Statistically speaking, most of you taking the Philippine FSO or Foreign Service Officer Exam will fail.

Yup, that’s the hard truth. My guesstimate is 1-3% of all takers pass the entire exam process.

In fact, most of you will be chopped away at the very first stage of the exam.

Don’t shoot the messenger just because you hate the message.

But yeah, there are strategies you can use to help prepare for the exam.

I cover the basics of what the exam is and some ways tp help prepare for it in this ├╝ber popular article: The Philippine FSO Exam and Five Golden Tips to Help Pass It.

But even after reading this, most of you will fail.

You heard me me right.

If you were wondering How to Become a Philippine Diplomat, for the large part, you’ve got to take the FSO Exam and pass it.

Passing it means afterwards you’ll be working for the DFA (read: Understanding the Department of Foreign Affairs) as a diplomat.

But if only you could pass it.

Hey, being a diplomat is not for everybody.

Just like being a fireman is not for everybody.

Or being a bodybuilder. Or a dentist.

Or even being a zookeeper is not for everybody.

But, if you do fail?

My advice.

Take it again.

Was it the Marlboro man who said “fall off your horse seven times, get back on eight”?

Could have been.

So why am I being nasty and all?

Because, it’s a hard exam, and you’ve really got to prepare for it, or at least go through a lot for it.

If you think the FSO Exam is something you can waltz through, you’re wrong.

Be tough and tenacious.

Be prepared to fail miserably and take the exam as many times as needed.

But say…

What happens if you do pass the Philippine FSO Exam?

Ohhh… interesting.

It’s a possibility.

If you can just play all your cards right, and fight through it.


Let’s say you really do pass it.

Let’s say you took the last part, the Oral Exam.

You’ve waited for months.

Until you got tired of waiting.

You kind of forgot about it.

But it was always buzzing at the back of your mind.

Then one day, your friend sends you a message.

“The results are out!”

You’ll also get notified in the mail (not sure if they still do this, but maybe they do it by email now?), but before that, you’ll probably hear through your friends that the results are posted.

If you don’t have any friends that took the exam, you’ll just have to check with DFA’s BFSE or Board of Foreign Service Exam every so often, maybe every couple weeks or so during the time it’s expected.

You get my drift. No need to send them emails or call them everyday.

So, you’ll quickly log on the DFA website where they make their announcements.

Of course, you have to see your name with your own eyes to believe it.

And when you check… and you will see.

Your name in full.

There it is, listed among the twenty or so passers that year (the batches have been getting bigger lately).

A passer of the DFA FSO Exam.

You’ll read your name over and over again.

And it will be sweet.

It will be glorious.

Now… what happens?

What happens after you pass the Philippine FSO Exam?

Well, now the adventure begins.

It’s a civil service job (but Civil Service Exam/Eligibility is not required), so you’ll have to pass your employment papers.

Just comply with the requirements, and wait to be called for your first day at work.

There are those who choose to defer.

That means after passing, you’ll defer joining the Foreign Service for a year or so, say you still have some contractual commitments.

This again will depend on the Department if they’ll allow you to, but as long as your reason is reasonable, you will probably be allowed.

But say, you’re already free to start working.

You might be sent straight to one of the DFA offices to get your feet wet.

But typically, you’ll start with your cadetship.

Your cadetship will determine what batch you are.

Though someone might be same “exam batch” among DFA officers, your cadetship batch is your truest batch.

The cadetship is where you’ll develop esprit de corps and camaraderie with your batch.

Treasure your batchmates, they’ll be the people you’ll be relying on.

I won’t spoil it, but just say, the cadetship levels the playing field among the batch.

It’s perhaps one of the best educational courses one can get in the Philippines.

It usually last for almost a year. It’s a grueling course that combines both the theoretical and practical skills you need to be a diplomat or Foreign Service Officer.

It’s for diplomats in training only (you, if you pass), and it’s not open to anyone else.

The FSO cadetship is awesome. Super awesome.

I won’t spoil it for you.

So let’s continue.

As an FSO passer, you now have a “permanent item” (a position that is funded) in the Philippine Government as a Foreign Service Officer Class IV.

For short that’s “FSO IV” or “FSO 4,”

That’s the rank you’ll start out with.

You’re going to get a salary equivalent to SG-24 or Salary Grade 24.

If you do your job well, you’ll probably get promoted, after at least 3 years, to Foreign Service Officer III, then after three or more years to FSO II, etc.

But it’s way too early to think about that.

But if you wanna know more about this, check out the Philippine Foreign Service Act of 1991 to learn all about it and more.

So there’s a Republic Act that regulates all of this.

Anyway, after your cadetship, you’ll be assigned to one of the office of the DFA. Yup, there’s that alphabet soup I talked about in Understanding the DFA that will be so confusing to at first, but you’ll get so used to in a year or two.

Is it OSEC, OUA, OCA or OUMWA? So many possibilities.

At this point, you’re already a diplomat so you’ll be entitled to a diplomatic passport, during official trips and assignments (read: what are the advantages of using a diplomatic and official passport?).

Where will you be assigned?

The answer to that question is always, “Wherever you are needed most.”

After your cadetship, and you reach your office, you’ll typically be assigned as a Principal Assistant.

In some offices which lack officers, after some time learning the ropes, the Department might assign you to be an Acting Director of a division.

(It’s Acting Director since you have to be at least FSO I to be a Director.)

(Updated: 19/10/2021, mistake on my end, you have to be FSO I not FSO II to be a fully-fledged director, and also fixed up some other minor stuff)

Then after three years or more, you might be assigned abroad.

To where will you be assigned?

This is the favorite conversation topic of all FSO hopefuls.

Will it be New York? Riyadh? Abuja?

You will have an opportunity to express you preferences.

But the correct answer for this is or should be “Wherever you are needed most.”

Then, you could live there at “Post,” meaning you’ll be stationed there to work at one of our FSPs or Foreign Service Posts.

“FSPs”? What’s that? That’s one of the Philippine embassies, consulates or mission (read: what’s the difference between embassy and consulate.

What will you be at Post? As an FSO IV, you’ll be designated as “Third Secretary and Vice Consul,” if you’re assigned at an embassy. If you’ll be assigned at a consulate, you’ll be assigned as Vice Consul. If you’re assigned at a Philippine mission, you’ll be assigned only as Third Secretary.

And as you get promoted you get to carry higher designations (for example, once you get to FSO II and you’re assigned at an embassy, you’ll be “Second Secretary and Consul”). All of this is explained in the Philippine Foreign Service Act of 1991, in case you’re curious.

You can stay at Post typically for 6 years. In some cases, you could get cross-Posted to another Post/FSP after typically three years (sometimes 2 years, sometimes a little over 3 years).

Sounds like a long time?

You can bring your dependents, meaning your kids and spouse, of course, if you have any.

(Update 19/10/2021: added this tidbit –> You can also bring your parents or even parents-in-law as dependents to your posting, if the host government allows it, meaning the government of the country where you will be assigned, and there’s a list of people who the Department can consider your dependents. It’s all subject to approval of course. Oh, you can bring private staff as well, like carers for your children, again subject to the rules of the host government and the Department.)

Of course, you will have vacation leaves, where you can choose to go back home or travel elsewhere, subject to the approval of the head of the FSP.

Then, after your six-year “posting,” you get assigned back to the Home Office, where you again stay some 3 years or so before your next foreign assignment.

It’s an adventure.

It’s going to be an experience of a lifetime.

But you have to start with that exam.

The Philippine FSO Exam.

You’ve got to pass it.



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