How to Smash the Fast Stream Assessment Centre

You’ve sailed through the online tests, you’ve done the e-tray, you’ve passed the video interview- and now it’s on to the Fast Stream Assessment Centre. Well done for making it so far! Read on to find out how to give the FSAC your very best shot.

Don’t forget to read the 2017 FSAC Guide for practice exercises, and check our Facebook page for other opportunities for support. We’re here to help you get through it- do get in touch with any questions.

– QMUL Fast Stream Outreach Team

Prep:

  • Get to know the competencies (Fast Stream ones are Level 3). Each exercise will highlight different ones. See the competency framework below.
  • Take a look at the practice scenarios in the FSAC guide – they’re very similar to the actual exercises you’ll get on the day.
  • Dial-a-Fast Streamer- if you contact us through our Facebook page, one of us will do our best to chat you through the assessment centre by phone.
  • Make sure to unwind and get a good night’s sleep- you can do it.

fsacOn the day:

  • Eat breakfast and stay hydrated.
  • Dress professionally, but prioritise comfort.
  • A digital watch is useful for keeping track of time in the exercises.
  • Remember that you aren’t directly competing with the other candidates- if all of you perform well, you could all get through. Be friendly and collaborative, and don’t get intimidated.
  • Keep your spirits up- every exercise is scored individually. If you feel like you weren’t at your best in one, regroup before the next challenge.
  • Don’t neglect the self-assessment that they’ll ask you to complete after each task. Take time to correctly identify the competencies you demonstrated effectively and which ones you need to develop- it’s important to show your own awareness of your strengths.
  • Enjoy it! It really helps if you pretend that you’re already a civil servant during the exercises. The day is tiring but it can be a lot of fun if you get into it.

Group exercise:

  • Competencies: making effective decisions, collaborating and partnering, leading and communicating, delivering value for money.
  • In this exercise, you and four or five other candidates will be given different roles and briefings. You’ll have to come to a consensus on one or two policies that take forth government priorities, though you’ll each favour different ones.
  • The key to this exercise is demonstrating how well you work with others while also influencing them towards your point of view.
  • You don’t “win” this exercise by having your idea chosen- if you bully other people and shout over them to make yourself heard, you will fail this task.
  • Keeping track of time is an easy way to help guide the group to an agreement.
  • Demonstrate positive collaborative working behaviours like:
    • Active listening- acknowledging others’ points and responding to them- “As Ruth said, we must consider X.”
    • Engaging with others’ ideas and building on them- “I agree with Hannah’s point and I’d also add Y.”
    • Validating another person’s view before dismissing it- “I take your point that X would be good because of Y, but I don’t believe it’s an effective solution for everyone.”
    • Asking open questions to draw out quieter members of the group- “What else should we consider?”
    • Summarising what’s been said and checking for agreement- “It seems like we’re happy to go with X as our first choice. Do you agree?”
  • If your group is getting stuck, show leadership by reminding them that it’s important for all of you to come to a decision. The worst outcome is for you to not reach a consensus.

Analysis exercise:

  • Competencies: seeing the big picture, changing and improving, collaborating and partnering, building capability for all, leading and communicating
  • Make sure to give a balanced recommendation- weigh up the pros and cons of each approach, then show which factors you prioritised and why when making your decision.
  • Either case can be argued effectively- quickly decide which position to take then spend most of your time outlining and drafting.
  • Take a wide view and keep overall government objectives in mind- make sure you’re not missing any key issues by being overly detailed.

Leadership exercise:

  • Competencies: seeing the big picture, changing and improving, collaborating and partnering, building capability for all, leading and communicating
  • This exercise usually operates as an oral briefing from you to a senior manager. You must lay out your strategy and explain the thinking behind it.
  • Come up with a rough structure for your presentation and keep track of time.
  • Be prepared for challenging questions and consider alternate means of delivery- you have to think on your feet in this one.
  • Don’t get flustered- if you need a moment to compose an answer, pause for a few seconds before beginning.
  • If you’re being asked to role play a manager, remember that the Civil Service places a lot of importance on personal development for everyone. Consider the personal needs and ambitions of your team and how you will help them to succeed.

Afterwards:

  • You did it! Well done. Pat yourself on the back for getting through an intense day, and take some time to mentally unwind.
  • Remember that plenty of people leave the FSAC feeling like they done awfully- but they still get through! You have multiple opportunities to show you have the desired competencies, and a poor performance in one exercise doesn’t mean you’ll fail.
  • Don’t panic- the assessors know that the tasks are challenging. They want to see how you approach new situations and think things through. They’re looking at your potential- not just your performance on the day.
  • You’ll get detailed, insightful feedback from the assessors after you get your final scores. Take note of it and use it to further your own development.

Good luck!

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