The UK Civil Service plays a significant role in the governance and management of the UK. By helping to develop and implement new policies and procedures, the Civil Service has established itself as Britain’s premier public sector organisation.
To get a job in the Civil Service, you’ll need to pass a number of difficult tests and challenges. In this blog, we’ll give you some top tips on how to pass the first 3 stages of the Civil Service fast stream assessment centre: the written exercise, the group exercise, and the presentation.
The Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment Centre
The Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment Centre is held at the Fast Stream Assessment Centre (FSAC) in London, where you will complete the final stages of the Civil Service assessment.
Assessment centres are used in selection processes to highlight and produce accurate results in determining strong candidates. Fast Stream standards are extremely high (as you would have learned from the tests you have previously completed), therefore you need to be able to show your personal qualities and the skills required to be a successful fast stream candidate.
Upon arrival at the assessment centre, there are a few essential details to take care of. These include:
- Registering. This is the first thing you do when you arrive. There should be a member of staff on hand to assist you with this.
- Asking questions. If you have any doubts or concerns, then now is the time to ask them. The desk team should be able to answer any questions that you might have.
- Following this, you will be provided with a timetable for the day, which outlines how your activities will be structured.
During your Civil service fast stream assessment centre, you will take the following tests:
- A written exercise.
- A role play/group exercise.
- A presentation.
- An interview.
For each civil service fast stream assessment centre test, you will need to demonstrate the core competencies as much as possible. Now, let’s look at the details of every element of the test.
The written exercise requires candidates to complete two tasks. The first task will include a file of papers which will provide data and information about potential Government projects which can be used to resolve a problem. Your job is to analyse the papers and recommend which proposed project should be used. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer. You can pick either option, as long as you conduct a clear and convincing argument as to why you chose it. You need to structure your answer as a formal argument. Your argument should include detailed explanations, analysis, evidence and significance.
The second task follows straight on from the first. The papers that you have just read and the proposed solutions that were described should be taken into consideration to form your own additional ways of achieving a solution. Your option should implement the Government strategies and pay particular attention to the overall implications, significance and objectives which would result from your idea being implemented. This task is used to assess your performance based on making effective decisions, communication, seeing the bigger picture and other important competencies.
Tips For The Written Exercise
- Although you are not told what subject areas you will be given to compare and contrast in order to write your answer, you can practice your writing style.
- An important part of the written exercise is to demonstrate an effective, clear and concise argument which highlights the relevance, importance and benefits of why you decided on the choice you made.
- Practice by reading articles on the same subject, and form your own conclusion. Read these articles and decide which article makes the argument better and why.
- Your writing style will also need to depend on the type of role you are applying for in the Civil Service. If you are applying for a business-orientated role, your writing style needs to be professional and ‘business-like’. Adapting your writing style to your preferred job position clearly illustrates that you have taken the time to think about the selection process and how much it means to you.
- Practising written analysis methods such as the SWOT and PEST analysis will allow your writing to cover the main points. The SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) will create an all-round argument and ensure you have covered most aspects of your choices.
- The PEST analysis (political, economic, social and technology) will filter your answer more specifically if writing an answer fitting one or more of these examples.
The Civil Service fast stream assessment centre group exercise is designed to test the candidate’s ability to make effective decisions, work alongside other team members, show leadership and communicate effectively. Sometimes this exercise may be described as a ‘role play’ and to some extent it is. You are put in a fictitious scenario, therefore you need to pretend to have the job given to you in the brief. You need to take the role seriously and fully comprehend what is being asked. Your group will consist of 5 or 6 people, and you will be given a fictitious scenario which you will need to evaluate and form a proposal. You will usually be given a number of options, and it is your group’s task to recommend an option and provide support and evidence to back up your reasoning for this conclusion.
- You will be given approximately 50 minutes to complete this task.
- At the beginning of the exercise, you will be provided with background information about the brief, the scenario and the main issues which need to be addressed.
- All group members will receive the same core material, however each individual will be given an assigned, individual brief. It is your task to come up with the best outcome for the position which you are representing.
Tips for The Group Exercise
- Ensure that everyone in your group makes a contribution to the discussion. It is a group exercise and therefore you will get marked on collaborating with other people.
- Try to avoid taking notes during the discussion time. You need to make sure that you are paying attention to what is being said, and that you show interest into what other people have to say.
- If you can, try to voice your opinions in the discussion as early as you can. Try to show your enthusiasm. Being one of the first people to speak will leave an impression on the assessors.
- Try to avoid being shy and timid. You do not want to take a laid-back approach to this exercise. Assert your views and opinions and make sure you demonstrate that you have something to say, and what you say is worthwhile listening to.
- Be prepared to alter your opinions and thoughts after hearing other people’s views. This shows the assessors that you are willing to support somebody else’s claims.
- Do not take criticism personally. Someone may not agree with what you have to say, but that is no reason to get upset or disheartened. Stand your ground and try to win them over. If unsuccessful, listen to what they have to say and respond to their views showing you disagree and the reasons why.
The presentation is another important test that you can expect to take at the civil service fast stream assessment centre. You will be notified about everything you will be expected to participate in prior to the assessment day, so it gives you plenty of time to practice and prepare for the presentation. You will not know the subject of your presentation until a short time before you actually have to make it. Therefore, you need to make sure you are well-versed in a number of potential scenarios that could be used during the presentation.
These scenarios could range from anything concerning the Government. For example, health and safety, the environment, legislation, new policies and regulations, equality etc. Some of these scenarios may overlap and you will be able to use your research to make important points.
Tips for The Presentation
- Talk about both the advantages and disadvantages of your argument, how is it beneficial, what are the downfalls, are there other alternatives to consider. If you don’t answer these questions yourself, you are more likely to be asked them by the assessors in the follow up questions, so try to show you have already thought about these issues in your presentation.
- Your success rate of your presentation can be determined by your efforts and work you put in during the preparation time. Therefore, it is fundamental that you make the best of that time to ensure your best performance.
- The assessors do not expect a well-versed and polished performance in your presentation. What they do expect is that you can take a brief and show your understanding and ideas about a subject area despite having little knowledge about it.
- As in any presentation, you will want to make sure that you keep good eye contact, speak slowly and clearly and demonstrate confidence in what you are saying.
- A timely presentation is important. If you find yourself running out of time, make sure you have said all the important information you wanted to get across.
- Be ready to answer any follow up questions. The assessors may have picked up on something you said and want to talk about it in more detail. Be prepared and make sure you provide a valid response.
- The assessors in follow up questions usually ask as many questions as possible until it looks like you have nothing else to say. This isn’t to undermine your performance, nor is it to make you look like a weak candidate, they do this to highlight your ability to put forward your views when put on the spot.
Look out next week for our full blog on how to pass the Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment Centre interview!