New Language Bonus Points Policy

Today the State Department announced a new policy for earning and applying bonus points to your Oral Assessment score to bump you up on the Register.  The policy can be found here; click on “foreign language” under Other Considerations.  I can already tell this is going to cause a lot of uproar amongst those currently in the testing/clearance/waiting on the register process.  The basic takeaway is that it is going to be harder to earn bonus points for language for those starting testing in the June exam cycle.  The previous policy will still apply to those who have already taken the Written Exam.

For those planning on language being their trump card, this is not good news.  However, for those of us with only okay scores on the Oral Assessment and no language or Veteran’s Preference to apply (<– ME), this is great news: it means fewer people who will be bumped ahead of me on the list.  Once I get on the register, that’s it, there’s nothing I can do to move myself up, so I am at the mercy of State’s hiring needs, and will move up or down the list depending on who is added or drops off the register.  This has caused me the most anxiety since passing the exam, knowing that even though I passed, my lack of language could mean the different between being invited to A-100 or not.  This news has seriously relieved me of that anxiety.   This new policy means that for those coming after me, fewer will be able to bump me down the list…. that’s the best possible situation for me.

It also says something about what State needs in its Foreign Service officers. Yes, language is important, but State can teach you language; they have a well established program.  But the other qualities State looks for in FSOs– the 13 Ds– those are harder to teach.  With the change in policy, State is saying (at least to me) that while they continue to need those people with stellar critical needs language skills, they need people who best demonstrate the 13 Ds over those who may have some, but nowhere near fluent language skills.  And I realize this could all change again in the future, but for now, I’m happy I will be given a chance to move up the register even though I don’t speak Chinese or Arabic. We’ll see what effect it actually has in practice.

In other news, I successfully got an extension on my medical clearance tests until I return from my study abroad program– my first attempt at navigating the infamous State bureaucracy to find the right person, contact them in the right manner, and successfully receive a response in writing with a clear answer and date.  Not bad if I do say so myself.

Last but certainly not least, next time I post will most likely be from The Netherlands!  I am preparing with a most-of-the-night packing session.  I know some people pack a week in advance for a trip (actually I personally only know one person who does this, but I hear there are others out there), but I’m a night before kind of person.  I’m also really good at forgetting something obvious, like my phone charger…or pants.  Yes, that’s happened.  So here’s hoping I don’t leave anything really important behind!  Tot ziens tot de volgende keer!

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