Since my ‘retirement’ from Brussels life, I’ve been put in touch with various people wanting to know about how to go about getting a job in the EU institutions, so thought it might be worth digging and directing them towards some of my old blog posts on the subject. Whilst the whole thing wasn’t for me, in the end, which is the conclusion I actually came to by the time I got on to the reserve list but then decided to give it a go anyway, I’m always happy to help others who feel it might be something they want to do. So… here’s part 1 of the saga!
The Story So Far
Having decided a year ago to make a commitment to getting a job in the European Commission, I realised I had some serious work to do if I was going to be ready for the EPSO Competitions this year. I started researching everything I could about the various stages of the process, and what competitions I would be eligible to apply for. For 2010-11, my options were Administrator (AD5-7) in the field of European Public Administration and Assistant in the secretarial field (AST1), so I applied for these competitions as soon as they were announced.
I knew in November 2010 when I applied for the AST1 competition that the first stage of tests – th computer-based verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning tests, along with the secretarial skills test for AST1, would take place in London from January.
I had done a bit of research into the tests, having bought ‘The Ultimate EU Test Book’ by András Baneth and signed up to the Arboreus Online EU Training website (the only two reliable sources of information on the EPSO tests I have ever found) and began practising. I was most concerned about the abstract reasoning questions as I’d never done anything like that before. Also, the tests were in my second language (French), which at that point was more than a little rusty!
The Struggle, the Efforts and the Lessons
Over the next couple of months I tried to practise some questions every day, timing myself, in order to get faster and more accurate. In reality, I found that trying to find a full hour every single day to practise was just too difficult and a bit unrealistic. Instead, I decided to try to do half an hour in my lunch break at least three times a week, along with spending some time reading French newspapers online to aid my French verbal reasoning score.
I did find that my scores improved, but not by as much as I needed them to. Really, the aim is to get over 80% of questions correct in under the time limit, and the best I could do was 75% in just over the time limit by the time I took the AST1 tests.
On reflection, I think I was well prepared for the AST1 tests, as I had been practising questions at AD level, which is why I think I passed. When I got to the Prometric test centre in London, I found that I was able to confidently answer the Verbal and Numerical reasoning questions in well under the time limit – which is reflected by the fact that I scored 19/20 and 9/10 respectively.
However, the abstract reasoning questions were a bit different from the ones I had been expecting, which threw me somewhat, and I only scored 5/10. However, the scores for Numerical and Abstract reasoning are aggregated, so I still scored over the pass mark. The secretarial skills tests, though not intellectually taxing, were still pretty difficult. The accuracy and precision test in particular was incredibly pressurised time-wise, and I hadn’t been able to practice this so it felt very stressful.
My overall mark was 69.33/100 – still not the 80% I was after – but it was good enough with my skills, qualifications and experience to get me through to the assessment centre in Brussels.
Assistant vs Administrator Exams
It was a different story, however, in terms of the AD5/AD7 CBT tests. The questions were harder than the ones I had been practising, even though the fact that they were in my main language didn’t make it any easier. In fact I found the real situational judgement test was quite different from what I was expecting.
Anyway, I did not achieve the pass mark, having only scored 4/10 on both the Numerical and Abstract reasoning tests and reaching an overall score of 59.342/80; I needed at least 61.5/80 to be in the lower half of the top 20% of candidates at AD5 in the European Public Administration profile, and actually around 70/80 to be selected to go forward to the assessment centre stage.
So – whilst I decided to give my practice questions and prep for March 2012 (AD competition) a short break, I had to get ready for the AST1 Assessment Centre on 6th June in Brussels!
(to be continued…)