Wembley Conference CentreWednesday last week I headed off to Wembley Conference Centre to sit the ‘pre-selection’ tests to become an EU civil servant – the dreaded concours. I’ve written a bit about it on the blog before. True to form, the tests contained some downright ludicrous questions. This was the best among them. Question 41, test b), concours EPSO/AD/25/05:

    Parmi les personnalites mentionnes ce-apres une seule n’a pas recu le “prix Sakharov pour la liberte de l’esprit” donne chaque annee depuis 1988 par le Parlement europeen. Il s’agit de:
    a) Xanana Gusmao
    b) Taslima Nasreen
    c) Salman Rushdie
    d) Leyla Zana

Now, can someone please tell me why it could possibly be relevant to future work as a civil servant to know the answer to that? If you are interested, the correct answer is c) (I looked it up). Further, the tests are sufficiently peverse to mean you cannot leave the room early, there is no clock on the wall, and they insist you write your entire essay using their pen. Just because they have the power to demand such a thing I presume?

On a more positive note, I bumped into a number of people I haven’t seen for a while at the concours, and after the first set of ludicrous tests everything became quite pleasant – there was a certain solidarity as we were all in the same ludicrous predicament.

Anyway, last but not least, there’s this excellent piss-take about the concours that is worth reading. It’s not very politically correct, but it did make me smile.

[UPDATED, 4.4.06, 15h45]
I’ve just been sent an unofficial set of answers to the questions in the concours. I can’t remember all my answers in the tests, but I managed about 24/40 in test (a) for Administrators, about 33/40 in test (b) on general EU knowledge, and about 28/40 on test (c), the Verbal and Numerical Reasoning. I’m sure there will be many hundreds of people sitting the concours that did a lot better than that. I just have to wait until the end of May for the formal rejection letter…


  1. Breach

    Well, what do you know: “The marking of the selection tests for EPSO/CAST27/4/07 in which you recently took part has now been completed and I am pleased to inform you that your were successful in the tests.” (note the ‘your’ typo, cute ain’t it :P). That’s for FG IV, ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Adviser btw. So, I did make it! Guess I’ll stay up late tonight and work on my CV 🙂 Do you guys know what’s next? I mean, for CAST, I shouldn’t contact any institution myself, but just wait for agencies which expressed interest to contact me, right? Thanks.

  2. Dimitra

    hello from Greece,

    just a question ….
    what do you really beleive about the transparency relating the whole competitions procedure?
    I am also a candidate ,none special background, but with strong willness to prove that somebody can start from zero and make the dream real..


  3. Marcela

    Dear Hush,

    now, it’s my time.

    I am in a data base of the IT specialists and I hope in the next 3 years to work in an EU institution.
    Who knows?
    Maybe a little good luck?


  4. Marcela,

    in addition to study, after you passed the whole set of a competition stages (presel, written, oral and, in some cases, certified professional experience), you must some protector in heaven or a lot of patience, to receive a job offer from an interested unit.
    I’m winner of a competion (placed on reserve list) last year and I’m still waiting for a call; in the meanwhile, I’ve lobbied all possibile Commissions units with my CV only to get a “we’re currently full staffed, may be in the future..”. My current sentiment about EU careers is turned down, after 2 years spent studying without getting nothing concrete still.
    And there is now a project from the current finnish presidency aimed to cut about 1.700 job from 2007, a dark horizon.
    So, applying for a EU job could be and interesting challenge for who got a job already, not for who’s searching for a job!

    Anyway, I can suggest some interesting guides to EU competitions made by UK Govt. I followed them with success.


    Bye bye and good luck!

  5. Marcela Maidaniuc

    Dear Jon,
    all the EPSO competitions are very tough. You need years to study very well and all the time you have to be up-to-date.
    I hope to become an EU civil servant one day but I know that the way is very difficult.
    I study hard but I am sure that working a period as a contract agent would help me a lot. So, I am looking even for this opportunity, too.
    Good luck.
    Marcela, Italy

  6. George

    Jon, were can i find the unofficial set of answers to the questions in the concours?It would be a great help.Thnx.

  7. Ah, the next time you complain about the seat of the EP I’ll remember that… 🙂

    In London there were about 500 tables in 2 rooms. However more than 200 of the seats were for people who had English as their second language, i.e. other EU nationals resident in London. Further, only about 40% of the tables were occupied, so perhaps there were 200 people there in total.

    Shows the attitude of the Brits towards the concours!

  8. Hé hé hé… Je n’ai qu’une chose à dire: ouf! J’ai eu juste à cette question sur Salman Rushdie! En revanche, j’ai coché (par erreur!) la mauvaise case sur LA question: celle qui demandait “where the seat of the European Parliament was laid down at the Edinburgh Council meeting in 1992”. Honte à moi!!! Satané formulaire-réponse: et en plus, impossible de corriger une erreur sur le formulaire ou d’en demander un autre!

    Mais les questions du QCM n’étaient pas les pires: c’est surtout le raisonnement numérique et verbal qui était une horreur!

    Moi aussi, j’ai croisé des gens qui avaient fait la prépa ENA à Rennes en 2003-2005, et des gens de Sciences Po Strasbourg (back in 2000!)

    Combien étiez-vous de candidats? A Paris, nous étions dans un hangar gigantesque d’environ 150 mètres sur 150 mètres. Il devait bien y avoir 3000 ou 4000 personnes. 1% of them will get the job 🙁

    Good luck to you, Jon!

  9. Daniela

    heheh I do understand! I miss Brussels a lot too, it does have something that I definitely would like to return to! As for Malta, I don’t even want to start off with my opinion regarding this silly island 😉

    Best of luck with the concours do, I hope you manage to find a job you like…though I’m sure you will! 🙂

  10. I would like to be in Brussels! OK, it might be a bit more dreary than Malta, but I like the city a lot. But even if I do manage to pass, I am not going to be willing to take any old job just so I can return there…

  11. Daniela

    The account of the concours that you linked was utterly hilarious… makes me wonder why would anyone (myself included) would want to go through all that madness to work in what can easily be considered one of the dreariest cities in Europe :).

    Good luck Jon, I will try to follow suit in the years to come!!

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