Eldar Author

Eldar,  Civil Service Exam Specialist at JobTestPrep.

Have a question? Contact me at: ask_the_team@jobtestprep.co.uk


According to the Government of Ireland, Only 10% of All Applicants for Principal Officer Pass the Tests!


Irish Civil Service Principal Officer Online Tests

During the online testing stage of the selection process (on the TestReach platform), you are required to take a critical analysis test and a situational judgement test. Improve your chances of achieving a Principal Officer position with JobTestPrep’s online test practice, study guides, and video tutorials.

Principal Officer Critical Analysis Test

The Civil Service critical analysis test consists of five sections designed to assess your skills in analysing information and decision-making. In each section, you are provided with a document followed by a series of questions pertaining to the information in the document. There are two different answer formats that are used in the test:

  • True / False / Cannot Say: If you believe that the statement regarding the document is clearly true, you will select 'True'. If you believe that the statement is clearly untrue, you will select 'False'. If the document provides insufficient information to determine an answer, or if the statement is not clearly true or untrue, you will select 'Cannot Say'.
  • True / Probably True / Cannot Say / Probably False / False: In addition to the previous responses, you will select 'Probably True' if the statement is more likely than not to be true, and 'Probably False' if the statement is more likely to be false, based on the information provided.

Sections of the critical analysis test could contain questions using any mixture of the answer formats described above. You will have 40 minutes to answer the 30 questions comprising the test. Start preparing now with our critical analysis online tests and practice materials. Or, try a free Critical Analysis sample question straight from the preparation pack!


Critical Analysis Sample Question

Since you have 40 minutes for 30 questions, try answering this question in 80 seconds. 

Based on the text, is the answer true, false, or non-verifiable/falsifiable?

Employees working within organisations have a legal obligation to monitor the content of e-mails sent to external bodies and to eliminate potentially sensitive internal information, regardless of the perceived importance of that information. To guarantee that employees fulfil their legal obligation and to prevent the possible leak of exclusive information, employers have prepared mandatory contracts stipulating this responsibility, to be signed by all employees, and additionally, have inserted a copyright section in every external e-mail that emphasises the confidentiality of the information provided. Employee carelessness in handling information circulated via email may result in serious punitive actions.

Statement: Managers should monitor employees' e-mail accounts to minimise the leak of exclusive information.

Cannot Say
Correct Answer
Incorrect Answer

According to the text, "employees …. have (an) … obligation to monitor the content of e-mails…". The text never says that this is part of the employers' role. It makes sense that managers should make sure this happens, but the text does not explicitly mention it.

Therefore, the answer is "Cannot Say"

If you want to make sure you pass the ICS Principal Officer test, getting the full preparation pack is your best bet. Hundreds of accurate practice questions with full explanations offer you the experience you need to succeed!


Principal Officer Job Simulation Exercise

For the Civil Service job simulation exercise, you will be presented with types of situations that are typically dealt with by Principal Officers. For each scenario, you are presented with five options for handling the situation. You must rank the actions you are presented with in terms of their appropriateness on the following scale:

ICS Appropriateness Scale

You will be scored based on the extent to which your responses match the correct rankings. If you are close to the correct ranking, e.g if a response is considered 'Highly Appropriate' while you chose 'Appropriate', your ranking will still be awarded. It is also important to note that in some scenarios, there may be several options which are considered 'Highly Appropriate' or 'Highly Inappropriate'. You will have 35 minutes to read about 12 situations and to rate 60 options comprising the job simulation exercise. JobTestPrep's situational judgement test included in the Principal Officer PrepPack closely follows the material you will encounter in your job simulation exercise.


Job Simulation Sample Question

Try figuring out this sample question in 3 minutes- which is about the amount of time you will have to read the scenario and rate 5 responses during the test:

Recently you have received complaints from customers regarding long waits for service. You want to have a creative brainstorming session with your team to obtain their input on this matter. You decide to hold this brainstorming session in this week’s staff meeting.


How would you organise the discussion?>Please rate each response below on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being what you are most likely to do and 5 being what you are least likely to do.


Response #1: Introduce the problem and state your opinion at the start of the session.
Response #2: Keep the session relevant and productive by asking leading questions and by keeping staff responses short.
Response #3: Allow an open discussion, and then ask each staff member to provide his or her opinion.
Response #4: Allow the discussion to be completely open, letting team members participate as much as they want.
Response #5: Introduce the problem and ask each member for their opinion one at a time. Make sure they do not interrupt each other so every opinion can be heard.

Click here to read the correct answers

Primary competency: Effective communication
Secondary competencies: Decision-making; Team building
The correct rating is:
response #1:5
response #2:3
response #3:1
response #4:3
response #5:4.

Explanation: This is a question about your methods in leading team discussions. Notice that the goal is to create a specific kind of discussion—creative brainstorming. The optional responses could be appropriate in creating different types of discussions, but here you are aiming for this specific kind.

Response #1: Opening the session with your opinion may start the conversation, but it could influence the opinion of your team. You are in a higher position than they are, and they might be influenced by this, consciously or not. When trying to establish a creative team discussion, you should aim for an open conversation in which creativity can thrive.

Response #2: Leading questions allow you to manage the session, keeping the discussion relevant and steering it in certain directions to obtain specific information. Although this shows good leadership skills, it does not allow for an open discussion as intended, and limits the authenticity of the information you will obtain. Keeping the team’s answers short is too limiting and will prevent you from obtaining their full input. When you keep your staff’s responses short, you don’t allow them to be creative, and the ideas you receive will be less innovative.

Response #3: You allow an open discussion that will enable creative thoughts to flow and you make sure you get input from all your team members. This is important, as open conversations, creative as they may be, tend sometimes to be led by dominant individuals, while more quiet individuals may not speak up. However, their input could still be valuable. Moreover, by making sure that you’ve heard everyone, you send out a message that their opinion matters, thus demonstrating team building.

Response #4:
You allow an open discussion to take place, thus prompting creativity and teamwork. The only flaw in this strategy is that you don’t ensure each team member voices his opinion, meaning some voices may remain unheard.

Response #5: Although you ensure that each of your team members is heard, this response limits your staff from having any real discussion, restricting the scope of information you will obtain. You are not allowing for an open discussion, rather each member can say what they think without real discussion with other team members. This is not a sufficient method for brainstorming. 

Other Tests You May Face

You may be asked to pass further assessment tests:

  • Self-Assessment Questionnaire: This test consists of a personality survey meant to assess your personal traits.
  • Numerical Reasoning Test: The numerical reasoning test, also called numerical interpretation, is a test of your ability to work with numerical data. You are provided with information in the form of charts and tables, and your task is to use the correct data to answer the related multiple-choice questions. To do that, you need to use basic maths functions. You can use our preparation pack to improve your mathematical skills required for passing the Civil Service Numerical Reasoning Test.
  • Verbal Reasoning Test: This test is an examination of how well you can work with verbal information. The test is comprised of short texts followed by 3–4 questions. In each question, you are given a statement and must decide whether the statement is true, false or indeterminable in relation to the text. Verbal reasoning test practice is included in our Principal Officer PrepPack.

Irish Civil Service Hiring Process

The recruitment process for Civil Service Principal Officers is managed by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) and is comprised of several stages. If you are in the highest-scoring group of candidates from the first stage of online tests, you will move on to the second stage, which involves a key achievements interview and a strategic management exercise. In the last stage, you will undergo a group exercise and a key challenges interview. The process is highly selective, but with test practice and by familiarising yourself with the competencies outlined below, you can improve your chances of being selected to work as a Principal Officer.

PO Hiring process

JobTestPrep will provide you with the resources to prepare for the online tests, interviews, and presentation stages involved in the Principal Officer hiring process. Start preparing yourself now for the Civil Service's aptitude tests and interviews with our Principal Officer preparation pack.



ICS Principal Officer Practice Tests For You

Get practice tests that follow the content of Irish Civil Service tests. Our practice packs provide a holistic preparation journey, with full-length tests, explanations, score reports, tutorials, and PDF guides. Start practising today and increase your chances of being selected as a Principal Officer. 


Civil Service Interview Questions

During the interview stages, you will encounter two types of interview exercises: a key achievements interview and a key challenges interview. Read on and learn about how to prepare for each type of interview.

Key Achievements Interview

Your key achievements interview will be conducted either on site or through video. The interview focuses on your career to date, with particular emphasis on key achievements that have prepared you for serving at the Principal Officer Level.

While the format of the interview will focus on your achievements, the interview is underpinned by the Principal Officer competencies reviewed below. Before your interview, it is wise to read through each competency and think of achievements during your career in which you demonstrated leadership, project management ability, communication, and good judgement. For example, you can think of a time when you had to make a difficult decision and saw it through, which would encompass judgement and decision making.

Familiarise yourself with the following Principal Officer competencies:

  • Leadership and strategic direction
  • Judgement and decision-making
  • Management and delivery of results
  • Building relationships and communication
  • Specialist knowledge and expertise
  • Commitment to public service values
  • Motivation for self-development

To prepare for your preliminary interview and practice answering competency-based questions, utilise our Principal Officer preparation pack.

Key Challenges Interview

You will be provided with a list of strategic management issues to reflect upon several days prior to the key challenges interview. On the day of the interview, you will be told which issue you will be expected to address. After a short period of time to prepare, you will address the board for 10 minutes. The board will then challenge your thinking on the issue by asking follow-up questions on the topic, and by broadening the conversation to explore wider challenges impacting the Civil and Public Service.  Interview practice exercises and study guides are included in our Principal Officer PrepPack to help you succeed in the recruitment process.

Other Recruitment Process Exercises

In addition to two interviews, you will encounter a presentation exercise and a group exercise.


During the next stage, you are given an hour and a half to accomplish a written exercise and to prepare for a presentation based on a dossier provided to you. The presentation, which is designed to assess your strategic management abilities, will last for 15 minutes and is evaluated by a two-person assessor board. For the presentation, make sure to draw upon your past experience and to demonstrate the competencies expected of a Principal Officer in order to show your suitability for the job, as reviewed above.

Group Exercise

For the Principal Officer group exercise, you and five other candidates will participate in an hour-long activity observed by an assessment board. You will first take 10 minutes to understand the detailed instructions and purpose of the exercise, and the competencies which will be assessed. Each candidate will receive a role that they will perform throughout the exercise, which lasts for the remaining 50 minutes.

Principal Officer Frequently Asked Questions

How can I Successfully Pass my Civil Service Tests? 

Before you take your tests, you will be provided with a Familiarisation programme using the same IT system as used for the test. Ensure that you can access the programme successfully to be certain that the actual test will work as well. 

When taking the tests, it is important that you work in a quiet environment with no distractions, which will allow you to devote your full attention to the questions. It is also key to have a reliable connection to the internet.

Both Principal Officer tests are timed, and will automatically finish after the allocated time has elapsed. Accordingly, make sure to pay attention to the timer on your screen indicating the remaining time, and distribute your time for each question. For example, for the critical analysis test comprised of 30 questions in 40 minutes, you should aim to spend about a minute and 20 seconds answering each question.

To improve your chances of being among those who move on the next stage of the selection process, use JobTestPrep's preparation packages for the Civil Service's online aptitude tests.

For Which Parts of the Recruitment Process will this Preparation Pack Prepare Me?

JobTestPrep's Principal Officer preparation pack will provide you with the interview practice and online test resources to prepare you for the Civil Service's online tests and competency-based interviews.


Looking for other Civil Service tests? Check out more of our practices:


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