What is an EPSO Test and How to Prepare for One

EPSO tests are a type of aptitude test commonly used by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). They are used in the recruitment process of candidates to the institutions and agencies of the European Union.

Taking this test is a way that EU institutions can test your verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning to ensure you are prepared for an EU career. The tests themselves are usually multiple-choice. EPSO tests are used to evaluate a candidate's professional and general skills and competencies to ensure they are suited to working with EU institutions.

What they are Not!

The EPSO CBT tests are not tests of EU related knowledge. You will not encounter questions related to EU history, the structure, its organizations and other knowledge that before the EPSO test reform was used to assess candidates.

As EPSO tests are used to test a variety of different skills and help you through the selection process, they will be testing your general knowledge and how you can tackle any problems you may face.

Why are EPSO tests used?

There are mainly two reasons why EPSO chooses to conduct these tests. Firstly, the number of applications for available EU positions can often exceed 40.000 per year. As this is such a large amount of candidates, it is impossible to read that number of CVs and conduct interviews with all applicants. This means that EPSO needs to find a way of improving the selection process and find the most suitable applicants in an objective way as possible.

Even though organizing the tests, which can be taken all around the world incurs a cost for EPSO, it does effectively filter out around 80% of applicants. It is simply viewed as a relatively economic way of filtering the most suitable candidates by testing out their general and professional skills.

Secondly, it is considered to be an objective way of assessing the various skills that you may need during a career within EU institutions. The tests consist of multiple-choice questions and are computer-based and answered therefore they can be considered objective and fair to all candidates.

EPSO quote: Based on well-established scientific studies, these tests have the highest predictive value of future job performance (compared to purely knowledge-based tests)

Structure

The sample tests themselves are divided into multiple categories. The number of categories and which categories are used will mainly depend on the profile you are applying for and can also vary somewhat throughout the years. The categories included in the test for each profile will reflect the relevant tasks you will need to complete and will ensure that the questions asked align with the profile you are applying for. The below categories are almost always included in the CBT tests.

Read more about these categories:

EPSO Verbal reasoning test guide

EPSO Abstract reasoning test guide

EPSO Numerical reasoning test guide

Languages of the test

Once you have completed the sample tests you will receive a mark which can then be used to deduce how well you have done in each test. To successfully pass and move onto the next round, you will need to earn enough points to achieve a pass mark, but what exactly is this?

Pass mark: Each category can require a pass mark which is usually set around 50% of the maximum score of that category. Achieving the pass mark does NOT mean that you will proceed to the next round. It rather means that if you do not reach the pass mark on that category you will not proceed to the next round even if your TOTAL score is among the best.

In below example each category requires a minimum score of 5 points. You can see that the test taker 1 would not be directly disqualified as a pass mark is achieved in each category. Test taker 2 on the other hand performed much better at the test but failed to achieve a pass mark on numerical reasoning.

What are my chances of success?

The chances of success vary greatly depending on the number of applicants per position. General jobs like the Graduate competition that doesn´t require a highly specific job experience or education can attract over 150 applicants per position. This chance of success is for that reason lower than for highly specific competitions whose requirements only a limited number of people can meet and can therefore apply to.

The chances for these more specific competitions such as Lawyer-Linguist can range between 10 to 40%. The applicants for the secretaries competition will have about a 7% chance of succeeding.

To improve your chances of success you should try to complete as many practice tests as possible as this will give you an idea on the type of question you may be asked during a real EPSO test. By practicing skills such as your situational judgement or your verbal reasoning, you will be ensuring the highest chance of success!

Try your skills with this short test covering the three main categories:

More EPSO test examples and videos

Test differences between the competitions

Various competitions will put more or less emphasis on certain categories depending on the nature of the work tasks and abilities sought. The secretaries competitions for example always include the categories: Accuracy & precision and Organizing & Prioritizing because they are highly relevant for that profile. These two categories are for the same reason not included in the translator and proof-reader competitions for obvious reasons.

Before you take your EPSO test within one of the many test centres, ensure you know what skills are relevant to the EU profile you are seeking. This will help you figure out the skills you will need to practice and can help improve your classroom training sessions before the real test.

Can you improve your chances of passing the test?

Yes, however, many candidates feel an apprehension towards these kinds of tests and feel a lack of confidence. This can be due to previous experience of recruitment sample tests. An important thing to keep in mind is that most candidates feel this way and that it is entirely possible to improve one's chances greatly by focused and continuous practice.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority of test takers reach a similar score and that an improvement of 10% can be the difference between having an average score and a score among the top 10%. The takeaway here is that dedicated practice does pay off and leads to improvements. Practice tests as frequently as you can before taking the main EPSO test within the assessment centre to vastly improve your chances.

How do you improve your chances of passing the test?

If you are wondering how best you can improve your chances when taking EPSO tests and how you can make sure you earn the EU profile you seek, we have collated a few tips for you. Below you will see the best ways you can improve your chances and thus improve your options when it comes to a career in the EU.

• Familiarise yourself with the test and question structure, EPSO tests are multiple-choice. Identify your specific weaknesses. Is it a specific category like numerical reasoning or just individual parts of that category such as multiplication or division?

• Try to practice your abstract reasoning, verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and reasoning tests as often as possible.

• Focus on improving your weaknesses. TIP: Our training platform offers an opportunity to just practice questions you have answered incorrectly to or taken too long to answer.

• Increase the difficulty of questions and try answering them within the recommended timeframe.

• Find suitable training resources that can explain EPSO test methodology and speed up your learning.

• Make practicing a daily routine, preferably under time pressure just like the EPSO test. If possible, ask a friend to run these training sessions so you can get a feel for how the real tests will go.

• Sit several real EPSO tests in an environment similar to test centres. The best practice is to sit the real test as many times as possible to familiarize yourself with the assessment centre setting, time pressure, and the questions.

What if You received very different scores at your tests?

It is common for applicants that have sat the test several times to receive widely different scores. Some candidates will also perform very well on one category one year but fail to even reach the pass mark the next. This is completely natural and happens for several reasons.

One thing to keep in mind is that the number of questions you answer per category is often no more than ten. This means that losing focus or making a simple error on two or three questions can have a big impact on your performance in that category. Another explanation can be that the set of questions you got simply was more difficult.

EPSO does try to make all tests fair so try to familiarise yourself with the structure of each question and read them carefully as this can be another reason why scores can vary so frequently. Also, try to ensure you are familiar with the language you have chosen, whether that's English, French or one of the many languages found within the EU. Check the official EU website to find the languages most commonly found throughout Europe.

Does everyone in the same competition see the same questions?

No. The questions presented will vary across candidates. This happens because EPSO has a big but still finite set of questions to use. Some candidates would have seen a question in previous competitions and can for that reason not be presented with the same question again.

So how does EPSO then make sure to score the tests fairly if everyone sees different questions? Each question is given a difficulty score and the level of that score is taken into account when assessing your test performance. In EPSO´s own words: “the level of difficulty of the individual tests delivered to each candidate is identical”. You can read more about the way questions are scored here:

EPSO tests, myths and facts

What happens at the test centre?

You will first be asked to identify yourself and sign in. Make sure to bring the identification documents you stated in the application and preferably the invitation to the test. If you have an important question, be sure to ask it before the EPSO test begins. The assessment centre employees will give a brief introduction to the procedure so make sure to listen carefully as not complying with them can lead to disqualification.

Next, you will be asked to remove all electronics, keys, cards wallets and similar items and store them in a locker. After that, a body search will be done to make sure you don’t have any devices or tools that could help you on the test or something that can be used to record the test. Please note that you will typically be recorded while sitting any sample tests.

What can I bring with me to the test room and what am I provided with?

You won't be allowed to bring anything with you apart from the clothes and glasses you are wearing when taking part in the EPSO tests. There are exceptions however in terms of medical needs, for example, if you require a blood tester or similar medical equipment, you will be able to bring it into the EPSO test with you. The assessment centre will provide any equipment you need to complete your EPSO test based on whether it's paper or computer-based, this consists of:

• An erasable pen for answering each question • Two pieces of erasable paper • Internal earbuds • A calculator to aid numerical reasoning

EU Training Centre and Test Centre Regulations

To see more about the test centre regulations and how you should behave regarding your test, be sure to check out the following:

Test Center Rules

The above link will break down the typical regulations and procedures you will encounter when entering the assessment centre. These rules are fairly standard when it comes to tests throughout the EU and any EU institutions so it's always a good idea to make a note of these when possible.

How do I book a test?

You first need to create an EPSO account and then apply for a position. You will then be sent instruction about when and how to book your EPSO test. Visit the below link for a list of available positions.

EPSO available positions

Make sure you don’t wait too long to sit the test as you might need to rebook the test date and realize that there are no free time slots available. You can also use the following link to see how best to apply if you are still unsure:

How to apply

Will I be deducted for incorrect answers?

No. There is no deduction for incorrect answers. You will not gain that marks for that question, but your overall score won't be lowered for answering a question incorrectly.

Are there multiple correct answer alternatives?

Generally, no. The only category where multiple answer alternatives can give points is the Situational Judgement Test. However, even within that category one alternative is the most correct. In the Verbal Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Numerical Reasoning tests there will only be one correct answer.

Can I use “saved” time from one category on another?

No. Any time remaining after completing one category cannot be used for another category. Therefore, make sure to use the remaining time you might have left to double-check your answers.

Can I rebook a test?

Yes. A test can be rebooked by using the following steps found on this link.

how to rebook your test

Can I choose the order of categories when I take the test?

No. The order of the categories is fixed in each competition and cannot be re-arranged by the test taker.

Can I sit for several tests?

You can sit several tests for different competitions. You cannot however sit more than one test for one competition. Make sure you are aware of your options before booking your test.

When will I get my test results?

It may take several months for EPSO to communicate the results with the test takers. This is particularly true for bigger competitions. Keep an eye on your EPSO account and messages from EPSO for news regarding the results.

Can I file a complaint?

If you have a complaint about the test or EU training centre setting make sure to inform the test centre employees immediately. The faster you report an issue the quicker it can be solved, this applies to any EU training centre, not just the EPSO centre.

Where can I find training material?

EPSO offers sample questions to all the test categories on their website. The number of questions is very limited which is why most applicants use some sort of free or paid resources. There are a variety of resources available online for candidates to use for training material from podcasts to example tests.

Such examples can be found here

We have compiled a list of 11 completely free EPSO test resources that will help you get started without spending a Euro:

11 Completely free EPSO test resources

Criticisms of the EPSO test

Language Selection

There are a few complaints that the language selection choice isn't suited to all EU citizens. EPSO try to ensure that all possible languages found within the EU are catered for and rigorous quality control is used to make sure translations are accurate. If you run into any issues within your test be sure to alert the centre or EPSO directly!

No transparency about the test results

Sometimes people would prefer to see the correct answers of each question and how they did on specific categories, however, this just isn't possible. Even

All reasoning tests will receive an overall mark to help you know how you did in each specific test. Be sure to check out the linked column to see what score you got on a specific test, for example for the verbal reasoning test you will get a different mark than you did for the abstract reasoning test.

Travel Costs

Due to the vast amount of applications and tests ran throughout our EPSO EU training centres it just isn't possible to cover the travel costs of all participants. If, however, you live in a country outside the EU you can apply for some compensation towards your travel costs. Details can be found at the following link:

Are travel costs reimbursed