How Hard is the Civil Service Exam?

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Do you intend to pursue a career in the civil service? Are you already serving in the civil service but want a promotion? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you know how important the civil service exam is to your quest. We understand how scary the exam can be for you, especially if you’ve never written it before. You’re probably wondering how hard it is. Don’t worry; this article explains everything you need to know about the civil service exam. We’ll also provide helpful tips on how to pass the civil service exam.

What is the Civil Service Exam?What is the Civil Service Exam?

The civil service examination is implemented in various countries to qualify candidates for employment in the civil service. The exam is the first step to getting a job with the government (both at the federal, state, and local levels). The structure and content of the civil service exam generally differ based on the roles, responsibilities, and agencies that a candidate is applying for. However, note that the exams don’t guarantee automatic employment, but it does increase the chances of the candidate being considered for employment, that is, if they pass the exams.

5 Types of Civil Service Exams

5 Types of Civil Service Exams

The civil service exams are based on career paths, different levels of government, and the responsibilities of each agency. So there are several types of civil service exams for various departments in the civil service, and the kind of exam you’ll get depends on the department you’re applying to. The civil service does include offices that are non-military and non-political. Such offices include information technology specialists, social workers, secret service, and agents in the federal bureau of investigations (FBI), to mention a few, and each of these offices has its own exams, but we are going to discuss just five types of civil service exams;

The open examination 

Most times, civil service examinations are offered to existing employees in the civil service for promotional purposes. However, the open examination is organized for the general public regardless of previous or present employment status. The open examination usually allows the civil service commission to thoroughly evaluate new prospects and gain ample knowledge of their capabilities and if they fit the position they are applying for.

The open/non-promotional exams 

This is similar to the open examination in structure and purpose. Like the open exams, it is organized for the general public, and anybody can take the exams, irrespective of their job history or present employment status. The only difference between this type of civil service exam and the open exam is that the open/non-promotional exam gives active civil servants extra career points they’ll need to boost their civil service career.

The departmental promotion exams

This exam is exclusive only to a particular agency’s current civil service staff. As the name suggests, the exam helps the civil service commission determine civil servants’ qualifications for promotion. It features a structure that evaluates how well the agency employees know their jobs. Civil servants must maintain their employment status at the time of the exams, or else they won’t be eligible to take the exams. The state personnel board in rule 235 states that former employees can also take the exams, given the right conditions.

The open spot examination 

This civil service exam is open to the general public, regardless of whether they have civil service employment or not. The peculiarity of this examination is that it has just one venue. The exam isn’t taken in different states, it is taken in one state, and all candidates must travel from wherever they are to a central location where they’ll take the exams.

The limited examination and appointment program

Abbreviated as LEAP, this civil service examination is made for members of the general public who have certified disabilities. Candidates are not allowed to register or sit for this exam unless they have been certified eligible by the Department of Rehabilitation. The program’s purpose is to give individuals with disabilities a chance at a better life and allow them to blend in with the general public regardless of their disability status. The LEAP program helps individuals with disabilities look past their own shortcomings and look forward to a better life.

What Topics are Covered in the Civil Service Exam?

What Topics are Covered in the Civil Service Exam?

First, it’s important to note that the civil service exam covers many topics. This range of topics may vary depending on the department or position you’re applying for. Each department sets questions based on job descriptions, roles, and responsibilities. So the exam questions each candidate gets depend on the department they are applying for. Some of the topics covered in general are those required of those who work in public offices. Here are some of the general topics that are covered in the civil service exams.

▪️ Reading and writing skills

▪️ Reasoning skills

▪️ Clerical skills such as organization

▪️ Mathematics

Other topics such as coding and software knowledge are for specific agencies in the civil service.

At this point, it’s important to note that candidates must first earn a college or university degree before being eligible for the civil service exam. So, if you intend to pursue a career in civil service, an excellent first step is to complete your college education before applying for the civil service exam.

Is it Hard to Pass the Civil Service Exam?

Is it Hard to Pass the Civil Service Exam?

If you’re like most other people preparing for the civil service exam, one question that won’t leave your mind is, “is the civil service exam hard?” The direct answer to this question is, “it depends.” It depends on many factors, the most significant being your individual abilities. Your learning abilities, educational background, and preparedness level will all play a role in determining how easy or hard the civil service exam will be for you. Part of the reason for the perceived difficulty of this exam is the length of time it takes to take the exam (4-6 years).

It’s also a very competitive exam, considering the hundreds of thousands of people that write the exams every time and the limited number of positions they are vying for. Therefore, every candidate must be in their best mental and physical shape during the exams. Passing the exams doesn’t guarantee you a spot on the employment list. You have to do better than most other candidates. And to be clear, the civil service exam passing rate is average, so you’ll have so many people to fight off for the limited job vacancies.

What is the Passing Score in the Civil Service Exams?

What is the Passing Score in the Civil Service Exams?

The passing score for the civil exams is 70%, meaning that any score above 70% is considered a passing score. You get placed on a ranking list if you score 70% or higher. So the higher you score, the higher you go on the ranking list. The benefit of passing the civil service exams is that it increases your chances of being employed. As earlier stated, taking the exams alone doesn’t guarantee employment as you would be required to take other departmental-level exams, submit valuable credentials and even attend an interview(s).

To determine your score, your raw score is taken (the number of questions answered correctly all over the total number of questions given), then a band scoring table is made for the exams. The band scoring table is then applied to the raw score to determine the final score. A band scoring table is a table that covers the range of scores reported in five points increment. So if a candidate scores 45,46,47 in the raw score, the score on the band score table would be 80%.

11 Tips for Taking Civil Service Exams Before, During, and After

11 Tips for Taking Civil Service Exams Before, During, and After

The civil service exam may not be as easy as you’d want, but it’s passable. Like everything good, passing the exam doesn’t come so easy. You have to be fully prepared for what’s coming. However, note that preparations start long before the exam date and don’t end until you see your results. Here’s a detailed guide on how to pass the civil service exam.

Before the Exam

Study smart 

We’ve always heard it – studying smart is far better and more effective than studying hard. Studying smart means starting your studies long before the exam date to cover more, have time to understand materials, and practice more. It also means finding material that suits your learning style and discovering the time of the day you assimilate best.


As usual, we can’t overemphasize the importance of practice. There are civil exam sample questions online and offline. Find them and practice with them. Make sure they are recent too. Familiarize yourself with the civil service exam sample questions and format so you won’t find anything strange when you enter the exam hall.

Evaluate yourself 

After practicing as much as you can, evaluate yourself. Evaluating yourself helps you Know your areas of strength and weaknesses. If possible, have someone supervise the evaluation under exam conditions. This way, you’ll have more confidence in your ability going into the exam venue.

Form or join a study group 

Studying alone can be bulky and boring. Get in touch with others who are also sitting for the exams and start a study group. If there is a study group already, join them. It makes studying a lot easier and assimilation a lot faster.

Get enough rest 

The brain can take only so much; if you don’t pick a day to rest, your body will pick a day for you. Start studying early so you won’t need to pack your brain with so much information at the same time. So find time to rest at intervals. Resting helps you refresh and avoid burning out.

During the Exam

Get to the exam center on time

Lateness already increases your anxiety, making you forget some things you have read. So get to the exams center early and use the time you have to brush through all you have studied before the exams start. You never can tell – you might find crucial information you’ve missed during your study time.

Remember all your necessary items 

Check and double-check for all items you are required to have at the exam center. Items such as ID cards, writing materials, official receipts, application receipts, etc. Make sure everything you are required to come with is intact.

Attempt all questions 

Do we need to talk about this one again? Make sure you attempt all questions, even if you don’t know all the answers. Never leave a question undone. Try to write something; you never can tell when it’ll be your lucky day.

Manage time 

If a question is too difficult to answer, leave it and move to easier questions. Don’t waste time trying to answer a question you can’t tackle on time, move to simpler ones, then move back to the more difficult ones if you still have time after answering others.

After the exam

Go on with other things in your life 

After taking the exams, the results will take a few weeks before they are released. So instead of sitting by the TV set all day and night waiting for the result announcements, get busy. Go on and continue with other things you can do. You’ll still know when the results are out.

Don’t give up 

Perhaps the results are out, and you didn’t pass. That’s not a reason to give up your dreams of becoming a civil servant. Reapply. Study more and put more effort into doing better next time.

Wrapping Things Up: How Hard is the Civil Service Exam?

As a whole, the civil service exam is relatively easier compared to most other similar exams, but it still boils down to how well you prepare for the exam. So many bright minds have failed the exams because of a lack of adequate preparations. So, while it’s great to be confident in your ability, never make the mistake of preparing shabbily for the exam.

The tips we’ve provided in this article will help you hit the passing score in civil service exams pretty easily. Remember to always use approved materials when studying for the exams and start early so you can have enough time to cover everything that needs covering.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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