FBI Phase I Testing – An Insider’s View

I’m writing this because there are a lot of things I wish someone would had told me before I went through the test.  Nothing of huge import, but it would have saved me some worry and discomfort.  These things are listed in approximate chronological order, and told from the perspective of the New York field office.

1. Nab a spot on the south wall of the entry way.

The Weiss Federal Building’s main doorway is at Duane Street and Broadway, a few blocks from City Hall.  Being good test takers, for our 7:30am test there were a couple hundred of us gathered in the rain outside the building before 7am.  But no announcement was made to us until 7:36am.  This was on Saturday, and apparently Saturday testing is a new thing for the Bureau, so maybe they haven’t worked all the logistical kinks out yet.  But it was still annoying.

In any case, when a guard did finally say they were going to start letting people in, he told us to form a line on the south wall of the reverse-L-shaped roofed entryway, and to continue the line around the corner down Broadway.  Those of us who had more or less randomly picked a waiting spot on the north side of the entryway had to get into line about a half a block away from the doors.  And of course it happened to be raining, which brings me to my next tip:

2.  Bring an umbrella

Those of us back in the line away from the roofed entryway stood in the rain almost half an hour before we made it inside the building.  A couple of us had umbrellas that we shared as best we could, but a lot of people’s nice “professional dress” got soaked, and I’m sure they loved sitting at a desk for four hours in heavy A/C with wet clothes.  Most are probably dead now from pneumonia (more badges for me!).

3. Bring hydration

I’m repeating this from the invitation letter, but it’s actually very good advice that many people might overlook.  The testing facilities are not posh and the bathrooms require keycode access from a Special Agent, so drinking out of the faucet whenever you want isn’t really an option.  Bring water, or Diet Snapple drink mix like me.

4. Bring a snack

Not a meal, not junk food, but something, a Powerbar, something with carbs and protein, because you’re going to need something to help you power through the end of the test.  The guy next to be had serious growling stomach problems, and he was probably distracted and very embarrassed.  Especially when I shrieked in laughter and stood on the table, pointing a crooked derisive finger.

5. Dress in layers

Special Agent Kearns recommended us gentlemen remove our suit coats because of how hot the room would get, but I was fricking freezing without it.  Perhaps the A/C was on overload, or perhaps I’m a little schoolgirl.  In any case, don’t forget about your personal temperature and how it affects your performance.

6. Don’t do drugs

They hammered home to us at multiple points during the day how if you don’t fall within FBI drug policy, it’s so much cheaper and easier for everyone if you excuse yourself from the application process until the statute of limitations has passed.  If memory serves, the policy is no habitual marijuana use or any hard drug use of any kind (including prescription drugs not prescribed for you) during the past ten years, starting from the date of application. 

What happens is that in addition to asking every single person you’ve ever known about drugs, you’re going to take a polygraph test at the end of Phase II that you’re not going to beat.  If you flunk that polygraph (which is about all kinds of things including drugs), not only will you NEVER work for the FBI EVER, you will NEVER work for any governmental agency, EVER.  All because you weren’t truthful and claimed that it’d been eleven years since you did cocaine when it’d actually been 9 years.  Just wait another fucking year and apply when you’re within policy, junky!

7. Read the practice test

I signed an NDA on the actual content of the tests, but I do recommend you look very hard at the practice questions for Situational Judgment and Logical Judgment.  It’s actually very useful.

8. Plan for more than five hours

The invitation letter says five hours, but it was more than six hours after the stated starting time before I left the building.

9. Don’t get stressed about the Physical Fitness Self-Test

You are required to submit your current fitness level in terms of sit-ups, push-ups, 300 meter sprint, and 1.5-mile run, and even though I knew that a passing score wasn’t required to take the Phase I test, I thought it would be one of those things where my failing score would be the exception and stand out like a sore thumb.  I even had nightmares of private interviews after the test where I would be expected to justify my poor performance and estimate how long it would take for me to get into shape.

None of this happened.  Most people didn’t look all that in-shape.  There was at least one obviously obese person.  SA Kearns explained that nothing gets sent to Headquarters without a passing PFT self-report, but that it’s quite common for people to need some time to obtain a passing score, and that all that happens is that the application process gets put on hold until you’re in shape.  There’s not even a time limit (except of course the 37-year age limit).

So don’t freak out about the PFT, just keeping working out.  The official PFT doesn’t happen for like four steps after Phase I, so there’s time.  It’s more important that you keep your head on straight; working out is self-defeating otherwise.


So that’s my POV from Saturday.  Anyone else there who’s done this who can add to this?

More importantly, any special agents out there that can reassure me that the job is worth all this fuss?

How To Spot Tourists in NYC – Lesson 1

Opening Scene of a Movie to be Written Later