2020 EPSO Secretaries Exams - Information Webcast | EU Training

2020 EPSO Secretaries Exams - Information Webcast

This is the complete recording and presentation of the 2020 EPSO Secretaries Exams Information Webcast (EPSO/AST-SC/10/20):

Presentation slides

You can access the 2020 EPSO Secretaries Notice of Competition here

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Webcast TRANSCRIPT

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WHERE WILL YOU WORK?
EU INSTITUTIONS
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE?
WHY IS THIS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY?
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
HOW TO GET THE JOB?
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

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INTRO - Sound check, greetings and introduction (00:00-05:55)

Presenter: Andras Baneth

A warm welcome to today’s webinar on the EPSO Secretary Exams. This is Andras Baneth speaking live from Brussels. I’m so glad to have all of you here. Today we’re going to cover everything related to the 2020 Secretary Exams which were actually announced today. We are very much on the ball and trying to be very topical by sharing all the information about this competition that you need to know. The Notice of Competition, as I said, was just published today on the 25th of June, 2020 with all the details and information in it which gives us a very specific, authentic and reliable source of information that we are sharing with you right now. 

ABOUT EU TRAINING

About our company in a nutshell before we get on with today’s topic.

OUR COMMUNITY

  • We’ve been helping the community of EU exam candidates for many years now.
  • We have around 100,000+ registered users
  • Over the years we’ve helped thousands of candidates prepare for competitions with great success.
  • There is a huge alumni community of those who prepared with EU Training who are now happy EU officials.
  • We have 50,000+ fans and followers on Facebook, so if you haven’t yet please do like our page!.
  • There are many EPSO themed Facebook groups, including one for this particular (Secretary) competition. You can share insights, ideas, news, rumors, updates, success stories with each other in these groups.

TEST PACKAGES

  • We have 25,000+ test packages to help you. We have a huge database with many languages, 19 languages.
  • Over 17 million questions have been used, which is pretty fascinating.

WEBINARS

  • Make sure you check out our webinars. There is a slide at the very end listing the FREE webinars we have out there. 

  • There are dozens of free webinars you can find on the website to prepare for various aspects and elements of this particular competition, for Abstract, Numerical and Verbal reasoning, and many other methodologies as well.

  • We have over 100 hours of webinars total

  • 10,000+ people have participated in our webinars

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WHERE WILL YOU WORK? (5:55)

First and foremost when it comes to the Secretary competition ‘Where will you work?’ might be a question. This is a little far ahead because you are still preparing for the competition, you might be dreaming of an EU job, and many of you are already in Brussels, perhaps in different roles, but this is a question you will ask for practical reasons and purposes.

The workplace for secretaries, in the end, is pretty much the same as for any other competition. Typically it’s Brussels and in quite a few cases it could be Luxembourg. Being located in different capitals around the EU or being posted outside of the EU is pretty much the exception. Which is not to say it doesn’t happen - it can happen. You can be posted in the context of the External Action Service, you might be posted in different EU capitals at EU Representations, which are not delegations because delegations are to non-EU countries. Representations arw what we have in all the EU capitals. Interestingly enough, even in Brussels there is a representation of Belgium towards the EU institutions. You might end up working there, but as I said this is pretty exceptional and as a main rule the place of work will be in Brussels or Luxembourg.

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EU INSTITUTIONS (7:25)

SELECTION & RECRUITMENT TO…

Most importantly, you might be asking which institution might hire you. You may or may not already have a preference to work at a given EU Institution. This is pretty personal.  If you are already working at an EU Institution in one capacity or another, perhaps working as a temporary or contract agent, and this work is something you’d like to pursue as an open-ended permanent contract which requires you to pass these open competitions.

Once you pass you can be recruited to any of the Institutions and in legal terms, the Institutions are the ones you see on the screen now (8:08):

  • European Commission

  • European Parliament

  • Council of Ministers

  • European Court of Justice

  • European Court of Auditors

  • Committee of the Regions

  • European Economic & Social Committee

You can end up working at any of these. These are pretty different institutions and that is knowledge you might want to brush up on to make sure that you know the basics of each of these institutions as this knowledge may be indirectly helpful in various stages of the competition.

Now that I mentioned it, I want to tell you about a good resource we have on the website. We have a couple of e-learning courses which we made freely available. These cover information about which EU institutions are out there and how they work all in a nice visual manner. With the disclaimer that we have not updated these for quite a few years so certain numbers and figures may not be completely valid any more.  But it will give you a good baseline understanding about how the EU works which is a helpful knowledge for you to have if you are coming from a completely different area or sector into the EU world.

Back to the main topic. Where you are going to be recruited to is only decided at the moment of the actual recruitment. The competition that EPSO organises is a selection competition which ends with a Reserve List. So you are placed on the Reserve list where you can be recruited from. 

Which institution takes you really depends on what specific need they have at the moment of recruitment. But each institution has already indicated to EPSO and the Selection Board how many places they might need by the time the competition finishes. But this is not something you can decide as a candidate in advance. This is something that you can only look at in that moment, which is possibly 9 months from now, given the time it takes for the reserve list to be established.

POSITIONS AVAILABLE

How many positions are available? This is openly communicated in the Notice of Competition. There are two grades, you can only apply to one:

  • Grade SC-1

    • Secretary level 1

    • 328 places available for this current competition

  • Grade SC-2

    • Secretary level 2

    • A slightly higher grade with a slightly higher salary

    • 207 places available for this current competition

This is amazing! This is probably the biggest secretary competition in five, perhaps even ten years. As far as I can recall, since I’ve been following EU competitions I don’t remember such large numbers for recruitment really since 2007 probably.

This is a fantastic opportunity for everyone who’s interested in this particular position - all of you, obviously, the very reason for your being here on this webcast today. It’s really an amazing chance given the sheer volume of intake that they foresee. Do apply, give it a chance, see where it takes you! 

APPLY BEFORE 8 SEPTEMBER 2020

The application deadline is obviously very important and clearly communicated in the Notice of Competition, it’s the 8th of September. There’s quite some time until then, roughly two months. 

Make sure you don’t leave your application to the last moment. This is a typical mistake. You might think there’s so much time that you can afford leaving it to the 6th or 7th of September. A lot of candidates think the same way. Often what happens is servers might break down, there might be some technical difficulties or you just simply forget about it, and then you miss this opportunity. 

Whenever the application opens, (UPDATE: It’s already open), then go straight to EPSO’s website, create a profile (if you don’t have one already) and then start the application process. 

You may not need to finish everything in one go. You can already upload certain pieces of information and then conclude the application in due course. But do not leave it to the very last moment of the application deadline. 

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ARE YOU ELIGIBLE? (13:15)

A very important question: Are you eligible for this position? There are certain objective criteria.

General Conditions

  • Must have EU citizenship

    • This is very tricky now for British candidates because they are no longer part of the EU despite the transition period we’re in right now. Since they no longer have EU citizenship they cannot apply. If they do, however, have a second citizenship for a country in the EU then they can apply with that.

  • Completed military service requirements

    • In some countries this is a non-issue. In some countries there is still compulsory military service. Often it’s for men only where.

  • Meet the character requirements of the job

    • If you have a criminal record or you have some sort of moral failing which some authority has condemned in formal terms then that may disqualify you. Usually this is not a hurdle for most people. This is definitely a minor issue. 

Then there are other more specific criteria plus the exams that you need to sit and pass in order to qualify for the next stage. Let’s see what these specific criteria are:

LANGUAGE RULES

What languages can you choose from? And how does it work when it comes to Language 1 and Language 2?

LANGUAGE 1

  • Any of the 24 official EU languages (minimum C1 level)

    • Which essentially means any official EU language qualifies

    • Though there are certain footnotes to this broad choice

      • If your mother tongue happens to be Russian or Arabic, or any other language which is widely spoken in Europe but is not an official EU language, unfortunately you cannot choose it as your Language 1, despite it being your mother tongue. It has to be from among the 24 languages. It can be Maltese, it cannot be Luxembourgish.

      • You are free to choose any of the 24 official languages, however. My mother tongue is Hungarian. But I would be free to choose English as my Language 1.  If I’m more comfortable answering Abstract, Verbal, Numerical Reasoning in English, then I am free to do so.

      • The thing is:

LANGUAGE 2

  • Has to be English or French

  • Has to be different from Language 1.

  • As a Hungarian native speaker, if I were to choose English as my Language 1, good for me but then I’m limited to using French for Language 2.

  • So I probably wouldn’t do that. I would choose Hungarian 1st and English 2nd.

You are free and flexible to choose either, but these are the choices. Especially since Language 2 is more limiting, because you can only choose English or French.

You can fill in the application in any of the EU’s 24 languages, but you must also choose Language 1 and Language 2 on your application because it determines the language in which you will sit certain tests. 

Therefore, choose carefully. And if you have the liberty and flexibility to choose either, or find a good combination, I suggest you choose a language for Language 1 in which you are very good at processing passively any written text because that will be used for all the computer based tests in which you need to process and analyse information. And not necessarily actively express yourself.

Whereas Language 2 needs to be a language in which you’re able to orally express yourself in the most sophisticated and fluent way.

So when you get to the Assessment Centre you’ll need to do two roleplay exercises and one interview related to the field (which is being a secretary). These are done in Language 2. If you’re really fluent in French then you probably want to choose that as Language 2 as long as you have a matching Language 1 to choose from. 

I see a question here: Why is German not included as a second language?

And it is one of the official working languages of the EU Institutions, absolutely correct as you said. Yet, for unknown reasons, they chose not to include it. My hypothesis is that for practical reasons to conduct the Assessment Centre in Language 2, adding German into the list of choices would have complicated things, logistically speaking. So they decided not to offer that as an option.

There have been a couple of court cases related to the Languages and let’s hope this does not trigger any court case as a result. Probably EPSO has their own lawyers, they vetted it and made sure everything is legally bulletproof. This is the situation, German is not included despite being an official language of the institutions.

As I mentioned before Language 1 and Language 2 must be different, you cannot choose English for both, for example, or French for both.

 

QUALIFICATIONS & WORK EXPERIENCE

Most importantly regarding the criteria for eligibility: what qualifications do you need to have, what formal papers do you need to show to the Selection board to prove that you are eligible. Well, there is a difference between SC-1 and SC-2.

GRADE SC-1

This is a lower grade and because of that you will need:

  • A high school diploma

  • Minimum 3 years relevant professional experience.

OR

  • Professional training = European Qualification Framework Level 4

  • Minimum 3 years relevant professional experience.

You can often prove the relevant professional experience with a letter from your former employer or if it’s entirely clear from the name of the position you held for a number of years, e.g. that you were a secretary or an assistant doing clerical tasks, then that is fine too.

In some cases it might be a little bit more difficult because let’s say for example you worked as a manager and your job included a lot of different kinds of tasks, then you may need more details to prove that you have the relevant experience, and not just any kind of general professional experience. So the word ‘relevant’ is pretty important here. 

 

GRADE SC-2

When it comes to this grade, as I mentioned before, administratively speaking it’s a more senior job with a higher salary, there’s a couple of hundred euros difference. Approximately 300 - 400 euros difference subject to other conditions, e.g. whether or not not you are married, have kids, there are a couple of other variables. Also in terms of seniority, certain tasks may be awarded to SC-2 level and not SC-1 level depending on what type of tasks are required in a given unit. 

So what SC-2 requires you to show for eligibility, however, is very similar:

  • Secondary education attested by a diploma

  • Minimum 7 years relevant professional experience.

OR

  • Professional training = European Qualification Framework Level 4

  • Minimum 7 years relevant professional experience.

If you meet the 7 years experience requirement definitely go for SC2. If it’s difficult to prove or you’re hesitant, e.g. you have 5 years but not 7, I’m not sure I can prove all 7 years, then don’t apply to SC-2 because you don’t want to be disqualified from the competition for lack of 7 years experience. Instead go for the safe option, something you can prove, if you’re sure 3 years experience is definitely something you can demonstrate.

This is often a very difficult part because given your professional background, certain jobs you’ve had, these may or may not be relevant to the competition. Always be cautious and go for something that is relatively sure, instead of taking a huge risk and getting disqualified. So that is my conservative piece of advice, but it does all depend on your personal situation and how that translates into your application. 

 

I’ll take a couple of questions here.

I’m an administrative translator assistant. Can I enter the EU as a secretary, then move to the Translators directorate, or would I have to go through a separate Translators competition?

It would be the latter. Secretary positions do not require you, or even allow you, to do translation work. Translators are hired through a different competition, specifically aimed at translators. The requirements are relatively similar, but you’all also need to sit and do a translation, you need different qualifications and the level of difficulty of certain tests is also different. 

You can certainly enter the translation directorate but you can only work as a secretary. If you aim to work in a policy position or as a translator that would require you to sit a different competition. And of course you can do that. You can do that in parallel. You can sit one competition, succeed, start working and in the meantime apply for an open competition just like anyone else. 

 

What could be the reason for the higher numbers this time? 

Wish I knew! :D Unfortunately, I don’t have any information on that. It’s probably just an increased need for these sorts of tasks, that’s my understanding. It may be linked to some staff turnover, contracts expiring, or a strong push from trade unions inside the institutions. There could be many explanations. If we hear anything that we can share we’ll let you know, but right now it’s pure speculation.

 

How long after the closure of the application deadline is the exam announced?

8th of September is the application deadline. I would guess that the computer-based tests would be towards the second half of October, perhaps early November. So anywhere between 4-8 weeks the CBTs will be launched, at least the booking period would start. 

Now we see how the post-coronavirus situation might evolve, but as it used to be there are tons of test centres that EPSO has contracts with. You need to book a date and a venue where you will sit the Computer-based Tests. If you happen to be in Bucharest at the time of the exam because you are on a job assignment for three weeks, you can sit the exam there despite being a Finnish citizen. This scenario is entirely possible. Even outside the EU there is a huge network, globally speaking, of many test centres. Now, how that may change because of the coronavirus, lockdowns and all the other measures we’ll have to wait and see. There are rumours that they might want to try online testing which you can do from basically anywhere, with certain validation requirements, or the test might happen at the same time for everyone. So, there are a couple of other ideas floating around we need to wait and see what comes of those. 

 

Does passing the Computer-based tests for AST / SC-1 in 2009 mean I have to take the test again?

If you sat another competition in the context of the CAST exams (Contract Agent Selection) or just a different competition, unfortunately whatever result you had there has no impact on this particular one. In this case you need to sign up again, go through the process and take all the tests again. 

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WHY IS THIS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY? (28:40)

I don’t know how much I need to speak to the converted, how much you are convinced that this is pretty cool and that you definitely want to do this. 

ATTRACTIVE SALARIES

Certainly salaries are very attractive. We actually have a Salary Calculator on our website which is unofficial but pretty close to the real deal. You can enter all the criteria, e.g. which country you’re being recruited from, how many kids if any, are you married, professional experience, and then you can get a rough idea of your potential salary. Which is now around 2 800 to 3 000 euros net per month with health insurance and other benefits included. 

GOOD BENEFITS

As I just mentioned you’ll have health insurance and access to European schools for your children. 

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APPLICATION PROCESS (30:40)

HOW TO GET ONE OF THESE JOBS? The question on everyone’s mind. How am I going to succeed in the competition, get placed on the Reserve List and eventually be recruited to work in one of the EU Institutions? Well, you start by following the application process:

STEP 1

  • Declare your eligibility given the criteria of EU citizenship, military service, character requirement

  • Choose your languages, Language 1 & 2

  • Then submit your application in any of the 24 EU languages

This is pretty straightforward, there is no specific piece of advice I could give other than don’t leave it to the last minute, and the ones I already shared with you regarding language selection. 

Make sure to do everything by the 8th of September, 2020. 

STEP 2

Then comes the actual real deal of sitting the computer-based tests (CBT). Those exams where you need to perform really well in order to pass to the next stage. 

  • PRE-SELECTION CBT EXAM - What are these computer-based tests? Man of you may already be familiar with these because EPSO applies this selection method to almost all competitions. Though for most competitions you only have the first three exercises (listed here below), but not the final two. 

    • Verbal Reasoning

    • Numerical Reasoning

    • Abstract Reasoning

      • Multiple choice tests

  • There are two other tests which are pretty specific to secretary competitions, sometimes they do these for assistant competitions. 

    • Accuracy & Precision

    • Prioritising & Organising

We will go into more detail about these tests and see what they are even more so because we’ll see how important they are in ranking candidates. You want to be among the top-ranking candidates to proceed to the next stage in the selection process. 

I see a question here: No IT test? No E-tray? 

There is sort of an IT test which tests Microsoft Word skills. There’s not a general IT test, it’s very specifically Microsoft Word knowledge. But that’s the intermediate stage. Something we’ll go back to soon. 

 

VERBAL REASONING

For this exam you have text, a passage on the screen that you need to read very quickly and very thoroughly and then there are four, sometimes five statements only one of which is correct. Your task is to find the correct statement. 

You have 20 questions and 35 minutes to complete it. This is really difficult because that’s less than two minutes per question in which you have to read it, analyse it, process it and then find the correct answer - two minutes is not easy. 

What you need to watch out for are the kind of tricks that they apply in the four answer options. You’ll be presented with outside information - info that was not presented in the text but you may know from the news, or it’s common knowledge. The answer should always only reflect the information given in the text for you to read. You cannot and should not apply outside knowledge to resolve the question. 

Sometimes there are generalizations. For example they’ll say ‘It typically rains in Belgium’ versus ‘It rained two days ago in Belgium’. Watch out for what situation the text is actually describing. 

Sometimes there are facts and sometimes just hypotheticals. For example ‘He might have seen it…’ versus ‘He saw it.’ Obviously there’s a huge difference. These sort of nuances are often applied as a misleading statement among the answer options. 

Sometimes the wording is very similar, not synonyms just words that are close enough but mean something different. 

Certainly you can practice a lot for Verbal Reasoning and you should practice a lot to improve your efficiency and accuracy. As I said we have test questions and a huge database of verbal reasoning tests in 19 languages which is pretty great and something we’re really proud of because these are validated, high-quality tests that are designed to help you master Verbal Reasoning under time pressure.

Most candidates are pretty good at finding the correct answer but they may have challenges doing that under intense time pressure that is imposed on you.  

 

NUMERICAL REASONING

The next test is Numerical Reasoning where you have 10 questions to answer in 20 minutes.

This is clearly 2 minutes per question, a tiny bit more than for Verbal Reasoning but since you need to calculate, look at charts, tables and do pretty complex data interpretation, then find which piece, or which cell, or which particular piece of information you need to focus on - it takes quite a few seconds. Then you need to do some logical reasoning, do estimation, and if you already know the answer at this point then fantastic if you’re still a little uncertain then do the calculations. There is an on-screen calculator that you can use, so you don’t need to do mental calculation, but it does help to brush up on your math skills. 

We actually have a webinar called ‘Math Refresher’ exactly for this situation. If you haven’t dealt with mathematics or any sort of algebra for many years you can check that out to help you brush up on that knowledge. 

 

ABSTRACT REASONING

The third test is Abstract Reasoning. This is usually the most dreaded. Something that most candidates are really afraid of. It takes a bit of practice to get into the mindset of resolving Abstract Reasoning tests fast. Especially because you have 10 minutes to answer 10 questions, so that’s 1 minute per question. You need to quickly identify shapes and patterns to find the next one in the line. Entirely possible but it does require a bit of practice. 

 

ACCURACY & PRECISION

Then these are the  two other tests I mentioned before that will be used in this competition. These haven’t been used for quite some time in other competitions, but for some reason EPSO decided that they are going to use this again. Or perhaps the selection board responsible for this particular competition decided for secretarial jobs they need to have accuracy, precision and organising and prioritising skills. What are these?

You will be given a chart like the one you see here on the screen (38:05). Essentially you need to find the error. It’s a very simple exercise. What makes it so difficult is that you have 6 minutes and 40 questions. So you need to be super efficient. You need to focus, and very quickly find the error in consistency and choose which line or which item does not relate to the one in the question. 

 

For instance if you look at this particular chart you need to look at line number four and find the error. Is an icon missing? Or some number or figure is not accurate? Is a date a little off or in a different format? These would be very easy if you had an hour, or even 30 minutes. Or even 15 minutes. But doing all of that in six minutes is what makes it so difficult. It is demonstrating accuracy and precision under and immense time pressure.

Luckily we have hundreds of tests like this. You can practice with those and really master this. This is truly important, because as we’ll see in a second, Accuracy & Precision, and the other one, Organising & Prioritising, you not only need to pass these, get a decent score, so you need to get 50% of the overall score, but you also need to be among the top ranking candidates in order to pass to the next stage. So you not only need to be good, you need to be among the top ranking candidates, otherwise you will just pass the test maybe, but not get invited to the next stage. That’s where the true competition comes into play.

 

PRIORITISING & ORGANISING

This is a somewhat similar test. Although the essence here is not the time pressure. It's applying a lot of common sense, logic and organising skills as you would in your role as a secretary to look at logistical issues and problems. It’s often about different schedules. For example you need to organise a trip for your head of unit and there are different bus schedules, and airplanes and trains, and you need to find the optimal way of making that happen. 

You need to recognise certain considerations. If the person says they don’t like travelling on slow trains and only want fast trains, and they only like first class. But then you discover first class is sold out and you need to find an alternative. You need to think in a very practical manner about the best solution to achieve the desired outcome ultimately based on the instructions you are given. This is a computer-based test, it is multiple choice, and again it’s not particularly difficult. What makes it difficult is the time pressure.

You have 24 questions to answer in 30 minutes. That’s roughly a little more than a minute per question. You need to work quickly to find the best solution. 

That’s pretty much it. As I said Abstract, Verbal and Numerical Reasoning have a different scoring system to Accuracy & Precision and Prioritising & Organising.

 

CBT SCORING

To sum it up, you see here that for Numerical Reasoning you need to get 5 points out of 10, so that is the pass mark. 

Then, lucky you, for Verbal and Abstract Reasoning it’s a combined score and you need to get at least 50 %.

If you are amazing in Verbal Reasoning and you get 15 points, but you’re really bad at Abstract Reasoning and get 0 points, then you can still pass. 

For these three tests you don’t need to be among the top candidates. What happens is you just need to pass with a 50% score. That’s it. That’s all they need from you.

Whereas for the Accuracy & Precision and Prioritising & Organising you need to get at least 50%, but the difficulty is, like I described earlier, you need to be among the top candidates to pass to the next stage. 

 

STEP 3

INTERMEDIATE TEST

CBT MICROSOFT OFFICE WORD SKILLS TEST

They are planning to invite approximately 5 times the number of candidates for each grade. For SC-1 there are around 300 odd places, then for the Assessment Centre there’ll be around double, so that would be 600, and five times is around 3,000 - if my quick mental calculation is accurate. Quite a few thousand candidates are likely going to pass these tests and they will all be invited to this intermediate test.

As we mentioned before there is no more E-tray exercise, some of you may not even know what an E-tray exercise is. Good for you, you don’t need to know. Those of you who are familiar with the EPSO universe would know what I am talking about. But there is no such task in this particular competition. 

What we do have is the Microsoft Office World Skills Test. This is not unheard of. They have tested these skills in previous exams. They might show you little icons and you would have to recognise what they do in MS Word. They might provide you with problems for example if they would provide you with a letterhead and you would have to insert that into a letter for printing, how would you do that in MS Word? Then you may have to format the document, making sure that everything is properly aligned. How do you work with password protected documents or with secret documents? What other Microsoft Word capabilities are there? You might given a certain error message and you would have to resolve that and show how you would do that.

EDITOR UPDATE: The good news is that we will be adding hundreds of tests in time for you to start preparing for the Intermediate phase and the MS Office skills test. We will announce it on the website and on Facebook when these tests are made available for you to practice.

In this test the timing is the following, you have 50 questions to answer in 60 minutes. Certainly this is a very important phase. Only those who have passed the pre-selection exams can sit this particular exam. As we said before, those five computer-based pre-selection tests you get certain scores and a high ranking and then hopefully on a happy and sunny, or rainy day you get an email that says ‘We’re happy to let you know that you passed the pre-selection tests and now you can go on to the next phase. You need to book a time to sit the exam’ Or it might be at the same time for all candidates. We need to see how they arrange the logistics. 

For the pass mark you need to have at least 25 out of the 50 possible points. That’s the objective criteria. But then again, the pass mark is not enough. You need to be among the highest scoring candidates to pass to the next stage, which is the Assessment Centre.

 

STEP 4

ASSESSMENT CENTRE

Having said that, what is an Assessment Centre? There’s a lot to be said for Assessment Centres. It’s basically a series of exercises done in person most commonly held in Brussels where you need to perform and showcase certain competencies. 

The Assessment Centre is not a computer-based exam. It’s in person. You need to demonstrate certain skills and competencies. How do you do that? Through certain exams which typically happen on a single day. 

The Assessment Centre for this competition will happen in Brussels and it’s held in Language 2 which is English or French. 

There are essentially two types of exercises:

  • Role play 1 & 2

    • This is pretty new. Until now in most competitions there was a Group Exercise where you’re given a briefing, and then you sit around a table and have discussions about the given topic among the other candidates. 

    • The assessors in this situation are sitting around you, observing you, taking notes and giving a score for your competencies based on a grid that they use

    • Now with these two Role Play exercises they evaluate competencies. 

    • In Role Play one you do certain things and they will look at your Communication, Prioritising & Organising and Resilience skills.

    • In the second Role Play they look at different competencies, e.g. Delivering Quality & Results, Working with Others and more skills.

  • The Field Related Interview

    • This is an interview related to you being a secretary, your job experience, your background, or certain situations and how you would resolve those. 

    • We provide webinars and in-person classroom training sessions in Brussels. If there’s a need, e.g. a group of you, then we may even go elsewhere in Europe. There’s also one-on-one coaching to help you prepare for this particular stage.

ASSESSMENT CENTRE SCORING

What does the scoring look like? There are 7 Competencies and each is worth 10 points, which means all together you can have a maximum of 70 points, but you need to have at least 35 points.

Then the Field-Related Interview is really important because that alone is worth 70 points, and you need to have at least 35 points. 

If everything goes well, and why wouldn’t it, you score very high, then you will end up on the Reserve List. 

That is when you officially become recruitable to be hired as a secretary at one of the EU Institutions. 

 

STEP 5

SUCCESS! RESERVE LIST

Just a few  words about what the Reserve List is: Basically there are a certain number of places on it which is already communicated in the Notice of Competition as already mentioned.

It has a certain validity which is typically 1 year. From the day of its publication for a year you can be hired and if they haven’t hired a very large number of people then sometimes they extend the validity of the Reserve List. 

Then ultimately comes your Recruitment.

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HOW TO GET THE JOB? (50:07)

All the way up until that point here are the things you should be doing, a couple of general, practical pieces of advice:

  • Practice! Practice a lot! Look at it as a sports competition. If you’re already in good shape perhaps you can practice a bit less, if you really need to refresh your math knowledge or Abstract Reasoning, or just get familiar with Accuracy & Precision tests - take the time to prepare. Make sure you have an edge on the competition. Spend 10-12 weeks practicing. 

  • Make sure your practice is regular. Again, very similar to sports, if you run a marathon you will not start preparing for it the day before. It requires regular and very specific, very deliberate practice. Have a study plan, know where your weaknesses lie, really dedicate your time to improving those necessary skills. We suggest studying for one hour per day or ten hours per week.

  • There is a methodology to everything. Read up on it, check out our e-books, check out my book The Ultimate EU Test book, watch webinars like this one, read our Tips & Tricks articles, EU Training provides an incredible amount of resources. Learn the methodology so you come to understand it in depth. There is a system to it. There are certain shortcuts and good ideas you can apply to be efficient at test-taking. Do not rely on practice alone. Make sure to read and understand others suggestions, best ways to structure your time, best test-taking strategies that will improve your performance.

  • Persistence is key! That’s why perhaps creating a study group or connecting with a couple friends who are also in this competition would be helpful. You may be competitors in formal terms but you will help motivate each other, you’ll push each other to reach your goals even when you don’t feel like practicing, or you want to give up because you’re so frustrated. 

  • Use all of EU Training’s resources! Free and paid. 

  • Feel free to ask us questions. I’m very happy to follow up with you and we have our Support team and experts. Just send us an email through the Contact Us page. We are happy to point you to the right resources or answer specific questions that you may have. 

 

I will answer your questions in just a moment, but I just wanted to showcase all the resources we have out there for you:

SIMULATED PRACTICE TESTS

  • Verbal Reasoning - 19 LANGUAGES!

  • Numerical Reasoning

  • Abstract Reasoning 

  • Accuracy & Precision

  • Prioritising & Organising

  • Microsoft Office Word Skills

WEBINARS

Free - Beginner's Guide Webinars:

  • Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Verbal Reasoning Test

  • Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Numerical Reasoning Test

  • Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Abstract Reasoning Test

  • Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Organising & Prioritising Test

Pro Tips Webinars:

  • Pro Tips For The EPSO Verbal Reasoning Test

  • Pro Tips For The EPSO Numerical Reasoning Test

  • Pro Tips For The EPSO Abstract Reasoning Test

  • Pro Tips For The EPSO Organising & Prioritising Test

Other:

  • Maths Refresher For Numerical Reasoning

 

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  • Engage with other candidates

  • Learn from their experiences

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QUESTIONS PLEASE (54:08)

The fact that this year the competition is named only "Secretaries" and not "Secretaries/Clerks" will make the CV selection stricter, in your opinion?

I don’t think so. I don’t think it will have that sort of impact on the CV selection. I think it’s worth looking at the Notice of Competition and the job description which will state the type of tasks that you’ll need to perform. That should give you more guidance on what the Selection Board might be looking for when they screen the CVs. 

 

Although not officially "allowed", is there a chance to enter as a 50+ candidate or will it be a "hidden" age limit?

There’s certainly no negative impact or discrimination when it comes to the EPSO selectioin process. Where it might become an issue is at the point of recruitment. Once you get on the Reserve list and you are recruitable, whether or not this might have an impact on their willingness to hire you if you are 50 years old, or more, I honestly don’t know. This remains to be seen. I know this impacts your willingness to enroll in this competition. But in formal terms they obviously cannot and shouldn’t have any negative impact based on your age. That would be discriminatory. 

In very practical terms, however, this might be a very sensitive issue. That’s all I can say at this point. I don’t know how this might play out. I am guessing that you are not the only one. There are quite a few people, a whole diversity, of candidates. But again, in formal terms they cannot discriminate because of your age.

 

Is EU Training making updated tests based on EPSO requirements?

Yes. We’re constantly working on updating our database and we have a pool of experts on the job making sure that everything is up to the standards, requirements and new demands that you are subjected to in the competitions. Our database is fully up to speed so you can practice with the best material out there.

 

I know that on your website we can find tests to practice. Are there books for EU tests in Italian?

Yes we have Verbal Reasoning tests in Italian. In terms of books, I’m not familiar with any, there might be. But you can find everything on the website, even if it’s in English, and then practicing in Italian, or any other language from the 19 that we offer.

 

Where can I find practice CBT (Computer-based Tests) for Microsoft Word Skills on the EU Training website?

EDITOR’S UPDATE: These practice tests are not yet live on the EU Training site. They will be made available in time for the Intermediate phase of the Secretaries competition, with enough time for you to practice. (1 JULY 2020)

 

Can you estimate how much time there will be between the end of the CBTs period and the invitation to the MS Office Skills exam? 

The Microsoft Office test is the Intermediate Exam. If I do a rough estimate, the application period closes on the 8th of September. The Computer-based Tests (Abstract, Verbal, Numerical Reasoning, Organising&Prioritising and Accuracy) will possibly happen towards the second half of October up to mid November. After that comes the Intermediate test. If everything goes super fast, the Microsoft Office test could happen around December. If things do not go super fast then it may be in January 2021. It will take some time before you actually need to practice those Microsoft Office Tests. 

 

What about Outlook? Or different Microsoft applications? 

Those are not required in the form of Computer-based tests. You are not tested on those very specifically. Yet you might get questions in the specific interview about your fluency in working with Microsoft Office tools. They may ask what experience you have with Outlook. They may ask what your experience is in handling a complex Excel sheet. So there could be questions about those as part of the interview but these will not be tested separately.

 

Please specify if MA, PHD and Bluebook Traineeship counts as working experience?

A master’s degree would not count as work experience because you are studying and not performing relevant tasks for the purposes of this competition. If you have a high school degree then you pursued a master’s degree and a PhD or if you were a Blue Book trainee, I highly doubt that any of these count as relevant work experience. Unless you were a university administrator and doing clerical work at the same time. But then you were employed part-time or full-time while doing your studies, so the emphasis here would not be on you pursuing a degree, the emphasis would be on your work part-time as a secretary at the university’s admissions office, or in the commission in a different setting. As long as you can prove that work experience. But pursuing studies and degrees, in my view, would not qualify as work experience. 

 

THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING

And I’d like to end with a disclaimer, that everything I’ve said is as accurate as I know it to be, as humanly possible, but it’s not the official source. The only official source is the Notice of Competition which comes from EPSO or the Selection Board, but not from EU Training. Of course, as I said, we do everything in our power to be as accurate as possible. However, if you have a very important legal question then make sure to ask the organisers of the competition, EPSO specifically, they will give you formal, legal, 100% reliable information.

With that, thank you so much for listening! This was great fun and thanks for all the great questions. I hope it was helpful and interesting for everyone.

Get in touch with us and hopefully we can help you.

Good luck for the competition! Remember to be persistent and stay committed to pursuing it.