The results of the concours for administrators are now out, and – surprise, surprise – I did not manage to pass. Here’s the extract of the letter:

The selection board for the above competition has now finished marking the pre-selection tests in which you participated. I regret to inform you that although the marks you obtained in these tests were above or equal to the pass mark, you were not amongst the top 630 candidates.

Point B.1 of the competition notice stipulates that only those candidates with the 630 highest marks in the pre-selection tests would be asked to submit a full application with a view to their possible admission to the competition.

Your marks are as follows (1):

Test a): 38.333 /60 (pass mark 30)
Test b): 15.263 /20 (pass mark 10)
Test c): 30.769 /40 (pass mark 20)

Total: 84.365/ 120

For your information, the candidates who obtained the 630 highest combined scores had at least 92.611 points.

I would add that the Selection Board’s decision does not preclude you from taking part in any future competitions organised by the European Personnel Selection Office.

It’s beyond me how one can get 15.263 / 20 when there were 40 questions, but anyway, c’est la vie. All the best to all the geeks who know who won the Sakharov prize in the year X or other equally useful everyday facts.

Blog commenter ‘viking’ has made some new test files available for download, and he had also supplied the manual for electronic Reserve Lists. Some additional test files have been provided by Sorina (see comment #1003) – download 342kb, ZIPped. Enjoy!

If anyone is a member of Facebook there’s the ‘So I won’t be a Commission official’ Facebook Group, and the EU Integration Traveler IQ challenge (you need to add the Traveler IQ Facebook application) – a more fun way to revise for the concours…

Due to such an enormous number of comments here I have had to divide the comments function. The latest few hundred comments are below, and all the older comments are archived here. All should work technically now.


  1. Bonne chance!

    Why in the world should Christos, as a private person, use the expert knowledge he has accumulated through hard work (including sitting on a selection panel) and years of experience, write a book and then distribute it for free to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people?! How many of you would do that? I don’t know what kind of a system you think we’re living in, but it’s not a free market -based Western one ;-).

  2. curious1

    @(b)elated, anony-mouse and others

    I have not bought, read or seen Christos’ book
    – but on this subject I side with Christos.
    (actually, had I read it, perhaps I would have recommended it under my nickname and this discussion would not have started)

    1) He wrote a book on a subject no one else has written anything especially valuable on – while
    everyone knows that the information provided by EPSO is rather ridiculous.

    People who read the book say it is valuable,

    There are hundreds or thousands of EU civil servants who have the information needed to write such a book – but they don’t write it. If I were an EU civil servant with that knowledge, I would not bother to write it either – I would rather use all that time to do something more useful for myself.

    You could argue that Christos should not sell his book but give it out for free. Well, he could – but so can those hundreds other officials – and no one does.

    BTW, I looked at pricing of self-published books like with (not exactly this case but useful for comparison) and it seems for one copy sold at EUR 20, the author can get about 6-7 EUR at most – approximately 2 glasses of beer in many of EU capitals…
    If you compare that with the EU officials’ salaries, it is hardly good use of your free time to write such books.

    So much about altruism.

    2) as for the competition, the rules prohibit candidates to contact selection board members. E.g., it is not allowed to write an e-mail to Christos saying
    “my name is Phil Will, I am a candidate in ast/94/09 and I have bought your book; can you tell me what questions you will be asking/what to do to impress the selection board” etc. – but almost everything else is allowed.

    (You can try to immagine Christos asking candidates whether they read his book and giving them extra points based on that (and other selection board members not noticing that), but I find this idea quite ridiculous )

  3. (B)elated


    Christos seemed to imply his motives are altruistic and not mercantile. Putting the book out on a website for free would be the logical thing to do then… just logics, not even remotely interested in any of those preppie books (the documents provided by the UK (Fast Stream program) for free through their website did nicely, thank you 😉 )

  4. @sebastian,

    I’m sorry, I miss to see what entitlements you are referring to? I do feel that at EPSO at the very least should publish per domain:

    a) A comprehensive list of areas of knowledge tested
    b) Real world sample tests (and no, what they do have right now is immensely insufficient)

    As well as ‘what to expect during the oral exam’ section.

    If I have to buy books written by the very same folk who are in the selection committees to find this out, I’m sorry, but the system is terribly flawed and corrupt.

    Don’t you agree?

  5. sebastian

    Why not petition for EPSO putting all exam questions into the public domain beforehand? And possibly the answers as well. To level the playing-field.
    I am amazed by the feeling of entitlement some people are showing …

  6. Anony-mouse


    It is possible that EPSO produces more laureates than are really needed just to ‘lower’ the apparent ‘per laureate’ cost of the system. This would be clearly fraudulent. It could also be that DG’s ask EPSO for more laureates than they really need, afraid that the flagging quota limitation may restrict their chance to cover possible future vacancies. Definitely the long selection process handicaps the well functioning of the system as it is difficult to predict need for resources so far in advance. In the receiving end of these faults are, first and foremost, the laureates that wait for months or years in reserve lists limbo, the DG’s that cannot call candidates over their assigned quotas and the european budget that wastes money in selection processes that do not end with a contract. Christos, on the other hand, thanks you very much for the money you spent on his book. There are a number of ways you can reuse the book, here are a few:
    My favourite one consist in abandoning it somewhere (coffee shop for example), with a note where you ask the founder to write to you telling where the book is now and also the promise that he/she will also abandon it, once finished with it, writing a similar note so that every person that ever holded the book receives notice of its travelings and whereabouts.

  7. Concoursman

    FYI, there is another book about EPSO oral tests:

    However, I suggest the Christos’ book, when it will be updated to the Lisbon Treaty.

    This forum is becoming very interesting… the examiners are becoming the examined… 🙂

  8. (B)elated


    People who bought the book seem to believe they got value for their money. So clearly you are doing something right. What you aren’t doing right, however, is 1) the agressive productment placement (just go back on your steps and read your edifying “contribution” of 15.05.2010 at 12:49) 2) I don’t get how you can be on a selection panel at the same time.

    In the best of worlds epso would find a way to deploy your talents and your work would be made available through their website.

  9. Anony-mouse

    Sorry Christos you failed the test. The document containing your name that lists the members of the panel states very clearly at the top:

    “…it is forbidden for any person who is not a member of the board to make any attempt to contact a board member.”

    You are a member of the panel and through this forum you have attempted to contact possible candidates to the competition you are judging, offering tips in exchange for a fee. I shall quote your post from May the 5th, 2010:

    “Still the one and only reference book vis-à-vis the Oral examinations:
    Succeeding in the EU Oral Examinations by Christos Bezirtzoglou
    Available from the The European Bookshop at …”

    You say you have permission to publish this book under current regulations and that others do as well (why then do you call it ‘the one an only’) but, do you have permission to offer and sell it to the candidates you are judging?
    Maybe this humble mouse will have to sit in front of you in a weeks time. How inappropriate would it be if you knew my name? Should I also put a photograph of my face?
    Contrary to EPSO practice I am going to tell you which are the two possible good answers you should have given to pass the exam. For top marks you should have volunteered both:
    -I shall renounce to participate in this particular competition as a judge and in any future competition as long as I keep selling tips on how to pass the exam.
    -I intend to put the book in the public domain.
    Depending on the outcome of my interview I shall or shall not raise a complaint to the Chairman of the selection board, according to procedures, so watch out for a candidate dressed up as a rodent, because that is me.

  10. Christos, with all due respect, you fail to mention you’re also doing it for a ‘symbolic’ profit and never fail to promote your book (which I’ve purchased, found, well useful, though it’s little more than a pamphlet). No, nothing wrong with that, but I just feel you sound too altruistic to be true. If that wasn’t the case I assume you’d put your book in the public domain.

    Personally I think it should be COM (EPSO) providing information and advice such as this. Simply because otherwise people are not on the same playing field. If they don’t they are implicitly fueling the business of authors (with all due respect again) such as you, who also happen to be working for COM. The level of information darkness on the side of EPSO is just abhorrent. Guess what chances to score high at an exam folk who have solely access to public information have? Yes, right about zero. This is where Jon’s blog comes in. The only reason it’s so popular is because there’s absolutely no where other community for such kind of information. I’m sure Jon’s been astounded by the phenomenon and we can just thank him deeply for tolerating the internet traffic costs. I somehow doubt he’d start charging us a subscription fee too. But I’m getting cynical and digress.

    Point is, I cannot, but somehow feel you’re selling your insiders knowledge. Nothing wrong with that from a business perspective but somehow I do get a queasy feeling. Call it an ethics disagreement if you wish, I feel COM officials should either do it for free not do it at all.

  11. Dear All,

    Please allow me to write the following last email to this forum in order to clarify some issues:

    1) I value the opinion of everybody and in particular I thank all the people who bought my book and sent me their comments either directly or indirectly, via such forums.

    2) I am currently member of a jury and I has also been member in previous competitions. I had also been member of selection panel of CAs. The above work was done in my capacity either as a member of the administration or as a member of the staff union I belong. The same is true for a lot of other colleagues inside the institutions who sit as members of juries and panels. This is a job that we perform on top of our normal work.

    3) A number of authors of “how to” books are also civil servants in the EU institutions. The procedure is clear: To ask for authorisation for publishing your text and only then you are allowed to publish it. This is the procedure I and all the other colleagues have followed.

    4) I wrote this book become a lot of great candidates fail just become they do not know the basic steps of the procedures or because they focus their preparations in wrong issues. I consider my book to be the personal coach to the wanabees colleagues.

    5) I always took pride in using my full name and not hidding behind nicknames. Although I understand the usage of nicknames as a general principle, I object to the use of faulty accusations by anonymous-mices. I would rather prefer to converse with “Ratatouille” (who does take pride of his work) than with “Remy” (who is just looking for food in the trash cans).

    All the best to everyone and lots of success
    Christos Bezirtzoglou
    Signing off

  12. (B)elated

    I’m sure external consultants working on the design and roll-out of the assessment centre formula will also be allowed to publish “how to” books. Further, they will be expected to aggressively hawk their books via various web-fora. All of this is normal and those who feel otherwise have a warped sense of ethics.

    Auditors should be encouraged to publish “how to” books for wannabe recipients of EU funds and of course EStat staff should work on a “how to cook the books” series so that fraudulent member states no longer have to consult with the likes of Goldman Sachs.

    If altruism is the primary driver and the Commission allows this, then just put the book on the epso website for free.

  13. I passed the AST competition AST/…/09 in the Secretarial Field, I bought the book, I think it is a very useful help, thank you for editing it. I am on the reserve list and the Commission twice has contacted me. The job description corresponds completely to my profile and to my special expertise in this field.

    But finally, I couldn’t be invited for the interview because the Commission has reached its quota of candidates from the list of the competition I passed. But I have been contacted immediately after the publication of the results.

    A friend of mine told me |that Commission had the quota only for people already working for the Commission, it means people flagging blue = Laureate currently employed by an Institution.

    Today an other friend of mine told me (his chef told it to him) that the current employment policy of Commission on the AST positions is to employ the contract agent instead of laureates of competition for officials. Because it is cheaper …

    In my opinion EU waste our money, time, energy, the competition is very expensive (see report from European Court of auditors), the cost per laureate is 7 100 euro. My competition was organised for 8 nationalities, about 60 laureates per competition, it means about 3 408 000 euros.

    And I am not speaking about laureate’s frustration – you passed the competition, the Commission chose you to a relevant free position but you couldn’t not even pass the interview because of the absurd rules. It doesn’t help to create a good image of european institutions …

    In my opinion the current rules are counterproductive.

    EPSO organizes an other AST competition in autumn, but in this time there will still be about 400 laureates on the reserve list for AST secretary … maybe more, because I didn’t include the competition for Bulgarian and Romania people.

    PS: Sorry for my English, I passed my competition in French (my second language, English is my language number four.)

  14. Michel

    @ Christos

    I passed the AST competition last year and I bought your book. I think it was a very usefull help at a very reasonable price, so thank you for editing it. Now I am on the reserve list and I wish there was a similar book on “how to lobby the Institutions when you are in a reserve list” as user2008 said before 😉

  15. Anony-mouse

    @ sebastian,
    Surely, the only thing that Christos can do to remove that tarnishing blame of being too altruistic is to charge more for his book, maybe open an expensive preparation academy, perhaps substitute his constant spaming of sites where candidates come to comment on competitions with a more personalised contact with the candidates, as he has access to the lists. And of course he should clarify in the cover of the book, under his name, that he is indeed a member of the examination panels. What really must hold you, and all of us, in awe is how egoistic are the rest of the public servants at EPSO that keep to themselves the inner workings of the system not charging any fee, big or small, for their confidences.

  16. sebastian

    Anony-mouse obviously has not read the book. Additionally, he/she has never read an “Avis de Concours” in the Official Journal thoroughly, nor the Staff Regulations.
    The price of this book, which is to my knowledge the closest you can get to a comprehensive insider’s, yet objective portrayal what to expect in the oral exam and how to enhance your preparation, is so low that you can only “blame” Christos to be too altruistic.

  17. (B)elated

    @ Christos,

    No need for preppy books, thank you. I never made a comment on (the quality of) your book btw.

    In the past I made a side-comment on how people should read your take on EU recruitment issues weighing in the consideration that you have a vested (commercial) interest in this debate. That is what I was hinting at. Anony-mouse then basically threw in a few megaton, must say I am dumbfounded… couldn’t have figured things got this crazy 😉

  18. Anony-mouse


    I am speechless at the fact that you still promote and sell your book, about the Oral Exam, and at the same time you are a member of a selection board.

    Will you be testing if the candidates have purchased and read your book or will you focus on the field of expertise of the competition? Just a rhetorical question, but please adopt a professional and secure attitude, up right position, positive and knowledgeable interaction, etc if you answer. I am testing you.

  19. @(B)elated

    Thank you for the “bitter” comment 🙁

    My only proposal to you is to verify the quality and the price of my book vis-à-vis both the quality and the exorbitant prices of some other authors, and then you would understand who is more or less voluntaristic over the years.

  20. (B)elated

    @ user2008

    touché 😉

    even Christos seems to have gone somewhat less voluntaristic over the years.

  21. (B)elated

    “real world’ profiles”

    Let’s not exagerate this… most get around perfectly well pontificating on the endless procedural idosyncracies of the house… ask them to do an analysis (like “calculate something yourself, make it evidence-based and whip up a story, snappy soundbites included, to sell it by next week and don’t have some consultant do it” and they go all panick-stricken). If you make it in based technical expertise and you can bear with the endless meetings and anal legal types bickering about the latest exegesis (lately they’ve been lubing about how everything they allways thought to know now must be re-interpreted in light of the Lisbon treaty and blimey, they’ve been at each other’s throats) you’ll do fine… they don’t have a clue what you do, how you do it… so you can feed them any line… probably what all those consultants have been doing for decades 😉

    but no, real world professionals are not the norm…

  22. Morales


    Its quite confusing indeed… A bit more complexe than necessary if you ask me.. all compromises for political reasons. Anyhow.. I have passed my CBT for the coming AD councours. I wonder how I did! The numbers are not in my favour I am afraid, 51.639 applications for only 323 post!! damn crisis… 🙂

  23. Marijane

    CAST III vacancy – anti-dumping proceedings

    Unit H4 DG Trade of the EU Commission has a temporary vacancy for a person in the CAST FG III database to cover maternity leave.

    The unit deals with anti-dumping investigations in the area of trade relations between EU and non-EU countries. The ideal candidate should have an economic / accounting / audit background or knowledge of customs practices. Suitable profiles in the CAST database are Finance – Accounts Officer, Statistical Officer, Assistant Auditor, and Administrative Officer.

    If you are interested please send your CV and cover letter to Mme Jeanpierre as soon as possible and specify your CAST III number. Only CAST III candidates will be considered.

    guilaine.jeanpierre (at)

    Only CAST III candidates will be considered.

  24. @Coralia
    good question. Strangely enough no one on the forums asked this while there were still EU knowledge tests 🙂
    yes, Nice trearty sets the number to 732 and that was the number of MEPs at the start of the 2004-2009 EP term. Then halfway the term there was a temporary increase to 785 to allow for the enlargement of BG&RO, as provisioned in a Nice protocol on enlargement.
    Regarding the 2009-2014 EP term, the last accession treaty of april 2005 increased the maximum ceiling from 732 to 736 -two extra MEPs for both the Czech Republic and Hungary, who were underrepresented in the Nice figures vis-à-vis Member States with a similar population size.

  25. Coralia

    A question on the number of MEP:
    The Nice Treaty set the number of MEP to maximum 732.
    Quote: “The number of Members of the European Parliament shall not exceed 732.”
    What is the explanation for the fact that at the June 2009 (organised under Nice Treaty rules) 736 MEP were selected? It is only 4 MEP difference but was curious about the reason for it.

  26. My experience:

    I have passed the Epso competition for AST. I am on the reserve list, I have been contacted by the Commission twice, I had already a date for the interview, but finally I couldn’t bee invited to the interview because the Commission has reached its quota of candidates from the list of the competition I passed. I have been contacted immediately after the publication of the results.

    The same situation one month later …

    A friend of mine already working for the Commission was looking for more information and found out that Commission has the quota only for people already working for the Commission.

    I don’t think that it is problem of my profile ….

    I don’t understand why this competition was organised ….

  27. To bored:
    about your post “bear in mind that from 2012/3 member states will start renegotiating the staff regulations and it’s unlikely the EU salary system will escape the big cuts we are seeing in national systems.” Can you be more specific on this ? Do you have official information or is it just a rumor(it seems possible to me as well)

  28. How comes that the institutions identify their recruitments needs, organise a rather expensive competitions and take on only a fraction in the end?

    because most of the people that pass the competition don’t have the suitable ‘real world’ profiles that managers are looking for. so they end up establishing large reserve lists and cherry picking the best applicants. of course, totally unfair on the other applicants. if/when you end up working for the EU, you will gain an insight into the administrative culture that makes this possible.

  29. user2008

    Hi all,

    Is out there a book called Succeeding in the EU Reserve Lists? I would love to buy one.


  30. Still the one and only reference book vis-à-vis the Oral examinations:

    Succeeding in the EU Oral Examinations by Christos Bezirtzoglou

    Available from the The European Bookshop at

  31. curious1

    the most thorough info on the oral test I have found on the internet is at -and is taken from a British government source (…).

    In general it seems to me that even for the written tests ther is not much info available before the tests. As for the last written tests I sat, I learnt the marking “criteria” only some time after the results as I asked EPSO about them. IMHO it would have helped if they hade made the marking criteria known b e f o r e the test, not long after it….

  32. bobbie

    Good question.
    I suppose just to create work for themselves on the back of us taxpayers. Or just to re-recruit people who are in the Commission with a temporary contract. I’am also on the reserve list since 2008 without any news. Based on this reservelist I am even on a second reservelist for REA. Their the objective is to permanently recruit people who are temporarily in the Commission. I got this even confirmed my a staff member who’s working in the Commission. In my opinion it’s all just a big waste of time to fill in application forms.

  33. Babetka

    II passed completion EPSO/AST/58/08. The reserve list was issued end of July 2009 (expires end of 2010). I know that the JRC hadn´t touch it for the first 6 month and now only 6 of the short listed candidates were offered a job to date. How comes that the institutions identify their recruitments needs, organise a rather expensive competitions and take on only a fraction in the end?
    Anyone up for an answer?
    Thank you in advance for your contribution

  34. Coralia

    @ Anna

    Thank you for your response. It is very useful. I feel that for the oral there is less information on how a candidate is graded versus other phases in the competition (CBT, written tests). Of course we know the 4 criteria mentionned in the Notice of Competition but which are vague and large.

    Is the number of 12 questions valid for the AD147 competition specifially?
    12 questions carring in total 50 points; it means that certain questions are given higher points ? Thank you.

  35. Kostas, I checked this with the Pay Calculator, and the result is the following.

    AD5, step 1, no household allowance (i.e. no kids or a spouse earning less than the threshold), 16 % expatriation allowance.

    Base salary: 4267,72
    Net pay: 4045,94

    With the household allowance the net pay would be 4339,42.

  36. Coralia, all candidates receive the same number of questions, which is 12.
    You have around 3.5 minutes per question.
    Good luck.

  37. Coralia

    AD147 competition – oral tests

    I have been invited to the oral test of the AD147 competition. I would be interested in having some impressions from candidates who already participated in an oral examination or even for AD147. Does any of you know how the points for the oral test are allocated? The maximum for the oral test is 50 points, shall I expect around 10 question with an average weight of 5 points per question? Do all candidates receive the same number of questions?
    Thank you in advance for any suggestion or advice.

  38. different salary tranches are taxed at different rates from about 20 to 45%. So, it’s very difficult to work out net salaries without a spreadsheet. an unmarried ad5, step 1 with the expatriation allowance will start on around 3700 net.

    bear in mind that from 2012/3 member states will start renegotiating the staff regulations and it’s unlikely the EU salary system will escape the big cuts we are seeing in national systems.

  39. Kostas

    does someone know how the tax system works on salaries?
    For example, base salary for an AD5 is 4267euro, plus 16% expatriation allowance.
    For much out of this is net, after eu tax deductions?

  40. to all the candidates who are on the reserve list – yes it’s useful if you get a current employee to send you the vacancy lists, there are usually lots of jobs open.

    but I strongly recommend you identify some points of contact in the recruitment division in the DGs of interest to you. you can do this through the EU who is? system. they will have an overview of what vacancies might arise and be most suitable, and be able to inform you if your nationality is ‘blacklisted’ e.g. if there are too many in one DG.

    the problem is that, in my experience, some of these HR outfits are a bit shambolic, but that’s a different issue.

  41. At any given time, there are between 40 and 50 AD grade vacancies which have been published and are open for applications. The minimum publication time is 10 working days, but many posts are published for 15 or 20 working days.

    The main problem competition laureates face is when a vacancy is published and applications received, the unit always has to consider internal applications first (meaning from people who are already established officials in that grade). Only if they can prove that none of the internal applicants are suitable, can they hire a laureate.

    So if it’s a popular DG and a popular unit, competition laureates don’t really stand a chance, as it can be that the vacancy attracts 10-20 internal candidates, and it’s very unlikely that none of those would be suitable.

    In principle all vacant posts must be published. However, if the DG in question has not fulfilled its quota for EU-2 recruitment, and they know of a Bulgarian or Romanian laureate who would be suitable, it is not necessary to publish the post; the Bulgarian or Romanian can be directly hired.

  42. Hello

    @ Peregrine, @Nova and all other “insiders”,
    When you suggest actively applying for published vacancies, could you tell me how many are they on average per month? It would be nice to get an idea about the probabilities to get invited.

    Am I right in thinking that all vacancies have to be published, therefore if you somehow get access to these offers, you don’t have to send “spontaneous” emails to Heads of Units or HR staff? If they have a planned vacancy, they will have to publish it first. If no, they will just send you a negative reply?

    Many thanks

  43. Hello

    @ Peregrine @Nova and all other “insiders”,
    When you suggest actively applying for published vacancies, could you tell me how many are they on average per month? It would be nice to get an idea about the probabilities.

    Am I right in thinking that all vacancies have to be published, therefore if you somehow get access to these offers, you don’t have to send “spontaneous” emails to Heads of Units or HR staff. If they have a planned vacancy, they will have to publish it.

    Many thanks

  44. @Emilie897

    I am sorry, it’s not a list, just some recruitment contacts in the Council.

  45. Emilie897

    @ Nova,

    It could be super if you could also send me this useful list of recruitment contacts.
    Many many thanks in advance!!!
    My email is: emilieberger {at} hotmail (dot) com

  46. cosnic


    Would you be so kind to send also to me the recruitment contacts?
    My email is:
    cosnic {at} hotmail (dot) it
    Thank you very much!

  47. @Miu
    Yes, it’s better to contact the recruitment service. Please, give me your email address to send you some useful contact points.

  48. @Nova

    Thank you very much for the advice. This is really encouraging, but should I contact the service recrutitment in this case? I have also send some CV to HoU and in some cases I received a reply that unfortunately there is no vacancies in the unit right now.

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