Friday, February 04, 2005

FSWE Basics

I've downloaded the 2005 fswe study guide, and gave it a quick once-over. I'll probably do the actual practice test in late February or early March. That will give me some time to do some preliminary studying, as well as time to fine-tune my studying based on my scores before facing the actual exam in April.

There are four sections: Job Knowledge, English Expression, Biographical Inventory, as well as the Essay questions. The essays are scored only if the three other sections pass a predetermined cutoff score; however, to pass the entire exam, you also have to have a minimum score on your essay(s).

The Job Knowledge section is essentially open to anything that has happened during the past century: treaties, economics, psychology, logic, science, technology, politics, current events, geography, trade, wars, ethnic groups, sociology, anthropology, government, mathematics, etc. This is probably the most difficult section of the exam to prepare for as it spans such a wide-ranging field of topics and information. Either you know it or you don't. Some of the questions, however, can be answered by deduction: these cannot be the answer, therefore it must be (c). You can, however focus on your perceived weak spots to try to improve the probability of doing well. My weakness is economics, but I've got a simple Principles of Economics: Crash Course by Salvatore, et al, that should suffice. As far as geography goes, I'm fairly competent, although I'll review Africa and Eastern Eurasia.

English Expression should be fairly obvious: grammer, parts of speech, punctuation, synonyms, definitions, tense, etc. From what I've heard, most people have found this to be the most stressful/difficult part of the exam. The most recomended book to use for refreshing your English skills is The Elements of Style by Strunk and Williams. I may review a bit, depending on the results of the practice test, but I've always been confident in my English skills.

The Biographical Inventory asks a variety of questions about things you have done, things that you may or may not do, and how others might perceive you. There are no wrong answers here, apparently, but to save stress, it has been recommended that you spend a little time thinking over your occupation and lifestyle for the past several years and think carefully about the daily activity involved as well as any big "projects" that you might have done or assisted with.

The Essay section is the most critical, as you can not pass the test without passing the essay portion. You are asked to write one or two essays (follow the instructions!) from a list of several questions, and are graded on grammer, punctuation, spelling, train-of-thought, organization and cohesiveness, as well has how well you defend your position(s).

Overall it can appear quite daunting, but if one has had a well-rounded education, stayed awake in class, pays attention to what they have been doing, and can formulate and defend an argument, it shouldn't be too bad. Get a good nights sleep before the exam and eat a healthy breakfast!