The Online Assessment


Pro Tip - PMF STEM Online AssessmentAs you sit down to complete the online assessment, take a moment and make sure that you have the proper system and browser requirements. This is especially important for Mac users, who should complete the assessment using Internet Explorer.

To begin, applicants should select a career track, Traditional or STEM, and their qualifying discipline for that track. It is important to remember that you will only be able to choose ONE track.

The PMF online assessment has three sections:

    1. A video-based situational judgment assessment;
    2. A questionnaire designed to assess specific work styles and work-related characteristics required for success and fit in the PMF Program; and
    3. Three essay questions that are collected during the application process.

Pro Tip - PMF Online Assessment Assistance

EACH SECTION IS UNTIMED AND YOU ARE FREE TO TAKE BREAKS IN BETWEEN SECTIONS. You do not have to complete the assessment in one sitting, except for the essay portion, which has to be completed all at once. As a result, we’d recommend that you read everything carefully. We live in a fast-paced world where we’re conditioned to breeze through information. Resist the temptation to skip over the instructions quickly and think you’ve got it. Take your time and understand what’s being asked of you. Since the application and assessment are untimed, there’s no need to rush.

WHILE IT IS UNTIMED, OPM TELLS YOU THAT IT COULD TAKE 1-2 HOURS TO COMPLETE THE ENTIRE APPLICATION. Take that time seriously. OPM also suggests that you do it all in one sitting. We’d second that notion as well. Block out 2-3 hours in a quiet place without interruptions so that you can focus. You’ll be glad you did it that way as you’ll end up with a stronger application.


  1. The essays have a minimum and maximum length allotted. Track your progress using your word processing software.
  2. Save your essays! You will need a copy of your essays if you move on to the Semi-Finalist round because they will be used for interview questions during the in-person assessment.

A nervous applicant might be worried that they could exit the module and lose their answers. What we found, however, was that every time you log off and log back in (which we did deliberately a few times to test this theory), it saved our work. If you’re worried about that for any reason, please see the bonus tip below.

WHEN YOU’RE DONE, YOU’RE DONE. Once you complete the video portion of the assessment and hit submit, you cannot access it again. Before hitting submit, you can start and stop, and your responses will be saved. You can also navigate forward and backward when you are in the video and questionnaire portions, BUT when you are finished responding to all of the questions and hit submit in a section, that’s it. No do overs.

While each of the above sections seems straightforward, the online assessment is most likely different from any other test you have taken. Some PMFs we surveyed about their experience were confused at the nature of the questions.

Hodgens - Pic“I didn’t do any formal preparation for the online assessment. I was told by people who had experience with it that you shouldn’t try to overthink it – they said your best bet was just to answer honestly and go with your gut. All I did was make sure I set aside enough time and did it in a place I felt comfortable and could concentrate.”

– Pat Hodgens, PMF Class of 2013, Department of Labor

Laurie - Pic“Many of the questions were repeated in slightly different ways to see if you would answer consistently. It felt like I was getting everything “wrong” but realistically there was probably no wrong answer. Many had an obvious answer as well, if you are able to work well with others and perform well on the job, etc.”

– Elizabeth Fischer Laurie, PMF Class of 2011, General Services Administration

“The only thing you know for sure is that they are looking for leadership qualities. Just be honest. One of our online assessments was personality leadership. I’m not sure what it tested. We answered a lot of strange questions that you couldn’t prepare for – they weren’t knowledge-based so you just have to trust that you are a good candidate and answer those questions honestly.”

– Ashley Cassels, PMF Class of 2010, Small Business Administration

A lot of the questions were trying to determine the potential PMF’s personality. While there are no right/wrong answers, the PMF program usually tries to look for well-balanced, sociable, intelligent, flexible people with a strong work ethic and an enthusiasm for getting the job done, and being creative to do so if necessary.

Overall, the most solid advice we can give you for the online assessment is: be yourself, don’t overthink questions, and make an effort to move efficiently to get through all the questions.

“I did not do a whole lot of prep for [the online assessment]. We did receive a little practice guide that had a couple questions. I went through that multiple times. A former PMF suggested going through the LSAT practice book, so I did read through that. It was helpful to get me in that logical frame of mind. [My advice is to] just go sit in a library for an afternoon and read through the LSAT practice book to get the gist of how you’re supposed to be thinking on the logic portion of the assessment.”

– Kaleigh Emerson, PMF Class of 2010, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Advice from a Career Counselor:

What the PMF is looking for is collaborative team-builders. What they are not looking for are alpha personalities. I have seen some outstanding candidates who I knew were strong personalities get knocked out in the first round.

They are thoughtful, self-effacing people, total team players, fiercely committed to public service, patriots, and that is really what you need to be to be a PMF. You can’t make yourself into a personality that you’re not and if you think you’re a strong alpha personality, take the test and see what happens.”

Pro Tip - PMF Competencies


Want more tips about the entire PMF Process? Download the full version of the guide here!

The guide shares advice with applicants based on interviews with current and past PMFs, career advisors, and federal agency program coordinators.


2016 PMF Application: OPEN THREAD

(Archived – 2015 PMF Application Open Thread

Archived – 2014 PMF Application Open Thread)

<—— Previous: The Application

Next: The In-Person Assessment ——>