The importance of competency testing has significantly increased within the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO), so much so, that it takes centre stage in their selection processes. For example, the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) now accounts for 66% of an AD candidate’s total Pre-Selection test score. And while the E-tray exercise has been a part of the Assistants (AST) exam for a long time, starting this year (2015) the E-tray exercise (which further assesses a candidate’s strengths in certain competency areas), serves as an intermediate test between the Pre-Selection and the Assessment Centre phase of the AD exams.
Additionally, the Assessment Centre activities are designed to further highlight a candidate’s ability to perform strongly within the eight core competences used in EPSO’s system: Analysis & Problem Solving, Delivering Quality & Results, Prioritising & Organising, Working With Others, Communicating, Learning & Development, Resilience and Leadership.
This is why it is so crucial for candidates to clearly understand the eight competencies measured by EPSO and to know the approach each test takes to assess the competency levels of candidates, as well as the difference in how the SJT and E-tray tests are scored.
The SJT and E-tray exercise are both competencies tests, the key difference however is in the approach they take to measure a candidate’s behaviour in work related situations. In short the SJT is a theoretical test, while the E-tray is a practical test.
The SJT measures five of EPSO’s core competencies: Working With Others, Analysis & Problem Solving, Prioritising & Organising, Delivering Quality & Results, and Resilience. For each situation presented in the question’s scenario, the candidate needs to asses four possible answers and identify the best and worst option, based only on the information provided in the situation. The approach is very theoretical and requires taking each option to the extreme to correctly assess what could be the possible outcome for each answer. For example, what assumptions can one deduce from each option and what are the possible consequences of each choice? Think about what the risks would be and 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 Judgement Test webinar on SJT methodology and our Pro Tips For The EPSO Situational Judgement Test webinar where we put theory to practice.
The E-tray exercise on the other hand measures four of EPSO’s eight core competencies. These are: Working With Others, Analysis & Problem Solving, Prioritising & Organising, and Delivering Quality & Results. Also the E-tray exercise uses a practical approach in assessing a candidate’s behaviour in a work related situation by simulating a real-life scenario to measure performance regarding each competency.
Through an email inbox, candidates receive 15-25 emails that contain all the necessary background information they need. Based on this information they have to respond to a number of situations that could occur in the work environment. There are 15-25 situations in each test and each situation has 3 possible actions that candidates will have to evaluate. Candidates need to rate each action via a five step scale from totally disagree to totally agree. These ratings are based on what the candidate thinks is the ideal way to address the problematic situation posed. By adopting such an approach, not only can EPSO assess a candidate’s expected performance regarding each competency, but also assess their ability to understand and find the right information from various sources.
So when solving an SJT question, candidates should only use the information provided in the question’s scenario description. Alternately, during the E-tray exercise, candidates need to search and find the relevant information for themselves before answering a question. They need to identify and understand the information provided in the emails, and also make the links between the various emails, and they will have to measure the relevance of the three action options based on their understanding of the documents. Therefore, preparing for such an exam needs to be twofold:
One, learn to competently identify the elements required to measure the situation correctly, through developing your ability to read emails quickly, identify critical information and to recognise the links between the documentation provided.
Two, be able to recognise the right and wrong behaviours for each competency, by understanding the methodology. As explained earlier with the SJT, when assessing the relevance of each answer, candidates need to identify the consequence of each action to correctly rank answers.
To gain a deeper insight into the E-tray component of the EPSO selection process be sure to read our Must Know EPSO E-Tray Exercise Basics article. Alternately, our EPSO E-Tray Methodology Webinar is always available for your convenience.
Since the SJT and E-tray exercise are set up differently, the scoring system utilised by each test also differs. For SJT tests EPSO uses a scoring system in which the “Most Effective” and “Least Effective” options are awarded the highest point (1 point for each correct answer). That is, candidates get full marks if they identify the most effective and least effective options per question (max mark is 2).
However, this doesn’t mean that the other answer options don’t have points allocated to them. For each question the scoring range is in fact between 0 and 2 points, with the following possible combinations: 0, 0.5, 1, 1.5 and 2. This is due to neutral options receiving ½ marks and totally incorrect options receiving 0 marks. Even just by picking the neutral answers (the half marks) candidates can easily attain a mark of 50%, which is why the SJT test has a pass mark of 60% and is less scary than the other EPSO pre-selection tests. However, this scoring system yields high percentages, so to score well and get ahead of other participants, candidates really need to understand the competencies and values of the organisation and be able to interpret the questions and answers correctly.
Scoring for the E-tray exercise is similar since marks are also awarded via a ranking system for each answer option however, in this case candidates lose 1 point with every step they are further from the correct answer. As mentioned earlier, actions are ranked via a five step scale:
(--) totally disagree that the action is a good response to the situation
(-) mostly disagree that the action is a good response to the situation
(+/-) neutral: feel that the action has roughly equal good and poor elements in this situation
(+) mostly agree that the action is a good response to the situation
(++) totally agree
Hence the maximum score for finding the right answer per option is 4 points. So if (++) is the correct option for a particular scenario for example, then a candidate will receive 4 points if they answer (++), 3 points for (+), 2 points for (+/-), 1 point for (-), and 0 points for choosing (--). Alternately, if the correct option for a particular scenario is (+/-), then a candidate will receive 4 points if they answer (+/-), 3 points for choosing either (-) or (+) and 2 points for choosing either (--) or (++).
In conclusion, EPSO candidates who take the time to properly prepare for these two tests strongly increase their chances of attaining a higher score and the probability of progressing further to the Assessment Centre. With the SJT accounting for such a significant portion of the pre-selection test results, candidates need to do exceptionally well in this exam to progress to the next level of the competition. Furthermore, what makes E-tray preparation so vital is the simple fact that a candidate’s E-tray results are carried over to the Assessment Centre phase of the competition and count towards their final score, making it crucial to attain the highest possible total mark in this exam!