Are you about to sit an EPSO computer-based exam?
We have received a lot of feedback from EPSO candidates (especially from those participating in the 2019 EPSO AD5 Graduate Administrators competition) about their experiences at the computer-based tests taken at various EPSO test centers around Europe.
In this article, we have collated all these helpful insights so you can benefit from the experiences of other EPSO candidates.
Verbal Reasoning Test
Be very attentive to slight changes in wording between the original passage and the answer options. A slight variation in meaning could easily lead you to slip up.
Some of the verbal passages can be unexpectedly tricky because of length, complex terms, dense sentences or a lot of cumbersome and difficult information to process. After reading through the passage give yourself a second to absorb, process and understand exactly what you have just read, before tackling the answer options.
Be 100% sure that the information in the answer options is expressed in some shape or form in the passage and not just presumed or previously acquired knowledge.
All-in-all, candidates generally find this test doable, but by completing some practice tests, it can help to increase your processing speed.
Remember, you have just under 2 minutes to read the passage, process the content and select the right answer option - which is not a lot of time at all.
Also, keep in mind that many candidates have made the fatal mistake of not putting enough effort into this part of the exam. They did brilliantly in the other tests, but were eliminated from the competition because they missed the pass mark of the verbal reasoning test by only 1 point.
So while this test is doable, it is an easy way for EPSO to eliminate candidates due to complacency with this test.
Helpful Tips Article:
Words Won't Bring You Down - How To Become An Expert In Verbal Reasoning
Numerical Reasoning Test
Pay close attention to the units in the table and the units being asked or mentioned in the question - it could be different!
You will encounter questions where one of the answer options is "none of the above". Don't be fooled by this. Be absolutely certain that the information needed to complete the calculation really isn't there before selecting this option. For example, the table of information may refer to the male population, whereas the question asks about the female population - you should still be able to work out the right answer.
For some of the questions, the tables supplied are very detailed and dense with information. It is easy to become overwhelmed by 'too much information' and therefore find the test confronting. Concentrate on understanding exactly what the question is asking - most of the time the majority of the information in the table is irrelevant and you only have to extract a few figures which are needed to complete the calculation successfully.
Be careful with estimation. For most EPSO competitions you'll only need to reach the pass mark in numerical reasoning, as this mark is usually not added to the final exam score. Therefore, it's worth making sure that you have answered enough questions correctly to hit the pass mark. The best practice, in this case, is to calculate and not estimate (if you know the process to work out the correct answer), because there is a good chance that the answer options will be very close numerically - so you will have to calculate in the end anyway. Don't waste precious seconds on estimation, put that time to good use and be prepared to invest it into calculating the exact answer right from the start.
If you have a good grasp of maths basics and understand what to do (i.e. the processes to get to the correct answer), the general consensus is that this test is doable. Just don‘t take too long with one question or you won‘t make it to the end of the test before your time is up. Some questions are harder than others, so if in the first few seconds you can't establish the correct process to solve the problem, make a guess, mark the question and move on to the next one. EPSO always throws in at least two cumbersome math exercises - complete the easier questions first and then tackle the tougher ones if you have time at the end. Remember, the goal is to get enough points to reach the pass mark required - if this means guessing one or two of the harder questions so be it.
Abstract Reasoning Test
This test is tough - no doubt about it.
The questions are not impossible, but many are complex and difficult to solve within 60 seconds. It does help though if you can draw upon all the possible rules and tricks that question writers employ.
Candidates found the abstract reasoning test to be surprisingly varied in terms of difficulty. For some questions, the correct answer is quite obvious at first glance with maybe only two rules needed to be about to discard all but one answer. Others are trickier and in some cases, you may find yourself stuck between two answer options that both seem correct - don't linger on it for too long, just guess the answer, mark it and move on.
Sometimes you'll get stuck looking for a rule that doesn't exist and you'll waste a lot of time trying to find it. It happens to everyone - just try to remember that these distractor tricks do exist.
Learning by heart all the practice exercises on a site won't be much help. Instead, train to become quick in scouting out the possible rules used by test writers. The best advice is to try to practice as many different types of abstract questions as possible: rotation, mirroring, transpositions... and start to do this months before the exam, not days.
Most candidates experience the greatest amount of stress and problems with the abstract reasoning test. It makes sense as EPSO uses it as a great elimination tool (especially in the EPSO Graduate Administrator competition were only the scores of the abstract reasoning test and situational judgment test count towards the final exam mark, whereas pass mark is enough for the numerical and verbal test). Getting the highest possible mark in this test is key to exam success, so the pressure is certainly on!
There is no point in sugarcoating it - there is little time and it flies, the level of difficulty is high, it's frustrating when it is impossible to recognise the rules - many candidates definitely rate this section of the exam as their worst. At the end of the day though, remember everyone is in the same boat.
When working through abstract reasoning questions try to use the following practical strategy during the exam:
You've narrowed down the answer options but you're not sure of the correct solution or you simply can't see the rule. Mark the question so you can return to it at the end, BUT make sure you also pick an answer there and then. There is a very good chance that you may run out of time and can't come back to the question. The time limit set is very tight and many candidates struggle to make it through the whole set of 20 questions under exam conditions. If you have at least manage to narrow it down to two answer options, you already have a 50% chance of getting it right - so don't leave it unanswered...you've already put in the effort! Even if you've managed to eliminate only one of the options at first glance you have already increased your chances of getting the answer right. Don't throw away possible points by leaving any of the questions unanswered.
Situational Judgment Test
Most EPSO competitions will not include a Situational Judgment Test, but for those candidates participating in the EPSO Graduate Andmistratrs (AD5) competition, this will be the last test they'll take on the day.
The situational judgment scenarios are about what YOU would do in that particular situation - not what a subordinate would do etc. It is all about how you would handle these situations.
This test is not overly complicated, there are a lot of deductions or reaction to situations, team spirit, time management, coordinating priorities or a team and when to refer to your manager. Having said that though, while the situational judgment test may seem easy, even getting just one extra point can make a huge difference in your final score. Therefore, the test at times can be quite puzzling or tricky. Almost everyone passes, but to get a high score is difficult and even just getting a couple of questions correct over the average may mean a big jump in your ranking.
To rate actions correctly a strategy could be to first look for answers that breach the fundamental values of the EU institutions. Like a dishonest action or something that breaches hierarchy. If there's no such option, then it starts to get more tricky. Look at your options, take each action to the extreme and see what the absolute worst or best outcome could be based on that.
Remember each question is going to be measuring one of the following five EPSO core competencies - Working With Others, Analysis & Problem Solving, Prioritising & Organising, Delivering Quality & Results, and Resilience - so the context should always be assessed based on these.
You'll have to take this test in your second language (i.e. not the same as the verbal, numerical, abstract reasoning language), which could cause issues for some.
Generally, candidates find that the time limit set for this test is not a problem - 30 minutes for 20 scenarios. The scenarios aren't particularly long so you won‘t need too long to read through them and there is enough time to analyse the actions properly.
You do need to indicate BOTH a least effective and most effective option per scenario. Some candidates find the interface for this to be a rather flimsy - dragging buttons over to the right answer options. Be careful, because if you only half answer the question (rated only the most effective OR least effective answer) and decide to come back to the question later to rate the other action (without marking it), the overview page at the end of the test will show the question is answered. As with the other tests, it is far safer to give an answer to both the least effective and most effective right at the start, mark it and then return to it at the end if you still have time for further consideration. Otherwise, you could be throwing precious points away.
By this stage of the exam, it is totally normal that your concentration levels are going to start to drop - especially following a grueling abstract reasoning set.
You may find that you've just read through the scenario, but none of it has registered clearly in your mind and you need to re-read it again to understand what's going on. Obviously this leads to a waste of precious time, but there are two ways you can prepare to counter this dip in energy:
- Make full use of the 20-minute break between the end of the numerical reasoning test and start the abstract reasoning test. Leave the room, move around a little to get the blood flowing and try to "switch-of" to clear your mind. This short break is essential to get those energy levels back up.
- Before the real test, do a couple of FULL practice tests in exam mode over a 2-3 week period. This means doing full sets of each test type in the correct order of the exam under strict time conditions. Train yourself so you have the mental stamina to maintain the high level of focus required throughout the exam.
Be careful of the time which does run out very fast.
Don't leave any questions unanswered - if you are running out of time just guess. You won't lose points, but you never know you could still pick up a couple.
Take full advantage of any breaks on offer. Use it to refresh your concentration levels.
In general, if you‘ve been practicing regularly over a few weeks in exam mode, you should see a great improvement in your performance and feel a lot more relaxed on exam day.
Keep a positive attitude and you will be fine!