Every year the government of Canada recruits new employees directly out of university to staff positions in a wide range of departments. They recruit people from all academic backgrounds, from undergraduate degrees in English to PhD’s in Biology. Much of the recruitment for these government programmes occurs through the Public Service Commission of Canada, and competition is fierce. One of the most important screening tools used by the Commission is a series of aptitude tests.
The tests are designed to broadly test the suitability of an applicant to hold a job with the federal government. They assess cognitive ability, judgment and written comprehension. These are all crucial skill sets for employees to possess. These tests are not knowledge-based, and as such are difficult to prepare for in advance. However there are several techniques which can improve your performance. The three most commonly used tests are the Graduate Recruitment Test (GRT), Situational Judgment Test and the Written Communication Proficiency Test.
The Graduate Recruitment Test
This test consists of 55 questions of four varieties. This test is difficult to prepare for because it is essentially an IQ test. The best preparation for this test is strategic. Get a good night’s rest and try to consider each question as a game, a puzzle to be solved. Also, remember that the answer is often intricate and the test will try to trick you – do not fall into the trap of thinking: this is too easy (or complex) it can’t be right! Time is constraining during the test and many people fail to finish, so work quickly, trust your instincts and skip questions that you cannot solve in less than 1 minute. Come back to those and remember, never leave a question blank. Eliminate wrong answers, then guess.
While studying, keep in mind that the practice test offered on the public service website is considerably easier than the actual test.
Situational Judgment Test
This test is also difficult to prepare for in-depth. The test consists of 50 situations and each has five possible actions. You are asked to pick the worst and best responses to each situation – for a total of 100 points. While the questions are changed each year, they do not vary much and are similar to practice questions offered on the public service website. The best preparation is to keep in mind several principles, and choose the answers which best (and worst) conform to these:
- Always respect and maintain rapport with colleagues.
- Be professional.
- Respect the chain of command.
- Do not get involved in a co-workers personal life.
- Take initiative; if you can resolve an issue yourself: do so.
- Recognize the relevant agent. If you are operating in a team and a team member is unsatisfactory, the team must resolve the issue communally.
Written Communication Proficiency Test
This test requires a good command of written English. It involves reading passages on a variety of topics, proposing suitable titles, evaluating language precision and aptness, fixing errors and finding meaning. While it is not necessary to enroll in a class on English grammar, you may benefit from reviewing a list of vocabulary words. The following tips refer to specific question types.
Title questions: when asked to propose a title for a passage, remember it has to refer to the entire article’s content while also distilling its true message.
Sentence and paragraph ordering: a big clue is the introduction of names and concepts. When first introduced, concepts and people are explained. A later sentence or paragraph will not provide these details.
Punctuation questions: a short review of the appropriate use of punctuation marks would be very helpful with these questions, especially the use of the colon, comma, and apostrophe. Finally, try to arrive at the testing location half an hour early to give yourself time to relax and take care of administrative tasks. Bring a bottle of water and do not rush, be careful and thorough, reading every question fully before looking at the answers. If you read carefully and understand the question, you may find correct answers jump out at you. For more information, consult the public service commission’s website.