Civil Service Fast Stream: How to apply

Find out how to apply to the different Fast Stream schemes.

The Fast Stream application process includes both online and face-to-face exercises. They test your suitability for the Fast Stream, and reflect the type of work done by fast streamers and the skills they use.

You’ll be given a deadline to complete each step of your application. You’ll be told the date you will need to complete it by before you begin each step. The steps are:

  1. take the self-assessed reasoning tests (Generalist only)
  2. practice the online selection tests (optional)
  3. complete the online selection tests
  4. fill in the online application form (and choose options)
  5. attend an analytical assessment half-day event in London (only for Analytical Fast Stream schemes)
  6. complete the e-Tray exercise
  7. attend the 1-day Fast Stream Assessment Centre
  8. attend a final selection board (for some schemes)

You may be allowed an extension in exceptional circumstances. Contact the Fast Stream helpdesk on 01276 400 333 or send a message through the application service.

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

Before you start

Decide which Fast Stream schemes you want to apply for. Check the requirements for the schemes and also check that you’re eligible to apply.

You can try a practice verbal test, numerical test and situational judgement questionnaire before you register.

Next register your interest using the the online application service. After that you’ll have 7 days to complete stage 1 of the application process. You’ll then have a further 7 days to complete stage 2.

Each scheme you apply for will have a separate progress page on the online application service. This page will list all the steps you need to complete, along with deadlines for each step.

You’ll also have your own inbox and access to an information board. Check them regularly for messages and updates.

1. Take the self-assessed reasoning tests

If you’re applying for the Generalist Fast Stream you’ll do 2 self-assessed tests:

  • verbal reasoning (40 questions in 20 minutes)
  • numerical reasoning (18 questions in 22 minutes)

No one will see the results and they won’t count towards your application, however they give you feedback and are a good way for you to measure your performance.

2. Practice the online selection tests

The practice tests are a good way to see how well you might do in the online selection tests. No one will see the results and they won’t count towards your application.

The tests are:

  • verbal reasoning (32 questions in 16 minutes)
  • numerical reasoning (15 questions in 25 minutes)

3. Online selection tests

You’ll take up to 4 tests:

  • verbal reasoning (40 questions in 20 minutes)
  • numerical reasoning (20 questions in 25 minutes)
  • competency multiple choice questionnaire (allow 35 minutes)
  • situational judgement questionnaire (allow 30 minutes)

The competency questionnaire compares your behavioural style to the Civil Service competencies. It isn’t timed, but you should allow about 30 minutes.

The situational judgement questionnaire requires you to decide how best to approach a set of work-related scenarios. It tests your ability to weigh up information and make decisions. It isn’t timed, but you should allow about 25 minutes.

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

4. Online application form and choosing schemes

After the online tests you must complete an application form. For some schemes this form is scored and counts towards your application.

You’ll also need to complete an extra multiple choice test if you’ve applied for the Government Statistical Service Fast Stream.

If you’re choosing 2 of the 4 Generalist Fast Stream schemes, it’s important you understand the rules about how you can combine the schemes.

5. Analytical Fast Stream assessment

You’ll be invited to a half-day event in London if you’re applying for any of the Analytical Fast Stream programmes.

Your technical skills will be assessed at the event.

6. Online e-Tray exercise

If you pass the initial assessment, you’ll be invited to complete an online e-Tray exercise. This tests your ability to manage typical requests and tasks that arrive in the email inbox of a Fast Streamer.

The exercise takes around 2 hours 30 minutes in total. You can complete it at home, but make sure you’re in an environment where you’re able to concentrate and perform at your best.

The exercise has 3 parts:

  • reading and understanding background material
  • choosing the most and least appropriate responses to a series of emails
  • using the information you gained from the first 2 parts to write a response to a request for information

Use the practice e-Tray exercise to help you prepare. We won’t record or store your results.

Your e-Tray test will be assessed, and shortlisted candidates will be invited to a 1-day assessment at the Fast Stream Assessment Centre (FSAC) in London.

7. The Fast Stream Assessment Centre (FSAC)

The FSAC provides an opportunity to show that you have the skills and personal qualities needed to be a fast streamer.

At the 1-day assessment you’ll be asked to do exercises reflecting important aspects of being a fast streamer, including:

  • a group exercise
  • a written policy recommendation exercise
  • a leadership exercise
  • a strengths-based interview

The exercises will measure your skills, abilities and motivation against the Civil Service competencies.

The Fast Stream Assessment Centre guide (PDF, 1.26MB, 23 pages) describes the exercises and tells you what to expect. It also explains what will happen after your assessment.

8. Final Selection Board

You must go through a final selection process when applying for some Fast Stream schemes. You’ll be asked to attend a Final Selection Board if you pass the FSAC assessment and you’ve applied for one of these schemes:

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

The Final Selection Board will assess your broad capabilities and motivation to be part of the profession you’ve chosen. You’ll be sent detailed guidance before the assessment to explain what is involved.

Applicants with disabilities

The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accredited ‘Two Ticks’ employer. If you have a disability, you’re guaranteed:

  • the option to skip the online selection tests, which are the first stage of the assessment process
  • a chance to make reasonable adjustments so you can complete the assessment process

You’ll still need to complete the application form and competency questionnaire.

There’s more information in the Fast Stream equality and diversity policy.

After your assessment

You must pass security checks if you’re chosen for the Fast Stream. You can choose to defer your entry to get leadership experience with a partner organisation.

If you weren’t chosen for the Fast Stream, but were close, you may be considered for a non-Fast Stream job. You can complain if you believe your application was not handled correctly.

Security checks

You must pass security checks if your application is successful. The results of the checks will be passed to human resources and/or security staff in the department you will be working in.

You’ll need to show:

  • proof of your identity
  • evidence of where you were during the last 3 years, including any period of more than 6 months abroad

The Diplomatic Service and some other departments need a higher level of security checks. You may need to show you’ve lived in the UK for a certain length of time.

If you’re unable to provide the required information for a security check, there may be other ways to check your suitability for employment in the civil service.

However, you’ll lose your place on the Fast Stream if you’re able to provide the information but refuse to do so. You might also lose your place if you fail the security checks.

You might be committing a criminal offence if you knowingly provide false information. You could be dismissed if deliberate deception is discovered after your appointment.

Defer your Fast Stream entry

Once you’ve been accepted for a scheme, you can defer your entry to get leadership experience with one of the Fast Stream’s partner organisations.

If you don’t get a Fast Stream placement

The civil service can sometimes offer non-Fast Stream jobs to applicants who don’t get a place on a Fast Stream scheme. There’s no guarantee that any such jobs will be available.

If you’re a near-miss applicant your details will be kept until the December after you attend the Fast Stream Assessment Centre. You’ll be contacted if a job is available through this direct appointment scheme.

How to make a complaint

You can make a complaint if you believe that that your application has not been handled in accordance with the Civil Service Commissioners’ Recruitment Principles.