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FBI Phase 2 Test Preparation Guide

Jen Morris
Jen Morris February 17, 2023
fbi phase 2 test preparation guide

What is the FBI Phase 2 Test?

Anyone applying for the role of Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be put through a comprehensive 10-stage process known as the Special Agent Selection System. The FBI Phase 2 Test is the fourth stage of this process.

It follows on from the FBI Phase 1 Test and an in-person meet and greet session. Only candidates that have passed these previous stages will be invited to complete the FBI Phase 2 Test.

This article looks in detail at what the test measures, what it involves and how best to prepare to ensure a competitive performance.

The purpose of the FBI Phase 2 Test

Justifiably, the FBI runs a very stringent recruitment process. It wants to ensure that only the very best candidates are selected for service, so it vets each applicant thoroughly on a range of skills, behaviors and abilities.

While the FBI Phase 1 Test looks at your cognitive ability, professional judgment and personality, the FBI Phase 2 Test focuses on practical application.

It looks at how you’re likely to apply key skills and abilities on the job, and asks you to provide examples of how you’ve applied them in the past.

The FBI Phase 2 Test is a critical stage in the selection process. If you’ve made it this far you’ve proven yourself a strong candidate, but you’re now also up against the very best and should expect tough competition.

FBI Phase 2 Test structure

fbi phase 2 test preparation guide

The FBI Phase 2 Test is split into two parts - a writing assessment and a structured interview.

You’ll be invited to the writing assessment first and must arrange and complete this part of the test within 14 days of your invitation. Only after completing the writing assessment will you receive your invitation to interview.

FBI Writing Assessment

The FBI Phase 2 writing assessment asks candidates to apply their critical thinking, decision making and written communication skills.

At the start of the test, you’ll need to read a large amount of information. This will describe a hypothetical scenario and offer supporting and background information on the situation. Based on what you’ve read, you’ll then need to compile two detailed reports.

There are several skills under assessment here. Your verbal reasoning and situational judgment skills are being evaluated, as is your attention to detail and your ability to compile well-structured, logical arguments. Language skills like spelling, punctuation and grammar are also measured.

You’ll have two and a half hours to complete the writing assessment, with an optional break offered halfway through.

The FBI Phase 2 writing assessment is a proctored exam and can only be taken at an official PSI testing center. When you book your test, you’ll be able to select your nearest center and a convenient time and date.

FBI Writing Assessment Tips

Brush up your language skills: before the test, spend some time working on things like spelling, punctuation and grammar. You won’t have any spell-check tools to help you here so it’s wise to polish your skills.

Do not make assumptions: when writing your reports, use only the information you have been given. Do not look for inferences, add your own details or make general assumptions. Stick to the facts.

Focus on detail and structure: assessors will be looking for highly detailed reports that follow a logical order. Read instructions carefully and make sure you understand exactly what your reports should focus on.

Proofread: if you have time, go back and read what you have written. Check for any language use errors and ensure your reports follow the right format.

FBI Structured Interview

Held at one of its nine regional sites, the second stage of the FBI Phase 2 Test is a one-hour interview conducted by a panel of three FBI Special Agents. This is a structured interview that uses a performance-based format and standardized scoring criteria.

Questions asked will focus on the core competencies required of every Special Agent, and you’ll need to provide examples of when you have applied these competencies in the past.

You can expect to answer questions around:

  • Communication

  • Initiative

  • Organizing and planning

  • Professional judgment

  • Problem solving

  • Collaboration

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Flexibility and adaptability

  • Leadership

FBI Structured Interview Tips

Think about your experience: before your interview, consider each of the core competencies carefully and any situation in which you’ve had to apply them. The examples you give don’t have to be from your most recent experience. If you have a better one from years ago, use it.

Apply the STAR method: the panel is looking for detailed answers, so structure your response by explaining a situation, what you were tasked with, the action you took and the result.

Stay focused: throughout your interview you’ll see the panel taking notes. Don’t let this put you off. Focus on the panelists themselves and maintain eye contact.

Be honest: never try to second guess what the panel wants to hear, just answer the questions openly and honestly. Be aware too that the panel will have no information on you other than your name, so you’ll need to be specific with details.

After the FBI Phase 2 Test

fbi phase 2 test preparation guide

On completion of the FBI Phase 2 Test, successful candidates will receive a Conditional Appointment Offer (CAO). it’s important to note that this is not a guaranteed job offer - you’ll still need to pass additional stages of selection before your appointment is made official.

This includes a background investigation, medical checks and referencing. You’ll also need to pass the FBI Physical Fitness Test (PFT) and your FBI Basic Field Training Course (BFTC).

Frequently Asked Questions - FBI Phase 2 Test

What happens if I fail the FBI Phase 2 structured interview?

You cannot fail one component of the FBI Phase 2 Test. Assessors will use your writing assessment and structured interview together to determine your suitability, so if you do not progress you essentially fail both parts. If you do fail, you may be allowed to retest but this will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Can I retake the FBI Phase 2 writing assessment?

Retakes are sometimes offered for the FBI Phase 2 Test but only if the organization has needs that can’t be met through candidates in the selection pipeline at the time. If you are offered a retake you’ll have to complete both the writing assessment and the structured interview again, and will not be able to do so for one year after your last interview date.

Is there an age limit to participate in the FBI Phase 2?

To apply for a Special Agent role with the FBI you must be between the ages of 23 and 36. Anyone turning 37 within the selection period will not be eligible to apply.

How is the FBI Phase 2 writing assessment scored?

Scoring criteria for the Phase 2 writing assessment is not made public by the FBI. What we do know is that assessors will be looking at your reasoning skills, attention to detail and your ability to compile a well-structured report. They will also be looking at your English language skills.

Will I receive feedback if I don’t pass the FBI Phase 2?

Unfortunately, the FBI does not provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates. This is because it has a duty to ensure only the highest caliber applicants are progressed, and providing any form of feedback to those that don’t may damage the integrity of the selection process.

Where can I practice FBI Phase 2 Test questions?

The FBI makes some practice questions for the Phase 2 writing assessment available on its own website, however, these are a simplified version of the official test. To improve some of the skills you’ll need on the day you can also take practice verbal reasoning and situational judgment tests.

Jen Morris February 17, 2023

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