The sheer number of comments at the main post ‘So I Won’t Be A Commission Official‘ has been causing problems, so all the old comments are here instead, and hence searchable.

2,067 Comments

  1. yes, Jon, you’re right
    What I said does not apply to you- you have suitable education and experience (even much more than u need for this. I guess you didnt succeed,coz you didnt go to the right competition-way too many applicants from all countries.This makes me wonder why u chose that one in particular, but anyway. I think you shouldnt give up.Later this year there will be similar ones, but not for ALL countries.
    As for the rest, c’mon, how serious you reckon is going to a competition when you even don;t know WHAT to study??I didnt say u’ll find all the info for free- free are the tips, support,insider info ,but u cant expect to find MCQ just like that- there are so many websites offering those-u just pay 20Eur and u have immediate access to them.Plus why would your competitor want to give you his MCQs??

  2. @john and the romanians
    Sorry, but i dont understand what kinda serious candidates are you! you just register for the competition hoping for what? luck? sorry but it doesnt work out this way..
    If not, how come u consider youself a serious candidate when u dont know how to prepare and rely on strangers to email you questions??? If u cant/or dont gave time to order the books then enter one of the webistes for preparation and buy some online!

  3. I reckon this last comment is a bit harsh. It’s not that easy to get the information you need about the concours for free – that’s part of the reason why there are so many comments here. Plus everyone is entitled to have a go at the concours, whatever their level of preparation… I personally knew I didn’t have a very good chance, but I applied all the same – I think that’s perfectly valid.

  4. Thanks a lot for the discussion, I learnt quite a few useful things.

    I have registered for the upcoming concour in Law (for new MS). I would be infinitely grateful if someone could send me MCQs or any other related materials for the first selection tests. I don’t have much material available except the Internet. I come from Estonia (just in case you wouldn’t like to help a competitor 🙂

    My email is phish23 {at} mail(.)ru. Thanks so much!!!

  5. evelyn

    to Mihaela;

    there’s no need to buy the book if you don’t have the time. Buy an online package instead. These are very affordabable and you get access as soon as you make the payment by credit card. I would recommend eu-careers.com.
    cheers

  6. Thomas

    Hello all,

    just wondering if anyone can answer this (simple) question, seeing that EPSO is perfectly unhelpful on the matter.

    I’m taking the 2nd round of the Contract Agent exam (Cast 25) in November, my 1st choice speciality being: “administrative advisor: political science”.

    What am I meant to revise exactly? European policies generally?! I phoned/mailed EPSO who replied “EPSO does not answer this kind of question” …

    Can anyone help?

    Great site by the way

    thanks

    Tom

  7. Hi to all!
    I’m from Bulgaria and I will sit for the first time to this exam, as the EPSO published its first competitions for Bulgarians and Romanians. This blog was very interesting indeed, as it brought me to the idia of how tough will be the preselection stage…
    I will appreciate if you could also send me some MCQ form the previous exams or give me some internet links to find such.
    However, we are luckier than you this time – about 6000 Bulgarians have applied for the competition(it is only for Bulgarians, because of the forthcoming enlargement) which is quite better than 20000!!!

  8. sebastian

    there is also a spanish yahoo group where you can find a number of old tests.

  9. sebastian

    @suzana:
    I got them from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the Auswärtiges Amt). It’s a collection of competitions held in the past. Most of them are in German though, so if German is not your language of choice, I am afraid they wouldn’t be of too much help for you as for instance abreveations and acronynms in German are totally different than in English.I could give you the questions of the AD 26/05 competiton though which I did in English. Ther

  10. Anemari

    Hi Adelina,

    if you are still interested in getting the MCQ (I can send it to you), please let me know (give me your e-mail)…

  11. suzana

    a question to jon, sebastian and bruno: you mentioned a couple of time that apart from the books you practiced on previous exam papers..where did you get them from?did you buy them online or did you get them from organizations like orseu or renouveau?i did all the questions in the books i have and now i need to get some more.any recommendation will be helpful.thanks

  12. Evelyn

    hello everyone,

    I’m evelyn and i come from Bulgaria. I recently passed a proofreading pre-selection test and now i’m worrying about the next phases. Do you know anything more specific about the marking of the written exam, oral exam and whether proofreaders are ectually employed in other bodies expect OPOCE? i think there are also proofreaders at the Commission and the EP, but i don’t know for sure and I wonder whether there are really 25 posts, or i need to score amongst to top 10 to manage to get at least a temporary contract (if lucky)?
    thanks

  13. Anemari

    Jon,
    after reading your CV I must say that i was totally impressed! Don’t be disappointed about not passing that stupid exam… Zieh weiterhin dein Ding durch…es werden viele andere, bessere Möglichkeiten für jemand wie Dich geben!

  14. Anemari

    Hi Adelina,

    I’m also from Romania and subscribed for the same test. A few months ago I also took part at the test for translators. I passed in both tests but was not amongst the top 450 🙁 I had a very good result in test a) but had just about 60% in test b). My advice: Make as many MCQs as possible!
    You can find the book here:http://www.libeurop.be/livre.php?numero=51
    Good luck!

  15. Thank you for the kind comment! 🙂

    I have a challenging and fun job at the moment, so I am not too concerned having not passed the concours.

  16. Hi!
    I agree with Hugo, going by yourself takes much more energy than trying to find out more people to study with. I have taken so far three competitions and passed the initial tests but failed totally in the specialised exam :-(. I bought some stuff online to get some examples and more material ( I went with http://www.eucompetitions.com which I think was good, but there are many websites more or less similar). Also, I recommend that you look for a yahoogroup to share info. I know there are a few of them in Romanian and in Spanish. In summary, try to get as much info as possible and get past experiences with other people, they can be very useful!

  17. Here are some more tips:

    1. Don’t go it alone. I spent a week with two guys locked up in a house in the country with nothing but stacks of books on the EU, an internet connection and a fair amount of decent bottles of wine. We studied seriously during the day and played EU Trivial Pursuit in the evenings (fun fun fun!).

    2. Use the internet: there’s a lot of stuff which can be found online, including test-exams, handy memory tricks (e.g. enlargement 3-1-2-3). You have to pay for some of them but it’s worth it and usually not too expensive.

    3. If you don’t know the answer to a question try to make a reasoned guess. For example, you can reason the right answer to the question who never won the Skharaov prize:
    a) Xanana Gusmao
    b) Taslima Nasreen
    c) Salman Rushdie
    d) Leyla Zana
    Even if, like me, you had never heard of most of these writers it is reasonable to assume that it has to be Salman Rushdie because he’s too controversial to get a prize form an institution like the European Parliament. Look at the answers sensibly and you can often make a reasoned guess or at least eliminate one or two alternatives.

    4. You can try to learn a lot but you cannot learn it all. Be sensible about what you study. Learn the 250 MC book by heart and make sure you know which topics are going to be on the minds of the people that make the exams (i.e. what were the hot topics in the year before the exam).

    5. Practice the numerical and verbal reasoning alot. Many people have difficulty completing this part within the allotted time so you can win a lot of terrain there.

    6. Finally, whatever you do, don’t panic!

  18. COMAN LAURA ADELINA

    Hello, i am from Romania, i subscribed for the contest EPSO/AD/47/06 Administrators with Romanian citizenship in the field of European public administration.
    Can you tell me please what shell i study?? Because here in Romania i really don’t have where to ask and whom to ask.I have only one month left untill the exam, and except learning about EU, i don’t know what else to study.

  19. You will need to learn plenty of the answers from the main concours training books – for a list, have a look here:

    The Ultimate EU Test Book
    250 QCM

    The Ultimate EU Test book has more questions, but I think that not all of them are relevant… Get either of these and then make sure you can reliably get 80% of the questions right.

  20. Hello everybody!
    Could you please recommend some well-written books to prepare for the EU competitions (EPAs)?
    Thanks in advance,
    Todo

  21. I thought they it was designed to pre-select the king of people who can get into EPSO process and who can thrive in the UE environment.

    do you know how many EFS presented AD/25 and which % got preselected ? and in which aspect is the selection different ?

    I’ve read all published cabinet office reports on FS scheme and i was very interested at how good this procedure could be at selecting the best students in a wide scope of universities (even if Oxbridge get 40% of the general FSS) focusing on ability and behaviour. I would be interested to know about your experience.

  22. Hi Bruno,

    Thanks for all of these comments! 🙂

    The European Fast Stream entrance examinations are very different to the ones for the European Commission – that’s why I am on the European Fast Stream scheme, but not (yet) in the Commission! While when the EFS scheme was first devised it was meant to be a way to get Brits into the Commission, times have changed and as far as I can tell it now gives no discernable advantage.

  23. Aurora the essays were in substance (i don’t have the paper with me now):

    1- comparing UE Parliament and national parliament
    2- Can Lisbon Strategy preserve and/or change European Social Model ?
    3- PESC and international geopolitical equilibrium
    4- Internal market construction regarding harmonization and mutual recognition
    5- UE Values
    6- conception of an HR strategy for an international organization
    7- design and execution of an anti-discrimination /anti- harassment policy

    You had to choose 1 essay out of the 7. All were rather interesting (for someone interested in UE policies).

  24. another thing Jon, you took the most difficult concours. your results in b & c are equivalent to those of sebastian given the difference in difficulty among tests. The 31th only the law specialty test had a difficulty similar to the AD/25 one and there sebastian did as you (other like economists, auditors etc. were much easier that’s why the bottom mark was the same despite the huge difference in selectivity. For example in economy the mark was 87.387).

    So i guess your knowledge and ability at d day were the same ; only the selectivity was different.

    And by the way the requirement in Law was 86.872 and not 85.744 as stated by sebastian. I happen to know the 540th and lucky last one !

  25. Hello

    Sorry for you sebastian but you can still work for the commission as a special adviser and one day as a BEPA political adviser …

    I think that selecting people on knowledge (2/3) and ability (1/3) is rather a good thing. So i wouldn’t say it’s just an cheap & objective way to get rid of people. This time, the V&N test was a bit easier and that alone put the mark much higher provided the difficulty of the A test (else lot’s of very knowledgebal people would have been eliminated). EPSO seems to adapt the difficulty of the test to the number of candidates that’s why it is not possible to compare scores among different concours. If i were them, i would put a bit more emphasis on ability and have more difficult tests that would weigh more (50%) .

    For example good JD programs (Yale Harvard) have an average LSAT (V&N test) of 173/180 wich is a top1% score average (something higher than any EPSO preselection process i guess).

    The british civil service with the fast stream graduate selection process has something very similar to EPSO concours. And the GCHQ fast stream is much more difficult to pass (10 times harder i would say) than any EPSO concours (even AD/25) and would be an interesting challenge for Sebastian were he British 🙂 And there is the european fast stream were (british) people seem to do well also in EPSO competition.

    ps : i’m french and i was lucky enough getting a 109/120 in this one (i dit lot’s of boring homework though despite working full time).

  26. Aurora

    I wanted to ask you, Jon ,(anyone else who took these tests is welcome to answer) what were the topics for the essay?

  27. Aurora

    Thanks, Jon! 🙂 I’m not too worried about the outcome, I’m just curious about the actual marks I received. There were 2084 candidates who registered to take the tests (I don’t know how many of them actually turned up though) and in theory, there will be 150 names on the reserve list.

    I do think that having more verbal and numerical reasoning questions is a good idea, but I’m not sure if that would be enough. I don’t know, really 🙂 In my case, the verbal reasoning questions count double (we get maximum 10 marks for EU knowledge – we had 30 questions and 20 marks for the verbal reasoning – 26 questions). I think that doing verbal reasoning questions, for example, is a lot more about skill and speed. You have to have a quick mind and be able to grasp things easily, plus in my case you had to have a thorough knowledge of the language (I took the test in English, which is only my third language). So I would definitely say that I prefer VR questions, to EU knowledge questions…as the point has already been made by so many of those who commented, I don’t see how memorising so many facts and dates demonstrates how skilled you are at anything.

  28. Aurora

    I agree that the current system of preselection tests does not assess the important things, nor the essential skills…I am currently waiting for my test results (the tests were computer based) for the AD/36/05 concours, which is the first concours for permanent officials that has been organised for Romanians (it’s actually a concours for Romanian translators, so we only had an EU knowledge test and a verbal reasoning test, piece of cake) I started preparing for these tests more than a year ago, bought a bunch of books and the lot, and did thousands of MCQ questions. But through it all, I found myself wondering…how is knowing some of the stuff that is contained in those books really gonna help me if I do manage to become a EU translator? Especially the EU Ultimate Test Book, through which I learned such useful facts as what colour the EU Official Journal is and how many yens is a Euro worth 🙂

  29. All the best Aurora! I would hope the percentage of people that will be taken from your concours might be slightly higher than the general concours I took. I do think the people that wrote the Ultimate Test Book were having a bit of a laugh though – some of the questions there are even more ludicrous than the questions in the actual test.

    It strikes me that there is quite a depth of discontent about the system, but is there any consensus on what actually should be done instead? Should we just have verbal and numerical reasoning – and more of them – in the first round, and less EU knowledge?

  30. Yes, you work hard on this and you get in. I agree. I didn’t work, I don’t get in. But that does not make the system *right*. An ability to be a boring sod and spend months learning useless facts is stupid as far as I am concerned – this should be a test to assess skills and an ability to be an effective administrator, not some arcane form of endurance test that bears no resemblance to the job that a Commission official will do.

  31. daniel

    The reason why the EU runs these preselection tests is not because the stuff in them is that important in itself. They are knock-out tests because nobody in their right mind is going to correct a complete set of exam papers for 18000 to 20000 candidates – and quite understandibly so. There has to be some mechanism to reduce the candidates down. One thing the preselection test does is quickly identify those who couldn’t be arsed to study for it or who come up with all the excuses not to. The instructions are very clear and if this is what you have to do to get to get to the next round then this is what you have to do. Those who are really serious about it tend to get through, through effort and study (just like sebastian says) no matter how useless they personally might think it to be. They look towards the end goal and not just at the immediate hurdle. Those who couldn’t be bothered can hardly claim to be showing the determination that the EU institutions publicly state in their competition notice they require.

  32. sebastian

    Emannuel:

    I suppose you passed the pre-selection test?
    If you indeed studied just a few hours, chapeau.
    I doubt it though. I further disagree that is is mainly a question of luck. I think it is a question of how much you study and of how much you are willing to memorize rather irrelevant details (as the Sacharov price, the various European Years, e.g. the European Year of life-long learning, the inflation of European Cultural Capitals etc.). Concerning your strategy for questions one doesn’t know the right answer: “interesting” concept. Just doesn’t work. If you look at the correct answers in AD/26/05 you will find that in Test a) there were 9x a, 9x c, 14x b & 8x c, in Test b) 5x a, 16x b, 15x c & 4x d and in Test c) 9x a, 10x b, 13x c & 7x d. If it worked for you, you were indeed lucky.

  33. No, Manu, this is where you are wrong: I know a lot about all the areas of EU politics I like and care about, and I know basically nothing about a whole range of other things. It will need far more than one weekend of work in order to pass a concours. I know nothing about the technical functioning of any policy area except Trans-European Networks and – to be quite frank – don’t really give a damn about the 7th framework programme in research or how the EU pays cash to fishermen. But I think that intellectual shrug of the shoulders says a lot – if I can’t motivate myself to learn about fisheries, clearly I am not the sort of person the EU could really want working for it anyway.

  34. Emmanuel Vallens

    Hey Jon,

    sorry you didn’t make it. But to reassure you and all those who were (rightly) impressed by Sebastian’s strategy: you can also make it without working THAT hard… But clearly, reading and doing the MCQ test of 250 questions published by the Trade-Union of EU civil servants and the book for verbal and numerical reasoning tests does help. It just takes a few hours (one week-end should do), not much more. If, obviously you already have a good knowledge of the EU, but I know it is your case. Then, it is a question of luck. Just a tip: for all the questions to which I did not have any answer (and they were aplenty), I left a blank and then filled in the answer sheet so that I had an equivalent number of As, Bs, Cs and Ds for every set of ten questions.

    Anyway, don’t have any regret. The aim of this preselection procedure is not to see if you’re good or to assess your knowledge, it is just to trim the applicants and enable examinators to actually correct “only” ca 500 essays instead of 19,000. You can still try it next time.

  35. Thanks Sebastian, if I ever do the concours I will come back to your strategy:)

    As to Mary. Why do you count on the public administration to be creative (=the Commission)? Isn’t that the job of the top levels of management i.e. Commissioners. Or perhaps the MEPs who should scrutinize better?

    I gave up on the Commission being the promoter of change from below.

  36. sebastian

    Rose22:
    EPSO has already started to do computer based tests. I took one e.g. in December for the Contract Agents Database.It is said that this round (AD/25 – AD/29) was the last big round of paper based competitions. I personally prefered the paper based test though (even if it’s less ecological).

    Marko:
    If I make it to the interview and later on the reserve list and eventually get a job offer (3 if’s), I will duly consider my options. I might pursue my academic career though (specialising in European and Public Int’l law). Seriously, I also did that to tell my present and future students what a concours is and how it works. We’ll just see what happens.

  37. Bad luck Jon but I’m with Daniela on this one – the whole system sounds absurd. I don’t see how championship short term recall (and hence no doubt amazing short term forgetting) really qualifies you for anything much.
    And if it’s soooo hard to get in, why isn’t the Commission a model of good management and efficiency? Or maybe they forgot to test for creativity and iniative? And – no offence to those of you to whom this applies – surely everyone who does get in thinks they’re sooooooo clever they’re no longer very interested in anyone else’s opinion?

    Maybe they should make all the commissioners sit the concours too. ha ha ha.

  38. Thanks Sebastian, impressive strategy, even for a German I guess…:)

    On a slightly different note and only half-serious: you would then sum up your motivation as a challenge to pass through a selection rather than what you would expect afterwards to be a rewarding occupation?

  39. Rose22

    And I had the same letter. Oh well, there’s always next time.

    Congratulations to Sebastian and any one else that is through to round 2 – I hope it works out for you.

    Food for thought:
    I know international organisations need some mechanism for getting 20,000+ applicants sorted down to the right people for 200 posts.
    The concours round 1 does that largely on the basis of knowledge: but I wonder whether a skills-based rather than knowledge-based selection process might deliver different results?
    More and more of the major employers worldwide seem to take a skills-based approach – that demonstrable ability to deliver is what counts for them. Seems to fit with Barroso’s overall shape for the Commission?

    I wonder too whether EPSO will consider moving to an on-line first round in future, which would save a few trees!

  40. sebastian

    Marko, to sum up my motivation:

    There is the widespread myth that the EU Competitions, especially the pre-selection tests, are an almost insurmountable obstacle, that they ask things nobody can possibly know etc.
    I actually wanted to prove to myself that with the right preparation (without attending a course you have to pay awful lots of money), I could succeed. I thus started in September with the preparation, maybe 3-4 hours a week, sometimes more sometimes less. I intensified my preparation after X-mas, spending more and more time on the verbal&numerical part (which is in my opinion the biggest obstacle) and try to cover all the EU trivial knowledge as well as my special knowldge (law that is). I did MCQs on knowledge for about an hour almost every evening (instead of watchin tv) in order to repeat and to increase my speed.

    I took the week before the tests off and locked myself in, studying like 10 -12 hours a day, 50 % VNR, 50 % knowledge.
    Thus I managed to do very well in general knowledge (Test b) and in Verbal/Numerical (Test c). Special knowledge (test a) was tough and I did okay. I thus got 26/40 in Test a (=39 points), 40/40 in test b(=20 points) and 35/39 (=35,897) in test c=94,897 in total.

    My sister followed basically the same strategy/routine (also along with a full time job) and succeeded as well in the AD/25/05 competition (at least for the time being).

    I think that one needs to start preparing as early as possible and to work hard on the VNR which is easier than it seems in the beginning. Maybe being a German helps a bit too 😉

  41. Wow. What a strategy Sebastian!

    Could you then tell me what your motivation was?

  42. Daniela

    I just can’t understand why the precondition to work with the EU is that you have to be an absolute nerd :(. Why can’t they choose people who can communicate instead of knowing the date of Gunther Verhoegen last’s haircut??

  43. No, it doesn’t have to be the Commission. It could have been the EP or Coucil. But in reality the Commission employs a lot more people so that’s where I would have been likely to end up.

    Well done for making it through the tests Sebastian. Clearly you were more motivated than me!

  44. Bad luck! Oh well, we might keep you in the UK for a while…that’s at least good news for us, if not for you.

  45. sebastian

    I’ve got a full time job as well and all the other responsibilities and cravings. Don’t get me wrong.
    I just gave this a 100 % and so far it worked out.

    Most probably I’ll get kicked out after my essay has been corrected anyway.

  46. Robert

    Why does it have to be the Commission? I thought when you applied through the EPSO you went into a ‘pool’ where you could end up working for any of the EU institutions.

  47. Susanna

    My letter is very similar to yours Jon, around 18.000 people must be feeling like us at the moment…

    Do you know where can I find the answers to the questions? At least I would like to know what was that important and I didnt know!

  48. Thanks for the clarification of the score… Quite ridiculous that they can’t manage to get a list of questions correct!

    As for what I need to do to pass: I know very well what I need to do, and I have loads of books that would help me do it. But I have a full time job, and plenty of other responsibilities as a decent citizen (voluntary work, sports etc.) so I just don’t have hundreds of hours to learn how EU fisheries policies work. I think I’ll just have to give up on the idea of working for the Commission.

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