Civil Service Fast Stream: how to apply

Find out how to apply to the different Fast Stream schemes, and the entry requirements.


To apply you must first register a username and password and select your Fast Stream scheme preferences.

Each Fast Stream scheme you apply for will have a separate scheme progress page. You’ll be able to refer to these pages via your login. They’ll list all the steps you must complete and the deadlines.

You’ll also have your own message inbox. You should regularly check both the information board(s) for updates, and your inbox for messages.

The Application timeline (PDF, 542KB, 1 page) tells you how long each step in the Fast Stream application process takes.

Contact the Fast Stream helpdesk on 01276 400 333 or send a message via the candidate website if you genuinely need an extension for any stage.

Fast Stream schemes and timetable for applications

Fast Streams Opening date Closing date
Analytical Fast Streams
- Government Economic Service
- Government Operational Research
- Government Social Research Service
- Government Statistical Service
September 2015 September 2015
Commercial September 2015 November 2015
Finance September 2015 November 2015
Generalist Fast Streams
- Central Departments
- Diplomatic Service
- Houses of Parliament
- Science and Engineering
September 2015 November 2015
European Fast Stream September 2015 November 2015
Human Resources Fast Stream September 2015 November 2015
Government Communication Service Fast Stream September 2015 November 2015
Digital and Technology Fast Stream September 2015 November 2015
(New) Project Delivery September 2015 November 2015
Early Diversity Internship Programme October 2015 November 2015
Summer Diversity Internship Programme October 2015 November 2015

Entry requirements

The Civil Service Fast Stream is open to applicants who are:

  • European Economic Area (EEA) nationals, including British citizens
  • Commonwealth citizens
  • Swiss nationals
  • in some circumstances, Turkish nationals.

Eligibility requirements are explained in the Civil Service nationality rules.

You need to have achieved or be predicted to achieve at least a 2:2 degree in any subject to join most Fast Stream schemes. There is no age limit and it doesn’t matter how long ago you graduated, although we expect several years’ service before retirement. It’s your skills, attitude and outlook we’re really interested in and these are what we look for in our selection process. Read the Civil Service competency framework for more details.

Opportunities for British citizens only

Certain posts, notably those concerned with security and intelligence, might be reserved for British citizens.

You must be a British citizen to join the Diplomatic Service. You must have been resident in the UK for at least 2 of the previous 10 years immediately prior to your application, including at least 1 consecutive 12-month period.

The UK residency requirement doesn’t apply if you’ve:

  • served overseas with HM Forces
  • served in an official capacity as a representative of the UK government
  • lived overseas as a result of your parents’ or partner’s government employment.


The level of Fast Stream entry (known as Higher Executive Officer (Development)) is defined as National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Skill Level 4, which isn’t sponsorable.

Sponsorship as the prerequisite to employment in the UK isn’t available in the Generalist, European, Northern Ireland or Digital and Technology Fast Streams.

Sponsorship in other Fast Stream schemes is entirely at the discretion of the managers of those schemes, but isn’t common. Please bear this in mind, particularly if your right to live and work in the UK will expire before you would have completed the Fast Stream development programme.

Open access tests (practice tests)

We have some open access verbal and numerical test items for you to complete before you apply. You can get feedback on your responses.

These tests have been specially designed to give interested candidates similar tests to the ones you’ll get after you’ve registered for the Fast Stream:

Read guidance for candidates taking online selection tests (PDF, 178KB, 2 pages)

Application process

You have a specific number of days to complete the rest of your application after selecting the Fast Stream scheme or schemes you want to apply for. These steps describe the Fast Stream selection process.

Self-assessed reasoning tests

These tests are only for applicants to the Generalist and Northern Ireland Fast Streams.

The tests are:

  • verbal: 40 questions (20 minutes)
  • numerical: 18 questions (22 minutes)

Practise online selection tests

They’re a good way to assess how well you might do in the real thing. We do not see the results of these tests.We don’t see the results of these tests and they don’t count towards any of our selection stages.

The tests are:

  • verbal: 32 questions (16 minutes)
  • numeric: 15 questions (20 minutes)

Situational judgement questionnaire

The test is not timed. In this test you’ll be presented with 15 pages, each with a described scenario. Against each of these you will be asked to rate 4 potential courses of action to take in terms of how effective you believe each action to be.

You’ll not be deselected through the use of this test in 2015. You should complete the test to the best of your ability.

Online selection tests

The results of these tests will be used to decide if you will progress to the next stage of the selection process.

You’ll take 3 tests:

  • verbal reasoning: 40 questions (20 minutes)
  • numerical reasoning: 20 questions (25 minutes)
  • Fast Stream competency multiple choice questionnaire: not timed but allow 35 minutes

The competency questionnaire tests behaviours that relate to the competencies we look for.

Analytical fast stream assessment

You’ll be invited to a half-day event in London if you pass the online selection tests where your technical skills will be assessed.

The e-Tray exercise

The exercise tests your ability to handle a workload that is typical of the requests and tasks that arrive in the email inbox of a Fast Streamer. The test takes around 2-and-a-half hours and you can complete it at home. The exercise is divided into 3 parts and timed:

  1. Reading and comprehending background material.
  2. Identifying the most and least appropriate responses to a series of emails from a choice of options.
  3. Writing a response to a request for information, using the information you have acquired during stages 1 and 2.

You can use the practice e-Tray exercise to help you prepare. We don’t capture or store your results for the practice test.

Final assessment

Your e-Tray test is assessed, and shortlisted candidates are invited to a 1-day assessment at the Fast Stream Assessment Centre (FSAC) in London. The event consists of a written exercise, leadership exercise, group exercise and interview.

Read Fast Stream Assessment Centre guide (PDF, 4.58MB, 23 pages)

You’ll also go through a final selection process, or ‘sift’, if you’re applying for these Fast Stream options:

  • Diplomatic Service
  • Houses of Parliament
  • Science and Engineering
  • Digital and Technology
  • European
  • Government Communication Service

Guaranteed interview scheme: candidates with a disability

Applicants with a disability only need to meet the minimum qualifying criteria for their chosen scheme(s) and may opt to skip the first stage of the assessment process.

In most cases this means that you need to fill in an application form and complete the competency questionnaire, but you don’t need to do the online selection tests.

You’ll get the opportunity to indicate and discuss reasonable adjustments to allow you to complete the assessment process in time when you apply.

View our disability policy (PDF, 141KB, 4 pages) to see how we cater for disabled applicants.

Direct appointment scheme

Civil Service is occasionally able to offer mainstream jobs to candidates who narrowly miss securing a place in the Fast Stream. Details of such near-miss candidates are held on file for up to 1 year (until the December following their Fast Stream Assessment Centre).

We will try to match you to a mainstream post if one becomes available for which you appear to have the right background. In this case, we will contact you. There is no guarantee of any such offer, and demand varies considerably: in some years, no such posts are available.

Deferred entry

You can defer starting your Civil Service career by working with one of the Fast Stream’s partner organisations.

Security checks

We must carry out pre-appointment checks to make sure you’re eligible to join the Fast Stream and are suitable for employment as a civil servant.

For example, you’ll be asked to verify your identity and to provide evidence to account for your movements during the previous 3 years, including any period of more than 6 months abroad. We’ll give you more information about these and other necessary checks if your application is successful. The results of the checks will be passed to either or both human resources (HR) and security staff in your employing department.

If you’re able to provide the information required but decline to do so, you’ll automatically forfeit your place on the Fast Stream. You might be committing a criminal offence if you knowingly provide false information, and if deliberate deception comes to light after your appointment, you might be dismissed.

If there are reasons why it’s impossible for you to provide the required information, we’ll consider alternative ways of checking your suitability for employment in the Civil Service.

We can’t offer employment without these checks.

Security clearance

Some departments need to clear new Fast Stream participants to a level of security above the checks that we carry out initially.

A department might not be able to get you security clearance if you’ve spent a significant part of the last 5 years out of the UK. Your appointment might be withdrawn if security clearance is denied. We’ll consider each case individually with the department concerned.


The Civil Service values diversity in its workforce. Its equality and diversity policies are monitored.

How to complain

If you want to complain about the recruitment process, read the Civil Service Fast Stream: complaints procedure.