PolyWogg’s (Completely Informal and Totally Unofficial) Guide to Competing for Jobs in the Canadian Federal Government
There are six tests offered by the Public Service Commission for Administrative Support positions that hiring managers can choose to use to assess candidates. They can choose none, one or several, totally up to the hiring manager. Costs are charged back to the department requesting the tests.
The first test option is called Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation Test (GSPAT-120) and is 75 questions in 45 minutes, with a pass mark of 60%. It is a general literacy test equivalent to about Grade 10 of high school. As per the test title, they test all three areas. For each area, the question format is the same. They give you a sentence with four areas highlighted and you have to either identify an error (choices 1-4) or say no errors (#5). For those who have done the written test for a Second Language Examination, the premise and format is relatively the same, except in your native language. Your best preparation is a review of the sample questions on the PSC website although the actual test may be harder than the examples. In addition, you can also find multiple sites with general grammar rules to review (simply by searching in Google).
The second available test is the General Competency Test: Level 1 (GCT1). There are 50 questions in 1 hour and 45 minutes, with a ridiculously low pass mark of 36%. It tests basic reasoning for written questions, number problems and logic. The written questions test your understanding of the meaning of a paragraph. By contrast, number problems are simple situations where you have to read the test and calculate something (prices, overtime, etc.). Note that while some people may think the number problems are about math, it is actually more reading and understanding what it is saying than testing your math skills. For example, if the question is about the prices of apples and oranges, and then says how many can you buy if you have $10, the math is so simple as to be almost irrelevant. What they are testing is that you understand how two things work together (two prices) with a third variable (total budget). Most people could do the math part of it in their head, so it is mostly just a reading comprehension question to see if you understand what it says to do a simple calculation with the information. Finally, there are logic questions. Again, note that the logic questions are not really like the classic logic problems you may have seen in magazines where they tell you a bunch of things and you have to figure out who is the father of which children and which house they live in on which street. Instead, it is more reading comprehension again where the paragraph might give you a couple of rules to understand, and then tell you a situation where you figure out which rule applies. For example, it might tell you that there’s one rule if you have a car, another if you have a truck, and another if you have a van, and then give you a situation where the person has a truck and ask you to apply the rule. The good news is that there is a full practice test available on the PSC website, but note that actual exam may be harder than the samples and practice test. In addition, if you want more practice, you can find sample online sections for GMAT and GRE exams for university and college that have similar sections, albeit often much harder.
There are then four inter-related tests of your office skills:
- Office Skills Test (OST-200);
- Office Skills Test – (Filing-201);
- Office Skills Test – (Checking-203); and,
- Office Skills Test – (Following Direction-206).
The first office test, Office Skills Test (OST-200), is a general overview of the other three, while the individual three simply go in more depth on single issues. As a general overview test, it has five sub-tests of 15 questions each, with varying amounts of time for each, with a total of 47 minutes overall, and a simple pass mark of 50%. The test is designed to test speed and accuracy in clerical tests, and has these five sub-components:
- Filing — tests your ability to sort things into alphabetical, numerical, and chronological order (4 minutes);
- Math — tests your ability to handle basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (13 minutes);
- Verification — checking the accuracy of one list against a master list (3 minutes);
- Vocabulary — matching words to correct meaning (5 minutes); and,
- Following directions — applying instructions to a situation involving a calendar and a list of information items (22 minutes);
Your best preparation is a review of the samples and practice test on the PSC website, but note that the actual test may be harder than the examples.
The next test, the Office Skills Test – (Filing-201), goes into more depth than the overview test above, with 25 questions in 25 minutes, and again with a ridiculously low pass mark of 36%. As with the overview test, they are testing your ability to sort things into alphabetical, numerical and chronological order. As such, the best preparation is a simple review of the samples on the PSC website (including for the Overview test too), but note that the actual test may be harder than the examples.
Similarly, the Office Skills Test – (Checking-203), also has 25 questions but with only 20 minutes to complete them, and again a low pass mark of 36%. As with the overview test, you are comparing information between two sets of data/lists. As such, the best preparation is a simple review of the samples on the PSC website (including for the Overview test too), but note that the actual test may be harder than the examples.
The last available test is the Office Skills Test – (Following Direction-206), which has 20 questions in 30 minutes, with a similarly low pass mark of 35%. As with the overview test, they’ll provide you with some basic info (calendar, lists) and you’ll have to follow the instructions to apply the rules to the data you have on the lists. As such, the best preparation is a simple review of the samples on the PSC website (including for the Overview test too), but note that the actual test may be harder than the examples.