This year's administrator exam has just been announced for six profiles and two categories: AD5 level where final year graduates and those with less than six years' work experience can apply, and on AD7 level where those with at least six years professional experience are eligible to become successful EU officials in Brussels, Luxembourg or elsewhere in the world. In 2010, more than 50,000 applicants had registered and this year may see similar numbers. The crucial dilemma for everyone is: how do I maximise my chances to pass?
Arboreus has collected 5 dilemmas and tips to help you make the most out of the exam. So here it goes:
Dilemma no. 1: Should I apply for AD5 or AD7?
There are several factors to consider here. The first is whether you are absolutely sure to be eligible for the AD7 exam: only apply if you meet the formal criterion of having six years of professional experience (if your diploma was a 3 year programme, you need an extra year of experience strictly related to the studies). The second consideration is to see how many places there are on the reserve list, as mentioned in the Notice of Competition.
For AD7, this number is around half or one third of the AD5 places for each profile such as public administration, law, economics, audit, finance and statistics. If we consider that the average age of a candidate is 30-32 years and Europeans tend to get their diploma around the age of 23, a large number of candidates seem eligible for AD7. Given the higher ranking and salary, this is also an attractive option for AD5 or AD6 level EU officials as a fast-track jump, so this all point to the direction that you should choose AD7 only if you are ready for a tough battle... which is nevertheless highly rewarding in the end!
Dilemma no. 2: Which main language to choose for the exam?
The main language in an EPSO exam means "a thorough knowledge of one of the official languages of the European Union". As you noticed, this does not have to be the same as your mother tongue, so if you feel more comfortable passing the verbal, abstract and numerical reasoning tests in English than in e.g. Romanian (due to the fact that you did you studies abroad, or because of the availability of practice tests [though we do offer verbal reasoning in 16 languages], you are free to choose it regardless of what your citizenship may be.
Another important fact to consider is that the reserve lists are not drawn up by citizenship or languages, and your eventual recruitment does not depend on which language you had chosen for the exam. Your choice should therefore only depend on one factor: in which language can you read and understand the fastest. Also note that the Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) will be in English, French or German only, similarly to the consequent Assessment Centre.
Dilemma no. 3: I am eligible for multiple profiles, which one should I choose?
Many candidates are eligible for various profiles, especially those who have an economics, law or financial degree. Someone with a law diploma is eligible to sit both the law field or the public administration field, so the question is where (s)he will have better chances to succeed. The answer is that the more specialized the profile, the higher the chances. In the 2010 exams, we have seen that audit profiles had a much lower threshold (32 out of 40) to pass the pre-selection exams than the public administration profile (36 out of 40), which is a huge difference in the scores you are required to achieve.
We therefore strongly advise you that as long as you are eligible with your qualifications and experience, choose a more "special" profile instead of the "horizontal" public administration one, and if you have the luxury to choose between two special profiles, check the number of final laureates for each to decide where your chances are higher.
This choice of profile (e.g. statistics instead of public administration or economist) will of course affect your exam in the Assessment Centre and the Case Study exercise, but not before: no need to prepare for anything else than the pre-selection exams in the pre-selection phase, and the specific knowledge only in the assessment centre phase. As long as you feel confident that you can refresh your knowledge in that field within two to three months after the pre-selection results are announced, you can be more confident to actually reach the assessment centre in the first place.
Dilemma no. 4: Which exam date and place to choose?
Many candidates, due to fears of not getting a place or because of work constraints, choose to sign up immediately after the exams are announced and then validate their application right away. This in the EPSO system also means that they must book an exam date within a two or three weeks, instead of those who decide to apply and validate the application shortly before of the 14 April 2011 deadline (yet never leave your application for the very last moment as server outages may always happen).
The early birds therfore deprive themselves of sufficient practice time, and also of the valuable information that others share as advice and hints in the coming weeks. So our advice is to validate your application in the beginning of April so your exam can be scheduled for May, but do start preparing already now in order to benefit from two full months of efficient exam preparation and training.
(A word of caution: the risk with this strategy is that some exam places, especially Brussels, tend to get booked quickly, so once the exam booking period opens, which is usually a few days after your validated application, make sure to book the venue and time as quickly as possible, for a date as distant as possible, for a place as close as possible :-)
If there is no other way, try to look for alternatives, such as Luxembourg instead of Brussels or Vienna instead of Budapest, though be aware that, unlike for the assessment centre, no travel expense is reimbursed for the pre-selection exams by EPSO.
Dilemma no. 5: How many points do I need to reach to pass the pre-selection tests?
This partly depends on how well other candidates perform, meaning that if there are 4000 candidates for a given profile and exam (e.g. AD5 finance) and there are 48 places on the reserve list, about 135 candidates will be invited to the assessment centre, so a slightly more will be pre-selected in the first round. To choose from the 4000, EPSO will look at the following question: at which score will I have around 135-150 people pre-selected?
Supposing that your exam scores are converted into a 40 point scale, the threshold may be placed at 32, which yields 542 candidates and that is too many. Yet if the threshold is set at 33, this will result in 172 candidates; a threshold of 34 would result in 105 eligible candidates. Given this line of argument, the threshold will be set at 33 and 172 candidates will be invited to attend the assessment centre, of whom 160 will likely show up.
Conclusion: you need to aim for the top 90% (i.e. at or above the 90th percentile, meaning that you are better than 90% of the candidates) to secure a place in the second exam round. In each exam step of the abstract, verbal, numerical reasoning and the situational judgment tests, your aim should therefore be to reach 80-90% of the available points. A tough nut to crack, but hundreds of our users have successfully made it, thanks to lots of practice, persistence...and a bit of luck!
We hope these ideas help you evaluate your chances for the 2011 EPSO Administrator exams. Feel free to share this article with friends and colleagues, and make sure to review our FREE online webcasts where each competition is disussed in greater detail.