How to Pass the Civil Service Exam

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
While there is no longer a singular civil service exam in the United States, some government jobs do require candidates to pass a civil service assessment. Read on for insight into these exams and tips on how to pass them.

Ace Your Civil Service Exam

The United States discontinued its one-size-fits-all civil service exam more than 30 years ago; today's civil service assessments - provided by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's USA Hire program - are tailored to individual positions. If you are a candidate for a job that requires one of these tests, passing it will require several steps:

  • Make sure you know which specific test you will be taking.
  • Use the right study and prep materials to master content knowledge.
  • Refresh test-taking best practices for the type of exam you have to take.

Learn About Your Test

If you apply for a job that requires a civil service test and it indicates that you have the minimum qualifications for the position, you will receive an email invitation to take the qualifying exam.

What Prep Materials Should You Use?

Your primary resource when preparing to study for your exam should be the prep manual provided for your specific exam. This manual will outline test-taking tips, a detailed description of the exam's content, and a practice test with explanations of correct answers.

While most civil service exams are unique to particular jobs, all are typically designed to measure aptitude in key subjects, along with skills such as teamwork and problem solving. So, along with reviewing the information and using the study guides specific to your test, it may be helpful to refresh general skills measured on all exams., for example, offers a variety of online courses and lessons to help you prepare. To see some of the resources that are offered, check out:

What Study and Test-Taking Skills Do I Need?

Knowing what to study is half the battle in passing a civil service exam. The other half is utilizing effective study and test-taking techniques.

Online Test-Taking Strategies

All USA Hire civil service exams are delivered online, so make sure you use best practices for online test-taking. These include:

  • Carefully reading questions.
  • Being aware of time and not spending too long on any one question.
  • Self-checking your work before submitting your exam.

Depending on the test you are taking, you may face multiple-choice questions or questions requiring essay answers. Check your exam description to see what types of questions you'll have to answer, and make sure you know the best strategies for answering them. For help, offers resources such as:

Study Tips

Strong study habits are critical to preparing for any exam, including a civil service exam. You should create a study guide that outlines your prep time and make sure you manage your time effectively, so you are able to stick to it. These short lessons can help:

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