Types of Written Exercises

Inbox (In-Basket) Exercise

The items you will find in your inbox will be relevant to the level of role you have applied for. There will be a mix of items/ emails. Some may have attached information for you to digest and respond to. You may have a complaint or a request for information. You may have a note from a colleague or member of your team about a personal or sensitive issues which needs to be handled. You may have financial information to evaluate and comment on. You will need to work through the communications, providing your response and planned actions in relation to each.

An inbox exercise will involve you working your way through a lot of unfamiliar information, handling difficult questions and writing pages of responses – all to a tight deadline

How to improve your Inbox performance

  • After reading through all the information, plan your time. You will often have between one and two hours to complete all the tasks. Work out how long you will allocate to each, based on your understanding of what is required, and try to stick to it. Candidates often fail because they have written a very good answer to one or two tasks/ items, but run out of time before they have completed the rest.
  • Unlike multiple choice tests, inbox and other written exercises have more ‘shades of grey’ in the marking. You are given the opportunity to consider the relevant issues and create your responses, but these don’t have to fit exactly with a pre-determined answer. The only time this is not the case is where there are numerical calculations, which do need to be accurate. However, credit will be given for ‘working out’ of calculations, even if the final total is not correct.
  • It is important to provide explanations for decisions made, for example ‘I would do this, because…’ rather than just, ‘I would do this.’
  • Don’t defer actions until later- deal with the tasks directly. For instance, your response shouldn’t be; ‘I will schedule a meeting to discuss this with you’ or ‘I will speak to x, y, z and return to you with an answer’. If you feel either of these actions is the only appropriate way forward make sure you detail them e.g. what do you plan to discuss in the meeting and why? Why do you need to discuss the issue with others? What information do you plan to seek and how do you anticipate using it? These sorts of answers will give the assessors a lot more evidence of how you work.

Other types of written test

Case study/ Analysis/ Strategy Exercise
A case study or analysis exercise may present a single relevant situation or problem for you to evaluate and propose recommendations for. It may require you to suggest ways to roll out a new initiative, benefit from a new partnership arrangement, tackle a problem with limited resources for instance.

Another type of exercise is a more traditional essay. This is used infrequently in the FRS. You may be sent essay titles in advance to allow you to do some research and prepare to write the paper on your test day. Or you may not be given the topic until you are there. You may be sent some reading prior to the essay assessment e.g. a relevant FRS policy or project information for you to tie in. The essay may be technical or procedural in nature, which will test your specific FRS knowledge and experience.

Next Page: How can you pass a written exercise?

There are some simple strategies you can apply to help you perform more effectively in your written tests….