Last Friday was the Foreign Service Exam. Had things worked out differently 18 years ago (thanks for rejecting me, Georgetown School of Foreign Service), I would have taken the test and (hopefully) be the gopher to the assistant to the head of the Central Asia desk by now.
Here are some sample questions (with answers). Do you have what it takes?
1. American human rights concerns influenced United States foreign policy and thereby helped to bring about:
a. the admission of 20,000 Central European, mainly Jewish children to the United States in 1939.
b. United States support for the liberation of the Kurds in Iraq in the 1970's.
c. the emigration of thousands of Jews from the Soviet Union in the 1970's.
d. a policy designed to arm the Bosnian Muslims in 1991.
2. Following the creation of an independent Bosnia-Herzegovina, Yugoslavia consisted of two republics and two semi-autonomous provinces. The republics were Serbia and:
3. In public speaking, the term ''poisoning the well'' refers to:
a. a disingenuous and vilifying definition of terms or characterization of an argument that does not allow for reasoned opposition.
b. a false claim that if an action is taken, an undesirable consequence necessarily and inevitably will follow.
c. an irrelevant personal attack on one's opponent instead of a refutation of her or his position.
d. repetition of a claim offered as a reason in support of it.
4. Which of the following is generally considered the most critical drawback to submarine-launched ballistic missiles as a means of creating a stable system of nuclear deterrence?
a. They are particularly vulnerable to attack.
b. Their guidance systems require a continuous update of the missiles' positions.
c. There is a finite size limitation that limits range and payload capacity.
d. There is a possibility of interruption occurring in the communication chain that commands them.
5. The grassland zone of Argentina is known as the:
d. Gran Chaco.
6. You own a bond issued by a foreign government; the interest rate is 20 percent in that country's currency. Last year, the currency declined by 50 percent against the U.S. dollar. For the last year, in dollar terms, what did you earn on the bond?
a. 70 percent.
b. 20 percent.
c. 10 percent.
7. When someone relies on ''due process'' in confronting an accusation before the courts, the claim may depend, in part, on which U.S. Constitutional amendment?
8. What are the three basic economic problems that every economy must solve?
a. What to produce, where to produce, for whom to produce.
b. What to produce, how to produce, for whom to produce.
c. Whether to produce, where to produce, why to produce.
d. Why to produce, how to produce, which to produce.
9. One reason for the 1998-99 surplus in the U.S. federal budget was the:
a. reduction in federal tax rates.
b. reduction in federal government spending.
c. increase in federal tax rates.
d. increase in federal government spending.
10. Which of the following is considered the most important contribution of the ancient Greeks to modern Western civilization?
a. Their systematic approach to knowledge.
b. Invention of double-entry bookkeeping.
c. Invention of coinage as a means of exchange.
d. Conquest of Persia and northern India.
11. A deficit in a nation's current account generally is accompanied by a:
a. deficit in the nation's capital account.
b. national trade surplus.
c. surplus in the nation's capital account.
d. high level of exports relative to imports.
12. Congress overrides presidential vetoes:
a. less than 5 percent of the time.
b. slightly less than 50 percent of the time.
c. frequently on domestic legislation but rarely on foreign policy.
d. only on budget-related issues.
13. Before the president orders a covert intelligence operation, he must:
a. inform the National Security Council.
b. inform the leaders of Congress.
c. inform the Congressional intelligence committees.
d. get approval from the Congressional intelligence committees.
14. What do you get if you add all of your students' final grades together and then divide the total by the number of students?
15. In political discourse, the phrase ''Vietnam syndrome'' referred to the idea that the:
a. U.S. should institute a permanent military draft.
b. capitalist system was inherently interventionist.
c. huge U.S. national debt resulted from a prolonged war.
d. people of the U.S. had lost the will to intervene abroad.
16. All of the following are examples of U.S. products that would typically fail to be produced to optimal output without government intervention except:
a. national defense products.
b. light provided by lighthouses.
c. new automobiles.
d. new highways.
17. The United States declared war on Germany in 1917 mostly because:
a. the ocean liner Lusitania with 128 Americans aboard was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine.
b. America was allied with Great Britain and France.
c. American trade with Great Britain and France was interrupted by German warfare.
d. Germany threatened American territory.
18. People are most likely to feel stressed if they:
a. try to ignore a problem and hope it will go away.
b. work in a very noisy environment that makes it hard to concentrate.
c. believe they are incapable of dealing with a situation.
d. have a great many things to do at home and at work.
SOURCE: ''Study Guide for the Foreign Service Officer'' (2000, ACT Inc.)
This is how NOT to take the test, from Spies Like Us: