Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Harrowing Experience That Was The FSO Exams

It's been more than three weeks since I took the panel interview and written exam portions of the FSO exam in Manila. Just goes to show how nerve-wracking and stressful the whole experience was, that I needed lots of time to rest and recuperate. I also needed time to look for my brain and regain the IQ points I lost in a span of one week, so I can come up with coherent sentences to tell you all about it. (That, and I was also busy preparing for my move to Manila.)

Since I passed the preliminary exam I took on my birthday, I was qualified to move on to the next stage, which was the panel interview. I was really anxious about this given that my last interview was for the UP LAE, which was very traumatic (not an exaggeration, but that's another story). Although, I was kinda hoping it's just for formalities' sake where they would only ask questions about what I do and why I wanted to become a foreign service officer. But what I was about to face was nothing short of paralyzing (yes, still not an exaggeration).

I was called in to a room (looked like a classroom) and was asked to sit in front of the panel- composed of an ambassador and two foreign service officers. I was like the new teacher facing my bad-ass students. For my work, I was asked these questions:

- What are the good ROP bonds right now?
- How about corporate bonds? (I was made to enumerate specific bonds for the first 2 questions)
- What's the difference between a UITF and a Common Trust Fund?
- If you were to invest the funds of the Foreign Service, will you invest them here in the Phils. or abroad?

Intense questions, but manageable. I mean, I'm supposed to know these things because they're part of my job. But the next phase of the interview was the piece de resistance of that wonderful day. I can't even remember how we got to this type of questioning:

- Do you think the presence of American troops in Iraq is justified? Do you think the war is justified?
- Do you think the war in Afghanistan is justified?
- How about the Ampatuans? Can the Americans just come in our country and fight them?
- In Saudi Arabia, you can go to mosques. In Abu Dhabi (Pardon me, but I can't recall if I'm naming the correct country) you can't go to church. Is that fair?

Sheeesh. I mean I expected the interview to be hard. But not this hard! Here's some of our memorable exchanges:

Amb: "If you file a complaint to the UN against Saudi Arabia, what do you think will happen?"
Me: "Sir, me personally?" (Hahaha! Dumb blonde moment happens to me when I'm stressed out)
Amb: "I mean the Philippines. What will happen if the Phils. files a complaint?"
Me: "Sir, there would be a strained relationship between the 2 countries"
Amb: "What do you think will be the immediate effect?"
Me: "Armed conflict?" (Hahaha, you gotta laugh at yourself sometimes!)
Amb: "Not yet. What do you think will be the effect?"
Me: "Safety of our OFWs in Saudi..."
Amb: "Correct. A Foreign Service officer must always think about his fellow Filipinos first and foremost. That's what you call prudence. What is prudence?"
Me: (jaw drops) "Um, right judgment?"
Amb: "Foresight, blah blah blah" (He was rattling off the synonyms of Prudence.)

Amb: "Compare the reign of Charlemagne with the current European Union."
Me: (I'm thinking Can I just die now?) "I'm sorry Sir, I'm not that familiar with Charlemagne."
Amb: "You mean you don't know who Charlemagne is?? Where'd you go to high school?"
Me: "At the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion, Sir."
Amb: "CIC. You mean the Daughters of Charity didn't teach you about Charlemagne?"
Me: "I'm sure they did, Sir. But I just can't recall right now."

FSO: "How much do you earn?"
Me: "Gross?" (Hahaha! I'm such a comedian.)
FSO: "Sure."
Me: "Blah blah a month, Sir." (To this they all looked at one another and sort of gestured that it's a good figure. I totally disagree, BTW.
FSO: "Are you aware that you'll be earning less than that if you become an FSO? Are you ok with that?"
Me: "I believe, Sir, that if you really like what you do then the monetary benefits are not that important."
To this, they all gave me a standing ovation and presented me with the Hero of the Year award. Joke.
Amb: "I'm touched by what you said..." (Char!)

Anyway, that's basically the 'highlights' of the interview. I'm really not sure how I survived, or even passed. It was such an out-of-body experience, and I remember I just kept smiling the whole time but in my mind I was praying for the ability to Apparate. Even my co-examinees told me that my questions were really harder than theirs.

For the written exams, let's just say it was the most stressful 3 days I've had in a long time. My mind turned to mush after all that essay-writing. Every time I read my test paper, I mentally kick myself and bang my head for subjecting myself to this kind of torture. I won't be writing the questions here because this entry's getting really long. But if any one out there plans to take the FSO exams soon, let me know and I'll share them with you.

Alright, so that's about it. The results for the written exams are supposed to be out by October or November, but I'm really not banking on passing. However, miracles do happen and they might happen to me again :) By the way, this is my First Thing #14- Taking the FSO exams.


  1. Anonymous7:12 PM

    Hi daisy! I was really interested to take the FSO Examination, Thanks for giving a quick insight on what to expect for it. I am planning to take the dreaded exam and it would be greatly appreciated if you could share more ideas on what to prepare especially with the written exams. Thank a lot, my email ad is at

  2. Hi Catherine! The best advice I could think of is to just read, read and read. I know everyone's been saying this and that it might seem vague (and not too helpful, hehe) but it's true. Some say that the topics are things that you should have learned in HS pa, and I tend to agree. But if you're going to 'cram', try to focus on World History and International Affairs siguro. But since the coverage is too broad- there was a question about African history- try to read up a bit about everything. We also got a lot of questions about ASEAN. But I doubt they'd do it again this year.
    Also, try writing a lot. That was my problem, because my current work doesn't really require a lot of writing so I had to get back into the groove.

    Anyway, I'm in no way saying I'm an expert ok? I didn't even pass the written exams. Only 8 of us passed :) But at least I now know what to expect. Good luck! :)

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  4. Anonymous2:13 PM

    sad you didn't make it.. hopefully next year would turn out better

  5. Anonymous7:17 AM

    you really had given me an idea of what would happen after 4 yrs of studying foreign service. it will surely help me prepare more things and expect things that i couldn't imagine that will come out in the exams.

  6. redfox9:31 PM

    hi daisy, i just had my preliminary interview this morning but before that i read this blog and it helped me a lot. this april 18-20 i am scheduled to take the much-dreaded (the thought just sends chills down my spine) fso written exams...i wonder if you could share with me some tips. thank you. your help is much appreciated.

  7. Hi redfox, glad to have helped you out in some way. On exam day, just manage your time well so you don't cram. Write, write and write, even if you're not too sure about your answers. A not-so correct answer is better than an empty paper. As mentioned above, the questions could just be about anything so I hope you've done a lot of reading. And prayers help a lot! =) Good luck!

  8. wow! im really planning to take an fso exam! :O could you tell me more about it?

  9. Hala!!! Ga-hunahuna pa na man ko mag-take ba kaha ko FSO exam ha... Di na lang jud! :D :D :D

  10. Hi Daisy! I'm taking the qualifying exam this sunday. What are the points to review besides grammar, logic, and math? Thank you!

    1. Hello! I think that's basically it, the exam is pretty much like most entrance exams so a lot of stock knowledge items. Goodluck! :)