Here's What EPSO Candidates Want To Know About The 2019 AD5 Competition | EU Training

Here's What EPSO Candidates Want To Know About The 2019 AD5 Competition

You asked the questions and we've answered them!

During the course of the FREE 2019 EPSO AD5 Information Webcast, many questions were raised by participants about the 2019 EPSO Administrators Generalists (AD5) (EPSO/AD/373/19) competition. Not all the questions could be answered during the hour, so we collected them and answered them below.

Here are all the things EPSO AD5 candidates want to know about the competition.

Quick Links:

The Application and Eligibility
Choosing Language 1 and Language 2
The EPSO Computer-based Tests
Preparation Strategies
The EPSO E-Tray Exam
The Reserve List
EU Training Courses / Online Preparation
The Ultimate EU Test Book


The Application and Eligibility

If the degree obtained in the EU is a Masters (BA is abroad, non-recognised), does it count?

Diplomas, whether issued in EU or non-EU countries, must be recognised by an official EU Member State body, e.g. an EU Member State's education ministry. For more information please consult the Notice of Competition.

Does work experience make any difference in the chances of being successful in the competition?

For this AD5 competition, you are not required to have any work experience. Having work experience does not exclude you from the competition either. So if you have a degree, at least a Bachelor’s, and no work experience then you’re eligible. If you have a PhD and five years of work experience you’re also eligible. Sometimes, in very practical terms, you might have a better chance of being recruited with some work experience. But for the purposes of the selection process, this is not a pre-requisite.

Is there an age limit to apply to the AD5 (Concours) Competition?

There is no age limit, however, officials are automatically retired at 66. For more details, read the Staff Regulations of EU Officials.

Answered by András Baneth during the webcast
"No age limit. Certainly, there is a retirement age in the Institutions, but that’s a different matter. The upper age limit is not defined because that would be discriminatory, but generally speaking, it is up to the retirement age. So whether you are a fresh graduate out of university, or whether you are 35 or 45, you can apply for the AD5 competition provided you meet all the eligibility requirements."

The military service was not applicable in my case as my father is a diplomat and I never lived in Austria. Will this be an issue with my eligibility?

No, as long as you're exempt or you're not required for whatever reason to complete the military service, this criterion is considered fulfilled. 

Does a criminal record have any influence in selection or recruitment?

The Notice of Competition says that you need to 'meet the character requirements' to be an EU official. A criminal record may go against this requirement, but other factors such as when you were convicted, has the sentence 'expired', etc. would likely also be considered. EPSO or the Selection Board can nevertheless request a 'casier judiciaire', an extract from the judicial records to prove the lack of any criminal sanctions that are still valid.

If we register before 25 June (this year), are we obligated to take the AD5 test in September/October? Or if we don't feel ready, we can take the tests next year?

It's not possible to postpone the test. You will have to sit the exams during the allocated testing periods. However EPSO releases the AD5 competition almost every year, so most probably you'll be able to apply next year as well. But why don't you apply anyway? Take the tests this year (even if you don't feel 100% ready) and see how you go! Even if you don't pass this year, it will be great practice for next year. You really don't have anything to lose.

Is there any number regarding candidates registered for this year's competition?

Registration is still ongoing. EPSO will release the number of candidates that applied after registrations close. Last year there were 28,142 applications validated during Part 1 of the application process. That number dropped down to 22,666 applications validated after Part 2 of the application process closed.

Any advantage/disadvantage to applying to multiple posts in parallel? For example, to this AD5 and a CAST competition, for example, the one that has no deadline?

You can absolutely apply and participate in multiple competitions simultaneously. The more EPSO competitions you are eligible to participate in, the better your chances of making it onto a Reserve List and getting hired by an EU institution!

For those of you who may not be aware: CAST refers to Contract Agent for Specific Tasks. It’s a contract agent selection process, which is independent of the current AD5 competition. You can apply for that in parallel - there are no limitations whatsoever. In general, the rule of thumb is you can apply to as many competitions as you like UNLESS it is specifically written in the Notice of Competition that there’s a conflict between two competitions. Some candidates choose to submit 2 or 3 applications to the various competitions being undertaken at the same time. They sit various tests, occasionally it’s good for practice, sometimes it’s more serious because they’re truly interested in that specific field. So it’s entirely up to you as to how many competitions you’d like to take part in. So just to reiterate the CAST applications (those are ongoing without deadlines) have a slightly different method to the regular EPSO competitions and you can find a lot of information about that on our website. Make sure to take a look because that may be an additional opportunity on top of the current AD5 one.


Choosing Language 1 and Language 2

So your first language is your mother tongue?

Not necessarily. It depends on which and how many official EU languages you know at a C1 level or higher.

If your mother tongue is the only official EU language that you speak/read/write at this level then yes - Language 1 will have to be your mother tongue (because Language 2 only needs to be B2 level or higher).

For example, I’m Hungarian, but I speak/read/write in Hungarian and English fluently. I could choose either as my Language 1. BUT! And this is a big but - don't forget that the Language 2 that you can choose, can only be selected from the top 5 languages listed by AD5 EU candidates, during Round 1 of the application process. The chances are that Hungarian will not be listed as a top 5 language, but it is very likely that English will be. So my Language 1 choice will most likely have to be Hungarian and my Language 2 choice English.

If however, your mother tongue is French, but you are also fluent (minimum C1 level) in English for example, you could choose either language as you Language 1 and 2."

Do you recommend choosing mother tongue for CBT or AC instead?

This is a complex question because a number of factors come into play. Your choice depends largely on the languages that you speak, your language proficiency in each language and what the top 5 languages will be (from which you will need to choose your Language 2).

  1. Your mother tongue has to be one of the 24 official languages of the European Union.
  2. The language that you choose as your Language 1 (which will be used for most of the pre-selection CBT tests) - you have to be at a C1 level or higher (thorough knowledge). If your mother tongue is the only language that you speak/read/write at this level, then there isn't a choice - you'll have to pick it as your Language 1 and complete the pre-selection CBT tests in this language. If on the other hand, your knowledge is at this level for more than one official EU language then you may have a bit of flexibility in choice.
  3. The AC can only be completed in the top 5 languages listed by EPSO AD5 candidates at B2 level or higher. If your mother tongue is not one of those five languages then the choice has been made for you - you will not be able to undertake the AC in that language.

If you are in a fortunate position that you speak/read/write at a C1 level in two or more official EU languages and your mother tongue is among the top 5 languages listed by EU candidates (hence can pick it as your Language 2) then it might be a good strategy to select your mother tongue as your Language 2 and complete the AC in that language.

It looks like the best strategy is to put your "best" language as Language 2... There are more tests in this language. Is it so?

Answered by András Baneth during the webcast:
"It really depends on what your languages are. Being a French and Spanish speaker is very different from being a Czech and Lithuanian speaker. These are different situations where some languages are more accessible given the number of candidates who speak them as well."

See also answers to the previous two questions above for more details.

Apart from the languages with a B2 or above level, does it make sense to declare another language with a lower level?

Sure, it definitely wouldn't harm to list as many skills, qualities, and competencies in your application form as possible.

Does the application need to be submitted in your Language 1?

Part 1 and 2 of the application can be submitted in any of the 24 official EU languages. 

If I put English as Language 1, and it is eventually listed as one of the top 5 languages, could I still take the Situational Judgment Test in English? I mean, do I need 2 different languages?

If you pick English as your Language 1, then you will have to complete the Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning Test questions in English. The Situational Judgment Test, E-tray exercise and Assessment Centre tests will all need to be completed in your selected Language 2. So, no you will not be able to take the Situational Judgment Test in English - unless you pick English not as your Language 1 but as your Language 2.

Yes, fluency in at least 2 official EU languages is mandatory to participate in this competition.

There are no restrictions in terms of Language 1? You can be excluded only for choosing a Language 2 that has not been selected?

Yes, if your Language 2 will not be listed amongst the top 5 languages, you will be excluded from the competition.

The last two years these were the top 5 languages listed by EPSO AD5 candidates:

  • 2018: English (97.86%), French (51.30%), Spanish (27.98%), Italian (26.73%), and German (19.33%).
  • 2017: English (97.31%), French (52.07%), Spanish (27.29%), Italian (26.83%), and German (18.69%).

It is highly likely that these will be the top 5 languages again in 2019.

Answered by András Baneth during the webcast: 
"This is a fundamental point. Yes, you can be excluded. Make sure your Language 2 is among the anticipated top 5 languages so you do not risk being excluded from the competition at the application phase."

For my Language 1 can I choose Greek?

Yes, your Language 1 may be any of the 24 official EU languages of the European Union.

Given the Numerical tests are also in our first language, isn't it possible to have question samples in the various EU languages? Is there any place we can find those? It makes studying very hard to practice in one language and take the test in another.

EU Training offers numerical reasoning questions in 3 languages: English, French, and Spanish.


The EPSO Computer-based Tests

Are there any accommodations for people with learning and behavioural disorders e.g. dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, etc. or is this group of people excluded from the competition?

Please consult this page.

Can we choose to take the exam on Saturdays?

In Brussels some test centers are open on Saturdays, in other cities, it's quite rare to organise exams on weekends.

I live in Germany but I am Italian. If I select a test center in Germany will the tests be in Italian or in German?

During the application process, you need to select a Language 1 from the 24 official EU languages and select your Language 2 from the top 5 languages. The pre-selection tests will be in your chosen Language 1 (except SJT which will be in your selected Language 2), while the e-tray will be in your selected Language 2 and Assessment Centre exams in your selected Language 2.

The location where you take the test does not determine what language you will sit the tests in. You choose that during Part 2 of the application process.

The pre-selection CBT tests take place at EPSO test centers all over Europe, while the Assessment Centre will take place in Brussels.

If successful at the CBT test, can I use the test result to apply for FIII or FIV positions or do I have to take the CAST anyway?

 No. For each EPSO competition, you have to take the tests again. The CBT test results of one competition do not roll over to another. 

Furthermore, the CAST process in itself is slightly different to the EPSO competition process. Firstly, there is no deadline to apply with CAST - you can add yourself to the database any time. Secondly, you have to be invited to participate in a CAST selection opportunity. Thirdly, slightly different rules apply to CAST CBT tests and how long and for what profile they are valid for. You can find out the specifics of the CAST selection process here.

If we pass the preliminary (verbal, numerical, abstract, situational) test but don’t pass any of the subsequent stages, does the recruitment process for another post restarts from scratch with another test, or do these results of the test count for the next posts as well? If results do count, could a bad score now impede from advancing in the recruitment stage in a future post?

No, for each competition you have to take the tests again. Each competition has a separate selection process, meaning scores achieved in one competition do not affect the results of another competition. Each competition is treated totally separately.

Is the Situational Judgment Test taken on the same day as the Verbal, Numerical and Abstract Reasoning Tests?

Yes, candidates will sit the Situational Judgment Test on the same day as the other tests. The order and timing of the tests will most likely be:

  • Arrival at the test centre and ID check: 30 minutes before the appointment 
  • On-screen tutorial: 10 minutes - Language 2
  • Verbal Reasoning Test: 18 minutes (10 questions)  - Language 1
  • Numerical Reasoning Test: 20 minutes (10 questions) - Language 1
  • 20-minute break (optional)
  • Abstract Reasoning Test: 20 minutes (20 questions) - Language 1
  • Situational Judgment Test: 30 minutes (20 questions) - Language 2
  • Satisfaction survey: 5 minutes (optional)

Would it be possible to change the CBT Center after the validation of the application?

During Part 1 of the application process, you will be asked to select a CBT Test Centre from a list of countries/cities - "Please indicate your preferred CBT test centre location (to be confirmed at a later stage)". According to the EPSO website, you can change the test centre location where you plan to take the pre-selection tests, but it is subject to availability. For full details on how to do this please read the information on How do I reschedule my computer-based tests? on the EPSO website.


Preparation Strategies

Do you recommend spending more preparation time on Abstract Reasoning and the Situational Judgment Test than the Verbal and Numerical Reasoning Tests? Or the same time?

You only need to PASS the Verbal Reasoning Test and the Numerical Reasoning Test. The scores that you get in these two tests will NOT COUNT towards your final pre-selection CBT score. The marks that you get in the Abstract Reasoning Test and the Situational Judgment Test WILL COUNT towards your final pre-selection CBT score. So you need to do your very best in those two exams.

Last year, we read many disappointing posts on the EPSO AD5 Facebook Group, where candidates did exceptionally well in the Abstract Reasoning Test and Situational Judgment Test (and would have made it to the next round), but did not reach the pass mark by 1 point in either the Verbal Reasoning Test or Numerical Reasoning Test. So please be mindful of this during your preparation - all four tests are important and how much preparation time you dedicate to each test type is depended on your skills and areas of strengths and weaknesses.

Answered by András Baneth during the webcast: 
"Probably not the same amount of time. If you are fairly confident that you can reach the 50% pass mark for the Numerical and Verbal Reasoning test then focus your energy on the Abstract Reasoning Test and the Situational Judgment Test, because there you not only need to pass but need to get the highest possible score. Therefore you have to perform extremely well, and your preparation should reflect that. Whereas for the Verbal and Numerical Reasoning you need to perform well enough to pass. This will determine your preparation strategy. Another aspect of your preparation strategy is - what is your current situation? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are you numbers oriented? Then you need far less preparation for the Numerical Reasoning tests, but maybe the reading comprehension is more challenging for you. So this certainly determines how much effort you put into preparing for the Verbal Reasoning and the Situational Judgment Test."

What is the best way, the strategy to prepare and to succeed at the tests? Is the Ultimate EU Test Book enough?

The Ultimate EU Test Book offers a good overview of the EPSO selection process, to get a clear picture of what each test and competition stage entails. It also includes some practice questions. Even if you prefer to practice via paper format, we still advise that you complete a few simulated tests on EU Training as well, to get a realistic feel for what the EPSO testing platform will be like and to complete the tests under realistic exam conditions. Tests are also available in many different languages - for example, Verbal Reasoning Tests can be taken in 19 languages.

How would you recommend to prepare in order to become quicker at solving the numerical questions?

If you feel you need to brush up on your maths skills our Maths Refresher For Numerical Reasoning webinar can help with that.

Our FREE Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Numerical Reasoning Test webinar also outlines what types of questions you can expect to get during an EPSO Numerical Reasoning Test and helpful tips on how to cut corners to get to the correct answer faster.

However, there is no golden rule - except for lots of practice. EU Training offers many Numerical Reasoning practice questions. Also, you can take these practice tests via practice mode or exam mode. 

  • In practice mode, there are no time constraints and explanations can be enabled as well. 
  • On the other hand, in exam mode, you can practice under realistic exam conditions with strict time limits. 

We suggest to start practicing in practice mode first and switch to exam mode once you have gained enough experience and confidence.

How can I read the Numerical Reasoning question charts faster?

Focus on the data asked in the question and search for that specific data in the chart.


The EPSO E-Tray Exam

Is the e-tray exercise similar to the Competency Passport described at The Ultimate EU Career Development book by De Sutter?

The Competency Passport is an evaluation of your core competencies based on the Assessment Center's exercises. The e-tray is just one of the many exercises that help determine your level for each of the 8 competencies. The E-tray exercise itself is a simulation of an email inbox, and you can find samples here.

When will the E-tray exam be held? After the pre-selection CBT tests?

Yes, the E-tray exam is held after the pre-selection phase and only those that do really well on the computer-based tests will get invited to sit the exam.

According to EPSO's current planning schedule, the pre-selection CBT exams (covering Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and the Situational Judgment Test) are planned to take place sometime during September/October, while the E-tray exam will most like be held sometime during December 2019/January 2020.

You can view the 2019 EPSO Graduate Administrators AD5 Competition Timeline here.

Is there a simulation tool for the E-tray exam on the EU Training website?

Yes, EU Training has many Etray simulations available - you can access them here.


The Reserve List

If you succeed and you will finally make it onto the reserve list, how can you increase your chances to be hired? How does it work?

If you want to get hired you will have to be proactive and reach out to the HoUs and send your CV to the institutions you are interested in. But there is a right and wrong way to go about it as well. For a detailed discussion on this topic please refer to the How To Get An EU Job From The Reserve List webinar.

Also, EU Training has an Application Assistance service you can utilise, where our EU career expert will review and help improve your CV and cover letter, so you get the results you want at any stage of the EU recruitment process.

Answered by András Baneth during the webcast:
"I did a webinar on this subject - How To Get An EU Job From The Reserve List. There’s a lot you can do in identifying the people who may hire you based on your background and profile. You can optimise your CV. Optimise your message through sending a great cover letter. These are all covered in this webinar. You can definitely increase your chances of getting a job.

For candidates with experience, is there any advantage/disadvantage to apply to an AD5 position and not directly to something advertised on the website?

The general advice is to apply for all exams and jobs that you qualify for. This way you multiply your chances, get more exam experience and you have nothing to lose.  

Is there a possibility to be on the Reserve List and not get hired?

Answered by András Baneth during the webcast:
"This is important. Let’s be completely honest and transparent. Unfortunately, yes. Some candidates do get placed on the Reserve List for the validity period (depending on the competition the validity period is only about 1-2 years) then you have to go through the whole selection process again. This is very unfortunate and it’s a lose-lose situation. Neither party is happy about this. Candidates who went through the selection process successfully - they want to be hired, they put in a lot of time and effort. From the Institutions perspective, they also want to hire this number of people. There’s a reason they announced 147 spots - they want to fill vacancies because the Institutions have a need for human resources. And if they cannot hire a sufficient number of staff - that is a loss for them too. There is a joint interest in getting everyone hired from the Reserve List, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen. And sometimes it doesn’t happen because life circumstances change - a candidate may move abroad, or their family circumstances change, or their job preferences change and they decide not to take the offer after all. There are multiple facets to this. Generally, conversion rates (the number of people from the Reserve list who are eventually hired) is relatively high. I think it’s around 80 or 85 percent, perhaps even 90%."

If you are on the Reserve List are you going to receive only offers for AD5 or also for higher levels?

You can be hired only for the grade of the competition you passed. If you participate in another competition of a higher grade and make it onto that Reserve List as well, then yes. But for the AD5 competition's Reserve List, only AD5 grade positions will be offered to you. 

JRC (Joint Resource Center of the European Commission) belongs to the European Commission, will they have access to this reserve list? 

Yes. JRC typically has access to the Reserve List. Sometimes there are dedicated competitions for researchers in various fields.

Are EU Agencies not included in the potential places of work for AD5? Do they not have access to the final Reserve list?

Answered by András Baneth during the webcast:
"The main rule when it comes to EU agencies is that they’re not, legally speaking, EU Institutions. They are agencies, and there are a number of EU Bodies. These generally do not have access to hire permanent staff, from the reserve lists. Occasionally there are exceptions to this rule, for example, you have EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) based in Alicante, Spain, who have a special agreement with EPSO, so now they have a few EU Officials - whether they are EU Officials or Unlimited Temporary Contracts, which sounds like an oxymoron, but they have a special situation in which they can hire from the reserve list. But this is a rare exception, not the rule, when it comes to EU Agencies. EU Agencies typically hire Temporary Agents and Contract Staff. Take a look at the CAST process here to see if you are eligible to apply to any of the profiles."

Will the External Action Service have access to the AD5 pool? If not, can you only enter the EAS as CAST?

The Notice of Competition states the following: "The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) is organising an open competition, based on tests, to draw up a reserve list from which the institutions of the European Union may recruit new members of the civil service as ‘administrators’ (function group AD)."

This means that - at least in theory - the EEAS will have access to the AD5 pool (since EEAS is an institution, it is also listed as such on EPSO's website.

However, most of the staff of EEAS, especially those of the delegations are temporary agents recruited with an ad hoc procedure and for the permanent officials they have to respect article 29 of the Staff Regulation which means that candidates from another institution (Commission and Council mainly) have priority over reserve lists.

If you are offered one job and turn it down, does this mean I won't be offered another one? (given we are on the Reserve List)

When an Institution is interested in a candidate on a Reserve List they "flag" them in the IT tool, blocking that person for the other Institutions temporarily. Once the interviews are over and the decision is made (which also means that someone has accepted the offer) the others are released and become available on the Reserve List again. So even if you went to an interview (which you are not obliged to) and you declined an offer, this should not harm your chances for other invitations/offers. 

Answered by András Baneth during the webcast:
"Well, this is an interesting one. In psychology, they call this the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’. If I turn it down will a better opportunity present itself, or should I play it safe and accept it. I say if the offer you get in the end is ‘good enough’ then take it. This is because there is an internal mobility system in the Commission but also among the Institutions where you can keep your grade level and salary but move to another job if the opportunity arises. So start out somewhere, and after two or so years you should be able to move to another position. Unless it’s really not suited to you, do consider accepting it. Even if you turn it down, there’s a good chance you might be offered another one, but there is a bit of a gamble in that."


EU Training Courses / Online Preparation

How often do you organise preparation courses? When is the next one?

EU Training regularly organises training courses for all stages of the EPSO selection process. You can see our list of upcoming events here. This page gets updated regularly so visit back often.

Is there any classroom training in Luxembourg?

Classroom Training sessions are regularly organised and held in Brussels only. If a large enough group comes together, then anything is possible - please contact for a quote.

Will there also be a webcast for AD5 in the field of the Audit?

We do not plan to hold an Audit competition webcast as most aspects of the AD5 Administrators Generalist webcast are relevant to the Audit competition as well.

Why is it that I cannot combine my remaining finance questions with the other questions (verbal, numerical, etc.)? Isn't it possible, once I have created one test, to mix in again some of the same questions?

It's not possible to reset your question quota and compose new tests from the questions that were already launched. But you can review and retake your previous tests any time, as often as you like, without any limitation. Our database is extensive enough to generate multiple questions per test type in many languages, without repetitions.  


The Ultimate EU Test Books

Is there a big difference between your Ultimate AD Test Book (2019 edition) from the question packages on 

EU Training's online exercises are completely different from the test questions of the book. There’s zero overlap between the two. Furthermore, on the EU Training platform the Verbal, Numerical, Abstract Reasoning Tests, the Situational Judgment Test, E-tray exercise and Case Study exercise are all simulated as closely as possible to the actual EPSO testing interface.

Is there a big difference between your green AD book from 2017 and this year's AD5 book (purple one)?

Quite a limited difference, the 2019 edition is only about 20% different from the 2017 edition. If you have the 2017 version then I suggest complementing your preparation from the book by buying brand new tests on

Is there an overlap between the new and past editions?

Yes, see above.

Is there a big difference between the 2019 edition and the past 3-4 ones?

Compared to the 2015 edition, about half of the questions are new, but compared to more recent editions, there's much less difference. 

Do you know where I can find books in order to study for the exams?

The Ultimate EU Test Book is very popular and has been used by EPSO candidates for years.

Best of luck to everyone! smiley