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UN YPP Written Examination Stage - 2021: understanding the exam

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UN YPP Written Examination Stage - 2021: understanding the exam

October 8, 2019

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

UN YPP Written Examination

UN YPP Written Exam

The UN YPP written exam is held online, through a virtual platform. 

The UN YPP Written Exam is the second stage in the UN YPP selection process. After completing the online application, only the 60 best candidates from every country per exam area, maximum, are invited to take it. This is a crucial step in the UN YPP process, as it is aimed at assessing candidates’ knowledge of their exam area of choice and narrowing down the application list. Usually, less than 4% of applicants invited to take the written test manage to succeed, making it the most competitive stage of the selection process.

The written assessment tests your substantive and technical knowledge of subjects relevant to your exam area, your ability to analyze and summarize data and to think critically, as well as your understanding of the United Nations as the complex international organization it is. In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the United Nations YPP Written Examination stage as well as some tips on how to succeed at it.

To help you feel more secure and greatly improve your performance during the Written Exam stage, OpenIGO Network has developed a special UN YPP exam preparation package for you. It includes model answers, exam samples and fundamental study material for the UN YPP Written Examination Test. 

In addition, we have developed a comprehensive manual (PDF E-Book) to help you better understand the UN Young Professionals Programme itself and the stages of the selection process, allowing you to perform successfully in each of them. In our E-Book, you will find over 20 pages of instructions and tips on how to prepare for the UN YPP Written Examination stage! 

This article is only a small sample from the extensive content present in the Written Examination Chapter of our E-Book.

The United Nations YPP Written Examination – Preliminary Information

After the screening of applications submitted through Inspira in the first round, the most qualified candidates per country are invited to take the written examination in their respective exam area. Do not count on the Inspira platform to keep you updated on your application status, since the UN YPP may not utilize the platform’s functions to do so. Convocation is usually done through e-mail—only successful candidates are notified directly, so it is very important that you check your inbox and spam folder regularly after the application period is complete.

All candidates will be informed through the “Important Updates” page on the UN Careers website once the screening process finishes.

In previous editions of the UN YPP, the written examination had to be taken in person at designated examination centers around the world.  They were usually held at educational centers, governmental facilities, or UN offices located in the participating Member States. In 2017, however, the first UN YPP Written Examination was held online and, since then, candidates convoked for this stage of the selection process are responsible for identifying and securing a suitable location to complete the examination. This can be any location where the internet connection is stable, such as in their home, a library, university, or café. The UN reminds its YPP candidates that when choosing the ideal location, they must consider the length of the test and try to find a distraction-free environment with comfortable seating and appropriate lighting.

Also, know that candidates are prohibited from obtaining assistance from others during the test or allowing someone else to complete it for them. A proctored test is held at the end of the written examination for verification purposes. The exam, however, is usually “open book”, which means that candidadates can consult other sources such as the internet, personal notes, books, and so on while completing the exam.

Further information regarding the online testing platform and the link to access it will be sent to invited candidates a few weeks before the actual exam date. This way, applicants will have a chance to explore the platform a little bit, familiarize themselves with the website, and test their internet browser and connection.

Structure of the UN YPP Written Exam – Overview

The UN YPP written exam consists of a General Paper and a Specialized Paper. The exam may be conducted in either one or two phases, usually two.

This is how the phases of this stage of the selection process are usually structured:

 Phase 01General Paper + Part I Specialized Paper (Multiple Choice Questions—MCQ)

Phase 02Part II Specialized Paper (Constructed Response Items)

These phases are usually 1–2 months apart from each other. Only candidates who are successful in the first phase of the written examination are invited to the second one. Note that, based on exam performance, no more than 40 applicants per country, per exam area, will be moved forward from the first phase of the written examination to the second one.

Updates will be posted on the “Examination Structure” page of the UN Careers website explaining the timing. However, according to the UN: “Candidates will be provided with a broader testing window, within which they can choose when they complete the exam. This is done to best accommodate different time zones. For example, if the exam time limit is two hours, candidates may have a window of up to 14 hours within which they must complete the exam”.

Further details on the dates, times, and final structure of the written examination, which vary on an annual basis, will be provided for convoked candidates.

The General Paper – Summarizing Texts

This test is the same for all YPP examinations independent of the area you chose to apply for, and assesses drafting and analytical skills in English or French. The General Paper was designed to assess a fundamental skill needed to work in a myriad of functions across the United Nations: summarizing. Most positions in the UN require some sort of drafting—summary skills—as staff members may be asked to summarize long debates and meeting outcomes, as well as reports and speeches on diverse topics.

In this part of the examination you will be given a text of approximately 900 to 1000 words and will be asked to:

– Summarize the text using your own words (to about a third of its original length—around 300 words), and

– Use your best judgement in deciding which are the main ideas and points to be stressed.

Failure to follow these guidelines will result in point loss.

In order to write a good summary, it is crucial to have a deep understanding of what this kind of text entails. Here is a definition of “summary” according to the Cambridge Dictionary: “A short, clear description that gives the main facts or ideas about something” or even “A short statement of the main ideas or facts in a report, discussion, etc.”.

In our eBook you will be able to find a model summary written by a native English speaker, as per the UN YPP expected model! Access the following link:

UN YPP – eBook

When writing a summary, keep in mind that:

1) A summary should cover the original text as a whole;

2) A summary should be written in the form of paragraphs. In other words, it should not be written as a continuous piece of text without divisions;

3) The text should be written in a neutral style;

4) A summary is a condensed version of the original text, written in your own words;

5) Personal comments, evaluation, and perspectives must not be included in a summary.

6) Do not include anything that is not part of the original text unless the task tells you to do so. In some editions of the UN YPP, candidates were asked to include a personal conclusion to their General Paper summary, which could be done by elaborating briefly on the text, making recommendations, and/or analyzing it.

Purchasing our eBook you will also have access to more tips on how to create an effective and original summary!


The Specialized Paper – Overview and Study Tips

The Specialized Paper is divided into two different parts and is different for each examination area. It is designed to test substantive/technical knowledge of the subject and knowledge relevant to the exam area candidates have specifically applied for.

The Specialized Paper is available in both English and French, and Part II can be answered in any of the six official UN languages (including Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish). Questions may be a mix of bachelor- and master-level questions.

Since this part of the test is aimed at assessing candidates’ analytical skills and technical knowledge, it is essential that you review the basic theory of the chosen exam area. To this end, go over some of the main publications in your exam area of choice and look for books that include basic information related to it and revise important work papers from your graduation or post-graduation period. A suggested reading list is also released by the United Nations regarding the different exam areas announced for the year, to help candidates prepare for this part of the test. Below, you will find important information on what to study and how to prepare for both parts of the Specialized Paper.

The UN YPP Reading List

The reading list contains examples of texts and readings that may prove useful when studying and preparing for the UN YPP selection process. Note that although you shouldn’t restrict your studies to the texts listed, it is crucial that you read/skim through all of them. They will give you a deeper understanding of what might be covered in the written examination.

For the year of 2018, for example, the Suggested Reading List for the Security Affairs exam area was as follows:

  • United Nations Security Management Security Policy Manual;
  • United Nations Department of Safety and Security website;
  • United Nations Charter—articles 104 and 105;
  • Conventions on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (1946 and 1947);
  • Convention on Safety and Security of United Nations Personnel and Associated Personnel (1994) – Optional Protocol (2005);
  • Annual Resolutions of the General Assembly on Safety and Security of UN Personnel and Associated Personnel;
  • United Nations Values and Competencies Framework.

Since there is a considerable amount of information to be covered prior to the examination date, the key to succeeding in this stage of the UN YPP selection process is to prepare in advance and be very disciplined.  We advise you to get started on the reading list as soon as you submit your application, as this will give you extra time to prepare for the exam, as well as time to practice for its questions by consulting samples of previous questions given.

Many of these publications can be found at the UN virtual library:

Basic knowledge of the United Nations

General questions regarding the Organization’s structure, mandate, values, competencies, upbringing, and recent publications and pronouncements may be asked for in both parts of the Specialized Paper. In order to prepare for these, you might want to take a look at some of the following publications: “Basic Facts about the United Nations”; “The United Nations Today”; and “The Founding of the United Nations International Cooperation as an Evolutionary Process”.

Current World Issues

In order to keep yourself updated on what is going on in the world, since questions in the Specialized Paper can cover current world issues, we advise you to follow different international news platforms including the United Nations’. Having a broad knowledge of what is going on in the world today is essential for a UN staff member, given that this is a multicultural organization which actively takes part in some of these matters. Pay special attention to news relevant to the exam area you have chosen and remember to keep a close eye on the website of UN Offices and departments related to that same area.

Specialized Paper – Part I 

Part I of the Specialized Paper consists of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) with a variable number of questions (up to 50) depending on and relevant to the exam area the candidate applied for.  For each question, you will have to choose the correct answer between 4 alternatives (A,B,C or D). No points are deducted for a wrong answer.

In  a very competitive selection process such as the UN YPP’s, it is vital that candidates have a good strategy for each part of the written examination.

In the Specialized Paper Part I, you will mainly find technical questions directly linked to the exam area you applied for. They can be straightforward or include reading comprehension and logical thinking. Other types of questions that can also be asked include:

  • Generic questions about the United Nations and departments related to your exam area, as well as to an understanding of the UN core values and competencies.
  • Questions related to current world issues.
  • Logic questions.

Tips on how to answer multiple choice questions and samples of the previous types of questions are provided by our eBook: The United Nations Young Professionals Program – Manual for Candidates. 

Specialized Paper – Part II 

The second part of the Specialized Paper, also known as Constructed Response Items (CRI), consists of open-ended questions with a variable number of questions (up to 13) and length of answers (some may require a response up to four pages long with a suggested word limit). Most exams have three long (essay) questions and ten shorter ones (short questions). Usually, a recommended number of words is provided. You can answer with fewer words, but should not exceeed the maximum number of words allowed. The part of the response that exceeds this maximum number will not be read nor marked.

Most of the time, candidates will be asked to choose a certain number of questions to answer from the ones provided on the test. From ten available short questions, for example, candidates could be asked to choose only 6 to answer.

For tips on how to best structure essay questions, UN original samples and to have access to a model essay answer, purchase our eBook! There you wil also find information about the assessment logic of the tests. 

To help you succeed in the selection process of the United Nations Young Professionals Program, OpenIGO offers a series of products, including a UN YPP Written Exam Preparation Package! We are an extensive network composed of former young professionals, professors and researchers from the best universities in the world, international civil servants and Human Resources specialists devoted to helping from young to more experienced professionals develop their international career.

Access the following link to know more about our UN YPP products & Services: 

UN YPP – Products & Services

Read also: UN YPP – Overview

Magazine: Understanding the UN YPP Written Exam

OpenIGO overall services are extremely well-rated by those who bought them! These are some of the testimonials we’ve had for our products:

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