Graduate story: Sara’s Civil Service success

SaraHello everyone, my name is Sara! I graduated last summer from Queen Mary with a BSc Economics and Politics.

During my last year of my undergraduate degree, I applied for the Civil Service Fast Stream and I received an offer for a place on the Government Economic Service (GES) scheme. However, I decided to defer my entry until this year in order to complete my Master’s first. For me, there were two main reasons behind the decision to do a Master’s.

Firstly, I wanted to specialise in a particular field of economics. During my undergraduate degree, I took Development Economics as an optional module and I found it really interesting, so I wanted a chance to study it more in-depth. Secondly, I’d like to pursue a career in International Development, which is quite a competitive field. Looking at different job opportunities both inside the Civil Service (e.g. Department for International Development) and outside in other organisations like NGOs or international organisations, I realised that most required Master’s level qualifications.

When I applied for the Fast Stream, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. At the time, I was applying for Master’s courses as well and that was my main priority. I applied for the Fast Stream mostly as a backup option and to practise in view of applying to graduate schemes this year while I was doing my Master’s. I did not expect to get so far on the application process, but I was very lucky to have the opportunity of deferring my place to complete my Master’s and I’m very happy now to have everything sorted out for when I finish university!

The application process is slightly different for every scheme. In general, ‘specialist’ schemes – which require a particular degree like Economics – have a longer application because they have a final selection board/specialist assessment centre in addition to the online tests and Fast Stream Assessment Centre common to all streams, while for other schemes like Generalist the application ends with the Fast Stream Assessment Centre.

When I applied for the GES, my application consisted of:

  • Online Tests, which included
    • Situational judgement test
    • Behavioural test
    • E-tray exercise
    • Video interview
  • Fast Stream Assessment Centre (FSAC), which included
    • leadership exercise
    • group exercise
    • analysis exercise
  • Economic Assessment Centre (EAC), which included
    • Technical report
    • Short answer questions
    • Presentation of report
    • Interview

where

Here are some tips that might be useful to keep in mind if you are applying for the Fast Stream:

Be patient! The application process is quite long. In my case, I started the application in November and I received an offer for a place on the GES in May. I’ll admit that the process can be quite frustrating at times, especially since you might have to wait over a month to learn if you progressed to the next stage. Just keep in mind that if you don’t hear straight after the test/assessment centre, it does not necessarily mean you didn’t pass! You could hear back after one-two months and still progress, it mostly depends on the band-narrowing process. If you are patient enough to persevere until the end, it will be very rewarding!

Treat every assessment as an exam. It is important you face every assessment like an exam, with the due concentration and preparation. While this might seem quite obvious in the case of the assessment centre/final selection, it may not be so for the online tests. But the online tests are actually quite demanding and time-consuming, so it is important to set aside the necessary time to do them and to ensure you are in a quiet environment with no distractions. Test like the e-tray can take over an hour, so make sure you plan in advance when do them! Also keep in mind that for the online tests, you will have only a few days to complete each stage, so check the deadlines!

Practise in advance. Not all stages will allow you to prepare in advance, but for those that allow it, make sure you do! For the online tests, you can find some mock tests online on the fast stream website (mostly for the situational judgement test). For the FSAC, you cannot prepare anything in advance, but you are given a brief guideline which tells you the structure of the exercises and the assessment criteria. It is important to note that you will actually be assessed based on some core competencies (which you will be told in advance) so make sure you think about the best way you can approach the different exercises in order to demonstrate those competencies! Lastly, for the final selection you might be given some questions/tasks to complete in advance. For the GES, I was given the topic of my technical report and presentation in advance, so I had the chance to prepare beforehand. I found it particularly useful to go over the presentation and report with a Careers consultant, who gave me some tips on how I could improve them!

Consider the feedback. If you make it to the FSAC, you will be given a feedback report afterwards. Make sure you consider carefully all the improvement suggestions mentioned, as they will be helpful for the final selection.

Attend Fast Stream talks and presentations. During the application period, there are usually plenty of presentations held by current Fast Streamers at university or elsewhere. It can be really useful to attend and talk face-to-face with other people who went through the application process. They sometimes also give the opportunity to contact them through live chats on Facebook or other social media during set dates so that you can ask any questions you may have on the application process, so make sure to follow the Fast Stream pages for such events!

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