Case Studies - All The Details You Wanted To Know

EU Training

András held yet another spirited case study webinar last week, and as usual, the participants had many questions to him. Here he collected and answers the most interesting ones to dispel the mist in connection with some reccurring concerns.

In the case study at the EPA AD 5 exam, what specific knowledge is tested?

It is always useful to look at the Notice of Competition of a given exam, especially the annex where the job description is listed which can give some ideas about the topics the case study may cover. For the EPA AD exams, it is EU decision-making, understanding key elements of main policies such as energy, environment, trade, public health and economic policies, and institutional issues such as transparency and good administrative conduct. It is to be noted, however, that the exam tests the application of the knowledge, not the knowledge per se. Also, for many other exams the specific knowledge is not tested in the case study at all, only general competencies like analysis, communication and others.

The documents are given in hard copies or on the computer?

As mentioned at the webinar, if your exam is computer based, all materials are online, you have no physical documents.

What types of case studies can we expect on the AST3 Project management tests?

It is often an analysis of a project with various background documents, and you need to make a critical evaluation of the project, or you need to draft a project plan yourself on the basis of the variables and requirements listed in the background documents.

EPSO says the Case Study will cover a general topic. What kind of topic can it be?

Hard to predict, but topics linked to data privacy, transparency, public health and environment (e.g. CO2 emission) are popular these days.

Is the difficulty level of the AD case studies similar to the AST case studies?

The only real difference between the levels of difficulty is the length of the background materials, otherwise there is no difference in the content of the exercise. 

Can we write using capital letters only?

When writing section headers, this is a good way to distinguish it from other parts of the text. Otherwise DON’T USE ALL CAPS!

A question regarding the organisation of the material: given that a list with abbreviations is already provided in the case study exercise, do I need to write "in extenso" the names of the bodies, institutions etc. when I use them for the first time, or is it OK to use directly the provided abbreviations?

I would still suggest to write them out the first time because it’s good communication practice, even if the background document lists them, since that is rather your essay as a candidate that the reader is interested in, and not so much in consulting joint documents. Of course, exercise some healthy judgment: if it’s really a long abbreviation or very obvious, e.g. “EU”, it would not need to be spelled out.

Are you allowed to take a pen and paper with you to the exam?

No, but you are given an ‘erasable slate’, a board on which you can write and erase it, for notes.

How long should the essay be? Is it explicitly stated?

It is not stated, and given the layout of the editor, it is not split into pages but it is a continuous text. Therefore the equivalent of 2 or 3 pages is absolutely sufficient, but as always, it is the quality and not the quantity that matters.

Are "copy and paste" tools are available? Are the Ctrl+C/V shortcuts functional?

According to our information, you cannot use these keyboard shortcuts, however, there is a copy and paste function inside the editor. Therefore you can move your own text in the editor, but cannot copy and paste text from the source (background) documents into the editor.

When it comes to accounting: is it really an essay or rather solving an accounting question and suggesting entries in the balance sheet e.g.?

It can be either of these but often EPSO gives you a case study where you actually need to critically evaluate a balance sheet or draw one up yourself. In both cases, this is what the above mentioned ‘application of knowledge’ means, instead of asking you the definition of accounting terms or similar.

Could you talk about the foreign language level needed?

The level of your written English (or French or German) is not measured directly, however, the overall communication is of course greatly impacted by proper grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, style and other indicators of a solid written communication skill. Therefore it needs to be very high level.

Where do we learn about the EU technical knowledge in order to use it in our case study text?

We collected a list of EU Knowledge resources in this article, and you can also find a collection of links in our 8 Steps to Ace the EPSO Case Study article.

You mention "switch between windows" - do you know if it is possible to have two windows open at the same time, so you can see both a document and the answer window at the same time?

A background document and the editor can be viewed at the same time. When it comes to more than one background document being visible: this is also possible technically, but given the screen size, the two windows (plus the editor) would largely overlap, so it is practically hard to see three elements on screen. So you will have one background document and the editor open at most times.

Where can we find examples of case study exercises? (E.g.: books, websites, etc.) ?

We have a demo on our website that models to 99% EPSO’s interface, and The Ultimate EU Test Book also has samples with detailed instructions. We also offer personalized, individual correction of case studies by a former EPSO assessor and selection board president.

Is there a chance to get a case study theme already used in previous exams?

EPSO aims to provide a level playing field for all applicants, therefore they would most likely not use a topic or documents already used in a previous exam (moreover, formally it is not EPSO that drafts the case study, but the selection board of a given competition).

If, exceptionally, my case study is handwritten, do you have any advice on what to do if I make a writing mistake? Cross out? Put in brackets and put "I mean..."

If you make a mistake, just simply cross out and write the new word above it or if it’s a longer section of text, cross out and add an asterisk (*) or use arrows. Almost all case study exams these days are computer based, however.

Still haven’t found the answer you are looking for? Get in touch, and we’ll do our best to help you!