari, Farsi, Pashto, Urdu or Korean, then you only need to acquire a level 2 in the telephone interview and can go on to get more points by passing the Speaking and Reading test at the Foreign Service Institute in VA. If you get a 3 in speaking and a 2 in reading, then you’ll receive a total of .38. If you receive a 2 speaking and a 1 reading, then you’ll receive a total of .25.  However, if you receive a score less than that, you will not receive any points for the telephone interview. Some would think this is a gamble, however, if you scored a 3 in speaking on the phone interview but a 1 in person, then it probably means you cheated during the phone interview. So, don’t worry about that.

Here are two examples so as to hammer the point:

Tom speaks Spanish fluently so he takes the phone interview and gets a 4. However, because Spanish isn’t one of the 8 mentioned, Tom can’t get any more points and will receive a total of .17.

I speak Mandarin Chinese, so I took the phone interview and got a 3. Then I took the in-person test, and got a 3 in speaking and a 1 in reading (reading Chinese is pretty difficult). Therefore, I only got .25 because my reading wasn’t high enough to qualify for the .38. ☹

What Do the Foreign Service Officer Language Test Scores Mean?

You’ll be hard pressed to find a concrete answer to that. But based on my experience, you can describe them as follows:

0 = You know a couple of words
1 = You can string some words together and form simple sentences. Sort of like a native 4-year-old
2 = You can form basic paragraphs and community necessities. Sort of like a middle schooler or high schooler.
3 = You can have political conversations and high-level discussions on the subject with little to no mistakes.
4 = You can have doctorate level discussions and basically can translate for high officials.


 
 

Things You Should Know About the Foreign Service Officer Language Test

Here are a couple of things you should know about the test:

1. You can only get credit for one language. So, if you know two languages, it doesn’t help point-wise, that you take both tests. Try to figure out which one will get you the most points. Is one of them one of the 8 listed above?

2. If you opt to do the in-person test, you will have to pay out of pocket to go to Virginia and will not be reimbursed.

Conclusion

The Foreign Service Officer Language test is actually quite difficult and while the points don’t sound like much, understand that they can be critical and worth the extra effort (and even the forking out of cash to do the in-person test as well). Just make sure you are prepared.

Leave a Reply

Close