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Civil Service Initial Sift Situational Judgement Test Online Preparation & Sample Questions – 2024

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The Civil Service Initial Sift Test is often utilized for screening and preemployment recruitment of candidates looking for jobs in the civil service sector in the UK. The Sift test is a popular choice for testing candidates in these positions since it works with the Civil Service Competency Framework or CSCF for short.


What Is Sift?

Sift or the CSIST is a situational judgment test given to candidates for all levels of civil service. There are three situational judgment tests available, each of which builds on the next to appropriately assess candidates’ abilities against the minimum requirements necessary for the position or level the candidates applied for. In this way, the test is able to help the recruiting team sift through candidates for the job. Hence the test is called the Sift test.

The test may be used as one of a series of aptitude tests or by itself. The test levels are arranged from 1 to 3, with one being for Administration Assistants or Officers, two for Executive Officers, and three for Higher or Senior Executive Officers.


What to Expect on the Sift

Sift is based heavily on the Civil Service Competence Framework—CSCF—and this makes imperative to be familiar with the core values and sections of the CSCF so that answers can be tailored to demonstrate the applicant’s fit with those values and expectations.

The test is taken online once the candidate receives the invitation and instructions, and the scores for the test—if passed—are banked for six months. This way, if an applicant wishes to apply for another area of Civil Service in the event that the previous opportunity does not work out, they can send the results to the recruiters for the new position without retaking the test. However, if candidates do not pass, they have the option to re-sit for the test for any job vacancy they wish to fill. Most candidates will be required to retake the test with on-site supervision in addition to the online version.

It should be noted that candidates must finish the test in one sitting. Responses cannot be saved nor the test restarted. This makes a good internet connection and ample time imperative to success. For the Level 1 Sift test, allow at least twenty-five minutes. For the two higher levels, allow thirty.


Formatting and Scoring on Sift

Test questions are formatted with two different styles. The first asks the candidate to choose the correct response from the options given. The second asks them to instead evaluate each answer option on a scale of appropriate to inappropriate. Questions will be related to work-based scenarios. The test contains around nine different scenarios with three to five questions on each. Practice questions are included at the beginning of the test, and all information necessary to answer the questions will be in the scenario.

When it comes to scoring, the recruiters use bell curve scoring to compare the test results of each applicant to the others who sat for the test for the same position. Applicants who wish to gain the position must perform better than most and must achieve a set minimum score to pass to the next stage or—in some situations—to have their application considered at all. The test is heavily based on people skills, so good communication and networking within test answers does affect the score.


Understanding the Civil Service Competency Framework

Since the CSCF heavily influences the Sift test, it is important that applicants not only know what the core values are but also understand the meaning of the core values. This section breaks down the most important parts of the CSCF to aid candidates in preparing for the Sift test.

The CSCF has ten core competencies, which are divided between three different sections. The competencies are discussed by section below.

  • Empowering: Delivering Results
    This section focuses on the candidate’s ability to achieve commercial outcomes, deliver value for money, manage a quality service, and deliver on time or at pace. Ideal candidates will display an economic, long-term focus in every activity, handle taxpayers’ money efficiently and effectively, will value professional excellence and expertise in delivering the service objectives, and will focus on timely delivery while taking responsibility for high-quality outcomes.
  • Inspiring: Setting Direction
    Setting Direction involves seeing the big picture, changing and improving, and making effective decisions. Ideal candidates in this section will understand how their service fits into the global picture, will take initiative to learn and improve as they work, and will demonstrate sound judgment with professional decisions or advice.
  • Confident: Engaging People
    This part is all about leading and communicating, collaborating and partnering, and building capability for all. Simply put, ideal candidates will show passion for public service and purposeful communication, will work with others well to build supportive and professional relationships, and will be able to continue learning and helping to create an environment where others can learn as well.

These are the three components of the CSCF, and understanding these is critical to succeeding on the Sift test. All preparation for the test should involve practice answering questions with these values and competencies in mind.


How to Prepare for the Sift Test?

The most important piece to preparing for the Sift assessment is gaining a complete knowledge and understanding of each component of the CSCF. Since questions are often based on these competencies to further ensure proper screening, applicants who do not know these components are less likely to succeed at the test.

Besides that, candidates should focus on practicing situational judgment tests. The format of the Sift test is not too different from other SJTs, but if you are unfamiliar with the test format, you will be less confident when taking the assessment. So, take the time to go through some practice assessments with the CSCF in mind as you answer the questions.



The Civil Service Initial Sift Test may seem daunting at first, but it is much like any other situational judgment test. The main difference is that it is based on the CSCF because the position is with Civil Service instead of some other sector of business. If you study the components of the CSCF and practice some sample questions or free practice tests, you should be able to perform well when you sit for your Sift test.