Preparing for the EU Concours
Support & Training
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade arranges information and training sessions to help Irish candidates prepare ahead of the main EU Concours. These sessions are open to all Irish citizens who have registered for a specific competition, or who intend to do so, and are offered free of charge.
The Department hosted an information session for the recently announced Graduate Administrators competition (EPSO/AD/356/18) on Monday 26 March 2018 in Dublin, with a parallel event held in the Irish Permanent Representation in Brussels the same evening.
Participants heard from previously successful Irish candidates and gained insights into the application procedure and how to approach the different stages of the competition. To enquire about the resources shared at the event, you can contact us.
While every effort has been made to ensure the integrity and accuracy of all referenced material, candidates should be aware that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can take no responsibility for the information provided by any external source, including those listed below. Nor should the listing of any text or firm be considered an endorsement of same.
Before you can apply for any position in the European institutions you should create an EPSO account via the EU Careers Website. You can do this at: https://epso.europa.eu/home_en. Remember, you can only have one EPSO account.
You will usually be asked to complete a questionnaire and attempt some sample tests before you begin an application process. This is a self-evaluation mechanism that EPSO uses so that prospective candidates can determine whether or not a career in the EU institutions is something that would suit them. *EPSO DOES NOT RECORD OR USE THE RESULTS OF THESE TESTS*
For certain, more specialised selection procedures, you will be required to answer some additional detailed questions about your qualifications and experience as part of the application form. This information will be used by the Selection Board as they decide which candidates best fit the needs of the Institutions and thus which candidates to invite to the Assessment centre.
Before starting with your application, you should make sure that all the details in your EPSO account are up to date.
When the application process for an EPSO competition opens, you should:
- Give yourself lots of time to fill out the online application form
- Make sure you validate your application before the deadline – this is YOUR responsibility
- Complete the application in the language specified in the notice of competition
- If you copy-paste text into your application form from another document, make sure you only copy-paste from a pure text file (.txt). This will help to avoid unnecessary spaces or incompatible characters.
- Avoid using the ‘forward’ and ‘back’ buttons in your browser. Use the on-screen ‘forward’ and ‘back’ buttons instead.
- Use the Online Application Manual provided by EPSO for the competition to help guide you through the process. This manual will expand on the points mentioned here.
Remember that the application form of this selection procedure is split in 2 parts, each with a different deadline:
- in the first part candidates declare their languages and confirm their eligibility;
- in the second part candidates choose their languages 1 and 2 and fill in the remainder of the application form (diploma, motivation, work experience etc.).
- The first part or the application form can be filled in in any EU official language (it is very short and mostly drop-down menus and quantitative information), while the second part must be filled in in the language chosen by the candidate as language 2.
- Candidates must meet the two deadlines (one for each part of the application form) in order to qualify for the next stage of the competition.
The First Stage – Computer Based Tests
The first stage of the concours is the computer based tests (CBTs for short). These cognitive reasoning exercises are also known as psychometric tests or aptitude tests and are used by EPSO as a filter to identify a manageable number of candidates for the next stages. These are general aptitude tests and do not require detailed specific knowledge of the EU.
These tests are conducted through a candidates “language 1” and take place in testing centres worldwide.
In order to succeed at the CBTs, and make it to a competition’s second stage, you need to score amongst the top percentile taking that test. While this might sound difficult, with some advanced planning and deliberate practice you can give yourself every chance of success.
The CBTs test a candidate’s verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning and are taken in the candidates’ listed first language, which can be any one of the EU’s 24 official languages (including Irish). In order to help you prepare for the CBTs, we have also compiled short guides to each of the test types, with hints and tips on how to prepare and useful links and references.
- Tips on preparing for the Verbal and Numerical Reasoning Tests
- Tips on preparing for the Abstract Reasoning Test
As these guides suggest, the best way to prepare for the CBTs is to familiarise yourself with the test style and format through deliberate practice. EPSO and the Public Appointments Service provide test material freely online, while material can also be purchased through various private companies, many of whom offer free samples. Additional sample questions and answers for the asbtract, numerical and verbal reasoning tests are also provided below.
- Abstract Reasoning Questions A
- Abstract Reasoning Answers A
- Abstract Reasoning Questions B
- Abstract Reasoning Answers B
- Numerical Reasoning Questions A
- Numerical Reasoning Answers A
- Verbal Reasoning Questions A
- Verbal Reasoning Answers A
Finally, there are many books available on how best to prepare for the competition process. The following texts are some of the best known:
- The Ultimate EU Test Book, Administrators 2018 edition, Andras Baneth: Covers both stages of the EU competition (i.e. the numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning ability and the tests to be expected in the assessment). Provides practice tests, tips and strategies.
- Numerical Reasoning MCQ for the European Institution Competitions, Emmanuel Hetru and Jean - Luc Bizeur: Methodology, strategies and practice tests for numerical reasoning skills.
- Verbal Reasoning MCQ for the European Institution Competitions, Emmanuel Hetru and Jean - Luc Bizeur: Methodology, strategies and practice tests for verbal reasoning skills
- Abstract Reasoning MCQ for European Institution Competitions, Emmanuel Hetru and Benoît Crepin: Methodology, strategies and practice tests for abstract reasoning ability.
- Situational Judgement Test for European Institution Competitions, Jean - Luc Bizeur, Pascal and Isabelle Maen Farchy: Provides information, strategies and exercises for the behavioral test in the first round
- Ultimate Psychometric Tests, Mike Bryon: Provides over 1000 practice exercises in the field of numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning ability.
The Department has begun to roll out support for the Computer Based Test (CBT) stage of the Graduate Administrators competition to interested candidates, in partnership with EU Training, a leading provider of practice materials for EPSO tests.
This support includes a package of practice materials for the verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning tests, as well as the situational judgment test, which also features in this stage of the competition.
Please note that this extra support is intended to supplement individual preparation and study for the CBT tests.
If you would like to learn more about the supports we can provide you for this stage, and for future competitions, please contact us.
The Second Stage - the E-tray Exercise
This stage takes place in testing centres throughout the EU member states and is conducted in a candidates “language 2”.
The e-tray stage is a computer-based test in which candidates are asked to answer a number of questions using the documentation provided in an e-mail inbox.
The Third Stage – Assessment Centre
A detailed official guide to the assessment centre is available. It consists of four key exercises, with some variation depending on the specific competition.
- A case study in which candidates are provided with a text or texts of the kind you might encounter as an EU official and tasked with preparing a written document. The case study is ninety minutes in duration and primarily designed to test candidates competencies in analysis and problem solving, communication, prioritising and organising.
- An Oral Presentation in which candiates are presented with a workplace scenario which requires them to analyse a text or texts and prepare an oral presentation. Again, the key competencies tested here are analysis and problem solving, communication, prioritising and organising.
- A Structured Interview in which candidates are asked a series of questions about specific competencies (and specific skills, in the case of specialist competitions). In each case, candidates should be prepared to outline concrete examples of how they have demonstrated these competencies in the past.
- A group exercise, in which candidates are assigned to teams of five or six, presented with a typical EU workplace scenario and tasked with discussing conclusions and reaching a collective decision. Key competencies assessed here include working with others, prioritizing and organizing, analysis and problem solving, communicating and potential to lead.
The languages used in the Assessment Centre are English, German and French and two other languages that will be announced following the application stage. Candidates will have identified one of the Assessment Centre languages as their second language (“language 2”) ahead of the Computer Based Tests.
Two types of competencies are tested for, general and specific, with eight key competency criteria:
- Analysis and problem solving
- Delivering quality and results
- Learning and developing
- Prioritising and organising
- Working with others
- Potential to lead
Candidates must demonstrate each of the above in the course of the assessment centre exercises.
In preparing for the assessment centre, candidates may wish to consult some of the following resources:
- Seven Things You Need to Know about the EU Assessment Centre
- Nine Amazing Ideas for Your EPSO Assessment Centre Preparation
- EPSO Guide to Open Competitions
- EU Careers Administrator Blog
- Check your EPSO account at least twice a week during the selection procedure.
- You can view your application form at any time by going to your EPSO account.
- Additional information about the selection procedure and information about the timing of the different stages will be available and regularly updated on the EPSO website.
- For any questions you may have please contact us at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.