How to apply for a civil service examination

How to apply for a civil service examination

Prepping for a career in civil service? Learn about what the civil service exam is, what topics it covers, and how to best prepare.

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For many, the civil service exam is a necessary step in the pursuit of their dream civil service jobs. If you’re preparing for the civil service exam, this page can help you gain insight into how the test works and how you can succeed.

What is the civil service exam, and how do you pass it?

If you want to work for the local, state, or federal government, you’ll need to take a civil service exam before applying for specific jobs within an agency or department. There are a few civil service exams, each covering different fields, positions, roles, and responsibilities.

These jobs typically offer substantial pay, benefits, and long-term career stability, and the best candidates have practical skills and want to give back to their communities through government work.

Taking a civil service exam is often the first hurdle for landing a civil service job. While the focus of the exam varies by career path, there are some universal tips that can help you succeed.

Here, we discuss the civil service exam and how to make sure you’re prepared to pass it.

What Is Civil Service?

Civil service includes a range of non-political and non-military jobs in government, such as social work, air traffic control, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Many civil service careers also fall under the umbrella of public administration, including administrative assistants, civil executives, and information technology specialists.

What Is the Civil Service Exam?

The civil service exam is an exam that tests people applying for specific civil service jobs. The point of the test is to prove applicants have the appropriate skills and are eligibile for a specific position.

The exam varies between different fields and levels of government. If you’re wondering what jobs can you get with a civil service exam, here are just a few options.

  • Air traffic control
  • CIA
  • FBI
  • Firefighter
  • Foreign service
  • Government accountant
  • IRS
  • Postal service
  • Secret service
  • TSA
  • U.S. customs

Keep in mind that the exam is intended to weed out people who are not suited for civil service jobs. It’s a baseline test that establishes whether or not you are fit for further consideration, so passing the test doesn’t guarantee employment.

Passing scores tend to fall in the 70% range. To actually land the job, candidates must also provide resumes, interviews, and letters of reference, and may need to take more specialized tests.

Are There Different Types of Civil Service Exams?

There are three types of civil service exams: open competitive, continuous, and promotional.

An open competitive exam means your score places you on a ranked list against other applicants for a category of positions that are actively hiring. A continuous exam tests applicants for positions that are not currently open. Promotional exams are meant for current civil servants who want to advance their careers.

Civil service exams are usually composed of several parts, including oral and written sections, as well as computer-administered multiple-choice tests.

Some civil service exams might also include “job simulation” components. For example, this might mean a typing proficiency test for clerical positions, or a physical test for firefighters.

What Does the Civil Service Exam Cover?

Civil service exams vary somewhat according to specific jobs, with each exam emphasizing relevant skills. If you’re wondering how long the civil service exam is, rest assured that they typically only last a few hours.

In general, civil service exam questions cover the necessary skills that anyone working in the public sector should have:

As a whole, the math section isn’t any more difficult or advanced than college-level gen-ed algebra. Pro-tip: Remember your “PEMDAS” — the helpful acronym for the order of operations: parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction.

Proficiency in specific software, such as Microsoft Excel or Word, might be tested if it is relevant to the job.

It is also worth noting that many civil service jobs require applicants to hold specific degrees or certifications. If you don’t have the required degree, the sooner you earn it, the better. Online degrees are often the most convenient and affordable option.

  • If you’d like to become a deputy clerk, check out the Best Online Master’s Programs in Legal Studies.
  • For those interested in being an accountant for the IRS, check out the Best Online Bachelor’s in Accounting Degree Programs.
  • If you’d like to become a civil litigation paralegal, check out the Best Online Paralegal Programs.

How to Prepare for the Civil Service Exam

If you want to pass the civil service exam, it pays to study up. You will need knowledge and experience in your chosen field, but also general knowledge, critical thinking skills, and time management skills.

The exam is timed, and you must complete the entire exam. It’s better to answer all of the questions, even if you feel iffy about some of the answers, because civil service exams don’t typically deduct points for wrong answers.

A few study guides are available for practice:

You should prepare for the exam like you would any other exam. Learn what sections will be included and how you will be tested. Then make a study guide to help you prepare.

Keep in mind that some civil service jobs, like firefighter, require applicants to demonstrate fitness benchmarks and pass physical tests, so you might need to break up study sessions with working out.

Of course, the civil service exam is only one part of the civic job application process. You also need a solid resume and strong interview skills. Check out our resume and interview tips.

For more tips and insights into landing the job you want, visit our Career Counselor.

Final Word

The civil service exam is typically the first step to becoming a civil servant, and it will vary depending on which career path you choose. In general, the exam will test your competency. Make sure to thoroughly research, study, and prepare beforehand, and you’ll increase your chances of landing your dream job.

If you want to work in a civil service job, chances are you’ll be asked to take a Civil Service Exam. Certain job classifications use the exam to test a candidate’s skills for specific positions. The test is utilized at every level of government — local, state, federal — so the exam structure will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It’s an important test that requires preparation and an excellent study tool to help candidates prepare. Here’s a look at civil service tests.

How to apply for a civil service examination

What is the civil service?

Civil service employees work for a government department or agency in the public sector. Civil service does not include the military, judicial branches and elected officials.

What jobs are likely to require a civil service exam?

Law enforcement, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service; United States Postal Office mail handlers; the Internal Revenue Service; certain secretarial and clerical jobs; fire departments; bureau of motor vehicles; and health and human resources are all examples of civil service jobs.

How long do civil service tests take?

It depends on the test but expect the exam to last at least several hours.

What’s on a civil service test?

That will vary, depending on the position you apply for. Air traffic controllers, for example, have stiff education and training requirements in addition to the test. Here are some other examples:

  • The United States Post Office exam focuses, in part, on address-related issues, such as whether a candidate can determine if two addresses are identical. Candidates are tested on address checking, forms completion, coding, memory and inventory of personal experience and characteristics.
  • Clerical exams focus on grammar, vocabulary, spelling, word relationships and reading. You’ll likely see problem-solving questions that include addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. You may be presented with a group of words and asked which one is spelled correctly. You’ll also likely find questions that will ask you to identify sentences that contain proper grammar.

In short, each test measures an applicant’s strengths based on the job they’re applying for.

When can I take a civil service test?

Some exams are available on a continual basis, while others have specific test dates.

Where will I take a civil service test?

Some jurisdictions will allow candidates to take the test online. Others require candidates to take the test in person.

If I do well on the test, does that guarantee I’ll get the job?

No. The test can be just one part of the application process. Some jobs may also have training, experience, educational or other requirements. Firefighters, for example, may have to meet minimum requirements for the amount of weight they can lift. Police officers may have to meet certain minimum physical fitness requirements. It’s always best to check with your local jurisdiction for the specifics.

What are the passing scores?

That varies as well. Candidates who take the clerical Civil Service exam, for example, must score at least 33 on the verbal abilities test portion, and a combined minimum score on the clerical and verbal portions of 80.

Is there a fee to take the Civil Service Exam?

Yes, and that fee is set by each jurisdiction. Fees could include a test fee and/or a filing fee.

I’m a veteran. What programs are available to me?

Veterans can receive preference points and may be eligible for the Veteran’s Recruitment Appointment Rule. Veterans who meet certain criteria can have an additional five or 10 points added to their final Civil Service Exam passing score. Under the Veteran’s Recruitment Appointment Rule, veterans can be appointed to white collar posts without competing with other applicants.

There’s a lot to unpack. What’s the best study tool I can get?

You’re right. There’s a lot of information for anyone who wants to be a civil servant to consider. That’s why Mometrix has created study tools to help you prepare for this important exam. Remember, this is your career we’re taking about, and you need the best. Our Civil Service Exam study guide walks you through the questions you’ll likely see on the exam, and offers test taking tips. The best way not to get overwhelmed is to get these study materials.

Civil Service Exam Practice Test

Civil Service Exam Study Guide

Mometrix Academy is a completely free Civil Service Exam test resource provided by Mometrix Test Preparation. If you find benefit from our efforts here, check out our premium quality Civil Service Exam Study Guide to take your studying to the next level. Your purchase also helps us make even more great, free test content for test-takers.

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Schedule of Availability of Service:

  • Monday to Friday
  • 8:00a.m.–5:00p.m. without noon break

Who May Avail of the Service:

  • Filipino Citizen, at least 18 years old, and of good moral character.
  • Has no criminal record, or has not been convicted by final judgment of an offense or crime involving moral turpitude.
  • Has not been dishonorably discharged from military service, or dismissed for cause from any civilian position in the government.
  • Has not taken the same level of career service examination within three (3) months from the last examination taken.

What are the Requirements:

1. Fully accomplished application form (CS Form No.100 Revised September 2016). The spaces for “Signature of Applicant” and “Right Thumbmark” on the form should be left blank. These shall be accomplished in the presence of the CSC processor.

2. Four (4) copies of identical pictures with specification as follows:

  • Philippine passport size (4.5 cm x 3.5 cm or 1.8 inches x 1.4 inches)
  • colored with white background
  • printed on good quality photo paper
  • in standard close-up shot (from shoulder level up with the head and face occupying at least 80% of the picture and with the name tag position at approximately 1 inch or 2.54 cm below the chin);
  • in bare face (with no eyeglasses or any accessories that may cover the facial features);
  • showing left and right ears;
  • taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
  • with neutral facial expression and both eyes open
  • not computer enhanced
  • with full and handwritten (not computer-generated) name tag in the format: First Name, Middle Initial, Last Name, and Extension Name, if any (e.g. JUAN C. DELA CRUZ, JR.), and signature over printed name
  • taken within the last three (3) months prior to filing of application.

3. Original and photocopy of any valid ID containing applicant’s clear picture, date of birth, signature, and signature of the authorized head of the issuing agency. Only the following IDs shall be accepted such as Driver’s License, SSS ID, GSIS ID, Philhealth ID, current Company/Office ID, current School ID, Postal ID, BIR ID, Barangay ID, Voter’s ID, Valid Passport, or Police Clearance. IDs lacking information, particularly the applicant’s date of birth, should be supported by Birth certificate issued/authenticated by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) or Local Civil Registrar (LCR).

Duration: 20 minutes

How to Avail of the Service:



Service Provider

Duration of Activity (Under Normal Circumstances)

Person in Charge




Download application form from the CSC website (

(CSC Regional and Field Offices)

CS Form No. 100 (Revised September 2016)


Submit accomplished application form without affixing signature and thumbprint

Review and Evaluate Application Form and make clarifications,if necessary.

Check the following:

  1. proper accomplishment of the form
  2. qualification of the applicant (citizenship and age)
  3. completeness and validity of supporting documents/requirements
  4. require applicant to affix signature and thumbprint


Affix signature and thumbprint on the form in the presence of Action Officer

> Verify examination records of applicant through E-Retaker*/ DIBAR**System

> If applicant is qualified to take examination, return application form and advise client to pay the examination fee to the cashier. If applicant is not qualified, inform applicant of the reason for the disqualification, and return the application form.