STEP 1: Register for the Test


The first step in the State Department’s selection process is the actual registration and application process.  All registrations for the Foreign Service Officer Test are completed online.  The registration package consists of an application form that gathers factual information about your academic background, work history, and other relevant data.  You must submit your application before you can reserve a test date at a test center.  Test seats are limited to 5,000 during each test window and invitations to reserve seats will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis according to what career track you have selected and when your application is received.  You must reserve at least 48 hours prior to the first day in that window.

A registration will remain active until an applicant takes the FSOT or up to a maximum period of 12 months from the date of submission, whichever comes first.  If an applicant does not schedule a test date and take the test, or is not selected to schedule a test date within that period, the applicant will need to wait 12 months from the date of the original registration submission and then submit a new registration.

There is no limit on the number of times you may take the FSOT, but the test can be taken only once in an 11-month period.

Eligibility Requirements to Take the Test

In order to be eligible for the Foreign Service Officer Test, you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Be at least 20 years old and no older than 59 on the day you submit your registration package (You must be abe least 21 years of age to be appointed as a Foreign Service Officer)
  • Be available for worldwide assignment
  • Never have resigned or retired in lieu of separation
  • Never been previously separated for failure to receive a career appointment


Selecting a Career Track

Your choice of career track will have an impact on your selection and job experiences once you enter a Foreign Service career, so it’s important to take the time to make an informed decision.  There are five career tracks (also referred to as “cones”) for State Department Foreign Service Officers: Management Affairs, Consular Affairs, Political Affairs, Economic Affairs and Public Diplomacy (Public Affairs).

You should be aware that, in some career tracks (political and public diplomacy) there are many more candidates than openings, and many candidates will not be hired. In other career tracks (economic, management, and consular), there are not enough candidates and most everyone on the register will be hired.  Many have noticed that career tracks in shortage are also given priority in test invitations.  You should consider this information when you select a career track. If your skills and interests equally match multiple career tracks, you should consider selecting a career track that offers you a greater chance of getting a job offer.

It is not possible to change the career track you select at registration prior to hiring.  Also, it is extremely difficult to change career tracks once you are hired from the register. You are urged to consider carefully which career track is the best fit for your interests and background.  The State Department makes an effort to provide applicants guidance in making this decision.  Applicants are encouraged to consult with a Diplomat in Residence, a senior foreign service officer assigned to certain colleges and universities throughout the country, or with a Foreign Service Mentor serving in the career track you are considering.  The State Department’s official website also has a tool intended to help make your career track decision, Which Career Track is Right For You.

If you’re interested in learning more about the difference between each career track, you’ll want to download the  Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process (PDF).  It contains a very thorough run down of both the exam and overall process to become an FSO and describes what a FSO does and what each track’s responsibilities consist of.

E-Mail Invitation to Schedule FSOT Appointment

Once seats are available for a test window, applicants are notified by e-mail with instructions for scheduling test appointments.  You will be given a one-week window during which you must schedule the test date and time.  Space is limited, so it’s important to schedule as soon as you can to ensure you reserve a time and location that works for you. You can find a map of ACT Testing Facilities here.  You’ll typically receive your invitation five to six weeks prior to the opening of the test window.

NEXT STEP: Take the Foreign Service Officer Test


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