Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Douglas K. Watson
Once upon a time, for reasons that now escape me, I was looking up the Forest Service in the periodical guide to literature there at the university library and stumbled acrosyes, that's how it really happenethe Foreign Service. I looked into that and indeed decided to pursue a bachelor's degree in international relations with a concentration in international administration. I read a few books on the Foreign Service and I was aware how difficult the Foreign Service written exam was, and then the oral exam process. I took the written exam when I was 29 to give myself a couple of years to take it a second and/or third time, since in those days the entry age limit was 31. Lo and behold, I passed the written exam. I passed it with a very low score. I never told anyone that I had passed with a score of 72, thinking that everyone else probably scored 90 or so. Of course, over time, I learned that that was not the case. As a matter of fact, one of the more interesting things I did in 1977 when I was in personnel work in the Department, consisted of a study of written exam scores as these relate to “success” in the Foreign Service. So, I looked at all Foreign Service officers who had entered through the exam process and who were “worldwide available”that is, Tenure Code #1. I looked at all officers who had entered since 1945 up to and including all those who had been in the Foreign Service at least 10 years at the time of the study, taking a look at their written exam score as it related to “success”that is, promotion up over time in the Foreign Service. I undertook the study in part because of our concern for affirmative action, both the mid-level program and also the entry level affirmative action programs. I believed from my experience that success in the Foreign Service didn't necessarily reside simply in how “smart” you were, how well you did in the written exam. There were many other skills involved, some of which were very difficult to measure as a part of an entry exam process. Anyway, in looking at the overall written exam study population, I divided that population into three groups: an average moving group (that is, an average rate of promotion up over time), a slower moving group, and a faster moving group. I can't remember the numbers of individuals in each group, but each of the three groups numbered in the several hundreds. I found that the slower moving group scored an average of 75.1 on the written exam, the average group scored 76.1, and the fast group scored 76.5. Statistically the written exam score alone was not a predictor of “success,” faster upward progress, in the Foreign Service.