Prepare for Civil Service Online Test

Interested in working for the Civil Service? Civil Service recruitment happens at a range of levels, including the Fast Stream Programme for graduates, Fast Track apprenticeship scheme, and direct entry (usually for experienced hires). This page will look at the assessments, and particularly the online tests, for experienced professionals. Learn about the types of tests you can expect and how to prepare for them with JobTestPrep’s wide range of resources.
 
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Recruitment to most Government Departments is centralised though Civil Service Resourcing. However with 25 professions across the departments, recruitment processes for individual positions will vary. Here we will look at some of the assessments you can expect in an average civil service recruitment process including the self assessed reasoning tests used by the civil service. For further advice on how to prepare for your civil service assessments, simply send us a message via the contact form below.

An example Civil Service recruitment process is set out below. Assessments may vary, but this process covers the standard parts of any recruitment process, so may be of use to you.


You are expected to show evidence of your skills against the Civil Service Competency Framework in every stage of your recruitment. The headlines of this framework are set out below:

  • Seeing the big picture
  • Changing and improving
  • Making effective decisions
  • Leading and communicating
  • Collaborating and partnering
  • Building capacity for all
  • Achieving commercial outcomes
  • Delivering value for money
  • Managing a quality service
  • Delivering at pace


Civil Service jobs usually require you to complete a full application form. This application form contains checks to see whether you meet the criteria for this position from your education to your work experience. The application form also contains a civil service competency questionnaire asking you to provide examples from your experience to date of where you have displayed the qualities set out in the Civil Service capability framework. You are allocated just 200 words per answer, so plan out your answers using the STAR method, and make sure that every word counts. Ensure you use the same wording as contained in the job description, they are there for a reason.

Civil Service Initial Sift Test

This test is an online situational judgement test, designed to test you against the behaviours included in the Civil Service Competency Framework. Learn more about this test on our CSIST page. The test is used alongside your application form when deciding whether to move you on to the next stage.

Civil Service Psychometric Tests

Very often you will be invited to take some Civil Service online aptitude tests. The Civil Service Fast Track Programme process uses Cubiks tests, outlined on the Fast Track page. In this page we will discuss some of the other tests you could experience in recruitment at a professional level. Applicants to management positions may also find our pages on Management psychometric tests useful.

Across the various civil service recruitment processes you may find that you are invited to take tests from any one of a number of testing companies: CEB’s SHL, Saville Consulting, Pearson TalentLens or more. We offer specialist packs for most of the leading testing companies, as well as Premium Membership which entitles you to multiple packages under the same payment.

Examples of tests you may be invited to take include:

Civil Service Numerical Reasoning Test

Numerical reasoning tests assess how well you understand and use information in a numerical format. You are usually given numerical information and asked to choose the correct answer from a set of multiple choice options. In order to answer these questions you often have to perform one or more calculations, for example the percentages, ratios, or even basic maths, within a tight time limit for the test. Taking practice tests improves speed and accuracy per question, and will ultimately improve your score.

Civil Service Verbal Reasoning Test

Verbal reasoning tests examine how well you use language. In most tests you are given a passage of text to read and understand. A question will then be asked on that text and you must use the information contained in the passage to pick the correct answer from a set of options. There are usually two types of question in these tests - true, false, cannot say, and multiple choice. This same format can be used for both comprehension and analytical tests. There is a lot of information to absorb in this test, but adequate preparation can help you develop tricks for answering these questions.

Get your civil service practice tests from our range of practice packs.


Watson Glaser Test

The Watson Glaser critical thinking appraisal is a test of your ability to evaluate and apply written information to reach justifiable conclusions. You are examined on five different areas: recognising assumptions; deductive reasoning; logical interpretation; drawing inferences; and argument evaluation. This test may be used as part of the assessments for managerial positions or to get onto training courses, for example the NHS Public Health Specialists course. The Watson Glaser test is challenging, no two ways about it, but preparation can help you increase your confidence in your skills.

Civil Service Abstract Reasoning Test

Abstract, inductive or logical reasoning tests are non verbal tests assessing how well you can spot patterns, use them to discover new rules and solve problems. In these tests you are usually asked to identify the final or missing shape in a sequence. Whilst much of this is instinctive, with practice you can also learn techniques for identifying the information you need and solving the problem.

Civil Service Situational Judgement Test

Situational judgement tests look at how you respond in work based situations. In this test you are given a scenario similar to one you could expect in your day to day job, and asked to choose the best response from a set of options. Preparation for such tests involves reviewing and applying the civil service competencies and person specification for the job you are applying to. Practice situational judgement tests can also help you get a feel for answering these questions.

Civil Service Personality Tests

Many employers use personality tests to assess the match up between your personality and the company values or job requirements. In these tests you are usually asked to pick the characteristic that best describes you from three options. The aim is to answer truthfully as there are no right or wrong answers. Taking practice personality tests ensures that you understand what the test is asking from you and are able to answer each question accurately.

Civil Service Assessment Centre

For some positions you may be invited to attend an assessment centre. The assessment centre contains a series of exercises designed to examine the skills you need in your day to day job. Exercises will usually be themed to the type of job you are going for, and will always assess you against the Civil Service Competency Framework.

Some example assessments you may come across are:

Written exercises - These tests often involve tasks whereby you are given a set of information to absorb before writing a report, brief or response. This exercise is usually given a strict time limit, and one of the key skills measured is time management. You are expected to complete your task in the time given. The task may also ask you to analyse numerical or verbal information in order to provide your recommendations. This assessment also looks at your writing style. Prepare for a written exercise with our preparation pack.

Aptitude tests - In some recruitment processes you may be asked to sit some aptitude tests or verify the results of earlier tests. See the section on tests above for more information.

Presentation - For this assessment you are either sent a topic to research and prepare to present ahead of your assessment centre, or given materials on the day to prepare a short presentation. Either way you are asked to deliver it at the assessment centre. Learn about how to combat those nerves and deliver a great presentation with our advice pages.

Role play - Role plays often concentrate on how you respond to work based situations, for example working with customers or team members. You assume the role given to you, and an interviewer will play the role opposite you. As well as work specific competencies, this type of exercise judges your assertiveness, responsiveness, flexibility and more. Rehearse your role play with our role plays pack.

Group activities - These activities include group discussions, debates and role plays. They can be team building exercises or tasks whereby every member of the group needs to represent a different view point. Your team working skills are assessed alongside the quality of your contributions and how you listen to others. Devise your group exercise strategies with our advice.

Civil Service Interview

No civil service recruitment process is complete without one or more interviews. This may take place at the assessment centre or on another date following on from your assessment centre. Civil Service interviews are usually panel interviews, with two or more interviewers all asking you questions. The questions themselves are designed to assess your experience and skills against the Civil Service Competency Framework.

Ahead of your interviews prepare examples from past experience which can be used to answer competency based questions. Read up on the department you are applying to, their values and job description so that you know who they are looking for. Think of answers to commonly asked questions, such as those contained in our free guide to interviews. A large part of interviews is your delivery. Rehearsegiving over your answers in a mock interview such as our Skype based interview service, can help you improve your performance on the day.

In Summary

Navigating how to get a position with the Civil Service may be challenging. Recruitment to any Civil Service position at any level involves a series of stages. The number of stages and assessments may vary, but on this page we have given you information on the general stages to expect and how to prepare for each one. We hope you have found this page useful.

We are always interested in hearing from you about your Civil Service recruitment process. Please post any comments you may have in the comments box below.

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Civil Service Contact Form

Recruitment to the Civil Service can follow numerous forms, with many different tests. Complete the form below for more specific advice on how to prepare.


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