The application process for the Civil Service Fast Stream is a rigorous one. It has to be: in 2014 the Fast Stream received over 20,000 applications for only 915 places. But you only have to look at some of the other blogs to see why it’s such a popular programme and worth the application. There are online verbal reasoning, numeracy, competency, and situational judgement tests; an application form; an e-tray exercise; and, if you’re successful in all of those, the Fast Stream Assessment Centre (‘FSAC’). It helps to understand what’s coming. At the FSAC I attended we had a current Fast Streamer come and talk to us about her application. She recalled feeling “like my head was going to explode” during her FSAC. But don’t let that put you off! Hopefully the following will make it a bit easier for you!
The initial online tests
The online verbal reasoning and numeracy tests are relatively standard for graduate recruitment schemes. You’ll be asked to quickly understand some information and answer multiple choice questions on it. It’s worth practising them a few times before you take them for real. Everyone has their own method so figure out what works for you.
The competency questionnaire compares your behavioural style to the Civil Service Competencies, so make sure you have a read of these before answering.. It’s always tempting to choose the answer you think the assessors want, but answer honestly – the point of this questionnaire is to understand how you work! The situational judgement questionnaire asks you to think about how you’d approach some work related scenarios – think carefully about the best option for each situation.
The application form
The application form will ask for a whole variety of information on your education, work experience, and personal details. This is scored for some schemes so make sure you don’t rush it. If you’re applying for the Government Statistical Service Fast Stream you’ll have to complete an extra multiple choice test here.
If you’re applying for the Analytical Fast Streams you’ll have a half-day assessment event in London, where you’ll be tested on your technical skills.
The e-tray exercise
The e-tray was a big surprise for me. I’d had office jobs before and didn’t think that this would be too difficult, but it’s a challenge. There’s a practice test and I would definitely recommend that you give it a go before doing the assessed version. It puts you in the shoes of a Fast Streamer and requires you to choose the most appropriate responses to typical requests – on a hectic day!
As well as this multiple choice section, the e-tray requires you to write a response to a request for information. Make sure that you read the request carefully and answer it appropriately. Think creatively and feel free to use bullet points – this isn’t a dissertation.
The Fast Stream Assessment Centre
If you manage to get through all of these stages you’ll be invited to a one-day assessment centre in London (if you need to, you can claim for travel, accommodation, and subsistence expenses). At the FSAC you’ll complete four exercises: a group exercise; a written policy recommendation exercise; a leadership exercise; and a strengths-based interview. You’ll get a useful guide about what to expect before the FSAC which I found helpful.
The only bit of preparation you can do is to think about some examples of the competencies that you could use in your interview, and get used to digesting lots of information quickly. You could practise this by reading a section of a paper faster every day. It sounds silly but it works.
The big thing to remember at the FSAC is that you’re being tested on your ability to work both individually and as part of a team to get the best outcome for the Government and the public. Make sure you aren’t the person who shouts in the group exercise, but equally make sure that you’re heard!
It can take a while to find out if you’ve been successful at the FSAC as scores are constantly reviewed, so be patient. You might have a Final Selection Board depending on the scheme you’ve applied to, and you’ll be sent details on what this will involve if you get there.
Fingers crossed that you’ll be offered a place, but don’t worry if not. It often takes people several attempts before they are accepted onto the Fast Stream. You may also be placed into a pool of people who are offered jobs in the Civil Service outside of the Fast Stream. Alternatively, you can apply for positions on the Civil Service Jobs website to get some more experience before the next round of applications.