Monday, January 18, 2010

On Cones, Tests and Interns

Happy MLK day. I am using my day off to catch up on some studying, practice tests and writing an intern plan for "Red" and "Blondie's" company. Hopefully after I finish up the FSOT (Foreign Serive Officer Test) I will have time to play a more active role.

I would like to take a few minutes and explain exactly what the Foreign Service is, what "cone" I am choosing, and how the test is formatted.

First, what the Foreign Service is. I am essentially applying to become a diplomat. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 Foreign Service Officers employed by the State Department, organized into five different "cones" or specialties. They are as follows: Economic, Public Diplomacy, Political, Management and Consular. I've chosen Political.

The main duties of the Political cone are to follow political events within the host country and send any developments up the chain of command. Also, a political FSO (Foreign Service Officer) will communicate official statements from the U.S. government to host country officials.

A successful political FSO needs have reliable contacts within the host country, able provide consistent and accurate information; travel widely and understand local language and customs; be able to negotiate and communicate effectively with host country officials.

For more information check out the State Department's website.

The FSOT is the first step in the process, after the initial application, towards becoming a FSO. The FSOT has four sections comprising of one essay, a job knowledge portion, EE or English expression and a short answer/multiple choice biographical section.

To say the test is hard would be an understatement. Known as the test that can't be studied for or the Jeopardy test, the FSOT is a comprehensive examination of politics, history, the supreme court, congress, the president, management, economics, trade relations, popular culture, grammar, world history, geography, math and statistics.

With such a large swath of subjects to study, picking and choosing what books to read is crucial to passing the FSOT. I've opted for a mixture of text books including English grammar, essay writing, organizational management, AP world history, Oxford's history of the 20th century and two FSOT exam prep books. To supplement this I am also reading Kissinger's Diplomacy, listening to POTUS, NPR and BLOOMBERG news, reading the Economist, Foreign Policy and renting two 5 part documentaries on the Constitution and the Supreme Court. Throw in websites like, and the invaluable Yahoo group dedicated to the FSOT, and I feel as though I am covering my bases pretty well.

I will receive my testing date via email sometime in late January and most likely will take the exam towards the end of February. Until then it is nose-to-the-grindstone studying.

Dutch Man


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