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The Definitive Practice Test Guide for the Postal Service Exam
- About the Postal Service Exam
- Sections of the Postal Service Exam
- What to Expect on Test Day
- Best Ways to Study for the Postal Service Exam
- Postal Service Exam Tips and Tricks
- Postal Service Exam FAQ:
About the Postal Service Exam
Taking the Postal Service Exam is required before securing any type of employment with the United States Postal Service (USPS). There are four tests available (#474, 475, 476, and 477) and the USPS will determine which one is most appropriate for the position you seek.
Which Test Will I Take?
Unfortunately, applicants cannot be absolutely certain of which test they will take until their test day; however, this is a general summary of job types and the test given for each:
MC (474) for Mail Carrier jobs
MH (475) for Mail Handler jobs
MP (476) for Mail Processing jobs
CS (477) for Customer Service Clerk jobs
Now, look at the following information for more specific information about each test.
What Sections Will Be Included in My Test?
The tests are designed to measure your competency in the various tasks you might encounter during your employment with USPS. Much of the exam is subjective and evaluates personal skills rather than knowledge, which means there is little you can do to prepare. Generally, the four exams cover work scenarios that may arise and customer experience skills. Two of the exams (#475 and 476) also include a section that tests your ability to spot errors, and one (#477) has a section on handling money and making change.
These are the sections included in each of the four tests:
- 474: Work Scenarios, Tell Us Your Story, Describe Your Approach
- 475: Work Scenarios, Tell Us Your Story, Describe Your Approach, Check for Errors
- 476: Work Scenarios, Tell Us Your Story, Describe Your Approach, Check for Errors
- 477: Work Situations, Tell Us Your Story, Describe Your Approach, Work Your Register
What About Cost, Scoring, and Retakes?
The exam is free to take, and applicants must get a score of 70 or more (out of 100) to be eligible for employment. If you do not achieve this score, you will simply receive an email stating that you are ineligible for the position. You can retake the test again in one year.
What Are the Requirements to Test?
Interested applicants must meet the following requirements to take the exam:
- Be 18 years old
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Provide an employment history
- Be able to pass a medical assessment, drug screening and criminal background check
- Have a safe driving record (if driving will be a part of your job duties)
- Register with Selective Services (if applicable)
Just How Does Testing Work?
When you have been selected to take the exam, you will receive an email with a link to the test. You will have 72 hours (3 days) to complete the test in its entirety. Extensions are not granted, so it is imperative that the test is completed within that time period, or you will be automatically deemed ineligible for your chosen position. So, be careful not to apply for a USPS job until you are ready to take the test.
Sections of the Postal Service Exam
Check for Errors
The Check for Errors section is only included in Postal Service Exams™ 475 and 476. It involves looking at a pair of eight-digit numbers and determining if they are exactly alike or different in any way. It doesn’t matter how many differences there are between the two numbers, so once you find one difference, you’ll know to select “Error” and not “Match” for your answer. On the actual test, there are twelve questions that should take you about 2 minutes to complete, but you are highly encouraged to work as quickly as possible. Our practice questions will be in a slightly different format than the ones on the actual test, but will still give you practice matching numbers. You can use our flashcards for this section to practice the actual “Match” or “Error” answering format used on the test.
Work Your Register
The Work Your Register section is only present on the Postal Service Exam 477 and only contains three questions. In each of the questions, you will be presented with a sample purchase total, the amount of money given to the clerk, and the total of the change needed. Your job will be to determine the coins and bills needed to produce the correct change using the least number of bills and coins, assuming you have a fully stocked register. (For the purpose of this test, “fully stocked register” means it includes all the usual US coins, plus bills in $1, $5, $10, and $20 denominations. There will be no $50 or $100 bills included.)
It is expected that completion of this section will take you about 2 minutes. While all sections of the test encourage you to work quickly, for this group of questions, the instructions indicate that speed might be to your advantage for scoring. While we cannot provide the exact testing experience with our practice questions (see our Work Your Register study guide and flashcards for more assistance), we can give you practice in the tested skill.
While it may be impossible to study for the Postal Service Exam aside from the Work Your Register and Check for Errors sections, it is still possible to prepare. By understanding what to expect and remembering some tips and tricks, you can ensure you are in a better position to be considered eligible for the position you seek.
What to Expect on Test Day
Unlike many other standardized tests, the Postal Service Exam is taken online, which means you can do your exam work wherever you feel most comfortable. You should plan to complete the work in a quiet location without any disruption so that you can focus. You will also want to allow plenty of time to complete each section. Although you have 72 hours to complete the exam in its entirety, it’s important to get started as soon as you receive access to it, rather than procrastinating until it is almost due.
What to Bring
You will need relatively few things while completing the exam. The most important elements are a computer that you can use to test and a stable internet connection. You may also find that in completing practice exams for preparation, you can identify any other materials you find necessary, such as scratch paper or extra pencils. You will also want a copy of your work history information. For the Tell Your Story section of the exam, you can reference your history to ensure your answers are consistent with the work history you provided the US Postal Service, which is very important. Some examinees may also find it helpful to bring a calculator for the Work Your Register section, although for others, this may slow them down.
What Not to Bring
In doing practice tests, you may find that the calculator is not as helpful as you anticipated. In this case, it’s best to not have it with you and rely on your own abilities instead. You will also want to leave your phone and any other disruptive electronics elsewhere so that you can better focus on the exam.
Best Ways to Study for the Postal Service Exam
Take Postal Service Exam Practice Tests
Since the Postal Service Exam doesn’t focus on accumulated knowledge, you may think that it is impossible to prepare, but taking practice exams can greatly help when it comes time to take the real test. You can gain familiarity with the types of questions you will see and their format.
Use Alternative Study Methods
In addition to practice exams, you can enhance your experience by using additional study materials, such as study guides, and questions/flashcards for certain sections. This will help you get an overall picture of the exam content, practice specific skills, and develop a plan for doing your best.
Simulate the Testing Experience
Gaining an understanding of the Postal Service Exam’s content, format, and questions is important, but it’s also crucial to understand how you will perform under testing conditions. This aspect is especially important if you have not taken an exam in some time. You can time yourself to get a feel for how long you will need to spend on each section. You can also spend a significant amount of time trying to get through most of the exam in one sitting; this exercise will help you understand how long you can spend with the material before you experience mental fatigue.
Postal Service Exam Tips and Tricks
Be honest in answering the questions on the Postal Service Exam. As some of the sections are subjectively reviewed, there may not necessarily be a right or wrong answer. However, answering honestly is important. Answers that are based upon what you think the exam reviewers would like to hear may lead to placement in a position that does not match your skills and experiences, or the test reviewers may catch on to your fabricated answers and assign a penalty for them.
Know Your Testing Style
Since the Postal Service Exams are different from many other standardized tests, it’s important to understand how you will perform on this type of test. Taking many practice tests beforehand and timing yourself during them will help you to identify your optimal conditions.
Complete the Entire Test
Because there are no allowances for extensions or make-up exams, it’s crucial that you complete the entire test as soon as you are able. While you may know that you can complete it in only one day, it’s better to get it done on the first day, rather than the last. Even if there is a major emergency or other event that would prevent you from completing it on the last day, you cannot expect any leniency. As soon as you receive the email link to the exam, it’s important to get started and work through it at a comfortable pace until it is completed.
Postal Service Exam FAQ:
1. How are these exams different from the old Postal Service Exam 473?
The four new tests are very different from the old exams. The subject matter is different, and there is an increased focus on how you answer the questions. This change arose from a new initiative at the US Postal Service placing emphasis on customer satisfaction, which means that the new exams focus on personal interaction strategies, rather than just core competencies for the position.
2. Is there a way to find out which of the four exams I will be taking?
No. Unfortunately, you will not find out which of the four Postal Service Exams you will be taking until after you have applied. Once you find out, you will have 72 hours to complete the exam in its entirety. However, the tests are related to the job categories. The one for which you apply can be matched with the tests that are given for it.
3. If I do not complete the exam in the required timeframe, can I take it again?
Not anytime soon. If you fail to complete the entire exam in 72 hours, you will receive a rating of ineligible. The US Postal Service does not grant extensions to the exam or make-up exams. If you receive an ineligible exam result, you must wait one year before taking it again. It is crucial that you take the exam when you are able to devote your full attention to it.
4. How can I find quality practice tests and other preparatory materials?
There are some high quality resources available online; however, it is crucial that you use caution before committing to one source for practice materials. As the exams are new—and replaced the older Postal Service Exam 473—much of the practice material available is still geared for the old test. It’s important that any study aids you use are for the new exams.