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CA Department of Insurance

Civil Service Exam Process - Part 2

Understanding Education and Experience Requirements

Experience Requirements
The term experience means experience equivalent to full-time work (paid or volunteer), typically defined as 40 hours a week. If you work part-time, your work experience will be prorated. (Example: An applicant performs clerical work half-time, 20 hours per week, and applies for an examination that requires one year of experience performing clerical work. The applicant would need two years of half-time experience to qualify for the examination.)

The following descriptions relate to the typical promotional experience required in California state service:

The words "performing the duties of . . ." or "experience in the class of" mean that you must have been appointed to and working in the classification for the specified amount of time.

The words "in a position comparable to..." or "in a position equivalent to..." or "duties comparable to..." or "duties at a level of responsibility not less than that of..." mean that you must have experience of the type and length of time in a class at the same (or a higher) level of responsibility as the class specified.

The words "candidates who are within six months of satisfying the experience requirement" mean that you are allowed early entry to the examination process, but must complete the experience requirements before you can be appointed.

Education Requirements
"Equivalence to completion of the 12th grade"
generally means graduation from high school. However, this requirement may also be met by the following:

  1. Passing the California High School Proficiency Test.
  2. Passing the General Education Development (GED) Test.
  3. Admission to and completion of at least 12 semester units of college level courses in a recognized college.

"Equivalent to graduation from college" means possession of a bachelor's degree from an accredited or approved four-year academic institution.

"Equivalent to graduation from college with specialization in or major in" means that you must possess a bachelor's degree in that field or show completion of course work in the field sufficient to constitute a major.

"Possession of a master's or doctorate degree" means completion of a graduate or doctoral program. Honorary degrees are unacceptable.

"Students who are enrolled in the last semester or its equivalent of course work, which upon completion will fulfill these requirements, will be admitted to the examination" means that you are allowed early entry to the examination process; however, you must submit evidence of completion of the required education before you can be appointed.

Note: Certificate of degrees, probation reports, letters of recommendations, etc. are not to be submitted at the time of filing for an examination unlessindicated as a requirement for the examination.


Examination Components

All examinations consist of at least one or more of the following components that assess a candidate's knowledge and/or abilities relative to the classifications being tested. The most common examination components are described as follows:

Qualifications Appraisal Interview
A qualifications appraisal interview examination consists only of an oral interview. Predetermined questions with suggested responses areused and candidates are rated competitively against each other.

Written Test
A written test is timed and consists of multiple-choice and/or essay questions that address the knowledge and abilities identified for the classification. The written test may be only one partof the overall examination.

Promotional Readiness Examination (PRE)
PRE examination is designed for current state employees and usually include one or more of the following exam components: completion of a self-assessment report by the candidate; a written evaluation from his/her immediate supervisor and a reviewing (second-level) supervisor; a structured interview (i.e. interview with a written exercise); an oral examination interview in which candidates are asked to answer predetermined questions.

Performance Examination
A performance examination is a work-sample test. The candidate is required to demonstrate specific skills by performing actual segments of work, using tools, materials, equipment, and methods characteristic of the job for which the examination is designed.

Education and Experience Examination (E&E)
An education and experience examination consists solely of a rating of a candidate's education and experience as presented on the application submitted. The assessment is made based on a set of predetermined rating criteria. This type of examination is used for very small candidate groups subject to administrative requirements. The resulting list is limited to three passing ranks. All candidates who meet the requirements for admittance to the examination will be ranked in one of the three ranks.

Supplemental Application
The supplemental application is designed to elicit a range of specific information regarding each candidate's knowledge, abilities, and potential to effectively perform the functions of the classification being tested. It is an assessment tool that can be used solely to score and rank candidates or it can be only one part of the overall examination.


How to Apply for an Examination

To apply for an examination with the State of California, you must complete a state application form (STD. 678). The STD. 678 form is available in all departmental personnel offices, at the State Personnel Board, and at the Employment Development Department offices.

Your first contact with a department will probably come with the submission of an application, which will, after departmental review:

  1. Indicate whether or not you meet the minimum education and experience requirements for the examination.
  2. Serve as your introduction to those who will be interviewing or rating you later in the examination process.

It is important that you take time to complete your application. Make sure that it is correct and that it can be clearly read (if possible, have it typed). Completion of the application is, after all, part of the examination process. Please read the entire bulletin as each examination contains specific requirements, responsibilities and information pertaining to the examination. Your completeness in filling out the application demonstrates your ability to follow instructions carefully and accurately.

Before you submit the application, review it for accuracy, spelling, neatness, and legibility. Make a copy for review prior to your interview. The interview panel will have the original and may ask you for a brief summary or clarification of your education and/or experience.

Filing Your State Application
Submit your application by the final filing date to the testing department indicated on the examination bulletin. Applications postmarked or personally delivered after the final filing date will not be accepted.

If the examination bulletin indicates that applications must be received by "5:00 pm, close of business" on the filing date, you must make sure that your application is received by the department by 5:00 pm on that day. Applications postmarked by the final filing date but not received by 5:00 pm, close of business, on the specified day will not be accepted.

If the bulletin indicates that you must "file-in-person" for the examination, you must personally deliver your application to the location listed on the bulletin on the filing day and during the specified hours given. Applications mailed to the office for a "file-in-person" examination will not be accepted.


Application Review

Once your application is received, it will be reviewed to determine whether you meet the requirements for admittance to the examination. The requirements are commonly referred to as "minimum qualifications" (MQs) for the classification.

If you meet the MQs, you will receive a notice in the mail indicating that you are admitted to the examination and will be given information about the next phase of the examination (written test, performance test, oral interview, etc.). This process usually takes four to six weeks after the final filing date has passed.

If you do not meet the MQs, you will receive a notice in the mail informing you of the reason for that determination. You will then be allowed seven working days from the notice postmarked date to provide any additional information that you feel may qualify you for the examination. It is possible that the information on your application was not clearly stated, was misinterpreted, or was inadvertently left out.

If, after you have provided additional information, you are still not admitted to the examination and you feel that you meet the MQs, you have the right to file an appeal with the State Personnel Board. For more information, see "Examination Appeal Process".


Preparing for and Taking the Written Test

Some examinations may require you to pass a written test as one part of the examination components. Your primary information resource for preparing for the written test is the examination bulletin. All examination questions are developed from the knowledge, skills, and abilities stated under the Written Test Scope on the examination bulletin.

Prepare Ahead Of Time!

Research and be sure you understand the duties, functions, and responsibilities of the classification being tested. Read the Written Test Scope portion of the examination bulletin and determine areas you need to review.

Do not procrastinate. Begin review and study immediately upon filing. Do not wait until one or two days before the examination is given.

The Day Of The Written Test

Dress accordingly. Dress comfortably and try not to be distracted by environmental factors such as poor heating or air conditioning. You may want to take with you a jacket or sweater or layer your clothing.

Wear a watch. Most examinations are timed. If you do not have a watch, station yourself so you can see the wall clock.

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the test location. Arrive early, and be well rested. Allow enough time for locating the test site, parking, unexpected delays, or heavy traffic.

Maintain a positive mental outlook. Keep a positive attitude toward the test. You and your feelings about tests have a great deal to do with how you perform on a test. Try to keep calm, cool, and collected. Listen to all instructions carefully. If you are unsure of any instruction, do not hesitate to ask questions.

During The Written Test

Read carefully, work quickly, and follow instructions. Do not assume you know what is wanted. Read instructions and each question carefully.

Look for key words. Sometimes there are key words that will help you pick the correct answer. Some of these key words are: best, common, usually, more, most, first, greatest, less, and some. Beware of absolutes: all, always, never, no, every, must, completely, entirely, absolutely, under all circumstances, at all times, and under no condition (these key words usually indicate a "No" answer).

Pace yourself. Most written tests are scored according to the number of correct answers. If you are having trouble answering a question, leave it until you have finished the test. Then go back to address the troublesome question(s).

Don't be afraid to guess. There is no penalty for guessing. If you're not sure of the correct answer, first eliminate the choices you know are wrong. If you don't answer a question, you will not get credit for it. If you guess correctly, you will get credit.

Avoid changing your answers. Your first impression is usually correct.

Finish the test. If you are finished and time is available, do not stop. Review your paper and make sure you have answered all the questions.


Completing the Promotional Readiness Examination Report (PRE)

As part of the promotional examination process, you may be required to complete a Promotional Readiness Examination (PRE) Report. This is an employee evaluation which assesses your potential, based on past performance and experience, to successfully perform in the classification being tested.

The PRE Report is prepared by you, usually rated by your immediate supervisor, and reviewed by the second-level supervisor. When required in the examination process, completion of this report is mandatory. Failure to complete this report within the indicated time frames will result in your elimination from the examination.

The PRE report asks questions relevant to your knowledge and ability for the classification as listed on the examination bulletin. This is your opportunity to bring up any experiences or knowledge which may have been gained throughout the years, and also to show your ability to express yourself in writing.

Once your application has been accepted, the examination staff will send you the PRE package. It will include a cover letter which contains: 1) instructions for preparing the PRE Report, 2) competitor's responsibilities, 3) supervisor's responsibilities, 4) the deadline for submitting the PRE and 5) an examination schedule. Read the cover letter carefully as it contains information that will assist you in competing successfully in the examination.

Before you begin working on your self-assessment, you should obtain a copy of the classification specification and the examination bulletin. These documents will identify the most important requirements for the classification. Compare your experience and education as they apply to the scope of duties for the classification being tested.

Remember to give specific examples of your achievements when responding to the questions contained in the PRE report. Do not list your typical job duties with the assumption that the oral interview panel will be able to identify how these duties relate to the question being asked. Your responses should be well thought out, should directly address the questions being asked, and should be checked for correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Try to present your qualifications in a manner that relates your important achievements to the scope of knowledge and abilities required for the new classification. In this way you are focusing your experience, ability, and education on those areas considered to be important to the class.

Be prepared to answer approximately five to seven questions, at least one of which may be of a technical nature. If the examination is for a supervisory classification, be prepared to demonstrate your supervisory skills and/or your knowledge of the Equal Employment Opportunity Program. Some general topics which you may be required to address, plus examples of job experience/knowledge which may be used in formulating appropriate answers, are listed below. These examples are intended only to stimulate thinking of your own experiences and training as they relate to the requirements of the classification for which you are testing.

Communication Skills

Examples ofexperience in verbal communication skills are:

Telephone duties
Conducting/participating in staff meetings
Conducting training programs/presentations
Membership in Toastmaster/Toastmistress clubs

Examples of experience in written communication skills include preparation of:

Employee evaluations
Reports for management
Training materials
Work procedures manual

Analytical and Interpretive Ability

Examples of analyzing and interpreting written or numerical data include:

Reviewing statistics to set production standards
Interpreting work procedures, rules and policies
Analyzing data on documents
Drafting/preparing budgets
Planning (long-range/short-range)
Staffing/hiring projections

Work Habits

Examples of good work habits include:

Ability to organize/carry out assignments
Dependability, e.g., good attendance and punctuality
Ability to work independently
Completing an exceptionally difficult assignment
Training and developing employees

After you have completed your PRE report, you must forward your report to your Rating Supervisor. Usually your present supervisor is designated as the Rating Supervisor. The Rating Supervisor will be asked to comment on the examples you have provided, and will identify any strengths or weaknesses related to each factor. The Rating Supervisor will also comment and rate you on each critical factor and provide an overall assessment of your readiness for promotion.

Your report will also be reviewed by a second-level supervisor or manager who will concur or disagree with, and comment upon, the evaluation made by your immediate supervisor. After the second-level review has been completed, your Rating Supervisor will discuss the report with you and have you sign it. You will be provided a copy of the report for your records, and the original will be forwarded to the examination staff.

If you disagree with the comments or ratings of your Rating Supervisor and/or second-level reviewer, you should request time to discuss the report or the disagreement in person or by telephone with the appropriate rater/reviewer. If the disagreement cannot be resolved prior to the interview, you may prepare a written rebuttal which should be attached to the report. If this is not possible, you may give your rebuttal statement to the interview panel on the day of the interview. Be prepared to discuss this statement with the oral interview panel.

Although the PRE report itself carries a portion of the weight, it is used in the interview process to provide the interview panel members with information relative to how your job performance and experience meet the critical job-related factors of the promotional class. All PRE reports are read by each interview panel member and taken into consideration when the final examination scores are assigned.

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