Sunday, February 06, 2005

Statistics & Probability

If you are a person who finds near impossible odds to be daunting, then perhaps you ought to stop reading now!

According to an old post (scroll down to July 17th) on PrinceRoy's blog, the statistics for Foreign Service applicants can be quite overwhelming, to say the least. For a few years (even before 9-11), the State Department's Diplomatic Readiness Initiative (DRI) strove to plough lots of new recruits into the FS to shore up the losses incurred by outgoing retirees and to deal with the increased requirements put in place as a result of 9-11. Thus, they were giving two exams a year and had only about 500 slots to fill. PrinceRoy breaks down the 2002 stats thusly:

Takers of FSWE in 2002: 31442

Number who passed: 9258

Takers of FSOA in 2002: 6295

Number who passed: 1547

Those 1547 that passed the Oral Assessment (FSOA) were then subjected to background checks, medical checks and a Final Suitability Review, any of which can take them out of the running. The few successful candidates that make the cut are placed on the Hiring Register, ranked according to their FSOA score (plus extra points given for foreign language ability and military service). Employment offers are given from the top of the list down, so unless the OA score is relatively competitive (usually higher than the ICO cutoff scores), the name can remain on the list indefinitely. Well, 24 months, anyway, before it expires. Most successful candidates will already have begun fswe cycle again, just to keep in the running, until they get "the call".

The upside of these numbers is that the DRI has cessated, and only one exam is given each year, which could possibly lower the numbers in the overall applicant pool.

The downside, however, is that the DRI has still cessated, and the State Department has only about 250 positions to fill this year. Do the math.

But PrinceRoy cites these statistics lightly, and does give a bit of encouragement when he says "only around 500 of 31442 candidates eventually made it through; that's less than 2%. If I had known those odds the day I took the FSWE, I probably never would have bothered to show up. Just goes to show anything can happen, so don't give up!"

I think I can be in that 1-2%. Even if it takes me a few years. I'm determined to see, anyway.