Illinois Civil Service Exams WTF
September 19, 2008 4:25 PM   Subscribe

Do you know anything about the Illinois Civil Service exams for library jobs, or about civil service exams in general?

I'm taking the civil service exam for a library assistant in Illinois in a few weeks and have never had to take a test where I had no idea what would be asked. They offer no information about the test except that there are 64 multiple choice questions, you get two hours, and I can bring my resume, transcript, course listings, and any certificates (for reference purposes) and a calculator if I want.

I imagine that someone out there in metafilter has taken this test or a similar test before. What kinds of questions do they ask? Are they library-related or not? Is there anything you recommend I study before I go in or is it pointless to study for a civil service exam of any kind? I really want to do well. I know that I can take the test again but I am running out of time and need to do well the first time around if possible.

Any details would be helpful, even basic ones like, "the test is taken on a computer" or "it's a scantron" or "it takes two months to get your results" I am nervous and more information always helps me do better in these situations.

I am posting as anonymous because I don't want people to know I am taking the test. You can e-mail me at
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I took a civil service exam a few years ago for a financial analyst position for the city of Torrance, California. I assume there will be some similarities with what I went through, and your curiosity sounds much like mine; I had no idea what a civil service exam would be like. Torrance is not Illinois, but I can't imagine it'll be a completely different experience.

When I went, there were many other people taking the test (probably about 50). These people were all prescreened (as in, our resumes and applications had all been reviewed). The test was delivered via scantron in a large room (bubble the correct answer with a number 2 pencil). It was a timed test that was apparently designed to test our understanding of basic math and grammar (I don't remember it going into too much detail in terms of finance). There were multiple questions. For the multiple choice, there were questions like,

"Which of the following questions is most correct?
a) Me and Bob and Marsha drank ourselves into a drunken stupor and beat up Billy.
b) Bob, Marsha, and I drank ourselves into a stupor and beat up Billy.
c) Billy in a drunken stupor was beat up by Bob, Marsha, and myself.
d) In a beaten drunk, Billy was myself beat up by Bob and Marsha."

I can't remember any of the math questions.

I think there was a written answer section (like short essay). There were a few questions like,

"You have a lot of work to do. You have many emails in your inbox, three people waiting to meet with you, you have a phone call on hold, you have to check your voicemail, and your boss has just given you a project that he says is your main priority. In what order do you do these?"

There was also an essay portion. They took us downstairs (in small groups) to a computer lab. Each person got a computer and a sheet of paper with the essay prompt on it. We were supposed to read the prompt, write an essay in Microsoft Word, save the essay to a floppy disk (yes, this was part of the test), and take it to the proctor.

Anyway, I'd say about a month later I got a letter with my score (I don't remember what it was) and an invitation to attend a panel interview. I got a letter that explained that all the candidates were ranked and they'd invite us in for one-on-one interviews. Apparently, the city of Torrance had formed an applicant pool for financial analysts. There was not one particular opening, but they had the pool for when openings became available.

It was pretty time consuming, and I thought the city's overall attitude was pretty demanding. Their tests and interviews were in the middle of a week day usually, and you might get the letter only a week beforehand. There was no rescheduling if you couldn't make their interview. I thought it was pretty strange.

I remember finding a few books in the library about civil service exams. You might want to take a look. They were mostly unhelpful, but what have you got to lose?
posted by rybreadmed at 12:31 AM on September 20, 2008

I have taken a lot of civil service jobs.

I am actually a network admin at a library now. ITs in NY though.

Each county in your state will be diff also each state is diff.

First i recommend going to your local library they have the books about each test.

MY civil service tests had all computer questions on them . No essays required.

So unless somebody here has taken the test in your county our advice wont help much.

In suffolk county on long island it takes 3 months to get the results.

For a civil service job in any state its worth going through to get the job . Just for the civil service benifits alone.
posted by majortom1981 at 6:51 AM on September 20, 2008

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