This 2016 Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre guide includes practice tests, coaching videos and dozens of top tips, tricks and insider-secrets for success. Let’s get started!
2 useful starting-point resources
- You can practice the Fast Stream verbal & numerical tests here
- Check out my Ultimate Interview & Assessment Day Guide
The All-Conquering Importance of Preparation
Ok, before we look at each element of the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre I’d like to put something squarely on your radar: the all-conquering importance of preparation.
I often get emails from people asking for help at their Fast Stream assessment centre. They want to know the ‘short cuts’ to success, but honestly, there are none. It’s boring, I know, but the ‘secret’ to success at the Fast Stream assessment centre is simply lots and lots of preparation.
You cannot over-prepare and every minute you spend preparing will pay you back richly. (If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the years it’s that successful candidates are always better prepared than unsuccessful ones.)
‘Ok, I get the picture. How should I prepare?’
- You can read this guide. (Well done, so far!)
- You should read my free guide “How To Prepare For Your Interview or Assessment Centre” – It will be a treasure trove for you in preparing for the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre.
- Check out my podcast episodes covering all aspects assessment centre success.
- Go through the competencies exercise below.
- Lastly, and most importantly, you should practice the Fast Stream verbal and numerical tests.
Civil Service Fast Stream Practice Tests
You should practice the Fast Stream aptitude tests like a demon.
IMPORTANT POINT: Different employers use different test suppliers. This is very important when you’re taking practice tests as the style, content and format differs from one test supplier to another. The Fast Stream numerical and verbal tests are supplied by Cubiks and you can practise the Fast Stream Cubiks tests here.
The Assessment Centre Exercises
There’ll be a variety of activities at your Fast Stream assessment centre and, strangely, they can take place in any order.
Here’s what you’ll face:
- Leadership Exercise
- Written Policy Recommendation Exercise
- Group Discussion
- Numerical Reasoning Test
- Verbal Reasoning Test
- Interview & E-Tray Exercise
To be honest, the exercises are pretty standard stuff. With the right preparation there’s very little to fear here.
Internalise & demonstrate the competencies
Regardless of which exercise you’re performing at your Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre, you need to know (and ideally, demonstrate) the Fast Stream competencies.
It’s a long and slightly tedious list but bear with me – I’ll explain why this is important in a moment:
- Seeing the big picture
- Changing and improving
- Making effective decisions
- Leading and communicating
- Collaborating and partnering
- Building capability for all
- Managing a quality service
- Delivery at pace
- Delivering value for money
- Achieving commercial outcomes
You need to reflect this language back at your assessors, this list of disparate bullet points should become a ‘script’, of sorts, that you vocalise AND demonstrate throughout your assessment.
ACTION POINT: Spend 60 minutes reviewing this list of competencies. During this time you should do 2 things:
- Internalise the language and phrasing. These words need to become part of your vocabulary.
- Prepare examples from your past experience when you have demonstrated each of the competencies. These examples will be your secret weapon during your interview later. (We’ll discuss these more later in this article.)
The Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment Centre Exercises
Ok, we’ve covered the most important overarching points. (The importance of preparation and of embodying the competencies.) Now let’s look at each exercise of the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre individually.
The Leadership Exercise
You will take part in a role-play with your assessor.
- Your assessor will assume the role of a senior manager, with you acting as a team leader.
- You will be given a brief that highlights some issues that need resolving. Your goal is simple: you need to find solutions to these issues.
- This exercise will last a total of 30 minutes. (This includes preparation time, the role-play itself and post-task Q&A.)
In my experience, most candidates absolutely hate role-plays. But with the right preparation they can become an enjoyable showcase of your skills and a highlight of your Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre.
If you feel that you need extra help in this area you should check out my Role-Play Masterclass. It has dozens of secret tricks & top tips and includes a proven framework that you can follow to deliver a world class role-play.
The Group Discussion
This is another element of the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre that people worry a lot about.
- You and your fellow candidates will each be given an individual brief. You will then have 30 minutes to prepare.
- Your objective in the discussion is to get the best result, both for you as an individual and your group.
- The assessors will be looking at how clearly you communicate, how well you listen to others and how strongly you put your arguments forward.
- The discussion will last for a total of 15 minutes and is an influential part of the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre. Why? Because it shines a very bright light on your people skills.
I’ve written extensively about group exercises elsewhere on the site. You should read my free guide: “How To Succeed in Group Exercises” and you can find tons of extra stuff (including audio guides for group exercise success) in my Ultimate Interview & Assessment Day Guide.
The Written Policy Recommendation Exercise
Ok this is an important part of the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre. This written exercise lasts for a whopping 1 hour and 45 minutes!
There are two tasks and you must complete both in the given time.
Task 1 – You will be given information from a variety of sources, on two possible projects. Your task will be to analyse both sets of information, and to choose which project you would recommend.
Your written report should show strong, clear arguments for your recommendation as this is what you will be assessed on. (Your choice of project is less important, it is the arguments that matter most.)
Task 2 – Following on from task 1, you will need to use the information provided to convince stakeholders of your position. This task only requires 15-20 minutes.
The Fast Stream Numerical Reasoning Test
This is a standard numerical reasoning test. As explained above, it is vital in any job application that your know which test supplier your prospective employer uses. (There are big differences in test content and format from supplier to supplier.)
I always recommend these tests as the best Civil Service Fast Stream practice tests. They are Cubiks tests and they also contain full answers and explanations, so you can identify where you’re weak and strengthen in that area. They are transformative for your chances of success.
It’s important to remember the tests are timed and you are being benchmarked against the other candidates so literally every second counts. Practice, practice, practice.
I’ve written extensively about how to pass numerical reasoning tests elsewhere on the site. You should check out my free guide on how to pass numerical reasoning tests.
The Fast Stream Verbal Reasoning Test
Again, your test provider here is Cubiks and you can practice the Fast Stream Cubiks verbal reasoning tests here.
You should read my free Ultimate Guide “How To Pass Verbal Reasoning Tests” for much, much more info on how to succeed in this area.
The Interview & E-Tray
This Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre interview is 100% competency based and will last for 40 minutes.
Here’s some top tips:
Know the Fast Stream competencies inside out
This is huge. For any competency based interview it is imperative to know what criteria you are being assessed on. Take each competency in turn and deliver your examples (remember we referenced them earlier in this article?).
When delivering your examples a fabulous framework to use is the STAR method:
STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, Result.
- Situation – Paint a background picture of the challenge/problem. (EG, “Our department’s sales figures were down 5% year on year”.)
- Task – Describe why it was a big problem. (EG, “We were in danger of missing our annual target.”)
- Action – The Great Thing you did. (EG, “I won two new clients and boosted my team’s sales by 8%”.)
- Result – The impact of your Great Thing. (EG, “We finished the year 2% ahead of our sales target.”)
This is a brilliant way of framing your answers for maximum impact. It takes practice though, so run through your example answers again and again. Say them aloud. (Sub-vocalising them in your head doesn’t work as well, trust me!)
To be able to deliver this well at your Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre you will need to rehearse dozens of times. Again, practice makes perfect.
Showcase your skills
Give a wide variety of examples. You know what they are looking for, give them both barrels, sell yourself!
No one wants to work with a moaner. Don’t complain about the traffic that morning, or being hot on the tube, or the weather… Or anything! Positivity is the order of the day at the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre. Speak with enthusiasm and show hunger for your future career.
Remember that your assessor will be wanting to get to know the real you. You should be yourself, as if you won’t be a good fit it’s in your best interest to find out now!
Questions demonstrate your drive, hunger and curiosity for the role. Ask lots.
You’re almost at the end of your Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre. Hang in there.
Important! Update your CV before your interview
Lots of candidates make the mistake of thinking they don't need to improve their CV once they've been invited to interview.
Big mistake. Here's why:
1) You should update your CV before the interview event and take a fresh, new-and-improved version with you. (Ideally one that is TAILORED to the role you want.)
2) At interviews and assessment days, your CV will form the basis of your interview. (Whether the interview is competency-based or not.) You'll be expected to answer questions on your CV and usually to walk your interviewer through it.
3) This is the big one: After you've left your interview or assessment day, your CV will be held in the hands of the people who are making the hiring decision. They will literally be looking at your CV while making the hiring decision.
(I've been in this position many times. After spending an entire day meeting and interviewing lots of people, the candidates' CVs are the documents you use to remind yourself which candidate was which and also to revisit the candidates' skills and experience.)
Your CV summarizes the 'professional benefits' of you and is what leaves the last impression. So one last time: Your CV makes your first and last impression; it's a crucial document. Make is as strong as it can be.
Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment Centre E-Tray
This is a standard e-tray exercise. I’ve written in detail about how to succeed in E-Tray exercises elsewhere on the site, so head over to that article for more expert advice and guidance.
- This Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment Centre PDF goes into much more detail on each aspect of the Fast Stream assessment centre.
- You can apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre here.
- This Guardian article is a very interesting read: ‘How To Join The Civil Service Fast Stream‘
- Useful reviews of the Fast Stream from successful candidates on the Job Crowd.
- You can practice the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre verbal & numerical tests here
- Interesting short blog post from the Fast Stream Chief Psychologist on how to succeed at the assessment centre.
- You can download my Ultimate Interview & Assessment Day Guide here
Thanks and good luck!
I hope you enjoyed this free guide? Good luck in your future career and at your Civil Service Fast Stream assessment centre.