The process by which the Department of State assesses/examines applicants for Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) Foreign Service positions differs from the process for other Foreign Service Specialist positions. The five DS Foreign Service positions are:

The assessment/examination process varies only slightly for each DS specialty.

Applications are accepted only on the basis of an open Vacancy Announcement advertised in www.usajobs.gov and www.careers.state.gov. Application packages must be complete and submitted by the closing date in accordance to the instructions in the “How To Apply” section of the Vacancy Announcement to receive consideration for the position. In addition, candidates must meet the minimum qualifications and score at or above the cut score to be invited to the assessments.

Special Agents

Special Agent applicants must first access the vacancy announcement and read it in its entirety. An electronic link will direct the applicant to an on-line examination which consists of two parts: a writing skills assessment and a multiple-choice component. The exam takes approximately one hour and the applicant is advised immediately as to results.

If successful and the requisite “cut score” is attained (“cut scores” vary from year to year and are dictated by the number of candidates DS is authorized to hire), the applicant has met the minimum qualifications as outlined in the vacancy announcement, and submitted a complete application package by the closing date of the announcement, the applicant will be contacted by DS Recruitment Staff and arrangements made for the Board of Examiners (BEX) Examination/Assessment. Testing is conducted in a DS facility in Arlington, VA, and at other locations in the continental United States.

The BEX Examination consists of four components and applicants must be successful in each phase to proceed to the next. The first two components examine the applicant’s skill set through a written, multiple choice examination followed by an oral examination. The multiple-choice examination is 20 minutes in which 32 questions must be answered. The oral exam provides the applicant the opportunity to discuss examples of the type of experience claimed on the written exam. The oral examination is administered by two DS Special Agents and lasts for 25 minutes.

If successful, the applicant moves on to the third phase (Case Study) and is required to write a report based upon a scenario. Several problems are outlined in a written document and the applicant must write a report in which he/she presents the solution to each problem and properly prioritizes the sequence in which each problem is to be addressed. The report is written utilizing a laptop computer and printed for review by the Examination Team. Candidates are given 50 minutes to complete this. The finished report is graded on the basis of writing skills, judgment, and information integration. Writing skills include proper grammar, spelling, logic, organization, vocabulary, focus, flow, and cohesion. Applicants must also demonstrate an understanding of the broader implications of the problems presented and the judgment to properly prioritize their solution.

If successful, the applicant then moves to the fourth and final phase – the BEX Oral Examination. This is a 45-50 minute process conducted by a member of the Foreign Service Board of Examiners and a DS Special Agent. Several areas are addressed including motivation for the position; cross-cultural experiences; objectivity and integrity; inter-personal skills and breath of knowledge. The latter component includes questions on American history; the U.S. Government; American culture, and current events. The examination also includes three scenarios in which the applicant must present a solution to the problems presented. Judgment, leadership, resourcefulness, organizational skills, and initiative are some of the criteria examined. Throughout the examination, the applicant is graded upon oral communications skills and composure.

Security Engineering Officers

SEO applicants are not required to take an on-line examination, but must apply online to an open vacancy announcement.

Candidates who submit a complete application package by the closing date of the announcement and meet the minimum qualifications and cut score will be invited to the written and oral assessments. Testing is conducted in a facility in Arlington, VA. Subject matter is specific to engineering/technical problems and issues. All candidates must pass the written multiple-choice questionnaire and first oral interview to proceed to the case study. If successful in the case study, they will proceed to the BEX Oral Examination as outlined in the Special Agent section.

Diplomatic Couriers

DC applicants are not required to take an on-line examination, but must apply online to an open vacancy announcement.

Candidates who submit a complete application package by the closing date of the announcement and meet the minimum qualifications and cut score will be invited to the written and oral assessments. Testing is conducted in a facility in Arlington, VA. All candidates must pass the written multiple-choice questionnaire and first oral interview to proceed to the written essay. Candidates will be provided a list of essay topics to choose from The essay is graded upon the same writing skills as outlined in the SA Case Study. Forty-five minutes are allowed for this portion. If successful in the written essay, they will proceed to the BEX Oral Examination as outlined in the Special Agent section.

Security Technical Specialists

STS applicants are not required to take an on-line examination, but must apply online to an open vacancy announcement.

Candidates who submitted a complete application package by the closing date of the announcement and meet the minimum qualifications and cut score will be invited to the written and oral assessments. Testing is conducted in a facility in Arlington, VA. Subject matter is specific to technical problems and issues. All candidates must pass the written multiple-choice questionnaire and first oral interview to proceed to the case study. If successful in the case study, they will proceed to the BEX Oral Examination as outlined in the Special Agent section.

Security Protective Specialists

SPS applicants are not required to take an on-line examination, but must apply online to an open vacancy announcement.

Candidates who submit a complete application package by the closing date of the announcement meet the minimum qualifications and cut score will be invited to the written and oral assessments. The first phase is an essay and is graded upon the same writing skills as outlined in the SA Case Study above. Forty-five minutes are allowed. If successful, the applicant moves to the second and final phase, the BEX Oral exam, which is similar to the examination described above in the SA section. Testing is conducted in a facility in Arlington, VA.

Conditional Offer of Employment

Applicants who are success in all phases of the written and oral assessments will be given a conditional offer of employment. At the time of the conditional offer, candidates will be provided information regarding the submission of security clearance forms online through eQIP and medical clearance requirements.

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