As part of your Civil Service application, you’ll need to complete a number of online tests. The Civil Service online test stage of the application process can be difficult, but with some prior knowledge and Civil Service online test preparation, they are quite manageable. Here, we’re going to take a look at the Civil Service application process, followed by the Civil Service online tests.

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The UK Civil Service is an extremely important part of the UK government. It’s a politically neutral collective of different departments and bodies, which handle everything from providing pension schemes to operating prison systems. In addition, the Civil Service keeps track of NHS data, benefits, and even issues driving licenses. In addition, Civil Servants are often responsible for implementing policies set by the current government. For this reason, they remain apolitical – the service as a whole doesn’t take sides when it comes to political parties, but rather serves whichever party (or parties) is in power. The role that the Civil Service plays as part of the UK’s infrastructure and public services is enormous. Without the Civil Service, many of the country’s systems would be unable to function.

For this reason, the Civil Service wants to find the very best when it comes to the recruitment process. Not only must Civil Servants possess the mental aptitude and skills to perform the job well, but they also need to show an adherence to the Civil Service’s ethos and competency framework. The online tests are used to evaluate all of these traits.

The four key values that the Civil Service looks for in candidates are:

  • Integrity – The ability to put obligations of the public service above personal interests and/or beliefs.
  • Honesty – Being able to demonstrate high levels of truthfulness and openness.
  • Objectivity – Being able to display objective views and opinions on certain areas. Basing decisions and policies on rigorous analysis and evidence to form a plausible and valid outcome.
  • Impartiality – Being able to serve the power of the Government in charge and meet the needs and merits in which they enforce.


In addition to the four key values above, recruiters in the Civil Service want to see candidates demonstrating an understanding of the following core competencies:

  • Seeing the ‘bigger’ picture;
  • Clarity of vision and ideas;
  • Changing and improving;
  • Leadership;
  • Making effective and important decisions;
  • Managing;
  • Delivering value for money;
  • Commercial outcomes;
  • Performance – ability to show integrity and diligence;
  • Collaborating with others.


The Civil Service tests are assessments used to evaluate the suitability of candidates applying for a role within the Civil Service. They cover a range of areas, from situational judgement to numerical and verbal reasoning. This means that they test several different skills in order to determine whether or not a candidate is suitable for the role that they’ve applied for.

The Civil Service tests are usually taken online via a computer, as one of the application processes early stages. This includes both an initial ‘Sift’ test, as well as multiple online aptitude tests. Please note that you will only be invited to proceed with your application if you pass the Sift test.

After passing the Sift test, you’ll be asked to complete the Civil Service online test. This is a collection of assessments, including the following:

  • Verbal Reasoning Test – Assessing your ability to read passages of information, and determine what statements are and aren’t supported by the text.
  • Numerical Reasoning Test – Interpretation of data in the form of graphs, charts and tables and answering questions based on them.
  • Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Test – A test which assesses your ability to think critically about information and arguments, identifying assumptions, inferences, deductions and more.
  • Abstract Reasoning Test – Non-verbal assessments which employ images and patterns to test your inductive and logical reasoning.
  • Personality Test – An assessment used to get an understanding of your personality to see if it suits the core values of the Civil Service.
  • Situational Judgement Test – A multiple-choice test which evaluates your ability to make reasonable decisions under time constraints, and whether these match the core competencies and values of the Civil Service.


The Civil Service online test is just one stage in the Civil Service application process. There are numerous others, all of which are designed to find the most suitable candidates in terms of mental aptitude and moral values. Here are the stages of the Civil Service application process:

1. Civil Service Application Form.

2. Civil Service Sift Test.

3. Civil Service Online Tests.

4. Civil Service E-Tray Assessment (Fast-stream only).

5. Civil Service Assessment Centre.

6. Civil Service Interview (face-to-face).

As you can see, the Civil Service online test is the third stage in the process. This means that you’ll need to pass the initial application form stage, as well as the Sift test. If you pass the Civil Service online tests, you’ll likely be invited to an assessment centre, followed by a final face-to-face interview.

Here’s the Civil Service application process, step by step.

This is the very first stage of the Civil Service application process. This step involves uploading a copy of your CV to the Civil Service’s recruitment servers, as well as filling in additional application forms. This will include a competency questionnaire, in which you’ll need to give examples of when you’ve shown that you possess the core competencies valued highly by the Civil Service. The word limit for each answer you give is 200 words.

The Civil Service Sift Test is the second stage of the vetting process, used to measure how well you know the core competencies, and how likely you are to apply them correctly. This is essentially a situational judgement test, but with an added focus on the core competencies. Make sure that you revise the core competencies and know how to apply them in real-life scenarios.

If your application form is successful, and you pass the Civil Service sift test, you’ll be invited to sit the Civil Service online test. As previously mentioned, this is a collection of assessments that you’ll need to pass in order to be invited to the assessment centre. We’ll discuss these in more detail and provide sample questions, but for now take a look at the list of tests you will have to sit as part of this stage of the Civil Service application process:

  • Verbal Reasoning Test;
  • Numerical Reasoning Test;
  • Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Test;
  • Abstract Reasoning Test;
  • Personality Test;
  • Situational Judgement Test.

The Civil Service E-Tray assessment is an online test used to judge your knowledge and application of core competencies, as well as your ability to handle data and information correctly. It’s a kind of role playing exercise which will have you at a virtual workstation, making your way through tasks in the form of emails. If you would like to know more about the E-Tray assessments, click here.

If you pass the online tests, you’ll be invited to an assessment centre. This will be an opportunity to show your skills to the employers in person, as you attend a day of exercises and assessments. Here are some of the tasks that could be given to you to complete:

  • Psychometric tests – These will be similar to the ones you took during the Civil Service online tests stage of the application process. The reason for sitting them again is simply to verify that you weren’t cheating or getting help during the online assessments.
  • Role play exercises – You will be given a role to perform, with interviewers participating in the exercise as well. You’ll have to work within a scenario, adhering to the competencies as much as possible.
  • Group activities – These can take different forms, but all will measure your ability to work as a group, assign tasks, and manage your time effectively. You’ll be given a short space of time to prepare something as a group, then have to play out whatever you’ve decided on. These activities can include role plays, presentations, and discussions.
  • Individual Presentations – Here, you’ll be given a topic and some time to prepare a presentation based on it. You’ll then have to present your ideas to the recruiters at the assessment centre.
  • Written exercises – These are designed to test your ability to write a response to a question or complete a written-based task. You’ll likely be given data to work with to support your argument or otherwise discuss in your written exercise.

After the assessment centre, you’ll have the final face-to-face interview. This is an opportunity for the recruiters to get a better understanding of who you are as a person, as well as gather how well you know and can apply the Civil Service core competencies. Think back to how you answered questions in any tests and activities which involves the core competencies during the application process, since the interviewers may ask for you to expand on the answers you gave.


Now that you have a good idea of what the Civil Service application process looks like, it’s time to get a better understanding of one of its most substantial stages – the Civil Service online tests. Use this section to familiarise yourself with the content, but remember that high quality Civil Service exam preparation can only come from taking Civil services practice tests. The online exam for Civil Service jobs can be incredibly difficult since it covers lots of different areas, so take the time to work through each section carefully.


As previously mentioned, this is the first tested stage of the Civil Service application process. It’s a situational judgement test that focuses heavily on the core competencies, so be sure to find out exactly what they are and how they can be applied to different scenarios.

During this test, you’ll have to answer situational judgement questions based on scenarios which could occur in the workplace. Therefore, you need to take time to reflect on how each of the core competencies can be applied in real life.

The civil service verbal reasoning test is used to measure your ability to comprehend and identify the key details in a passage of text. For questions in this test, you will be given a passage, followed by a series of statements related to it. For each statement, you might identify whether it is ‘true’, ‘false’, or ‘impossible to say’ based on the information in the text.

The trick for questions of this kind is to keep a close eye on all of the information. Read the initial passage carefully at least once before attempting any of the questions. Double-check with the information in the passage while you answer each question.

Here’s a Civil Service verbal reasoning sample question:

Passage 1

Employees working in an organisation are bound by confidentiality. They have a duty to keep information, data and any work-related issues quiet. Severe consequences are often a result of breaking the confidentiality agreement. Employers issue confidentially agreement contracts whereby both parties need to sign the clause and agree to the terms and conditions.

If suspension is a possible ‘severe consequence’ for employers to use, then employees who break the confidentiality agreement may be at risk of being suspended.

A – True

B – False

C – Impossible to say

This test is used to assess your numerical reasoning skills. You’ll be given a series of questions, all based on different pieces of data, that you’ll need to interpret in order to give the right answer. This data can be represented in the form of charts, graphs, and tables. Questions in this section will be multiple-choice.

Take a look at this sample numerical reasoning question:

The following table shows the percentage of copper in two coins:

Coin Weight Copper
50p coin 8g 25%
20p coin 5g 16%

If both the coins are made of only nickel and copper, what is the difference between the weight of nickel present in the 50 pence coin and the weight of nickel in the 20 pence coin?

1.2g 0.8g 1.8g 1.25g 0.25g

The Watson Glaser critical thinking appraisal is an assessment designed to test your critical thinking skills. In this test, you’ll need to be able to identify the flaws in arguments, as well as evaluate whether an argument is strong or weak. In the critical thinking test, you’ll need to be able to answer questions on the following areas:

  • Inferences;
  • Assumptions;
  • Deductions;
  • Interpretations;
  • Evaluation of arguments.

For more information about the Watson Glaser critical thinking appraisal, click here.

Take a look at the following sample question for a critical thinking test:

Read the following statement as well as the following claims. For each claim, identify whether they do deductively follow from the statement (YES) or don’t deductively follow from the statement (NO).


Some objects with four wheels are cars. All cars possess a steering wheel. This object has four wheels but no steering wheel. Therefore:

Deduction 1: This object is a car. (YES/NO)

Deduction 2: This object is not a car. (YES/NO)

Deduction 3: This object is a bicycle. (YES/NO)

The abstract reasoning test, sometimes referred to as the inductive or logical reasoning test, is an assessment of your ability to recognise patterns. For each question in this test, you’ll be given a sequence of images. Then, you’ll generally be asked to complete the sequence from a multiple-choice selection of answers.

Here’s an example of an abstract reasoning question you might find during your Civil Service online tests:

Which figure completes the sequence?


The Civil Service personality test is designed to measure whether you possess the personality traits and values that will benefit the Civil Service. This means that you should take a look at the core ethos of the Civil Service, and see how these might apply to personality test questions.

Here’s an example of the kinds of question you might find in the Civil Service personality test:

1. I rarely act upon impulse.

True False

2. I always keep my feelings to myself.

True False


True False

The Civil Service situational judgement test is similar to the Sift test that you had to pass in the earlier stage of the application process. You’ll have to apply your knowledge of the core competencies to the multiple-choice questions.

Here’s a sample situational judgement question for you to familiarise yourself with:

You are working in an office when a member of staff, who is in a wheelchair, approaches you. She asks you if you would be willing to swap desks, as your desk is closer to the exit route, and it will make it easier for her to go to the toilet when required. How do you react?

A. Say no. You are already settled in at your desk and to move would cause unnecessary upheaval.

B. Say yes. This is not a problem for you and you can see why moving desks would help her out and improve her working day.

C. Tell her to speak to your boss first, to see if he is in agreement with her request. If he doesn’t have a problem with it, neither do you.

D. Tell her you would be willing to swap desks providing she is prepared to move all of your belongings to the new desk.

Answer Options

Very helpful
Neither helpful nor unhelpful
Very unhelpful


The Civil Service online test stage of the Civil Service application process is rigorous, and can be incredibly difficult for the unprepared. Thankfully, How2become now offer the Civil Service Online Test Bundle – a collection of online and downloadable eBook testing materials to give yourself the best chance of passing the Civil Service online tests. This bundle comes with hundreds of Civil Service practice test questions for every online test you can face in the process.

With hundreds of questions at the ready, this online testing suite gives you everything you need to start practising your numerical reasoning skills and prepare yourself for the Civil Service numerical reasoning test!

The verbal reasoning test can be tricky for those who haven’t practised, so be sure to use this online testing suite to familiarise yourself with the question format.

Situational judgement tests are used in two different stages of the Civil Service application process: first in the Sift tests, and second in the online testing phase. This means that you have twice the reason to get access to this situational judgement testing suite and prepare for success!

While there’s technically not a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer in a personality test, and you should always answer honestly, it helps to have an idea of what questions you might face so that you can prepare to answer them properly. This downloadable eBook comes with plenty of sample personality test questions.

Abstract reasoning is one of the trickiest parts of any application process it appears in. For some, the skill of identifying patterns comes naturally, but everyone else needs to make sure that they’re prepared. Use the questions, answers, and explanations in this downloadable eBook to prepare your brain for the abstract reasoning test.

Critical thinking tests can be difficult if you aren’t in the frame of mind for them. Therefore, you need to take time learning what the questions are like and how to answer them. This bundle includes online testing questions for critical thinking tests, allowing you to prepare as well as possible.

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