I hope you’re enjoying your beautiful, amazing and perfect Who-is-Who books ;). I promise you that this is the last EPSO blog post. (I just realised that this is the only thing I’ve been writing about on this blog… boooring). Also, OMG the traineeship is soon over? I can’t believe it!
Anyways. Last part, part 4, is about preparing for the Assessment Centre. Fun, right? It might not be useful right now, but it will in the future. DGT trainees, you heard the lady talking about freelance – NOPE! DO THE EPSO! So. Here it goes.
The Assessment Centre
The Assessment Centre consists of 5 parts, where 3 of them are done on the same day:
The case study (or translation)
The structured interview
The oral presentation
The group exercise
Before starting, let’s look again at the beautiful picture
with the different skills that they are evaluating:
1. Special advice for the E-tray
We know that the e-tray exercise serves as an intermediate test between the Pre-Selection (CBT) phase and the Assessment Centre phase of the AD exams and that it is done in your second language (En/Fr/De). We also know that an e-tray exercise is a computer-based simulation of a real work situation and replicates an email inbox which contains information relating to a particular issue. You need to find solutions in the best way possible within a fixed amount of time.
OK. 18 questions, 50 minutes. For each question you will have 3 options and you are requested to rank each of the options using the following 5-point scale.
The 2 main things that are evaluated in this test are:
– “Analysing and Problem Solving”: looks at the candidate’s ability to analyse critical, complex information and suggest workable solutions.
– “Delivering Quality and Results”: examines a candidate’s ability to maintain the quality of their work output, even in challenging situations.
– Always read the question first.
– Do not (ever!) forget any of the documents, scan through them all.
– There are hidden traps. Remember that they want you to fail! Watch out for sneaky footnotes, etc.
– Search for key words.
HERE are some sample tests!
2. Special advice for the case study/translation
For this written exercise, the main thing is to understand the question. Read through it really thoroughly to be sure that you got it right.
For the case study, you have a mixture of 8–13 emails, regulations, articles and reports, and the time limit is 90 minutes. For the translation, you have 40 lines to translate in 60 minutes.
METHOD ADVICE for the CASE STUDY:
– As you saw in the previous picture, one of the skills is to prioritise. You have all the information that you need, the hard part is finding it in the million pages you have (organise!).
– Scan everything, all the information that you have (5 min).
– Make sure that you have UNDERSTOOD the task.
– Then plan the structure of your essay (with headlines, preferably with words/phrases from the question/task).
– Decide how much time you want to spend reading the material.
– Start writing ASAP.
– Write down everything you find relevant from when you start. You won’t have time to go back.
– There are no rules about length, so write as much as you can (think 2 pages, 500-1000 words).
– Do not get stuck on the subject, show that you can handle organising a loooot of material/texts.
– HERE is a mock case study!
METHOD ADVICE for the TRANSLATION:
– You could, even from now, ask your advisor for texts to practice on (legal texts, press releases, etc.).
– Always ALWAYS practice with the same time limit.
– The goal is to produce a workable translation that is understandable in your language.
– Don’t forget to translate the title!
– If there are (and there will be) expressions that you don’t know how to translate – rewrite the phrase and come up with something more general.
– Try to finalise phrases in your head before writing them – don’t write drafts. You won’t have time to go back and correct them.
– Spare some time at the end to READ your own translation without thinking of the source text. Read it afresh and see that the text works in your language. That is the most important thing.
– You can bring 1 dictionary of your choice per language.
– Usually, the translations are articles from The Economist, EurActiv, Politico, Le Monde, etc. Keep updated and practice with texts from these newspapers.
– On the bottom of THIS PAGE, you will find translation tests for all EU official languages.
3. Special advice for the structured interview
Do you remember what it is? It is NOT a job interview. The aim of the structured interview is to test 4 competencies, one by one, via relatively easy-looking questions (e.g. “Tell us about a time when you had a disagreement with your superior”), where you are required to tell the “story” of a past event in a relatively detailed manner so that it provides assessors with an idea of your competency in that field. The test is around 50 min long and in English.
– For this part, remember the STAR method: (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Base your answers on this!
Here is a very good picture describing what you need to do:
– Go through your own CV beforehand: which situations have you encountered and what can you talk about/mention? Find examples of the competencies that are tested for this part.
– Try to create and write down a “database” (or a list) of useful events from your life that you can mention.
– Practice on finding answers with the help of the STAR model, HERE IT IS AGAIN (I know it’s awesome, so don’t forget it):
– Make sure to think of 2-3 relevant “stories” from your professional (or exceptionally, private) life that you can tell as examples for each of the competency questions that are tested in the structured interview. (You can check some sample questions here to get a better idea of what to expect).
– Make sure you prepare an introduction of yourself but make sure it sounds natural when you say it. Also, keep in mind the structure of your answers: start with the context in which the event happened, then talk about your approach and “feelings” when you were faced with the event or challenge, then discuss your personal role in it and contribution to the solution, and finally end with a conclusion or take-away lesson you learned as a result of this experience.
– Keep all this under 3-4 minutes to allow time for follow-up questions, and make sure your example and the story is relevant to the competency in question (e.g. learning and development instead of working with others).
4. Special advice for the oral presentation
As you know, you will have 15+5 minutes to prepare a presentation based on an extensive background document that contains emails, press releases, official communications and other types of elements. Then you will have to give a presentation for 10 minutes, and you will be asked questions for another 10 minutes.
– As always, make sure that you really understand the task. It can be about anything (!!!).
– Scan through the material for 5 min. Know that you are under EXTREME TIME PRESSURE. Be very careful of your time as 15 minutes plus 5 is very short. Make sure to take lots of notes, including figures, numbers and data which may be asked in the Q&A section of the exam.
– Structure your presentation with headlines based on the questions that you get in the task.
– You cannot take the material with you, so you will have 5 min at the end to write some words down on a flip-chart (write down key words).
– Be sure to have a wrist watch on you to keep track of the time!
– Start by briefing the people on the subject.
– This is a role play – try to perform as you would in a situation like this IRL.
– Practice with the same time pressure…
– While presenting, be very aware of your body language (no closed gestures, how you stand next to the flip-chart, eye contact, folded arms, etc.) and your tone of voice (especially if you don’t know the answer: it matters a great deal how you say “I don’t know”).
5. Special advice for the group exercise
40 minutes to discuss with others, only 10 minutes to prepare. Here, they will evaluate your skills in leadership, working with others, and communication.
– The most important thing is to quickly read the background briefing (which you can take with you to the actual exam so you don’t need to take extra notes).
– Figure out what your role is.
– Try to participate in the discussion as cooperatively as you can, don’t read/stare at the paper too much.
– Take notes, but show people that you’re listening (nodding, etc.) Only take notes on what is important for the discussion.
– Ask questions to others, summarise what group members have said, remind others of the time and the required deliverables, yet make sure not to dominate the group or to be overly reserved.
– Be aware of your body language (are you leaning forward? are you crossing your arms? are you pointing at others?) and try to call other participants by their names as all of you will have a name tag to facilitate the discussion.
– If you have the possibility, the best practice is to do a classroom simulation with 5-7 other candidates.
– Again – DON’T FORGET TO TALK 🙂 (but be humble at the same time. Yep.)
More generally speaking, I think you know what you have to do: a good night’s sleep, a big breakfast, not too much coffee (but a little, right? ;)), breathe (!), etc., etc…
And oh, here is an FAQ about EPSO!
Lastly, all questions you wanted to know but never dared to ask ;D, (including “how do assessors actually evaluate me throughout the day?”)
OK guys, this was my absolute last EPSO post! I really hope that you will find some use for them now or in the future. And I would also like to wish you all GOOD LUCK!
You know you love me,
Gossi… no, Mathilda