Become A Senior EU Assistant: How To Pass The Professional Skills Test

EPSO has just announced today (16 December) senior assistant positions (AST3 level) in various fields such as human resources, statistics, finance/accounting and communication & information technologies. Apart from the “usual” pre-selection exams, a number of professional skills tests are required to get to the assessment centre. Here are some tips on what these special tests are and how to secure your place for the last stage of the competition:


1. Accuracy Tests – Know What to Look For

Tests designed to measure your accuracy and precision are considered by EPSO to be a crucial element in the new competency-based exam system. These tests are meant to assess your ability to work with large amounts of diverse data and complete tasks with a minimum number of potential errors or mistakes. For this reason, these tests will present you with a huge amount of data in a table format and then get some of that data reproduced in another table – your task will be to quickly determine if there are any errors in the reproduced data, and identify what exactly these errors are.

If you look at the example above, you will surely realize that there are quite a lot of things to look out for. It is therefore worth having a systematic approach. These are some of the typical ‘errors’ you might face:

  • Numerical: incorrect amounts (1000 GBP instead of 100 GBP), incorrect currency (USD instead of EUR), swapped digits (427 instead of 472), partial data (03 83 34 98 7 instead of 03 83 34 98 77)
  • Textual: spelling  (Skruanda instead of Skrunda), factual (Kindergarten instead of Day centre)
  • Date and time: 26 Mar 2010 instead of 26 Mar 2011
  • Data in the wrong place: cities swapped, penalties swapped, durations mixed up

These are just a few of the errors you might encounter at the real exam.

What our EPSO experts recommends

  • Find your footing: looking at each piece of data, always be aware of what kind of errors you might expect
  • Be systematic: check each component of each piece of data (spelling, numbers, position, and so on)
  • Imitate a robot: there is no challenge in solving these tests with 100% score with unlimited time available – the challenge lies in limited time (in the EPSO-style exam, you’ll have 9 seconds per question, which is very tough) – the only guaranteed way of success is to practice as much as possible and make looking for errors your daily habit

Interested in a few samples? Check out our FREE demo accuracy test: 6 questions in 3 minutes or sign up for a FREE trial package!


2. Organising and Prioritising Tests: Consider All Factors

Organising & prioritising tests are designed to measure your ability to work with information from real-world situations and come up with ideal solutions to real-world problems – the trick lies in coming up with solutions (organising) that meet the criteria (priorities) set by the question.

There are countless different types of organising & prioritising tests:

  • Timetables, e.g. a bus or ferry timetable with departure and arrival times: sounds easy, doesn’t it? Put the two together or mix up the format of each table (AM/PM versus 24-hour times, etc.), and it can become a real challenge
  • Product comparisons, e.g. looking to purchase a new copier in the office? You will soon realise that depending on the priorities and requirements (speed, quality, price, extra features) of your department selecting the best product within budget may be quite a complex decision-making task

Looking at the timetable above, it may be tempting to think that there can be nothing easier than answering questions based on it – after all, we have all travelled by bus countless times in our lives. But consider questions such as:

  • When do you arrive in Leeds if you take the first bus from London and need to stop for at least 30 minutes in each city on the way?
  • What is the maximum amount of time you can spend in Leicester if you need to get to a meeting in Leeds by 15:00?

These are only two examples of the countless challenging questions you might face in an organising & prioritising test. Imagine that you are also given a table on departure times for the return journey, and the number of potential questions multiples exponentially.

What our EPSO experts recommends

  • Take all requirements into account: if the question is about getting from Paris to Lyon for a meeting at noon (the meeting place is 10 minutes from the train station) on a Thursday and return to Paris the same day and you need some time to spare in Lyon for shopping, you need to be extra careful with all the requirements: day of the week, time of the day, distance from station, travel times, last train back from Lyon, and so on – make sure you account for all these factors in selecting the correct answer
  • Don’t be fooled by distracting information: if the question refers to the shortest possible time to get from here to there, do not confuse that with getting here to there the soonest; if your task is to find the best photocopier with at least 4 years of warranty and color printing on a tight budget, do not select the best photocopier – select the cheapest one that still meets the requirements
  • Progress incrementally:  if you need to select one option from 5 possibilities, narrow your choices incrementally. To stick with the previous examples, first find the copiers with 4 years of warranty, then within that group, the ones that can deal with colour printing, and then select the cheapest option available
  • Practice with a wide array of data: the best way to increase your performance and speed is by getting to a point where you are not surprised by the variety of tables and situations you might face at the real exam – work with different kinds of timetables, product charts, schedules, and so on to become comfortable with the scenarios


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