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Clerical & Administrative Written Exams

Sample Clerical & Administrative Exam Questions


Civil Service Clerical & Administrative Exams


This section provides sample practice clerical and administrative written exams for the federal sector. Job announcements will specify whether or not a written exam is required and you will be notified of the testing date and location. The majority of clerical and administrative written tests are waived and applicants typically complete an online occupational questionnaire and a federal resume

The following sample tests help applicants prepare for written exams if required. Record the answers to each test on a separate piece of paper and compare your answers to the correct answers provided following each exam. A sample of each type of question that may be found on the official test is provided however the questions on the actual exam may be harder or easier than those shown here.

Civil Service Exam



 Sample Exams Menu




Clerical and administrative support written exams measure the applicants clerical and verbal abilities that are required to design, organize, and use filing systems, organize clerical processes, make travel plans for the staff, arrange meetings conferences, prepare information for reports and briefings, compose correspondence, effectively communication, and use required office equipment.

For each of the sample clerical and administrative exams read the directions, then look at the sample questions and answer them. Each multiple choice question has several options for you to choose from such as A, B, C, etc. Decide which one is the best answer to the question. During the test you will be provided with an answer sheet however most exams are now completed on a computer or online. Answers to the sample questions are provided with each sample exam section. We also provide an explanation of the correct answer for some of the questions to help you better understand the process. 

Applicants for clerical and administrative positions must possess the skills listed in the job announcement In addition to meeting experience or education requirements. Applicants may meet these requirements by presenting a certificate of proficiency from a school or other organization, self-certify their proficiency, or in rare cases pass the appropriate written performance test. Agencies may verify proficiency skills of self-certified applicants by administering performance tests as well. Read the job announcement’s “How to Apply” section to determine what is required and submit your application prior to the closing date. The key is to be rated “Best Qualified.” A comprehensive federal style resume helps rating officials determine that you possess the required education, skills and work experience to be proficient in the position.

Testing Process

If a written federal civil service clerical test is required it will consist of two parts, clerical aptitude and verbal abilities. To pass the written test, applicants must make a minimum score of 33 on the verbal abilities and a minimum combined total score of 80 on both the clerical and verbal parts. A score of 80 converts to a numerical rating of 70. In addition to federal civil service exams, applicants must complete an online Occupational Supplement that is used to determine an applicants’ minimum qualifications based on a review of their education and work experience.

Federal Clerical Exam Practice Test

The sample clerical exam includes 8 sections including vocabulary, grammar, spelling, word relations, reading, name and number comparisons, word questions, and problem solving. Use a blank sheet of paper to mark your answers and compare them to the  answer key that follows this exam.  




For each question like 1 through 3, choose the one of the four suggested answers that means most nearly the same as the word in italics.

1. Option means most nearly
A) use C) value
B) choice D) blame

2. Innate means most nearly
A) eternal  B) well-developed  C) native  D) prospective

3. To confine means most nearly to
A) restrict C) eliminate B) hide D) punish



 In questions 4, 5, and 6, decide which sentence is preferable with respect to grammar and usage suitable for a formal letter or report.

4. A) If properly addressed, the letter will reach my mother and I.
B) The letter had been addressed to myself and my mother.
C) I believe the letter was addressed to either my mother or I.
D) My mother’s name, as well as mine, was on the letter.

The answer to question 4 is D). The answer is not A because the word me (reach . . . me) should have been used, not the word I. The answer is not B. The expression, to myself, is sometimes used in spoken English, but it is not acceptable in a formal letter or report. The answer is not C, because the word I has been used incorrectly, just as it was in A.

5. A) Most all these statements have been supported by persons who are reliable and can be depended upon.
B) The persons which have guaranteed these statements are reliable.
C) Reliable persons guarantee the facts with regards to the truth of these statements.
D) These statements can be depended on, for their truth has been guaranteed by reliable persons.

6. A) Brown & Company employees have recently received increases in salary.
B) Brown & Company recently increased the salaries of all its employees.
C) Recently Brown & Company has increased their employees’ salaries.
D) Brown & Company have recently increased the salaries of all its employees.



 In questions 7 through 9, find the correct spelling of the word among the choices lettered A, B, or C and darken the proper answer space. If no suggested spelling is correct, darken space D.

7. A) athalete C) athlete B) athelete D) none of these

In question 7 an extra letter has been added to both A and B. The fourth letter in A makes that spelling of athlete wrong. The fourth letter in B makes that spelling of athlete wrong. Spelling C is correct.

8. A) predesessor C) predecesser B) predecesar D) none of these

All three spellings of the word are wrong. The correct answer, therefore, is D because none of the printed spellings of predecessor is right.

9. A) occassion C) ocassion B) occasion D) none of these

Word Relations

 In questions like 10, 11, and 12 the first two words in capital letters go together in some way. The third word in capital letters is related in the same way to one of the words lettered A, B, C, or D).

10. PLUMBER is related to WRENCH as
PAINTER is related to
A) brush C) shop
B) pipe D) hammer

The relationship between the first two words in capital letters is that a PLUMBER uses the tool called a WRENCH in doing his work. A PAINTER uses the tool called the BRUSH in doing his work. Therefore, the answer to question 10 is A. The answer is not B because a pipe is not a tool. The answer is not C for two reasons. A shop could be used by either a plumber or a painter and a shop is not a tool. The answer is not D. A hammer is a tool but it is not a tool used by a painter in his work.

11. BODY is related to FOOD as ENGINE is related to
A) wheels C) motion
B) smoke D) fuel.

You soon saw that the relationship between the words in question 10 does not fit the words in question 11. The relationship here is that the first runs on the second ‒ the BODY runs on FOOD; and ENGINE runs on D) fuel.

12. ABUNDANT is related to CHEAP as SCARCE is related to
A) ample C) costly
B) inexpensive D) unobtainable


 In questions like 13,14, and 15, you will be given a paragraph, generally from 4 to 10 lines long. Read the paragraph with great care for you will have to decide which one of four statements is based on the information in the paragraph. The statement may not be based on the main thought of the paragraph.

13. What constitutes skill in any line of work is not always easy to determine; economy of time must be carefully distinguished from economy of energy, as the quickest method may require the greatest expenditure of muscular effort and may not be essential or at all desirable.

The paragraph best supports the statement that

A) the most efficiently executed task is not always the one done in the shortest time
B) energy and time cannot both be conserved in performing a single task
C) a task is well done when it is performed in the shortest time
D) skill in performing a task should not be acquired at the expense of time

The answer is A. You can see that the paragraph points out that the task done most quickly is not necessarily the task done best. The paragraph does not compare energy and time although it mentions both, so B is not an answer. The paragraph does not support C, which is almost the opposite of the answer, A. The statement in D may be true, but it is not contained in the paragraph.

14. The secretarial profession is a very old one and has increased in importance with the passage of time. In modern times, the vast expansion of business and industry has greatly increased the need and opportunities for secretaries, and for the first time in history their number has become large.

The paragraph best supports the statement that the secretarial profession

A) is older than business and industry
B) did not exist in ancient times
C) has greatly increased in size
D) demands higher training than it did formerly

15. It is difficult to distinguish between bookkeeping and accounting. In attempts to do so, bookkeeping is called the art, and accounting the science, of recording business transactions. Bookkeeping gives the history of the business in a systematic manner; and accounting classifies, analyzes, and interprets the facts thus recorded.

The paragraph best supports the statement that

A) accounting is less systematic than bookkeeping
B) accounting and bookkeeping are closely re- lated
C) bookkeeping and accounting cannot be distin- guised from one another
D) bookkeeping has been superseded by accounting.


Name and Number Comparisons

Sample questions 16 through 20 require name and number comparisons. In each line across the page there are three names or numbers that are very similar. Compare the three names or numbers and decide which ones are exactly alike. On the sample answer sheet, mark the answer:

A if ALL THREE names or numbers are exactly ALIKE
B if only the FIRST and SECOND names or numbers are exactly ALIKE
C if only the FIRST and THIRD names or numbers are exactly ALIKE
D if only the SECOND and THIRD names or numbers are exactly ALIKE
E if ALL THREE names or numbers are DIFFERENT

16. Davis Haven     David Hexane     David Haven
17. Lois Appal        Lois Appal           Lois Apfel
18. June Allan        Jane Allan          Jane Allan
19. 10235               10235                  10235
20. 32614                2164                   32614

Word Questions

In the next group of sample questions, there is a name at the left, and four other names in alphabetical order at the right. Find the correct space for the underlined name so that it will be in alphabetical order with the others, and mark the letter of that space as your answer.


  A)   A)
        Goodyear, G.L         Olsen, C.A.
  B)   B)
        Haddon, Harry         Olsen, C.D.
21. Jones, Jane C) 23. Olsen, C.C. C)
        Jackson, Mary         Olsen, Charles
  D)   D)
        Jenkins, Williams        Olsen, Christopher 
  A)   A)
       Keesker, Kark        DeLong, Jesse 
  B)   B)
       Kessel, Carl          DeMatteo, Jesse
22. Kessler, Neilson C) 24. DeMattia, Jessica C)
       Kessinger, D. J.          Derbie, Jesse S.
  D)   D)
       Kessner, Lewis          DeShazo, L. M.
  E)   E)


Problem Solving

In questions like 25 through 28, solve each problem and see which of the suggested answers A, B, C, or D is correct. If your answer does not exactly agree with any of the first four suggested answers, darken space E.

25. Add  22 + 33 =
A) 44 
B) 45
C) 54 
D) 55
E) None of these

26. Subtract 24 – 3 =

A) 20
B) 21
C) 27
D) 29
E) None of these

 27.  Multiply 25 x 5 =

B) 115
C) 125
D) 135
E) None of these

28. Divide 126 by 6 =

A) 20
B) 22
C) 24
D) 26
E) None of these

There is a set of five suggested answers for each of the groups of sample questions appearing below. Do not try to memorize these answers, because they will be a different set on each page in the actual test.

To find the answer to each question, find which one of the suggested answers contains numbers and letters all of which appear in that question. These numbers and letters may be in any order in the question, but all four must appear. If no suggested answers fits, mark E for that question.

Questions 29 – 38
29. 8 N K 9 G T 4 6 34. 2 3 P 6 V Z 4 L
30. T 9 7 Z 6 L 3 K 35. T 7 4 3 P Z 9 G
31. Z 7 G K 3 9 8 N 36. 6 N G Z 3 9 P 7
32. 3 K 9 4 6 G Z L 37. 9 6 P 4 N G Z 2
33. Z N 7 3 8 K T 9 38. 4 9 7 T L P 3 V
Suggested Answers for Each Column Above
A = 7, 9, G, K A = 3, 6, G, P
B = 8, 9, T, Z B = 3, 7, P, V
C = 6, 7, K, Z C = 4, 6, V, Z
D = 6, 8, G, T D = 4, 7, G, Z
E = None of these E. None of the these




Answer Key (Clerical Test)


The answers to the clerical test questions follow:


Question Answer Question Answer
1 B 20 C
2 C 21 E
3 A 22 D
4 D 23 B
5 D 24 C
6 B 25 D
7 C 26 B
8 D 27 C
9 B 28 E
10 A 29 D
11 D 30 C
12 C 31 A
13 A 32 E
14 C 33 B
15 B 34 C
16 E 35 D
17 B 36 A
18 D 37 E
19 A 38 B


To find a clerical or administrative job announcement review the Administrative & Clerical GS-300 Job Series for clerical job vacancy announcements. You first must identify a clerical job announcement in your area and then you apply online. You will be notified by the agency if a civil service exam is required or they will direct you to complete an Occupational Questionnaire online.


Clerical Job Announcements: