EPSO Situational Judgment Test (SJT): Know The Unknown | EU Training

EPSO Situational Judgment Test (SJT): Know The Unknown

While we haven’t seen the Situational Judgment Test (SJT) for a while now, the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) will be reintroducing it at the 2018 EPSO Administrators (AD5) competition. Let's refresh our memory about this test and how to pass it.


What is a Situational Judgment Test?

Candidates will be presented with scenarios relevant to the position they are applying for. The scenarios reflect real-life circumstances an EU official will be faced with as part of their duties.

The SJT will include a short description of a work-related situation where you will be asked to choose both the “Most Effective” and “Least Effective” answer option.

For example: “Your colleague is struggling to complete a project and this is impacting on the rest of the Unit. You have heard rumours that she is unsure how best to proceed, but she has not confided in you personally about this.” Four solutions to the problem will be provided. Your job will be to choose the best and worst course of action from these. Your assessment can only be based on the information provided in the scenario.

As this is a competency test (or a test of judgement), many candidates make the mistake of thinking that the SJT does not require any specific preparation. Assuming that they will easily be able to score high without practice, relying on their ‘intuition’. However, they fail to understand the methodologies and key factors that come into play, which have an impact on their final score.


What does the SJT measure?

Based on a detailed job analysis of EU officials, EPSO, with the help of experts, created a list of 7+1 competencies that successful candidates will need to possess in order to qualify for a job at any of the European Union institutions.

These core competencies are: Communicating, Analysis & Problem Solving, Delivering Quality & Results, Prioritising & Organising, Learning & Development, Working With Others, Resilience and finally Leadership but only for Administrators.

However, the Situational Judgment Test only measures 5 of EPSO’s core competencies.

These are:

  • Working With Others,

  • Analysis & Problem Solving,

  • Prioritising & Organising,

  • Delivering Quality & Results

  • Resilience

Each question and answer option is designed to measure one of these core competencies that EPSO wishes to test you on. Therefore, it is crucial that you understand what each competency means and what EPSO considers to be the most desirable course of action for each. Without researching and knowing these specifics, it is very unlikely that you’ll be able to reach a high score in this test.

This is why preparation is key.


How the Situational Judgment Test is scored

For each scenario, the “Most Effective” and “Least Effective” options are awarded the highest point, 1 point each. This means a maximum score of 2 points can be obtained per question and a candidate will get full marks if they successfully identify the most effective and least effective options.

It gets a little more complicated than that since neutral options also receive half marks. This means for each question the scoring can range from 0 to 2 points, with the following possible combinations: 0, 0.5, 1, 1.5 and 2. Therefore, by simply picking the neutral answers (1/2 marks) you could easily reach a mark of 50%. This is why the SJT test has a pass mark of 60%.

Consequently, this scoring system yields high percentages, so to score well and get ahead of other participants, you really do need to understand the competencies and values of the organisation and be able to interpret the questions and answers correctly. To be competitive, you’ll need to reach for high percentages (around 90%) in this exam.

Important note about the 2018 AD5 competition: you still need to pass the Verbal Reasoning and Numerical Reasoning components of the Pre-Selection computer-based tests. But, to move on to the next phase of the competition, you will have to do exceptionally well in the Abstract Reasoning Test and SJT, as only their scores count towards your overall Pre-Selection exam mark. Another key reason why you should not neglect the SJT during your exam preparations.


How to do well in the Situational Judgment Test

While common sense is important, as mentioned above, you will also need to understand the culture of the organisation and the core values of the five key competencies being measured by this test.

A few core values to help you find the most desirable course of action:

  • high emphasis is placed on interpersonal relationships, that is, a team attitude. Your ability to collaborate easily and work well with others is central.

  • Open conflict is usually to  be avoided, while maintaining a respectable level of assertiveness is desirable to get things done.

  • Unethical or dishonest behaviour is an absolute no-go.

  • Levels of authority should be respected and individuals should not get involved in situations that don’t involve them.

  • Work completed by a group should be distributed evenly and fairly among a team and decisions made collectively together where required.

  • Problems should be resolved as quickly as possible with the least amount of disruption or conflict.

As you can see above, this approach is rather theoretical.

Therefore, for each question (scenario) our best advice would be to identify the competency being measured, then take each answer option to the extreme so you can correctly assess what possible outcome could result from each answer option.

For example:

  • Ask what assumptions can you make from each option and what are the possible consequences of each choice?

  • Think about what the risks would be.

  • Look for what is going to bring out the most from the situation and what could be the best possible result.

For more insights into the SJT exam, be sure to view our FREE Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Situational Judgment Test webinar on SJT methodology and our Pro Tips For The EPSO Situational Judgment Test webinar where we put theory to practice.

Learning to manage the time limit set, by getting familiar with this exam and by training your brain through regular practice over an extended period of time is important.

With this comes confidence, focus and the ability to remaining calm, which is just as important as being well informed about test methodologies. Our EPSO practice SJT tests can help with this.

Further reading: Tough Situational Judgement Test Questions - Is Doing Overtime Good Or Bad?


One final thing: if the SJT is in, does that mean the E-tray is out?

While the SJT and E-tray Exercise are both competency tests, their approach in measuring a candidate’s behaviour in work related situations is very different. As such, those candidates taking part in the 2018 EPSO AD5 competition, will also have to pass the E-tray Exercise in the Intermediate phase of the competition.

In short, the SJT is a theoretical test, while the E-tray Exercise is a practical one.

When solving an SJT question, candidates should only use the information provided in the question’s scenario description and when assessing the relevance of each answer option, candidates need to identify the consequence of each action to correctly label answers as either “Most Effective” or “Least Effective”.

The E-tray Exercise on the other hand, looks like a regular email inbox and here candidates need to search and find the relevant information for themselves before ranking answer options per question.

For further reading on the difference between the SJT and the E-tray Exercise: What Is The Difference Between the EPSO SJT And E-Tray Exercise?