FSOT English Expression Review

The Foreign Service is certainly an exciting career. Whether candidates vie for a consular, management, economic, public diplomacy or political career, there’s plenty of exciting opportunities. Candidates interested in this career must take and pass the Foreign Service exam, a test that assesses several different skills.


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The exam has four categories, one of which is the English Expression portion of the test. This area assesses a candidate’s writing and language skills. It’s an important skill needed for this job. This guide provides an overview of that portion of the exam and recommends an excellent study guide to help you prepare.

What does the English Expression area of the Foreign Service exam cover?

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This portion of the test assesses a candidate’s writing and language ability with an eye toward report writing and editing.  The English Expression area assesses skills in English grammar, sentence and paragraph organization and structure, punctuation, and writing strategy.

Candidates will likely see questions on sentence structure, which includes selecting sentences that meet the standard conventions of written English; editing sentences so they don’t contain grammatical, punctuation or other errors; sentence correction; paragraph reorganization and revision to make the meaning clearer.

In addition to the English Expression section of the test, candidates will also face questions on Situational Judgment and Job Knowledge. Candidates will also write an essay.

How many questions are on the English Expression portion of the test?

There are 65 questions in this part of the exam.

How much time do I have to finish this section?

Candidates have 50 minutes to finish the English Expression portion.

Do I have to pay to take the test?

Yes. Candidates must pay $5 to take the entire Foreign Service exam.

How do I know if I’m eligible to take the Foreign Service exam?

United States citizens must be between the ages of 20 to 59 at the time they register to take the test.

When can candidates take the test?

The Foreign Service exam is available during three testing windows each year. Generally, the exam is available for one week each in February, June, and October.  Candidates can register to take the exam about five weeks before the test window.

Can I take the test in my home city or state?

You should be able to. The State Department has contracted with a private company to administer the test, and the company has hundreds of testing centers across the United States. Certain military installations may also offer the test.

What time should I arrive at the test center on the day of my exam?

Make sure to get to the test center at least 30 minutes ahead of your exam time. Anyone who arrived late may not be able to take the test.

What identification will I need on test day?

Please bring a piece of state or government-issued identification.

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Can I bring personal items, like a jacket, into the test room?

No. There are strict rules against bringing personal items into the test center or room. For example, candidates can’t bring mobile phones into the test center, and they must remove sweaters, jackets and the like before going into the test room.

I’ve completed the Foreign Service exam.  When will I receive my results?

You should expect to receive your results about two weeks after the test window closes.

I found out that I failed the test. What are the rules for taking the test again?

Anyone who fails the test can retake the Foreign Service exam provided they wait at least 12 months before doing so.

Now that I’ve passed the Foreign Service exam, what comes next?

Passing the exam and all four of its components is just one of the steps candidates must meet to become a member of the Foreign Service. But it’s the first big step because if you don’t pass the exam, you can’t move on. Candidates will still need to submit an essay, undergo an oral assessment, undergo a panel review, and secure medical and security clearances.

This is the career I want. What are the study materials that can best help me prepare?

Mometrix has the study materials you need. This is a high-pressure test — the English Expression portion gives candidates less than one minute to answer each question — so you need the best. Our study guide includes video tutorials in which one of our professionals show you how to apply what you’ve learned on the day of your test.

You can augment the study guide learning with our flashcards. These cards provide easy-to-understand answers to complex questions. These are the study materials that can help you prepare for one of the most challenging tests of your life.