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Becoming a Foreign Service Officer

The Foreign Service Officer Selection process begins with online registration, proceeds through the selection process, and for those who succeed, culminates in hiring from the register for assignment to an A-100 course, the training and orientation course that marks the beginning of every Foreign Service Officer career.

Take the FSOT
Steps to becoming a Foreign Service Officer (FSO)
Step 1:   Choose a Career Track   After you pass the Oral Assessment:
Step 2: Register for the Test   Step 6:   Clearances: Medical and Security
Step 3: Take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)   Step 7: Final Review Panel

After you pass the FSOT:
  Step 8: The Register
Step 4: Submit Personal Narrative   Other Considerations:

After you pass the QEP:
  Veterans Preference, Foreign Languages, Candidates with Disabilities, Commitment to Foreign Service Work.
Step 5: Take the Oral Assessment  
1. Choose a Career Track

Next to deciding to pursue a Foreign Service career, selecting a career track is the most important decision to make. Since you may not change Foreign Service Officer career tracks once you are hired from the register, you should carefully consider which career track is the best fit for your interests and background.

Learn more about the five career tracks >



Career Track Overview

Foreign Service Officers can choose from five career tracks that include Consular, Economic, Management, Political and Public Diplomacy. While all U.S. diplomats are expected to communicate U.S. foreign policy, and interact effectively with host country governments to help advance American interests worldwide, each career track has a specific focus.

  • Consular Officers facilitate adoptions, help evacuate Americans, and combat fraud to protect our borders and fight human trafficking. Consular Officers touch people's lives in important ways, often reassuring families in crisis. 
  • Economic Officers work with foreign governments and other USG agencies on technology, science, economic, trade, energy, and environmental issues both domestically and overseas.
  • Management Officers are resourceful, creative, action-oriented “go to” leaders responsible for all embassy operations from real estate to people to budget.
  • Political Officers analyze host country political events and must be able to negotiate and communicate effectively with all levels of foreign government officials.
  • Public Diplomacy Officers explain American values and policies and may benefit from a strong knowledge of local government and customs

Being a U.S. diplomat is demanding work, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Please note that we require no specific education level, academic major, or proficiency in a foreign language for appointment as a Foreign Service Officer.

Click here for more detailed information about the different career tracks.

View videos of Foreign Service Officers and their career tracks.


2. Register for the Test (February 2 – 9, 2013 FSOT)

What is the FSOT? The FSOT measures your knowledge, skills and abilities, including writing skills that are necessary to the work of a Foreign Service Officer.

Learn more >



What is the FSOT? What will I get tested on?

The next FSOT is February 2 – 9, 2013. For deadlines and location information regarding the February 2013 test, please go to Step #3.

The next step in the selection process: taking the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), which is administered online at designated test centers and which will take about three hours to complete. The test will measure your knowledge, skills and abilities, including writing skills that are necessary to the work of a Foreign Service Officer. The test includes three multiple-choice sections:

  • Job knowledge *
  • English expression,
  • A biographic information section that asks you to describe your work style, your manner of interacting and communicating with others, and your approach to other cultures.

* Job knowledge questions will cover a broad range of topics including, but not limited to, the structure and workings of the U.S. government, U.S. and world history, U.S. culture, psychology, management theory, finance and economics, and world affairs.

In addition, you will be given 30 minutes to write an essay on an assigned topic. You must pass the multiple choice tests to have your essay graded.


Registration is the next step toward becoming a Foreign Service Officer.

Click here to start the online registration process >



Register for the Test

Subscribe to receive email updates You may register for test up until the deadlines listed (see Step 3) or until capacity is reached. To register, you complete an online application form in which you convey factual background information including school and work history.

ACT, the test administrator, will send you a confirmation email on the first business day following submission of your registration.

Please be aware that all the information you give us is subject to verification, and that any exaggeration of your experience and qualifications, including your language ability, would weaken your candidacy. Misrepresentations may be grounds for terminating your candidacy, or for dismissing you after you have begun work, and may be punishable by fine or imprisonment.


FSOT Step-by-Step Guide: from registering to take the test, downloading your admissions letter, cancelling/rescheduling your test date and information on retaking the test.

Learn more >



FSOT Step-by-Step Guide

  • Register and submit your completed Application Form.
  • Wait for on-screen confirmation that your registration was complete and has been successfully submitted.
  • Technical questions/issues with the registration process? Please email ACT, Inc. at or call (800)205-6358.
  • Receive an e-mail authorizing you to make an online reservation to take the FSOT at a testing location near you.
  • Reserve a seat during any given test window. Test center seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

    You must reserve at least 48 hours prior to the LAST day in that window (exact deadline dates will be given during reservation). Please note that the number of seats for each window is limited.
  • You must reserve a test seat within one year of submitting your Registration Package. Your actual test date may be later than a year after you registered, but you must have reserved your seat within the one year limit.
  • After you have reserved a seat, you will receive instructions on how to download your admissions letter.
  • Contact a Diplomat in Residence if you have any questions about the FSOT.
  • Arrive at your test center with your admissions letter and a valid government issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, passport, or military ID.
  • Need to cancel or reschedule your test? You will need to cancel your seat at least 48 hours before the test date. Your admissions letter will contain information on how to do so. If you fail to provide this notification, you will be assessed a $50 fee.
  • Want to re-take the test? You may take the test only once in an 11-month period. In order to re-take the FSOT, you will need to fill out the Registration Package once more. This will give you the opportunity to update your application. Should you pass the FSOT and essay, you will then submit a Personal Narrative.


3. Take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)

The Foreign Service Officer Test is administered three times each year in domestic and overseas test centers.

Learn more about dates, deadlines and locations >



FSOT dates, deadlines, and locations

The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) is administered three times each year, each time for a period, or “window”, of eight days. Candidates who are invited to the Oral Assessment should schedule their assessment to take place during the Oral Assessment session associated with their test date. The dates below are revised regularly so applicants are advised to check this schedule frequently.


February 2 – 9, 2013

Test Locations

List of domestic test sites is available in a searchable database when candidates schedule their seats.
View the list of overseas test sites.

Oral AsSessment Dates and Locations

October 2012 FSOT: March 4, 2013 – Late June, 2013
February 2013 FSOT: July 15, 2013 (est) – Late October 2013
June 2013 FSOT: TBD


Deadlines for the FEBRUARY 2013 TEST

Continuous Registration

You may register for the February 2013 FSOT up until the deadlines listed below or until capacity is reached, which may be sooner. (If capacity is reached before the deadlines, you may schedule a seat for the following test in June 2013).

DECEMBER 15, 2012

View the list of overseas test sites.

JANUARY 2, 2013

Seat scheduling for the February 2013 test begins for candidates who have completed their Registration.

Invitations to schedule seats are issued by career track, and then on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached. Management and Economic career tracks will be invited first, followed by Consular, and then Political and Public Diplomacy.


Deadline for candidates intending to test overseas to submit completed Registration.


Deadline for candidates intending to test overseas to schedule a test seat.


Deadline for candidates intending to test in the U.S. to submit completed Registration.

48 hours before start of your test:

Deadline for candidates intending to test in the U.S. to schedule a test seat—provided seats are still available.

It’s best to give yourself plenty of time — avoid waiting until the deadline.
List of Overseas Test Sites
List of Overseas Test Sites
Abidjan Dhaka Managua San Salvador
Abu Dhabi Dublin Manama Santiago
Accra Dushanbe Manila Santo Domingo
Addis Ababa Frankfurt Maputo Sarajevo
Antananarivo Fukuoka Melbourne Seoul
Asuncion Geneva Mexico City Shanghai
Athens Georgetown Milan Singapore
Auckland Guangzhou Monrovia Skopje
Baghdad Guatemala City Montevideo Sofia
Beijing Guayaquil Mumbai Stockholm
Belmopan Hanoi Muscat Suva
Berlin Harare Nagoya Taipei
Bishkek Ho Chi Minh City Naha Tbilisi
Bogota Islamabad Nairobi Tegucigalpa
Brasilia Jakarta New Delhi Tirana
Bridgetown Kabul Niamey Tokyo
Brussels Kampala Osaka Toronto
Bucharest Kathmandu Oslo Ulaanbaatar
Canberra Kuala Lumpur Ouagadougou Valletta
Caracas Kuwait Panama City Vientiane
Chengdu Kyiv Paramaribo Vilnius
Chennai La Paz Paris Warsaw
Chisinau Libreville Quito Wellington
Colombo Lima Rabat Windhoek
Copenhagen London Riyadh Yaounde
Cotonou Madrid Rome Yerevan
Dar es Salaam Majuro San Jose Zagreb


How to prepare for the Foreign Service Officer Test, order a study guide, and search for a FSOT information session hosted by a Diplomat in Residence near you.

Test resources and information >



How do I prepare for the FSOT?

Here are a few suggestions that may help you prepare for the process.


4. Submit Personal Narrative for the QEP Review


If you pass the FSOT multiple choice and essay sections, you will receive an email asking you to submit a Personal Narrative (PN) to the Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP) for review.

Learn more >



Submit Personal Narrative for QEP Review

Submit a Personal Narrative (PN) in which you answer questions describing the knowledge, skills, and abilities you would bring to the Foreign Service. The firm deadline for submission will be three weeks after the request is sent to you. Because the Qualifications Evaluation Panel sits immediately, there is no flexibility in this deadline.

The PN offers you the opportunity to highlight not just what you have done, but how you did it and what you learned. You should provide examples from your experiences that show you have the skills to be a successful FSO. This is an important part of the application and is read carefully by each member of a Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP) made up of trained Foreign Service Officers.

The panel assesses the candidate’s file based on six precepts that are predictors of success in the Foreign Service. These precepts are:

  1. Leadership: innovation, decision making, teamwork, openness to dissent, community service and institution building
  2. Interpersonal Skills: professional standards, persuasion and negotiation, workplace perceptiveness, adaptability, representational skills
  3. Communication Skills: written communication, oral communication, active listening, public outreach, foreign language skill
  4. Management Skills: operational effectiveness, performance management and evaluation, management resources, customer service
  5. Intellectual Skills: information gathering and analysis, critical thinking, active learning, leadership and management training
  6. Substantive Knowledge: Understanding of U.S. history/ government/culture and application in dealing with other cultures. Knowledge or application of career track information that is relevant information.

To help write your PN, focus on your own experience in answering the questions. Use these precepts as a guide to (1) give positive examples that demonstrate your abilities; (2) identify learning experiences; (3) indicate how your learning experience will contribute to success in your chosen Foreign Service career track Make sure you show why you have skills or interest in the career track you have selected. Please make sure you answer the question.

  • The test administrator will forward your FSOT scores, along with your Registration Package minus any proscribed data (age, ethnicity, etc.) to the QEP.
  • The QEP uses a Total Candidate approach to review your:
    1. educational and work background;
    2. responses to the Personal Narrative questions;
    3. self-evaluated language skill level; and
    4. FSOT scores.
  • There is no pre-set cut-off score. The QEP evaluates your file within your chosen career track, looking at how well you demonstrate the precepts outlined above.
  • The best qualified candidates are invited to oral assessments based on the QEP evaluations and State's anticipated hiring needs in each career track, inter alia.

Although the QEP is a total file review, with no one element dominating all the factors considered, you have the most control over your responses to the PN. Your responses can be influential in determining your standing in your chosen career track. This is your chance to tell your story to the Foreign Service assessors. Bear in mind that your responses are subject to verification by the Board of Examiners.

Once the QEP is completed, ACT will inform you of the results via an online letter that you can access using the personal login ID and password you chose when registering.

Thousands take the test annually, but a much smaller number are advanced to the QEP review, and then only a few hundred are invited to the Oral Assessment. Please note that Foreign Service Officer hiring targets are adjusted regularly. Many candidates with excellent qualifications who may have received an invitation to the oral assessment at a time of increased new positions will not receive one when the Department’s hiring targets are lower or there is an increase in the number of candidates. The process is very competitive and many candidates repeat the process.


5. Take the Oral Assessment

This day-long assessment measures your ability to demonstrate the 13 dimensions (35kb, PDF) that are essential to the successful performance of Foreign Service work.

Learn more >



Take the FSO Oral Assessment

The Oral Assessment is conducted in Washington, DC and in various major cities around the United States. This day-long assessment measures your ability to demonstrate the 13 dimensions (35kb, pdf) that are essential to the successful performance of Foreign Service work. It includes a group exercise, a structured interview, and a case management writing exercise.

Oral Assessment exercises:

  • are based on a job analysis of the work of the Foreign Service
  • reflect the skills, abilities and personal qualities deemed essential to the performance of that work.
  • are not an adversarial process: you do not compete against other candidates but instead are judged on your capacity to demonstrate the skills and abilities necessary to be an effective Foreign Service Officer.

Candidates who can document creditable veterans' service by submitting form DD 214 will be given additional points on the Register: 0.175 for a five point standing and 0.35 for a 10 point standing for Foreign Service Officers and five or 10 points for Foreign Service Specialists. These points are added after you pass the Oral Assessment. You will receive instructions on how to claim these points after the Oral Assessment.


Dates, deadlines, documents and information on the Foreign Service Officer Oral Assessments.

Learn more >



OA dates, deadlines and information sessions

FSOT Test WindowOral Assessment LocationOral Assessment Dates
June 2-9, 2012 Washington, DC November 5, 2012 – early February 2013 (Oral assessment scheduling: Monday, Sept 24 – Friday, Sept 28th)
San Francisco Limited seats in late October
September 29 - October 6 2012 Washington DC mid-March, 2013 (est) – late June 2013. (Oral assessment scheduling: Monday, Jan 28 - Friday, Feb 1, 2013)
San Antonio Limited seats in mid-March
Feb 2-9, 2013 Washington DC July 15, 2013 (est) – late October 2013. (Oral Assessment scheduling: Monday, June 3 – Friday, June 7, 2013).
San Franciso Oct 17 –Nov 1, 2013

Candidates should note that the specific FSOT tests are associated with specific oral assessment dates. Candidates who know that they will be unavailable to take the oral exam during the assessment dates associated with their specific FSOT should select a different FSOT test window.

How to prepare for the Officer Oral Assessments

When you come to the Oral Assessment, you will be asked to read and sign the following three forms pertaining to the conditions for taking the Oral Assessment and conditions of employment in the Foreign Service. If you are not willing to abide by these conditions, you should not schedule an Oral Assessment.


6. Clearances: Medical & Security

All candidates must receive medical and security clearances in order to be hired and serve abroad.

Learn more >



Clearances: Medical & Security

After you pass the Oral Assessment, you will receive instructions about obtaining medical and security clearances. Visit the Career Resources Download Center for a list of forms intended for those who have received conditional offers of employment after the Oral Assessment. When you receive your medical and security clearances, your candidacy will be reviewed for overall suitability for the Foreign Service by the Final Review Panel.

If that panel finds you suitable for the Foreign Service, you will be placed on a rank-ordered Register. You should be aware that, depending on your place on the Register and the number of Foreign Service Officers needed, it is still possible that you may not receive an offer of employment.

Medical ClearanceSubscribe to receive email updates

The Office of Medical Services of the Department of State determines a candidate's medical fitness and ability to serve overseas. Many Foreign Service posts are located in remote areas with extremely limited medical support; therefore, each candidate must meet rigorous medical standards in order to qualify for the required worldwide medical clearance. Medical clearance determination by Medical Services is based on its thorough review of each candidate's medical history and physical examination, including an individual assessment of his/her specific medical needs and the medical capabilities of Foreign Service posts to meet those needs. All children under six must have their medicals done by their pediatrician.

After receiving a Conditional Offer of employment, each candidate is provided with the necessary examination forms (with instructions) to give to the examining health care practitioner (MD, DO, NP, PA). We also provide an authorization for the Department of State to pay for the examination. All candidates may have their physical exams done by their personal physician or by the Department's Office of Medical Services.

Regardless of who administers the medical clearance exam, the Department's Office of Medical Services determines whether or not a candidate is medically eligible for assignment to all Department of State posts worldwide. While a candidate may effectively manage a chronic health condition or limitation within the United States or in specific areas outside of the U.S., the Office of Medical Services might well determine that the same individual is not eligible for a worldwide ("Class One") medical clearance. Such clearances may only be issued to candidates whom the Office of Medical Services deems able to serve at the most isolated and restricted overseas posts.

Such a post could feature extreme isolation in terms of limitations on reliable air service in and out of the country, unreliable Internet and telecommunications connections, and/or unreliable postal and delivery systems. Any of these limited services can have a severe adverse impact in terms of both bringing in required medical services and/or supplies, and/or permitting timely medical evacuations. Other infrastructure at such a post might also be inadequate. There might be a poor or negligible public health system, poor sanitation, unreliable electricity and a lack of potable water. There might also be infectious and communicable diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, tuberculosis, rabies, encephalitis and gastrointestinal diseases. There might be no health unit at the post and next to no local medical facilities. The emergency room, for example, might be completely inadequate, without ventilators, defibrillators, x-ray capabilities, etc. There often would be no blood bank or medical supplies or medications available locally. Because of political instability, security could be a concern.

Candidates should be aware that these posts are not few in number nor confined to a specific geographic region. Also, there are numerous other posts — in Asia and Europe for example — where conditions appear similar to that of the U.S. but which also feature some of these restrictive characteristics.

As a result of these characteristics of a post, the stress level among employees might be very high. Given these concerns, the Department of State would only assign employees with unrestricted medical clearances to such posts (of which there are many), and is unable to hire new employees without such clearances.

While the candidate must be medically cleared for worldwide service, the Department of State does not consider the medical condition of eligible family members for pre-employment purposes. State does, however, require that each eligible family member have a medical clearance before they can travel overseas at U. S. Government expense when accompanying an employee on assignment.

Please note that employees with a family member who has been issued a limited medical clearance (not worldwide) may be assigned to posts where that family member cannot accompany them. We strongly advise candidates to consider this situation as they pursue employment with the Department of State.

On request, the Director General of the Foreign Service, or designee, may consider granting a waiver of the worldwide availability requirement for a candidate who is unable to qualify for a worldwide medical clearance. Candidates should be aware, however, that the granting of such waivers is rare.

For more information on medical clearances, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page, or visit the Forums.

Security ClearanceSubscribe to receive email updates

Candidates who pass the Oral Assessment must apply for the security clearance required for appointment to the Foreign Service. A comprehensive background investigation, conducted by the U.S. Department of State in cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies, will provide the information necessary to determine a candidate's suitability for appointment to the Foreign Service and for a Top Secret security clearance. The process considers such factors as: failure to repay a U.S. Government-guaranteed loan or meet tax obligations; failure to register for the Selective Service; past problems with credit or bankruptcy; unsatisfactory employment records; a criminal record or other violations of the law; drug or alcohol abuse; and less than honorable discharge from the armed forces.

Candidates who hold dual citizenship (pdf), have had extensive travel, education, residence and /or employment overseas, or who have foreign contacts, a foreign-born spouse, immediate family members or relatives who are not citizens of the United States, should be aware that the clearance process will take longer to complete. The background investigation includes interviews with current and previous contacts, supervisors and coworkers. Candidates who do not receive a security clearance are ineligible for appointment. Potential candidates who have any serious issues that may prevent them from receiving a clearance should give some thought to the likelihood of their being found ineligible before starting this process.


7. Final Review Panel


A Final Review Panel will examine your completed file (except for medical records) to determine your suitability for employment with the Foreign Service.

Learn more >



Final Review Panel

Upon completion of the background investigation and medical examination, a Final Review Panel will examine your complete file to determine your suitability for employment with the Foreign Service.

The attainment of U.S. foreign policy objectives depends substantially on the confidence of the public (both American and foreign) in the individuals selected to serve in the Foreign Service. The Department of State, therefore, requires the highest standards of conduct by employees of the Foreign Service, including an especially high degree of integrity, reliability, and prudence. Given the representational nature of employment in the Service, employees must observe proper standards at all times. The purpose of the Final Review is to determine, from the candidate's total record, whether the candidate is indeed suitable to represent the United States. The Final Review Panel has the authority to terminate a candidacy.

In evaluating suitability, the Final Review Panel takes into consideration the following factors:

  • Misconduct in prior employment, including marginal performance or inability to interact effectively with others
  • Criminal, dishonest, or disgraceful conduct
  • Misrepresentation, including deception or fraud, in the application process
  • Repeated or habitual use to excess of intoxicating beverages affecting the ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of the employee's position
  • Trafficking in or abuse of narcotics or controlled substances
  • Reasonable doubt as to loyalty to the U.S. Government
  • Conduct which clearly shows poor judgment and or lack of discretion which may reasonably affect an individual or the agency's ability to carry out its responsibilities or mission
  • Financial irresponsibility, including a history of not meeting financial obligations or an inability to satisfy debts


8. The Register


After receiving medical and security clearances and passing the Final Suitability Review, your name is placed on the Register, which is a rank-ordered list of successful candidates, sorted by career track.

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8. The Register

After receiving medical and security clearances and passing the Final Suitability Review, your name is placed on the Register, which is a rank-ordered list of successful candidates, sorted by career track.

Veterans Preference points or credit for foreign language proficiency (see information below on languages and veterans preference) may raise your standing on the Register.

You should be aware that your placement on the Register does not guarantee an appointment as a Foreign Service Officer, for the number of appointments depends on the needs of the Foreign Service. Your rank-order on the Register is dynamic. People with higher scores will be placed above you regardless of when they are placed on the Register. Likewise, you will be placed above candidates with lower scores, regardless of how long they have been on the Register. Your name may stay in the Register for a maximum of 18 months. After that, your name will be removed. You may decline the first offer of employment. If you decline a second offer, your name will be removed from the Register.

However, if you wish to try improve your place on the Register you may re-take the Foreign Service Officer Test again after 11 months, and if again successful on the FSOT, Oral assessment and clearance/review processes your name will be re-entered on the Register.

If you successfully pass the Foreign Service Officer Test, Qualifications Evaluation Panel, Oral Assessment, security and medical clearances and a Final Review, you are placed on a hiring register. The hiring register is based on the specific career track you chose at the time of registration. Based on your Oral Assessment score, plus any additional credit for language or veterans preference, you are rank-ordered as of that day on your career-track register, where your eligibility is valid for 18 months. You are hired from the register based on the needs in each career track. Any language bonus points, and/or veterans’ preference points are added to your Oral Assessment score after you pass the Oral Assessment. You will receive instructions on how to receive them after you pass the Oral Assessment.

New FS Generalists begin their careers with a five-week orientation program (A-100 course). The focus of the orientation is on introducing new employees to the structure and function of the Department and its role in the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy; developing an understanding of the terms of employment; and enhancing core skills needed by all Foreign Service Officers.

The A-100 course, based at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, is primarily a classroom experience. But it also includes trips to Capitol Hill and to other federal agencies, as well as a three-day offsite at a nearby conference center. In addition to presentations by guest speakers and U.S. Department of State officials, A-100 also includes a series of practical exercises and case studies.

At the end of orientation, Foreign Service Generalists receive their first assignments, which will govern the type of specialized training that follows. For Generalists, that training may include public diplomacy training, consular training, political-economic tradecraft, or management training. Required language training can last for an additional six to nine months. Overall, newly hired Generalists can expect to spend from three months to one year in training before departure for their first overseas assignment.


Veterans' Preference

What information would you need if you are a veteran?

Learn more >



Veterans' Preference

Foreign Service Officer candidates who can document creditable veterans' service by submitting form DD 214 will be given additional points on the Register: 0.175 for a five point standing and 0.35 for a 10 point standing.

Foreign Service Specialist candidates whose Oral Assessment is scored on a 1-7 point scale will receive the same bonus points as Foreign Service Officer candidates. For Specialist candidates whose Oral Assessment is scored on a 0-100 point scale will receive five or 10 points, respectively.

In all cases these points are added after you pass the Oral Assessment. You will receive instructions on how to claim these points after the Oral Assessment.


Foreign Languages

While you are not required to know a foreign language, proficiency in a language will enhance your competitiveness on the register by giving you a slight increase in points.

Learn about foreign language fluency assessments >



Foreign Languages

Beginning with the June 2012 FSOT cohort, Generalist candidates can receive .17 bonus points for all languages listed here (pdf) if they pass the telephone language test at a speaking level 3 after passing the Oral Assessment. Candidates testing in the eight languages eligible for higher bonus points need only a level 2 speaking ability (as measured on the telephone test) to obtain the .17 language bonus points. Only the following eight languages are eligible for higher bonus points: Arabic; Chinese (Mandarin); Hindi; Persian (Dari); Persian (Farsi); Pashto; Urdu; and Korean.

To receive the higher bonus points, candidates who pass the telephone test will then need to pass an in-person, two-hour speaking and reading test conducted by the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Any costs associated with the in-person test (travel, time in Washington) are at the candidate’s expense. Those who achieve a minimum score of 3 speaking and 2 reading (S3/R2) will be eligible to receive a total of .38 bonus points. Candidates who receive a rating of at least 2 speaking and 1 reading (S2/R1) but less than 3 speaking and 2 reading (S3/R2) will be eligible to receive a total of .25 bonus points. Language bonus points will be granted for one language only. Candidates who choose to take the in-person test and do not meet the minimum S2/R1 score will forfeit ALL language bonus points – in other words they will not receive any language bonus points at all.

Candidates may test in more than one language but will receive bonus points in only one. They may also telephone retest in the same language after at least six months. Candidates who do not pass the full FSI test may take a first retest after six months; any further retests are authorized only after a one year interval from the last full test in that language. Language scores are valid for 18 months or the length of any candidacy initiated during the 18 month language score validity period.

A candidacy begins on the date you take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). We expect candidates will need a country-specific security clearance before being granted the higher language bonus. Candidates who receive .38 language bonus points must agree to serve once during their first two assignments and once after reaching mid-level grades of the Foreign Service in a country where that language is spoken. Candidates who qualify for .25 bonus points must agree to serve once during their first two assignments in a post where that language is spoken.

Candidates whose candidacies began prior to the June 2012 FSOT, that is prior to June 2, 2012, will be grandfathered under the previous policy (outlined below).

For information to help you assess your own speaking level, visit and click on "Speaking" under the skill level descriptions for a general description of the expected proficiency. The speaking self-assessment tool, available on the same site, will also help you estimate your language proficiency.

For candidates whose candidacies began prior to the June 2, 2012 FSOT

Effective January 1, 2012, the Foreign Service Institute will only offer phone tests in the languages listed here (pdf). Testing is limited to languages in which the Department has language designated entry-level positions abroad. All passing scores in languages listed garner an additional .17 points. Those candidates with the following recruitment languages - Azerbaijani, Bengali, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz, Nepali, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Singhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Turkish, Turkmen, Urdu, and Uzbek – and who opt-in and agree to serve in an assignment where the language is spoken in one of their first two tours, earn a total of .40 points, while those with a passing score in Arabic earn a total of .50 points. To garner these additional points you are obligated to serve in a country where that language is spoken at least twice in your career: once during your first two tours and again after being promoted to the mid-levels of the Foreign Service.

You may take the phone test after you pass the Oral Assessment. The test results are valid for 18 months or for the life of your candidacy, whichever is longer. In addition, you may claim points in only one language but may test in a second language if that language garners more points.

For the phone test, an S-3 proficiency level is required for the following languages: Danish, Dutch, French, German, Haitian Creole, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish. All other languages listed require an S-2 proficiency.

For information to help you assess your own speaking level, visit and click on "Speaking" under the skill level descriptions for a general description of the expected proficiency. The speaking self-assessment tool, available on the same site, will also help you estimate your language proficiency.


Candidates with Disabilities

Are there requirements for appointments to the Foreign Service that candidates must meet?  What accommodations are available for candidates with disabilities during the process?

Learn more >



Candidates with Disabilities

For qualified candidates who will require accommodation upon appointment, the Office of Employee Relations determines reasonable accommodations. To qualify, a candidate must meet all requirements for appointment to the Foreign Service.

Reasonable accommodation for candidates with disabilities during the FSOT or Oral Assessments

Reasonable accommodation for applicants with disabilities We welcome candidates who have special needs. In accordance with Federal law, we will provide reasonable accommodation to enable qualified applicants with disabilities to take the Foreign Service Officer Test. We will provide similar accommodation to candidates who are invited to the Oral Assessment.

Candidates needing accommodation should note this in their application form (part of the on-line registration process). Requests for accommodation to ACT for accommodations for the FSOT must include complete, current (within the last five years) supporting documentation along with a copy of the on-line confirmation that the candidate’s registration has been accepted. ACT, the private testing firm which prepares and administers the test for the Department of State, must receive these at least three weeks prior to the requested test date — preferably earlier — so that ACT has as much time as possible to make necessary arrangements. Requests for accommodation and complete supporting documentation should be sent to:

ACT, Inc.,
Foreign Service Officer Test (82)
P.O. Box 4070
Iowa City, IA 52243-4070.

Requests that are incomplete or are not supported by appropriate documentation by the registration deadline may not be approved. We cannot guarantee that the accommodation can be in place if requests are not received at least three weeks prior to the test date. In that case, ACT will ask you to schedule for the following window.

Those receiving accommodation will receive a letter from ACT confirming the accommodation to be provided. If your request is incomplete or does not support the accommodation request, ACT will notify you in writing. You may then provide complete or updated documents prior to the deadline. Every effort will be made to provide accommodation at your chosen test center. However, be aware that some test centers may be unable to provide certain types of accommodation.

For a comprehensive description of accommodation requirements, please see the Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process (2.7mb, pdf).

For those who are invited to take the Oral Assessment, reasonable accommodations are also available for those who may need them. Contact at least three weeks before your scheduled Oral Assessment.


Commitment to Foreign Service Work


Anyone applying to be in the Foreign Service must be willing to accept the following three commitments of Foreign Service work: flexibility in assignments, public support of U.S. government policies and worldwide availability.