Friday, April 14, 2006

Waiting, Revised...

Last year I felt the waiting for results was almost unbearable. However, after discovering I did not pass, the intervening time between receiving the results and signing up for the 2006 FS Candidacy cycle became ten times worse.

Following the exam, there is nervousness, some anxiety, and lots of conjecture. And you are not along; everyone is anxiously waiting together. Following those results, however, you've got two very different paths: joining those who will pass or those who did not.

Those who pass begin excitedly gearing up for the Oral Assessment (FSOA), and those left behind would either drift away (permanently or until the next cycle) or be hangers-on of sorts, eager to try again, yet secretly wishing they could have given the OA a go. Perhaps this time, perhaps next time.

In any event, I shan't make that mistake again. I'm going to relax and really enjoy the quiet ambiguity of these three months.

"My way is long, and the road is foggy foggy." — Burning Spear

Monday, April 10, 2006

FSWE v2.0

The second time sitting the FSWE was, for me, markedly different. The initial apprehension and uncertainty was gone, as I knew what to expect this time around. Procedurally, there were very few changes this year, most notably the admonition not to have water bottles present during the exam. We had the same proctor last year as this year, so I can't attribute it to site differences. The other significant change was in the time notification. This year the instructions announced that we were to be informed when fifteen and five minutes remained. Last year, the only warning was to be at five minutes, but she had unilaterally decided to also remind us at fifteen, which was greatly appreciated. I can't pretend that ACT altered their procedure based on my post last year, but I did find it a very welcome change. (Thank you BEX/ACT if you read this!)

The JK section came first, and the cone-specific segments were much more relevant than last year. It was during this phase that I had the oddest feeling, almost as if ACT had asked me what questions needed to be on the exam. I finished early (CON), and browsed through the other four sections. I might have been able to muddle through the ECON, and perhaps the POL, but the ADMIN and PD sections were unbelieveable. Hats off to those of you who braved those waters!

The second section was the Essay (as opposed to previously being last). I did not like any of the three prompts, and had to read through them two or three times before I felt confident enough to tackle one of them. I remembered my title, and also doublespaced this time (both good things), which essentially filled the booklet. I was pleased with the result, although I felt the structure to be a little odd. Instead of saying "A is true because of X, Y, & Z", it felt as though I had said "A can be true if X causes Y, then Z". But I did feel that I had addressed the issue and supported it well; however, we'll see soon enough if those Iowans agree. ;)

The BIO flowed smoothly. During the past year I found myself involved in a large number of situations that I felt might adequately qualify as 'bio material'; then again, my experience last year probably just helped attune me to what was required. Overall, I was quite comfortable with this section.

The EE felt as though it had been reinvented. Last year it seemed like I was reading a series of encyclopedic type articles and reports; this year it felt like there was a clear and decided focus on International issues, the State Department and/or Foreign Service, which made it feel decidedly more relevant. The use of abbreviations, and SD jargon, speechwriting, etc. was a nice touch. One could do fine if they knew nothing about the State Department, but a familiarity with it would certainly benefit.

Overall, I found my second experience to be much more relaxing and enjoyable than the first. During the intervening 24-48 hours, my confidence has waned somewhat, primarily due to my obsession with the handful I wasn't sure about (and guessed wrongly). But I'm ignoring the ones that I didn't have to ponder, which more than tip the balance back in my favor (barring careless mistakes), so I remain pleased with my performance.

Stats: there were 38 people registered to take it at our venue, and only 16 showed up. Out of the ten I spoke with afterwards, only a few had taken it before, and only two had joined the Yahoo Groups at one time or another. (ZAC - you need to proselytize harder!) There were three CON, two POL, two PD, two MGMT, and one ECON; a nice showing across all cones.

So how'd you do?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Track-Specific Knowledge Areas on the FSWE

According to the Registration Guide, "In addition to the general knowledge areas, which are equally important throughout the Foreign Service, the job analysis identified other broad knowledge areas that are more specific to each of the five career tracks. They vary in importance among the career tracks, corresponding to differences in the types of job knowledge required in each of the five tracks." (pg. 40)

"U.S. and International Political and Economic Principles, Issues, and History. This knowledge area encompasses types of knowledge that are typically acquired through reading and formal study. It includes topics such as a basic understanding of political science, knowledge of comparative politics, a general understanding of international political and economic issues, and a basic understanding of U.S. labor history."
Correlation to cone (higher numbers indicate increasing relevence): Con-1; Econ-2; Mgmt-2; Pol-3; PD-1.

"U.S. Government and Non-Governmental Agencies and Organizations and Interactions with the State Department. This knowledge area encompasses a general knowledge of the general scope and functioning of governmental and non-governmental agencies and other organizations having particular relevance to the operations of the State Department. Examples include the U.S. military and intelligence community, the White House, and multilateral organizations such as the United Nations."
Correlation to cone: Con-2; Econ-1; Mgmt-1; Pol-3; PD-3.

"U.S. Diplomacy, Democratic Philosophy, and Educational Practices. This knowledge area encompasses an understanding of the purposes and practice of U.S. diplomacy, an understanding of the goals and implementation of democratic systems, and knowledge of the function and structure of the educational system in the United States and issues relevant to civic education."
Correlation to cone: Con-1; Econ-1; Mgmt-1; Pol-1; PD-3.

"U.S. Policy Issues and Formulation of Public and Foreign Policy. This knowledge area encompasses a general understanding of policy issues in areas such as economics and commerce, security and defense, and human rights; a general knowledge of U.S. laws related to foreign policy; and a general understanding of policy development and implementation procedures and processes."
Correlation to cone: Con-1; Econ-2; Mgmt-1; Pol-2; PD-3.

"Legislation and Laws Related to Foreign Service Issues. This knowledge area encompasses a general understanding of significant legislative acts affecting government practices and foreign relations, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act, Freedom of Information Act and others; and knowledge of laws and customs reflecting U.S. culture, such as U.S. family law."
Correlation to cone: Con-3; Econ-1; Mgmt-1; Pol-1; PD-1.

"International Economics, Finance, and Commerce. This knowledge area encompasses a broad understanding of issues, laws, procedures and operations related to international economics, finance, and commerce. It includes topics such as developmental, transitional, and sectoral economics; international finance; U.S. trade, trade theory, and foreign investment; and the impact of significant factors such as environmental, science, and technology issues."
Correlation to cone: Con-1; Econ-3; Mgmt-1; Pol-1; PD-1.

"Administrative Methods and Procedures. This knowledge area encompasses a broad knowledge of procedures and methods in areas such as accounting and budgeting, inventory and property management, routine facilities construction and maintenance, administrative control procedures, procurement practices, and procedures and methods for time management and project planning."
Correlation to cone: Con-1; Econ-1; Mgmt-3; Pol-1; PD-1.

"Interpersonal Communication and Interpersonal Behavior. This knowledge area encompasses a general knowledge of dealing effectively with others in both individual and group settings. It includes topics such as techniques for effective interpersonal communication, group dynamics, an understanding of cross-cultural issues, negotiation and conflict resolution methods, and recognition of motivations for dishonest or fraudulent behavior."
Correlation to cone: Con-3; Econ-1; Mgmt-2; Pol-1; PD-2.

"Information and Media Resources. This knowledge area encompasses general knowledge of the U.S. media and its influence on culture and politics, as well as knowledge of other information resources, such as the Internet."
Correlation to cone: Con-1; Econ-1; Mgmt-1; Pol-1; PD-2.

Since I am applying for the CON track, I will focus mainly on that. If anyone has has relevant links for the other tracks (cones), please post them in the comments.

Significant Legislative Acts: Immigration & Naturalization Act (INA), Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and various aspects of U.S. Family Law, among other related legislation.

Interpersonal Communication & Behaviour: "interpersonal communication, group dynamics, cross-cultural issues, negotiation & conflict resolution methods, and recognition of motivations for dishonest or fraudulent behavior." These are tougher to prepare for. The theories can be learned, but much relies on experience and common sense.

Best of Luck,