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What you need to know about the Postal Service Exam
Prior to April 2019, securing a job with the United States Postal Service (USPS) required passing one test (Postal Service Exam 473), no matter which job you were seeking. Now, the test you must take depends on the type of USPS job you want, and there are four different tests: 474, 475, 476, and 477. Exam number 473 is no longer used.
You will not know with certainty which test you will need to take until you actually apply for a job, but you can probably make an educated guess based on the various jobs we’ve listed by each test in the table below. This is important for preparation purposes since, when you complete and submit your application, the email reply could come any time. If it is a positive response, you’ll only have 72 hours to complete the test required.
How to find your test: In the table below, look for the description in the “For These Jobs” column that most closely matches the job for which you want to apply. Your test will probably be the one described in that row. Note that tests 475 and 476 list the same sections and are virtually the same test. However, the rating for your answers in the first three sections may differ between tests. Also, the questions may be worded in a slightly different way.
|Post Office Test
|Also Known As
A current goal of the USPS is to improve the customer experience. This explains the shift of focus in skills tested on the new tests. There are only two sections for which some study and practice questions would be helpful: Check for Errors (a section on two tests) and Work Your Register (on one test). The other three sections, which are included in all four tests (247, 275, 276, and 277), are totally subjective in that you’ll answer according to your unique personality, and there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. These three sections are named Work Scenarios, Tell Us Your Story, and Describe Your Approach.
There is very little typical skill assessment and much more evaluation of personal skills, such as dealing with people and problem-solving in various situations. It will be helpful to know the types of questions on these new tests and how they are structured, because the format is a little unusual. But specifically studying any particular vocabulary or fact list or practicing skills is probably not very effective.
Answers to all your questions about the Postal Service Exam
Table of Contents
What are the costs?
There is no charge to take any of the USPS tests. You will need access to the Internet and your own email address to begin the application process, which will allow you to access the tests.
What should I bring?
When you have received the invitation to test, which will include a link to access the test, you must complete the test within 72 hours.
From your practice experience, you will know what materials (pencil, paper for scratch work, etc.) will be helpful to you and you are free to use any of these.
You should have a copy of any work history information you have provided to the Postal Service with you during testing so you can be sure your responses to any questions in the Tell Us Your Story section are consistent with that.
For the test section Working Your Register, which is in test 477 only, you are allowed to use a calculator, but doing that does not seem to be much help and may slow you down.
The most important thing is to plan your testing in a quiet space and allow plenty of time to do your best, with no interruptions.
How is it scored?
The highest possible score you can get on one of these tests is 100, and you’ll need to score at least 70 to pass. You can find out your score immediately upon completion of your exam by accessing your candidate profile on the USPS website. If you do not pass, you will receive an email stating “ineligible.” This means that you will not be considered for the position in question.
The tricky part of scoring this test is that there may not be a “correct” answer for the questions in three sections: Work Scenarios, Tell Us Your Story, and Describe Your Approach. First, the questions in these sections are about what you would do in a particular situation. Since individuals are unique, answers will vary and are supposed to reflect your typical behavior and personality. And, secondly, the questions within the same section may be slightly different, depending on which job category you are testing for. The best answer to the same question may also vary, depending on which test you take. Yes, this is all very complicated, but the idea is to find people who are best for specific jobs.
What kind of job can I get?
According to the USPS website, you will find diversity and benefits working for the post office. They list benefits such as life and health insurances, vacation and sick leaves, savings and retirement plans, and possible educational assistance. The site also mentions the likelihood of advancement opportunities within the company.
There is also great variety in the types of jobs offered by the Postal Service. Some require a lot of movement (carriers, drivers, etc.), while others are more sedentary, such as counter clerks. Here is a list of the USPS job categories:
- Auto Mechanic
- Finance/Accounting/Supply Management
- Human Resources
- Mail Handler
- Motor Vehicle/Tractor Trailer Operator
- Rural Carrier
- Technical/Information Technology
Am I eligible?
To work for the post office, you must satisfy these basic requirements:
- Be 18 years of age at the time of employment or be 16 years of age and have a high school diploma.
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or be a citizen of American Samoa or another territory of the U.S.
- Provide recent history of your employment.
- Be able to pass a medical assessment, drug screening, and a criminal background check. More information on the background check is available from the USPS.
- Have a safe driving record (for USPS jobs that require driving).
- Be registered with the Selective Service if that applies to you.
Why does it matter?
You have to score at least 70% on the USPS test you take to even qualify for employment, but higher scores receive more consideration, so do your very best. There will be a specific number of applicants chosen to test and/or interview for each position posted. Higher scoring applicants will probably get first preference. Also, if you do not pass a test the first time, you may not take that test again for 1 year. You may, however, take a different one of the four tests, but that means applying for a different position that may not be your first choice.
What salary can I expect?
The U.S. Postal Service employs the second largest number of people in the United States. They are willing to match skills for military applicants and offer a wide variety of position types—from customer service to truck driving. The average yearly salary for a post office worker is over $58,000.
When is it available?
To take a Postal Service exam, you must first apply for a job listed by the USPS. Here is the basic process:
- Go to the USPS careers page.
- Create an account.
- You will be guided to complete a Candidate Profile. This info will be automatically filled in each time you fill out an application for a USPS job.
- Go to this USPS Search and Apply page next.
- Your application will be reviewed and the USPS will contact you by email if you have been chosen to take an assessment (test) or have an interview.
- If you are invited to take a test, you will receive a testing link in this email, and you will have 72 hours (3 days) to complete the test after you receive the email. If you do not complete the test during this time, you will not be considered for the job.
What are some Tips & Tricks
We have organized our test prep into the five sections that appear on the Postal Service tests. To prepare using our materials, find your test on the chart on this page and use our study guide (and practice questions and flashcards, if available) for each of the sections listed in the far right column for that test. Remember that there are three sections for which practice is not possible, so we do not have practice questions and flashcards for those.
A word about trying to skew your answers in the three subjective test sections (Work Scenarios, Tell Us Your Story, and Describe Your Approach) to what you think the assessors want—don’t do it, for two very good reasons:
- You may end up with a job for which you are not a good fit, which can lead to misery.
- There are features built into the test that will probably catch you doing this and exact a substantial penalty in terms of your score.
Instead, answer each question honestly and according to what action you would probably, actually take, or not take, in the given situation.
As for the other two sections, there are absolutely correct answers to the questions in the Check for Errors and Work Your Register sections, which involve matching two sets of numbers and making change, respectively.
Before beginning the test, be sure you know which sections permit you to go back to a previous question to review or edit your answers. This is the information we have about that:
You may not go back at all, even to the previous question in these sections:
- Work Scenarios (Situations), Check for Errors, and Work Your Register
You may go back only one question in these sections:
- Tell Us Your Story and Describe Your Approach
How much time is allowed?
It appears that it should take you approximately 45 minutes to complete one of the VEA tests, including all three or four sections. We can find no evidence of a time limit on any of the tests or test sections other than the fact that you will only have 72 hours (3 days) to complete any one of the four tests: 474, 475, 476, or 477. It may be important to note that the instructions for two of the sections (Check for Errors and Work Your Register) highly encourage you to work quickly. This could mean that your score could be increased with greater speed in completion of these sections.
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