Civil service jobs aren’t simply a career. They are a path to a better life, complete with healthcare benefits, paid time off, stability, and retirement funding. If you’re looking for a job that will take care of you for the rest of your life, civil service jobs are for you. However, before you can get hired, you’ll probably need to pass a civil service test.

There are thousands of civil service jobs, ranging from the adrenaline pumping FBI or secret service roles to the more sedate postal worker or IRS roles. With so many different types of positions available, there is no single civil service test to cover the federal, state and municipal roles. Regardless of where you are applying, expect your exam to test your verbal, clerical, and mathematical abilities.

Did you know?

The Civil Service Test has a minimum of three sections: (1) verbal ability, (2) math skills, and (3) clerical ability. Some positions may require additional tests. To be added to an eligibility list, you’ll need to score 70%. Top-scoring candidates on the eligibility list are invited in for interviews.

Civil Service Test Types:

  1. Federal exams
  2. State exams (click here for test facts by state)
  3. Municipal exams

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Icon Questions Explained White Civil Service Tests Question Types Explained

Most questions in civil service exams are multiple choice, with either 4 or 5 options for you to choose from.

Verbal Ability

This section measures your word skills. It is used if the job you are applying for involves tasks such as proofreading, editing, organizing files of related materials, and following written instructions.

You can expect the following types of questions:

  • Spelling, word definitions, and word relationships
  • Grammar 
  • Reading comprehension

Clerical Ability

This section measures your ability to handle clerical tasks, and is often timed. It is used for many civil service roles, including those involving police work.

You can expect the following types of questions:

  • Alphabetization
  • Clerical speed and accuracy
  • Keyboarding 
  • Office practices

While most questions in civil service exams are multiple choice, the typing and stenography portion of the exam requires you to accurately type information exactly as it has been presented to you. Scoring of the typing test is based on speed and accuracy. 

Only stenographers need to take the stenography test. To pass the test most agencies require you to take dictation at 80 WPM. 

Math Skills

The difficulty of the math exam is based on the role that you are applying for. Some roles, such as cashiering jobs, require basic arithmetic skills, while other roles may require more advanced math skills. 

You may be tested on the following types of math problems:

  • Working with fractions, decimals, and percentages
  • Reading graphs and tables
  • Calculating ratios and proportions
  • Story and reasoning problems, covering areas like work, distance, taxation. and payroll

Additional Skills

In addition, your civil service exam may also assess soft skills, such as decision making, communication skills, service orientation, or memory. For some roles, the exam may test your professional knowledge in areas like legal terminology, safety instructions, or accounting, or challenge specific soft skills, such as principles of social investigation.

Icon Preparation Strategies White Civil Service Tests Preparation Strategies

While getting ready for your exam, here are some things you can do to give yourself the best chance of passing the test:

  1. Study the prep manual given by the hiring agency, which will include a detailed description of the test material
  2. Take practice tests, like those offered by iPrep
  3. Determine your weaknesses, and spend more time studying those section of the material
  4. Work with a partner or study group 
  5. Attend a refresher course either in the classroom or online 
  6. Exercise, eat right, and get plenty of sleep the night before the test

Icon Test Features White Test Features

United States-based civil service exams fall into one of the three different categories. There are exams for federal jobs, which are managed by the US federal government; state exams, which are managed by each individual state; and local exams, which are managed by each municipality.

It’s important to recognize that each hiring body is subject to different laws and processes. As such, they do have different testing requirements. That being said, civil service tests from all branches of the government have much in common.

Many agencies administer the test online. However, some still use paper question books and answer sheets.

You’ll be tested on your verbal, clerical, and mathematical skills. Each question is multiple choice, and typically features some type of time limit.

You’ll also receive a question booklet or scratch paper, which you can use to work out problems to determine the correct answer.

Tests can be quite long. You should expect your test to last about 3 hours, and contain around 200 questions.

Competitive vs Noncompetitive Tests

For federal government positions, the hiring agency will frequently pit qualified candidates against each other. In these competitive tests, you’ll have a better chance of landing the job if you outscore your competitors.

In a noncompetitive test, you are being tested to determine whether or not you are qualified for the role. If you pass the test, you will show the hiring manager that you have both the aptitude and the ability to perform in the job.


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Icon Technical Facts White Technical Facts by State

Over 20-million people are employed by state and local governments, and each state’s exam is created and managed independently. Generally speaking, each state’s Civil Service Department is tasked with creating, scheduling and administering the civil service exam.

We’re constantly updating information about different state’s exams. If your state isn’t listed below, let us know and we’ll make sure it’s included in the next update.

Quick by state navigation links:

CA | CT | IL | LA | MA | NJ | NY | NYC | OH | PA

California (CA) Civil Service Tests & State Jobs Exams

With over 235,000 state jobs, there is no bigger state employer than the state of California. With jobs across the state in every industry, they offer a wealth of opportunity to those who pass their civil services exam.

Administered by: The California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) administers all civil service exams in the state.  

Test Structure: Most tests in California are multiple choice. Tests are based on the position being applied for, and can include: Written, oral, typing, and experience. 

Exam Announcements and Information: Each exam has an exam bulletin, which provides the details of the test, including pass/fail score, the type of test, and content being tested. 

Test Results: Results for online tests appear in your calcareers.ca.gov account 3 days after completing the test. In-person exams typically require 6-8 weeks for results to enter the system.  

Passing Scores: Passing criteria for each test is included in the exam bulletin. Individuals who pass a test are placed on an eligible list, where they are considered for open positions. 

Connecticut (CT) Civil Service Tests

Connecticut has over 40,000 people on its state’s payroll.  If you’d like to be part of the team serving the citizens of the state you will need to pass a civil services exam first. 

Administered by: The Department of Administrative Services manages Connecticut’s civil services exams. 

Test Structure: Civil service tests in Connecticut at multiple choice and tailored to the role.

Exam Announcements and Information: In Connecticut tests are only administered when there is an open position. Details of the exam are included in the job listing. 

Test Results and Passing Scores: Candidates who pass the test are added to the eligible list. Top performers on the list are brought in for interviews.

Illinois (IL) Civil Service Tests

Illinois has nearly 65,000 state employees on its payroll, helping ensure that the state runs smoothly. To be considered for a position working for the state of Illinois you will need to pass a civil service exam. 

Administered by: The Department of Central Managed Services (CMS) is responsible for testing in Illinois. Exams are given at testing centers across the state.

Test Structure: There are two types of tests. Most civil services roles require a multiple choice test, which will be customized to the role. Applicants who want to work for state universities take the SUCSS (State Universities Civil Service System) exam, which includes a written test to measure problem solving, reading comprehension, and ability to follow directions. 

Exam Announcements and Information: Exam announcements can be found in job listings on work.illinois.gov. Test takers can also find test information guides which include a number of sample questions, content covered, and different sections within the test. 

Test Results: Most tests are scored immediately, and include a section-by-section breakdown. Other test results are reported by mail, within 5-7 days. 

Passing Scores: All passing candidates are added to an eligibility list. Candidates with “A” scores are interviewed before other candidates. If you did not score an “A” you can retake a test after 30 days to try and improve your grade. Passing scores are valid for up to 6 years. 

Louisiana (LA) Civil Service Tests

Louisiana employs over 45,000 employees across its state. State citizens who are interested in working for the government need to pass a civil services exam before they can get started.

Administered by: The Louisiana Department of State Civil Service manages and administers all civil service exams. 

Test Structure: Most tests are multiple choice and taken on the computer. There are several role-specific tests. They are:

  • Law Enforcement and Protective Services exam (LEAPS) – for entry level law enforcement roles
  • Professional Level Exam (PLE) – for managerial and supervisory roles
  • Office Support Exam (OSE) – for office support staff
  • Accounting Paraprofessional Test (APT) – for accounting-related positions. 

Exam Announcements and Information: Job candidates are expected to take the test before applying for a job. The Louisiana Online Civil Service FAQ page contains a list that shows you which tests need to be taken for various roles.   

Test Results: Test results are delivered by email or mail, usually within a week of completing the test. 

Passing Scores:  Passing scores range from 70-100. Candidates who pass the test are added to the state’s eligibility list, where hiring managers can choose them to come in for interviews. 

Massachusetts (MA) Civil Service Tests

Massachusetts has nearly 65,000 state employees on its payroll, who work hard to ensure that its citizens are taken care of. If you’d like to work for Massachusetts you will need to pass a civil service exam.

Administered by: The State of Massachusetts administers its tests. 

Test Structure: The Massachusetts civil service exam is a multiple choice test given to all civil service applicants. There is also a law enforcement exam, firefighter exam, and maintenance workers exam given to candidates for those roles. These exams may include physical components in addition to the multiple choice test. 

Exam Announcements and Information: The schedule for Massachusetts exams is online, on the mass.gov website. 

Test Results: Test results are emailed to you as soon as they are available. 

Passing Scores: Typical civil services tests require a 70% to pass. Candidates who pass are placed on an eligible list. Hiring managers review candidates on the list when determining who to hire. 

New Jersey (NJ) Civil Service Test

New Jersey boasts almost 90,000 state employees, providing employment in a wide array of fields. Before being hired, candidates in New Jersey must pass their state’s civil service exam. 

Administered by: Civil service exams in New Jersey are administered by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission (CSC). Tests are given at testing centers across the state. You will receive 2-3 weeks notice detailing where and when your test is scheduled to take place. 

Test Structure: Civil service exams in New Jersey are multiple choice. There are essentially three types of tests:

  • Exams by Role – testing related to a specific position
  • Supervisory Test Battery – work simulation test
  • Management Test Battery – work simulation test
  • Bilingual Skills Testing

Exam Announcements and Information: Civil service exam information is included in the job announcement and on the CSC website

Test Results: Test results are delivered by mail. If you pass, you will receive a notification of eligibility. Candidates who fail receive a notice of ineligibility. 

Passing Scores: Generally, most tests require a 70% to pass the test. Candidates who pass are placed on an eligible list, where they will be assessed by hiring managers and potentially invited in for an interview. 

New York (NY) Civil Service Tests

There are over 1 million civil service jobs in New York, including police, fire and court officers. Civil service jobs in New York pay wages that are competitive with those in the private sector, which increases the stakes of the civil service exam. Passing the civil service exam in New York State will put you on the eligibility list, where positions are filled from.

Administered by: The New York State Department of Civil Service administers exams for all state civil service tests as well as for a number of localities within the state.

Test Structure: NY State civil service exams typically include the following: Written exam, oral exam, performance exam, and training and experience evaluation. Tests are multiple choice, and the exact content of each test is based on the position. Test takers are told a week before the exam where the exam will take place.

Exam Announcements and Information: New York State jobs are posted on the ny.gov website. Each job listing includes the test you are required to take to be considered for the position.

Test Results: Test results are available 90-120 days after taking the test, and are valid for 4 years. To find out whether or not you passed, you can call the department, log into your account online, or visit the open data portal and search for civil service exams. 

Passing Scores: Individuals who pass their test are added to the eligible list, where hiring managers can invite them in for interviews. If you fail your test, you must wait 90 days before attempting the test again. However, since it takes 90 days before you receive results, most candidates can register for another test attempt immediately after learning about poor results.

New York City (NYC) Civil Service Tests

If you want to work for New York City, most likely you’ll have to take a test. New York City offers a number of different opportunities including in health care, finance, and public safety. 

Administered by: The New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) schedules and administers civil service exams. Tests are taken at Computerized Testing & Application Centers in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. 

Test Structure: There are three types of New York City civil service exams:

  • Multiple choice test – Up to 100 questions, either administered on computer or with a scantron
  • Educational and Experience test – A questionnaire covering your background and experience
  • Practical test – These include physical exams, required for police and firefighter positions, and stenographer tests, which times typing speed

Exam Announcements and Information: New York City civil service test schedules can be found at DCAS website. Positions that require tests include testing information in the job listing. 

Test Results: Computer-based multiple-choice test results are available immediately. Tests taken using paper are available shortly after taking the test. You can see your results by logging into New York City’s Online Application System. Tentative Educational and Experience test results are usually available immediately, or posted on the Online Application System. Final results are mailed to test takers once the results list is established. 

Passing Scores: Most tests require 70% to pass. If you pass, you will be added to the city’s eligible list, which hiring managers use to screen candidates.

Ohio (OH) Civil Service Tests

Ohio employs nearly 70,000 state employees. These roles cover all areas of employment, including accounting, public safety, and healthcare. To be considered for one of these positions, you must pass an Ohio civil service test.

Administered by: The State of Ohio administers its tests. 

Test Structure: There are four types of tests:

  • Oral and essay tests
  • Typing exams
  • Experience and training ratings
  • Multiple choice tests

Exam Announcements and Information: Exam information is included in the job listing

Test Results and Passing Scores: Candidates who pass the test are added to the eligibility list, where they may be selected to be interviewed for a position. 

Pennsylvania (PA) Civil Service Tests

With nearly 100,000 state government full time employees, Pennsylvania is one of the largest government employers in the US, with positions covering all aspects of Pennsylvania life. The vast majority of state jobs in Pennsylvania require you to take a test as part of the application process.

Administered by: The Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission (SCSC) oversees all testing activities relating to state hiring in Pennsylvania. There are 7 testing centers across the state.

Test Structure: The content for each test is based on the role being applied for. There are four types of civil service tests in Pennsylvania:

  • Oral and Essay Exams – Often done before a panel of judges
  • Typing Exams – Testing on accuracy and speed
  • Experience and Training Ratings – Documentation of past education and work experience
  • Multiple Choice Exams – completed on a computer

Exam Announcements and Information: Exam information is included in job listings. Once you have applied for a position, you will be asked to schedule and manage your test taking, through the SCSC application dashboard. 

Test Results: Results are sent to candidates via email. Emails can also be accessed by signing into your employment.pa.gov account.

Passing Scores: Passing scores for most tests are 70% or higher. For most tests, candidates who pass are placed on an eligibility list, and may be called in for interviews. Other roles don’t use the list, and allow candidates to apply after passing their test.

Icon Results Scale & Interpretations White Results Scale and Interpretations

Civil service tests are scored on a scale of 100, regardless of the number of questions in the test. A score of 70 is typically required to pass the exam. The exception to this is typing and stenography tests, which are scored based on speed and accuracy.

Exam Ratings

After passing a test, you’ll be given an exam rating, and placed on a list of eligible candidates. Hiring managers use that list to find people to fill open roles. If you pass the test, and a hiring manager chooses someone else to fill the role, you are still eligible to be selected for a different role within the civil service.

Once you have passed a test you will not need to take the test again for similar jobs within the agency. However, passing scores do not transfer from one branch of the government to another.

Exam ratings eventually expire; typically, if two years have passed, you will need to retake a civil service exam.The rating form, which you will receive after completing the test, will indicate the expiration date of your score.

Eligible Lists

After passing the test, your name will be added to an eligible list for a position. The list is sorted by test score, with individuals who achieve the highest marks on the top of the list. The hiring agency reviews the list, and usually invites the individuals for an interview in the order of their overall exam rating when positions become available.  

Civil Service Exam Eligible List Sample (Source: DCAS, NYC)

Job Offers

Passing any test does not guarantee you a position. It is just one part of the application process, and there are often other requirements. Applicants who are found higher on the eligible list are usually offered a position first. However, passing the civil service exam will put you in a position where you can be offered a job in the future.

Icon Frequently Asked Questions White Civil Service Test FAQs

Is there a standard civil service exam?

No, there isn’t a single civil service exam covering all different types of positions. However, just about every test will have verbal, mathematical, and clerical elements.

Do U.S. Armed Forces Veterans Have a Scoring Advantage?

Yes, U.S. Armed Forces veterans do have some advantages when applying for civil service positions. Their test score receives 5-10 preference points, based on their eligibility. However, not all veterans qualify. Rules are complicated, and if you are a veteran, you should ask the hiring agency for clarification.

What is included in my civil service exam?

The civil service exam is based on the position being offered. Exam topics will usually be included in the job listing. However, you should expect that your test will have a verbal, mathematical, or clerical component to it.

What civil service positions require passing the civil service exam?

Many jobs require candidates to pass a civil service exam, including law enforcement agencies, the IRS, mail handlers, secretarial and clerical positions, HR roles, and more.


Free Practice


Icon Tips White Civil Service Test Tips

Once you are sitting in front of the Civil Service exam, here are a few things you can do to give yourself a better chance to acing the test.

  1. Manage your time well. If you have 30 minutes to answer 60 questions, you have 30 seconds per question. Don’t linger too long on a single question.
  2. If you have time at the end of a section, go back and check your answers
  3. Before taking the test, find out if wrong answers will count against you. If you are not penalized for wrong answers, guess where you are unsure. If wrong answers count against you, leave items you don’t know blank.
  4. If you are using paper and an answer sheet, be careful marking your answers. If you write the answer to one question on the wrong line, or accidentally give two answers to one question, the question will be marked wrong.

Icon Administration White Administration

Exam Announcements: When government agencies want to build up their list of candidates for different positions, they release an exam announcement. The announcement contains all the relevant information, so you will know what to expect on the exam, and when and where you can take the test.


Sample Local Civil Service Exam Announcement (Source: OC Civil Service Commission)

Test Location: Civil Service tests are generally taken at the agency where you are applying, with an examiner in the room to hand out materials or answer any questions. There are some agencies that allow you to take the test online.

Test Schedule:  Some exams are given on a continual basis, and can be taken any time. Other tests have specific test dates.

Test Format:  Almost all the questions are multiple-choice questions.

Test Materials: Test is typically taken on computer, although some agencies use question books and answer forms. You will have scratch paper available to work out any problems. 

Cost: There are fees to take the test, which is set by each jurisdiction. Fees may include both a test-taking fee and a filing fee.

Retake Policy: If you fail the test, you can usually take it again as long as applications are being accepted for a position. If you passed the test but would like to take it again to improve your score, you typically must wait a year to try again.

Icon Test Provider White Test Provider

There is no single civil service exam, and no single test provider. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the chief HR agency for the federal government, and oversees all hiring.  USA Hire, which is part of OPM, has created standard assessments for federal jobs, ranging from entry level to senior positions, and measures general competencies and technical skills. USA Jobs is a job board for federal positions. Each announcement includes exam information.

(Source: OPM)

State and local exams are managed by the state or municipality. The tests are either created by the state or municipality, or by a third-party assessment company.

Disclaimer – All the information and prep materials on iPrep are genuine and were created for tutoring purposes. iPrep is not affiliated with any branches of the United States federal or local government, or any third party providers of assessment tests.

Here is a collection of free civil service practice tests to help you prepare for your civil service exam:

Arithmetic Comprehension Practice Test


Mathematical Reasoning Practice Test


Reading Comprehension Practice Test


Written Communication Practice Test


Clerical Skills Practice Test


Decision-Making and Problem-Solving Practice Test