This year’s graduate cycle has just finished its computer based testing (CBT) period. Almost 24.000 confirmed their application and were eligible to do the tests. It is expected though that there is slight drop off and that the actual numbers of applicants was lower.
The number of applicants this year was quite significantly lower compared to the previous AD graduate competition of 2015. This is perhaps a bit unexpected considering that there was no AD graduate cycle 2016 which one could assume should have “compounded” the number of applicants.
There are obviously several factors in play here. The main one probably being the economic stabilization of countries with most EPSO applicants. The number of available positions this year was also 124 compared to the 149 year 2015 which possibly also played a part.
2015: 31.400 applicants/149 positions = 211 applicants per position.
2017: 24.000 applicants/124 positions = 193 applicants per position
EPSO has published the distribution of languages stated by the applicants in the applications phase. This is not the same as the country of origin of an applicant but it is possible to make an estimation based on rough assumptions.
Assuming most candidates chose English, French or German as a second language and their mother tongue as a first language we can see that some countries like Greece are heavily over represented compared to their population
What categories EPSO test category people struggle with the most is of course subjective as everybody has prepared differently and has different talents. One should keep in mind that what questions the candidate faces varies. After the competition EPSO weights the difficulty of each question to arrive at a fair score.
There does however seem to be a general view that the abstract reasoning part of the exams is the most difficult. Many candidates reported being faced with very difficult questions and that this year’s level seems to follow a trend of increasing difficulty of abstract reasoning tests. This is perhaps to be expected as EPSO has chosen to put more emphasis on that category, increasing the number of questions from previous 10 to today’s 20.
Verbal reasoning did not seem to stand out too much in comparison to previous years apart from perhaps a lower number of people reporting what can seem as bad translations. One thing to keep in mind is that it is very difficult to prove that translations are of poor quality as we do not have access to the original texts.
This year’s cycle doesn’t take the NR score into account but only requires a pass of 50% correct answers. Despite of that, numerical reasoning was by some reported as the category they struggled most with.
Analysing our own user data we can draw two main conclusions:
Abstract Reasoning is the category people chose to focus on the most. Our users spend 32% more time on practicing abstract reasoning than numerical reasoning and 20% more time on numerical than verbal reasoning. This is in line with our earlier stated observations about the perceived difficulty levels per category.
Users start practicing for the tests about a week before. Unless the user has had previous experience from the tests, our experience says that this is an insufficient time to prepare for the test.
Make sure to master Abstract Reasoning
If EPSO does continue to put emphasis on the category, each candidate should develop very good understanding and time management skills within this category. There are no short cuts in achieving this other than practicing often and challenging oneself with increasingly difficult questions.
The importance of verbal reasoning
Like in the case of abstract, verbal reasoning is equally important. To see big improvements in this category one has to start early and adapt a very strategic approach. Learn how the questions are constructed, what are the common pit falls and most importantly read technical texts of various topics. This does not only help you read faster but also familiarize yourself with various topics and thus have an easier time understanding them should they come up at the EPSO test.
The results of the competition are believed to be available in candidates account in the beginning of September although EPSO have not confirmed any dates.
Estimating the threshold to advancement to the next stage is always a difficult as there are many factors to take into consideration. We can however try to make an estimation based on the previous AD competition of 2015 which has a threshold of 83% (50/60). The difference between that competition and this year’s is that the AR and SJT were the ones taken into consideration of the total score while VR and NR only required a pass mark of 50%. This year AR was also used to calculate the total score but SJT was completely absent and replaced by VR. How this will affect the scores is difficult to predict.
There are three factors that might however lower the overall score. First, as we mentioned there was a slight drop in applicants per position. Second, the number of candidates invited to the next stage compared to open positions is much higher. These two factors accompanied with was probably a slightly harder AR might result in a lower threshold for advancement to the next stage. The effects of these factors are uncertain though and we shouldn’t be surprised to see a threshold in the regions of what we saw the last cycle which would mean a score of around 33 but we shouldn’t be surprised if the score is lower than that.
2017: 24.000/124 = 193 applicants per position
2015: 31.400/149 = 211 applicants per position
2017: 1.860-2.480 / 24.000 =7,75% – 10,3% invited to next stage
2015: 1.355 / 31200 = 4,3% invited to next stage
All the best luck to all candidates!