Assuming you make it past the application stage, written exams are common for many competitions, and your preps can be divided into two tracks — what to write and how to write.

TRACK 1: What to write

I noted in the previous chapter that a statement of merit (i.e. the job poster) has multiple elements including eligibility (already addressed), experiences (already addressed), knowledge, abilities and personal suitability. For a written exam, the focus is on testing approximately 5% of your essential experiences, 85-90% of knowledge, and 10% of abilities. How does it do that?

Let’s focus on the largest component, which is knowledge. I’ll use an EC example as it is the simplest to understand. Generally speaking, there are likely to be three possible knowledge “elements” in the poster:

  1. Knowledge of broad Government of Canada policies and priorities;
  2. Knowledge of the Department’s specific mandate or its current policy or program priorities; or,
  3. Knowledge of something specific to the policy area relevant to the position.

In practice, this might read like:

Knowledge:

K1. Knowledge of Government of Canada’s priorities;

K2. Knowledge of Canada’s labour market trends and issues;

K3. Knowledge of ESDC’s mandate, programs and priorities; and,

K4. Knowledge of the decision-making process in Government for policies and programs.

Assets:

AK1. Knowledge of process for policy consultations with stakeholders

Now, as you’ll recall from an earlier chapter, the competition process has a double-edge sword — the hiring manager has to test you on every element of the poster (for Knowledge, Abilities, and Personal Suitability) AND can only test you on those elements. Which means you know at some point in the process you are going to be asked about GoC priorities, labour market trends, ESDC’s mandate / programs / priorities, decision-making processes, and (potentially) policy consultation process. Preparations for this are a lot like preparing for a test in school — you study, you memorize, you spit it back on during the test.

While Knowledge can be tested at the interview stage, most EC competitions will test you through a written test. Partly for another reason — almost every EC position also will have a requirement in the Abilities section about the ability to “communicate in writing”, so they’ll test if you can communicate in writing i.e. give you a written test.

So let’s assume I wanted to give you a single question on the written exam to test K1-K3. How would I do that? How about:

Assume you have a new Director in your group. She has asked you to prepare a background memo for her to help get herself up to speed, and the current state of play of your files. Write a memo (aka Ability to communicate in writing) to her giving the current state of the labour market (aka K2), and how it relates to broad Government of Canada priorities (aka K1) and more specifically to ESDC’s current mandate, programs and priorities (K3). The maximum length for the memo is three pages and you have two hours to complete the exam.

If you were an AS applying for a finance-related position, the poster might say:

Knowledge:

K1. Knowledge of administrative procedures in ESDC related to financial approvals;

K2. Knowledge of broader GoC legislation and regulations related to finance;

In a written test, you might then see the following question:

Write a short email to your new Director outlining the procedures in the Department for obtaining approvals for at least three different types of financial expenditures (aka K1) and explain the relevant section of the Financial Administration Act that corresponds to the approval authority (aka K2).

Of course, the little clues (like aka K1, K2) wouldn’t be there, I just added them so you can see the links.

If you are not an EC and look at the first one, you might think “holy cow, that’s impossible!”. Except it’s the same thing ECs do every time they write a memo. Not quite so explicitly, but a lot of those elements are there every time.

Equally, if you’re not an AS dealing with finance, you might freak out with the reference to the Financial Administration Act, except anyone dealing with that type of file will know it’s a bit of coded language to say “tell me about s.32, s.33, and s.34 signoffs” (three standard signoff clauses for different types of expenditures).

Which is why I said above that the written test also partly informally tests your experience elements — if you haven’t done real finance before (i.e. you weren’t really a duck), you’re going to likely bomb that section pretty fast. If you are a duck, you’re going to simply say “quack, quack, quack” and swim merrily along.

How to prepare for a written exam

A lot of the jobs — AS, EC, PM — will have an element that basically says “knowledge of the Department” that is running the competition. Where are you going to find this information? The same place the hiring manager is going to find it.

Here’s the thing…if I’m running a test, I have to prepare that “rating guide” I mentioned way back in the early chapters about all the steps in the process. And in that rating guide, I will have a spot for “knowledge of the Department” and beside it, what I think a good answer will include. I have to write it down and share it with HR before I ever test anyone. Part of the whole transparency and accountability thing. Which means I, as the hiring manager, have to not only answer the question first myself, I have to have some pretty good sources that are defensible for a valid answer.

Let me explain that a little better. Suppose I ask you for the Departmental priorities, and I put down that I’m looking for the candidate to say A, B & C. Well, where did I get A, B, and C from? I got them from a document that says “The Departmental priorities are…”. I can’t just subjectively make them up. Is there a document or source that has that info?

Of course. Two of them in fact. The first is the Department’s website. The second is a corporate document that each Department has to send to Parliament each winter to say “Hey, Parliament, here are the Department’s proposed priorities for next year”. This document used to be called the “Report on Plans and Priorities”, but was recently renamed to be called the “Departmental Plan”. Every Department has one. And it’s publicly available.

Which means you KNOW in advance where the hiring manager is going to get his/her list of priorities from and can look at the same document. It’s almost like an open-book test. You know in the poster it said you would be tested on the Departmental priorities, and you know where they’re written down. Ergo, go read them. Study them. Memorize them somewhat. Cuz you’re going to be tested on them.

Similarly, if you want to know other info about the Department, the website will have sections on Vision, Mandate, etc. Easy to find, easy to see where the hiring manager will pull THEIR expected answer from for the test.

Special tip: One area that is rarely used by people preparing for exams is the speech section of a Departmental website. These are the formal speeches delivered by the Minister in recent weeks, months, etc. While some of them will be on very specialized topics, some of them are the equivalent of a standard “stump” speech where they talk about all the things that their Department is doing. Think of it like “Intro to my department”. Often, these are speeches given to general audiences like a Chamber of Commerce, for example. And in it, the Minister frequently will give a high-level description of all the priorities of the day. Crisp and clean, easy to read. So if you find a general one by the Minister, such as to a Chamber of Commerce, you’ll have a pretty good overview.

If you want to know the recent priorities of the Government of Canada, you’ll likely read the Budget announcements (each February or March), read the mandate letters from the Prime Minister to each Minister, or the Speech from the Throne by the Governor General (each fall). All three have the latest overarching priorities.

All of the above items are what I call “macro” documents…they are good for any high-level overview in any of the job categories. But what about more specific items? The “micro” documents?

For those, it’s impossible to tell you in detail what you need. If you’re going for an AS finance position, I can tell you that you’ll need to know the FAA. Or if you’re going to be working on Memorandum to Cabinet or TB submissions, you’ll need to know the decision-making processes of the Privy Council and Treasury Board (respectively). Or if you’re going to be a PM, you may need to know the latest approaches from the Centre of Expertise on managing Grants and Contributions (Gs&Cs).

If you’re qualified to apply, you’re qualified to figure that out for yourself. You know what the job needs, because you have experience in the area. You might add some info around finding out what the specific division does, i.e. it’s mandate or description, but that is usually a “nice to have”.

Just because you know a lot, it doesn’t mean you can pass the test

There is a huge incumbent trap for jobs. By incumbent I mean someone might be already acting in the job, or working in the same division, and they think, “Well, I don’t really need to study, I know this stuff, I do it every day.”

Except they don’t do it every day.

If you are working as an EC in the area, and someone says, “What’s the Departmental Mandate?”, you will go to the website and copy it over into the memo. You don’t have it memorized. You don’t need it for your job.

But you DO need it for the test. Most written tests do NOT have access to the internet or other source materials. So someone who doesn’t do it every day will study, and come up with short reusable modules to explain the priorities, or mandate, or a process, and they’ll pass the test. And the expert in the area who is already doing the job will bomb the exam because they didn’t study and they don’t have those short little modules / paragraphs memorized.

Under the old system where candidates had to rank first to get hired, 50% of incumbents did NOT rank first, and a hefty share of them didn’t even pass the exam. Someone from outside the group who didn’t know the job as well came in and wrote the exam, and explained the content better than the people in the division.

So, what is your goal?

Short reusable paragraphs or headings that you can throw into a memo or exam question to show you do know the priorities, or mandate, or process.

Even if you can memorize well, it doesn’t mean you’ll pass

Let’s go back to the EC example where the candidate has to write a three-page memo about priorities, etc. What’s the most important element? Most people will say “content” since they’re testing knowledge.

But they are not ONLY marking knowledge. A robot could regurgitate facts. Siri could find the departmental mandate. The test is whether or not you can feed it back in a useful, logical, clearly understandable memo. In other words, the marker has to understand what you wrote.

Which means the MOST important part is structure. Structure is King for written exams. A poorly constructed answer with great content will always get lower marks than a well-constructed answer with average content.

How do you ensure a good structure? You memorize those little modules that you need, and you figure out good headings to use when you feed it back out in the exam. In fact, the headings may get you most of your marks.

Every once in awhile, you’ll get a question in the written exam or the interview where you have no idea what to say. You might have a whole bunch of ideas bouncing around in your head, and you just can’t figure out how to structure a response. It happens.

But there’s a way out. If you prepare properly for the unexpected.

Expect the unexpected

I think it always a good idea for AS, PM, and EC candidates to have something in their back-pocket to use as a structure if they get a question where the appropriate structure to use is not evident. Essentially, you should have a generic structure to use in any situation. What is it?

  • AS — Steps in a problem-solving cycle;
  • PM — Steps in a project-management cycle; or,
  • EC — Steps in a policy-development cycle.

Now, take a moment, stop reading, and go Google one of those three. Maybe even find an image instead of a web-page that shows the cycle. Now do it for the other two. Did you see the trick?

They’re basically all the same steps.

  1. You start with problem definition / research / identifying the issue.
  2. You do some research to make sure you understand it;
  3. You analyse some options / instruments / policy choices;
  4. You choose one;
  5. You implement it;
  6. You evaluate it and provide feedback back to the starting position again.

Six headings that you can use for just about ANY question where you get stuck. Which is often, as I said, most of your marks. A good structure.

Depending on the job, you also might want to research things like steps in creating teamwork, partnerships, consultations, etc. Again, they’re all about the same.

You ‘re ready to write, now what?

TRACK 2: How to write

Your second track for preparations is a bit more about the physical setup and the actual time period for the test.

Most written tests these days are going to be written on computers, it’s just easier to mark. The problem is that not all departments are well set-up with computer labs for you to come in, ten or twenty people at a time, and write an exam. Some departments decide instead to do a “take-home” test in that they’ll email it to you at a set time and you have a set amount of time to return it to them by email too. Or some will have you come into their office, but instead of giving you a computer, they have you write it out. By hand. Sometimes by pencil.

No, I’m completely serious. I was invited to an EX-01 exam where I thought I was going to be writing on a computer, and instead was handed a sheaf of pages and some pencils. It was BRUTAL.

So, you need to ask some basic questions if they don’t tell you right up front when they invite you to the written exam.

  • Will it be take-home or will it be on-site?
  • If it is on-site, will it be on computer? Will you have access to the internet during the test or not? That last question is a bit of a tricky one. If you know, for example, that you will have access to the internet, do you need to memorize the mandate? Or do you just memorize “where” it is on the website, and go to the website and copy and paste it? But what if they tell you yes and then you arrive and the internet isn’t working? Is it grounds to appeal? Probably not.
  • How much time do you have to do the test?
  • Which elements are being tested?

This last one is important. Almost every competition now will tell you in advance when you are invited, in this case, to a written exam that they are testing K1 to K3, Ability 4 (writing), Ability 6 (judgement) and Personal Suitability 2 (interpersonanal skills). However, not all competitions do. Sometimes you’re assuming it’s all the knowledge ones, but there’s a chance it could ask you something about the others.

But let’s focus a bit more on the actual writing and some basic tips.

  1. If you are writing by hand, write EVERY OTHER LINE on the page. It will be more readable, and if you have to change something later, you can without turning the page into chicken scratch.
  2. If you do have access to the internet, usually you are NOT allowed to simply copy and paste. Certain things, like the exact wording of the mandate, sure. An explanation from TBS about the steps in the policy development cycle? No, you’ll have to write that in your own words.
  3. If you have a bunch of short modules memorized for different things, spend five minutes just “dumping” them out of your head in some sort of short notation form. It’ll stop you from worrying that you’ll forget them as you write, and when you need them, you can probably use the short notes as your headings anyway.
  4. YOU NEED TO MANAGE YOUR TIME. If you do not finish the test, you are likely not going to pass. Part marks are possible, but not enough to pass. Even if a couple of elements are a bit “weak”, you need to finish completely. MANAGE YOUR TIME.
  5. If you are writing detailed information, outline your answer as you go to make sure you answer EVERY question. If it says “make a recommendation”, your note has to make a recommendation.
  6. If you are on a computer, SAVE OFTEN. If it crashes, and you lose stuff, there is no whining to the teacher to get an extension. This is the real world with real consequences. If you’re too stupid to save often, you’re too stupid to be given a job that pays $60-70K per year.
  7. If you are writing a take-home test where they send it to you by mail, make sure you have a good infrastructure in place. You will need a reliable internet connection to send and receive your exam. If you don’t have a reliable internet connection, that is not their problem. You are just done. If you are writing in your office, make sure you have no interruptions. Put up a sign at work saying “WRITING TEST, DO NOT DISTURB” or better yet, book a quiet room or a Director’s office where you won’t be disturbed. Put up the sign on that door too. If you are writing at home, this is not the time to decide your kids should stay home that day. You are writing a TEST for a JOB. You cannot be distracted as if you’re running a daycare and writing the test.

YOU NEED TO TAKE THE TEST SERIOUSLY. Unless you don’t really care if you get it.

Then relax. Keep your notes you made when you were studying. The test is over, but some of the prep is still useful.

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Guest
Georgina
1 day ago

Hello Paul,

Happy Friday!

I want to start by thanking you for creating this helpful platform.

After reviewing it carefully and with the added help of your practical answers to my questions, I have moved to the reference phase of one of my competitions.

However, I got a request for an exam for an alternative competition at a higher level.

This exam covers:
• K1: Knowledge of the mission, mandate, objectives, and organization of Health Canada.
• K2: Knowledge of the federal role in health as well as emerging health issues.
• K3: Knowledge of cabinet and parliamentary affairs procedures.
• A2: Ability to communicate effectively in writing.

From my experience with multiple exams, I am guessing:
• “Ability to communicate effectively in writing” will be graded based on my answers to the other parts of this exam.

For the question addressing my “Knowledge of the mission, mandate, objectives and organization of Health Canada as well as Knowledge of cabinet and parliamentary affairs procedure,” aside from the departmental results report, TBSubs, Memorandum to cabinet, speech section, and mandate letter, are there any other resources that will be useful to explore in preparing for this? Also, when studying these, do I focus on the 2023-2024 fiscal year or even before then?

For the question addressing my “Knowledge of the federal role in health as well as emerging health issues,” do you think the answers to this will be in any of the documents highlighted above or the organization’s website, or do I need to take some time to do some deep research? Is there a strategy you would suggest to find the answers to this?

I look forward to your response. Thanks!

Guest
Georgina
13 days ago

Hi Paul,

I hope you are having a great evening.

I have an exam coming up this week and one of the questions will address “ABILITY TO ANALYZE AND SYNTHESIZE COMPLEX QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE INFORMATION” Should I expect more complex data to analyze than Means, medians, basic trends, growth rates, and maybe interpreting years worth of data?

Another question I will get is on “ABILITY TO MEET DEADLINES,” I saw a previous post where you mentioned they don’t care which order you do them in (although that’s the question); they care about WHY you would do them in that order. In this case, my question is whether there is a wrong type of reasoning to give based on urgency or priorities of the department? OR as long as it is a sound thought process and structured well, then it should be fine?

Lastly, two other areas I will be tested on are “judgement” and “ability to write reports/presentations and provide recommendations. Since you mentioned that judgement always involves – identifying the key issues AND EXPLAINING WHY THOSE ONES (often forgotten), weighting the issues/variables to show which ones are key (AND EXPLAINING WHY), using those weighted variables to decide on a course of action (AND WHY), and explaining how you would implement (AND WHY). Is it right to assume that these two areas will be tested on the same question.

P.S: there’s only one other criteria on writing effectively and the exam is 3 hours.

Guest
Georgina
12 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Thank you so much, I will!

Guest
Amarjeet Singh Ahuja
17 days ago

Hi Paul ,
Can you please guide me through I have a written exam for PSO position under ESDC, (PM-01). What to expect or what should I prepare

Guest
Amarjeet Singh Ahuja
16 days ago
Reply to  Paul

The following 4 competencies will be assessed –
1. Thinking things through
2. Demonstrating integrity and respect
3. Written communication
4. Ability to use technology

I have memorized the definitions. – ESDC code of conduct – in a nutshell – I have been reading this document to memorize and understand but the question is email says apply your learnings during the assessment ? Do I have to write the points that I memorized for Respect for democracy, Respect for people, integrity, stewardship, excellence.

“We will conduct the written exam by reading out each question to you one at a time “. Will it be a memo or email to write ?

Secondly, I memorized the “Digest of benefit entitlement principles chapter 1 – section 1. When going through the website I grasped and made notes but I’m still confused as to how the question will be addressed by the facilitator.

Thankyou for all you do !

Guest
Amarjeet Singh Ahuja
15 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Thankyou so much Paul for the guidance, my written assessment is on April 2nd, I got the link from the facilitator for the exam, I’ll keep you updated

Guest
Amarjeet Singh Ahuja
11 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Hey Paul,
I wanted to share how my exam went today, Written assessment was relatively straightforward as you mentioned. Had to write all my answers in a body of an email. It was 3 questions in which 2 were scenario based and mcq’s. Thankyou so much for the help ! Will let you know if I hear back from them.

Guest
Trisha
1 month ago

Hi Paul,
I have read your guide and I must say you’re really doing a great job!

I have a written test in a two days for a B1- 02 Fisheries biologist position. It is to test my ability to communicate in writing, ability to analyse and synthesise. I have had two written assignments prior to this with the Provincial gov but unfortunately I didn’t get through. I sort for feedback from the hiring managers whoo stated that I had a good structure, communicated well in my writing but didn’t really meet the mark for the knowledge requirement and that they wanted me to delve deeper. I scored 17/30 in one of the tests and I guess since it’s similar feedback the second test will have a similar score.

Weeks later I came to find out the appointed individuals for both roles were already working in those departments working these roles. I don’t have a problem with that at all but it made the motivation to prep for my coming test low. I felt like irrespective of my efforts they already have internal candidates they’re interested to hire.

Good news is I found your guide and now I have more ideas to ace my test better. You can leave me with some advice and I’d really appreciate it.

Guest
Trisha
29 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Thanks for input Paul! I’m taking the exam today and will submit on Monday. Will make sure I ace it!

Guest
Trisha
3 days ago
Reply to  Trisha

Hi Paul,
Happy to let you know that I made it to the live interview stage that will happen virtually.

It’s to test my ability to communicate orally and have effective interpersonal relationships. I’m aware of the STAR method as the perfect tool to answer questions, however which questions do you think I’d be asked? They’re definitely scenario based. My test is on Monday!

Guest
Jovelyn
1 month ago

Hi all,
Has anyone here heard any good news from the job application? In my case its almost 2 months I haven’t heard anything from them.
Good luck to us!

Guest
Ann Johnson
1 month ago

Hi, I cleared the pre-screening for Junior Analyst- Public Services and Procurement Canada. Today, I received an invite for written assessment and interview. No other details were provided. The job description: https://emploisfp-psjobs.cfp-psc.gc.ca/psrs-srfp/applicant/page1800?poster=2074605
This is the first time clearing prescreening with Government of Canada. Could you please guide me through the process. I am not sure how to prepare for the assessment and interview. So regarding the assessment, since it is written assessment, am I able to refer to websites and draft my answer. Will there be multiple questions?

Guest
Mohit
1 month ago

Hi, I got invited for a written test and it says “I will be assessed on the ability to communicate effectively in English for an SP 05 position for GST HST Audit Staffing / TPS TVH Audit Dotation (CRA/ARC).” It’s my first time writing any exam for CRA and idk what to expect or how to prepare. Can someone please guide me/provide me with some resources?

Thanks,

Guest
John
1 month ago

Hi Paul,

I have been invited for a written test for a AS-05 at CSC. The competencies are
•Demonstrating integrity and respect
•Thinking things through
•Working effectively with others
•Showing initiative and being action oriented
Can you provide some tips?

Guest
Hozo
2 months ago

Hi Paul. Thanks for all the work you have put on this.

I have been invited for a written test for PM-6 (IRB). I’m in private sector with no public service experience. Areas to be assessed on:

Decision Making
Judgement and Reasoning Skills
Effective Interactive Communication (written)
Information Seeking

Would you be able to guide me with examples if possible how to tackle some of the questions?

Thanks again

Guest
Hozo
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Hey Paul. Thanks for your prompt response. This is very helpful.

Guest
Marli
2 months ago

Hi there.. before I click on submit, the time was over .. does this mean I lost my chance? I got the email saying thank u for submitting

Guest
Marli
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Exactly that’s what happened. You explained it in the first two lines. Wish me luck . Do you recommend me to email them ?

Guest
Jovelyn
2 months ago

Hi Paul,
I have upcoming written test in two days.

Selection Process Number: 24-IRB-EA-BA-167472
Position Title: Various Administrative Positions (AS-01, CR-05, PM-01)
Organization: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
The following criteria merit are:
Ability to follow instruction
Thinking things through
Written communication
Attention to detail
In addition, there’s no study packages and suggestion where to obtain the information.
I need your help/tips on how to prep myself .
Thank you!
Jovelyn

Guest
Jovelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul,
Since my last written exam.I haven’t heard anything from them.It’s been almost a month.I don’t know what’s next.

Guest
Tolulope
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul, I’m also worried about no feedback. My first section went well but 2nd part was quite confusing with some tension. Wondering when Ircc typically gives feedback

Guest
Tolulope
1 month ago
Reply to  Jovelyn

I took the exact same Test. Wondering why they haven’t reached out. I hope I didn’t fail. Can we connect and discuss depending on if we hear updates . I reached out to the hiring team and no updates yet

Guest
Tolulope
1 month ago
Reply to  Jovelyn

heard from them yet?

Guest
Marli
2 months ago
Reply to  Jovelyn

That’s the test I had. For some reasons the format changed during my last 10 sec while fixing it the time was over and not sure if my answers were submitted or not

Guest
Rob C
2 months ago

Paul, you are my god emperor for this amazing wealth of knowledge! I’m an outside candidate applying for a EC-05 position at PHAC and a question on an upcoming exam will test my knowledge of policy development, planning, and decision-making processes. As someone with a background in healthcare rather than policy development, I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of some information or “crash course” on how this process works.

Thanks again,

Rob

Guest
Karolina
2 months ago

Hi Paul,

I am going through a PM-04 competition as an advisor or analyst and the following competencies will be tested written and I am not sure how to prepare for them

1) Planning & Organizing
2) Value & Ethics

Any advice would be great. Thanks

Guest
Nathan M
2 months ago

Good afternoon Paul,

Thank you for the greatly written outline, your whole website has been incredibly useful for me.

I have a testing exercise which will provide me with with three (3) questions via e-mail and 24 hours of completion, for the position of a Trade Commissioner. It will be my first time doing any sort of examination for the Federal Government — they haven’t provided me any guidance on what to expect (besides the use of Excel for one question).

How shall I approach this?

Best,
Nathan

Guest
Yang
3 months ago

Hi Paul,
Thank you for an incredible read. I just wanted to get your opinion on a policy leadership program exam. It is a written exam, and will likely be scenario based, and will be assessing the following:

Effective communication – communicates in a way that is clear, concise and adapted to the audience
Analytical thinking and judgement – approaches issues systematically, makes appropriate assumptions and provides viable solutions
Creativity – proposes original policy solutions or novel approaches to solving problems

I was just wondering if it was possible to get your opinion on the best way to approach this. Your guide highlights the importance of knowledge in the written exam, however, knowledge is not being assessed in this exam. I see that you have already hinted at a possible structure, and outlined several steps on a decision making memo (e.g., your reply to Carrie). Would you adopt the same approach here? Is there anything you would tweak, or change?

Guest
Carrie
3 months ago

Hi Paul,

You have a truly excellent website, so glad I found it! I have an EC 06 exam coming up. We are given 48 hours to complete it and it’s open book, but the criteria aren’t knowledge-based, which I find confusing. Instead, they are competency-based (judgment, analysis, make recommendations, negotiate, build relationships, etc.) Do you have any advice for how to prepare for such a test and what kind of format to anticipate?

Thank you so much 🙂

Guest
Shiv.
3 months ago

Hi Paul,
Thank you for being such a great source of information.
I recently completed a written assessment for an information Officer position with the Immigration services. We were given 2 hours to write 3 email responses to clients. As a source we were sent a very long (74 pages) program guide and the purpose was to test our ability to interpret and apply program policies and procedures, regulations and legislations in addition to a few competencies.
I read the instructions carefully and I remember the email asked that I include my name both in the body of the answer as well as in the document name. I forgot the step to put my name in the body of the document. I am nervous that this will preclude me from moving forward.
What do you think?

Guest
Shiv.
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Thank you for providing clarification Paul. I now understand that if I don’t succeed, it’s not solely because I forgot to include my name. I can totally relate to that old joke you talked about 😂. In grade 10, my German teacher gave us a test with specific instructions urging to read through the entire test before starting to answer. Within seconds, some students exclaimed ‘done’ because at the very end of the test, it stated ‘you don’t have to answer any of the questions, shout out “done”’. Thank you 🙏

Guest
Adam Mals
4 months ago

Hi Paul,

I hope you are well.

Today was a good day for me. I applied for the Policy Officer Recruitment Program (PORP) at the DND-EC2 level.
It seems I have been screened in and have been invited to do the written exam.

I will have 24 hrs to finish the exam when I start, and the competencies to be tested are as follows.
-A1 – Ability to clearly present complex issues in writing in a concise, accurate, complete, and understood manner.
-A2 – Ability to conduct research, analyze, and synthesize information.

From the PORP information page, I got the following additional information regarding the written exam:
-The exam simulates a task policy officers perform regularly. It is designed to assess candidates’ ability to conduct research, to analyze and synthesize information, and to communicate effectively in writing.
-Please see below for a sample exam question:
One of Canada’s allies has recently updated its defence policy. Your deputy director asks you to read the document, analyze how it relates to Canada’s defence policy and key priorities, and prepare a high-level two-page briefing note including critical considerations for National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Is such a briefing note akin to a policy brief? How would one structure it? Previously, you mentioned that an excellent way to structure a policy brief is:
-Exec Summary
-Background
-Analytical considerations
-Recommendations/Next steps
-Signature

Would one do the same for a briefing note?
For the scenario presented above, how would one make recommendations?

I understand that the policy brief structure above is straightforward when an “issue” is identified and potential solutions can be suggested as recommendations. But what of instances when one is asked to condense and “simplify” information?

Thanks much for your kind guidance.

Indebted,
Adam

Guest
Adam Mals
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul,

Just finished the exam. So your advice was just in time :-). As always it was worth its weight in gold.

Thank you!

I will share if I progress forward.

Very best,
Adam

Guest
Renu
4 months ago

Hi Paul,

I searched all over the internet but found nothing useful except for your website. Thanks a lot for creating this space with all the valuable information and insights.

Few days from today, I have been scheduled to be tested through a written exam on the following criteria for a PM-01 payment services officer position:

1) Thinking Things Through
2) Demonstrating Integrity and Respect
3) Written Communication
4) Ability to Use Technology

I am clueless on how should I prepare for this. Where should I start? What should I focus on while studying? Will they just be asking multiple choice questions or something else. There’s no material whatsoever. What would questions be like? Any help will be greatly appreciated. Because knowing where exactly to put effort into will help me make most of the limited time I can spare to prepare.

Thanks in advance. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Guest
Dillon K
4 months ago

Hey Paul,

I got through the initial assessment for a PC-02 with indigenous services canada and they said they would get back to me with the next step… in the job posting however there is nothing at all under the ‘will be assessed at a later date’ besides abilities and personal suitability… this is for an internal posting but ive never seen them not list the knowledge portion that would ultimately make up the exam that follows… is it possible or have you saw a posting not have an exam and go straight to the interview? or could they test on abilities and personal suitablity and nothing job related? thanks in advance

Guest
Dillon K
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul

That’s amazing. I’m still waiting to hear back on the next step but I just didn’t know if they have exams that would cover abilities and PS and I guess they can’t test on anything they didn’t mention in the poster can they?

ABILITIES
•Ability to communicate effectively orally.
•Ability to communicate effectively in writing.
•Ability to research, analyze and make recommendations.
•Ability to manage multiple priorities within tight deadlines.

PERSONAL SUITABILITY
•Demonstrating integrity and respect.
•Thinking things through.
•Working Effectively with others.
•Showing Initiative and being Action-Oriented.

That’s in the poster so I think and hope the next step isn’t too bad haha. Thanks for the well wishes I really am excited for this opportunity.