Pre-selection tests - test information

Language comprehension test

The language comprehension test measures language skills in terms of vocabulary, grammar/syntax and style. Applicants will receive a text which may consist of up to 12 (longer) numbered paragraphs. Depending on the language version, the length of the text (characters including spaces) varies due to the translation. It can be a fictional text developed especially for this test, but also a scientific text, newspaper article, report or speech. Prior knowledge should not play a role in this test. Only the existing information in the text is relevant.

Experience has shown that a total of 12 multiple-choice questions take 25 minutes. Accordingly, a task must be solved in 125 seconds on average (≈ 2 minutes). Although the time factor is also an assessment aspect, the tests are designed in such a way that the applicants can in principle answer all questions within the given time. The general EPSO multiple-choice rules apply: One point may be awarded for each question, but no points will be deducted for incorrect answers.

These questions are identical with the one of the verbal reasoning test.The question usually is:

  • Which answer can most likely be derived from the text?

This is not a test about general knowledge. The questions in the verbal reasoning test are designed to test whether you can use logic to identify the most appropriate or most plausible answer. Only one of the given answers is correct.

The following analytical approaches may help you to decide whether (or not) the statements are consistent with the content of the text:

  • The principle of agreement
    You can put the concerned text passage alongside the answers. This allows you to check whether locations, quantities, definitions or terms are consistent.
  • Distinguishing between 'the general' and 'the specific'
    You will have to be particularly careful about certain phrases, especially between phrases which include the distinction between ‘the general’ and ‘the specific’. Do not be fooled into believing that a word which describes one unique occasion could describe a general situation or that a 'part' of something might stand for the 'whole' thing.
  • Sequence of events (chronology)
    Pay particular attention to a sequence of events. Questions are easily answered if you can identify and reduce the answer to units (events, locations, activities, etc.) that clearly relate to portions of the text and can then easily be verified or falsified using the principle of agreement.
  • Causal relationships (cause and effect)
    Causality means an assumed relation of two temporally close events: A leads to B. Thus, it means that there is an objective and the corresponding means to pursue it. In order to achieve B, the Commission does A. It is important to identify which is the cause and which is the effect. Does A follow B or does B follow A?

Here it is checked whether and how well the text, the concept or the objective was understood. Typical questions are:

  • "What does the author think about when he...?"
  • "Why does the author think that...?"
  • "What is the basic idea of the text?"
  • "What did xxx do to reach yyy?"

Grammatical knowledge is also checked. Grammar questions focus, for example, on personal or demonstrative pronouns that appear in the text:

  • "Who is meant by 'they' in paragraph 3" or
  • "What does the word 'this' in paragraph 5 refer to?"

Vocabulary questions are also used to ask about the meaning of idioms:

  • "What does the phrase "bit off" in paragraph six mean?"

They also ask for synonyms. If two or more words can be exchanged in a text without significantly changing the meaning, they have the same or similar meaning. However, the meaning of one word almost never completely coincides with the meaning of another word. A synonymy in the narrower sense, i.e. a real equality of meaning, is very rare. It occurs with foreign words, e.g. "transparent" is translated as "clear".

  • "What does the word 'Y' in paragraph X mean?"
  • "With what term/word could X be substituted?"

The questions can refer to a specific paragraph or several paragraphs or the whole text.