For Federal-Worker Hopefuls, the Civil Service Exam is Making a Comeback

Brochure (United States Civil Service Commission)
Brochure (United States Civil Service Commission)


(The Washington Post) – The digital age has made it so easy to apply for federal jobs that the government has grown overwhelmed. Flooded by résumés and cover letters, hiring officials are exasperated by their failure to identify and land the most-qualified civil servants, so they’re looking to the past for a way out.

After 34 years, they’re bringing back the civil service exam.

Even as the government is reaching back to the days before the Internet to revive testing, the exam being rolled out is wholly modern. Three dozen agencies across the government — including Defense, Justice and Health and Human Services — have begun using online tests to screen applicants for some jobs and promote senior employees.

The new generation of exams, called USA Hire, uses animated avatars and videos to simulate challenges that could confront employees, testing their reasoning and problem-solving skills. Advances in technology allow the tests to scale questions; a correct answer leads to a harder question and an incorrect one rachets down to an easier option. Scoring is instantaneous, an advance that can quickly winnow the pool of applicants.


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