Foreign Service Officer Exam: The Job Knowledge Test

If you're considering a career as a Foreign Service Officer, you'll need to do well on the Foreign Service Officer Exam (FSOE). The FSOE is divided into five major sections, the most straightforward of which is the Job Knowledge test section.

The Job Knowledge test is divided into two sections. The general section was developed to test candidates' knowledge throughout a range of eight subjects that were determined to be the most important in terms of becoming a Foreign Service Officer: United States Government, United States Society, World History and Geography, Economics, Mathematics and Statistics, Management, Communication, and Computers.

The other section of the Job Knowledge test is the career track section. After you complete the questions in the general section, you immediately turn to the career track section. The following are the five career tracks and a brief description of what these careers might entail:

  • Management officers are normally involved in business management within a consular unit or management office of an embassy. At the senior level, you may become an ambassador, head one of the large consulates, and even direct the development of new embassies.
  • Consular officers often work in local embassies adjudicating visas, assisting American citizens in emergency situations, and serving as the primary contact that people have with the local U.S. embassies or consulate offices. As you grow in the job, you will likely manage sections of an embassy, and eventually head up an office somewhere in the field.
  • Economic officers are involved in negotiating treaties, developing a network of contacts in local communities, and becoming involved in local economic developments in the country in which they are stationed. Senior economic officers may be responsible for developing U.S. policy for economic and trade issues.
  • Political officers work with the local society and require a strong understanding of the local culture, people, and languages. Political officers are responsible for monitoring the local politics as well as working with local political figures to convey the political views of the United States. Senior officers manage and supervise other political officers, either in the United States or abroad.
  • Public diplomacy officers are really information officers whose role is to influence public opinion and put forth the best view of the United States. They work with local media, cultural leaders, and so on, eventually managing significant country-wide programs to convey the concepts of democracy and free speech.

The questions in the career track portion of the Job Knowledge test are unique to each section, and the career track portion is equal in length to the general section. The scores, though, are combined.

You can complete only one career track section, so make sure you know which one you're going to take long before you take the exam. This is one area that is worth spending time researching because it relates to the area in which you will likely spend your entire career as a Foreign Service Officer.