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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

April 20, 2021

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

UN YPP Written Examination

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 logical, reasoning, and communicative skills, as well as your understanding of the United Nations as the complex international organization it is, its core values and competencies.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the UN 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 special UN YPP exam preparation packages for you!

Our packages include model answers, exam samples and fundamental study material for the UN YPP Written Examination Test.

In addition, we have developed a comprehensive manual (PDF eBook) 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 eBook, you will find essential 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 our eBook.

Do you want to know more about the United Nations YPP? Check out our UN YPP Overview:

UN YPP Overview

Do you want to know how to prepare for the UN YPP Written Exam? Check out our magazine on the topic:

Preparing for the UN YPP Written Exam


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 and all candidates are notified of the outcome of their application, so it is very important that you check your inbox and spam folder regularly after the application period is complete. Candidates will also 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 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.

Be aware that candidates are prohibited from obtaining assistance from others during the test or allowing someone else to complete it for them. Therefore, note that the exam is not “open book”, which means that candidates are not allowed to consult any sources such as the internet, personal notes, books, and so on while completing the exam.

Although the first phase of the exam is not supervised, the second phase is proctored for verification purposes. According to the UN, if you are invited to the second stage, then you will need a webcam.


Structure of the UN YPP Written Exam – Overview

The written examination 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

This test is the same for all YPP examinations independent of the area you chose to apply for, and assesses your knowledge on the United Nations, its core values and competencies.

Once convoked for the written examination stage, candidates are granted access to the UN Training platform, where they have access to samples from previous editions of the program and a reading list for the ongoing process in their exam area.

According to the United Nations, through its Training Platform, the General Paper includes questions that:

  • Present non-verbal information and measure your ability to solve problems and reason effectively.
  • Assess your ability to work effectively with drafted documents typical of work in the United Nations. You will be presented with several texts and asked to make determinations about them.
  • Assess your ability to evaluate actions and responses to work-related scenarios. You will be presented with several scenarios and corresponding actions, and you will be asked to evaluate which response is most and least appropriate.
  • Are related to the core values of the United Nations, professionalism, respect for diversity, and integrity. These question types assess your attitudes and opinions by asking you to evaluate a series of statements.


The Written Examination stage is by far the most competitive phase of the UN YPP selection process: only 4% of candidates invited to take the exam are successful and move on to the interview stage. Practicing is, therefore, crucial to pass this stage and that’s why OpenIGO has put together these packages for you.

We have already helped dozens of candidates start their international careers and we want you to become one of them!

Check out our UN YPP Written Examination Packages to make sure you have properly prepared for this stage:

UN YPP – Written Test Packages

Here’s an overview of what you can find in the most comprehensive Written Test package: 

UN YPP Written Exam


The Specialized Paper

Different from the General Paper, 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 Part I is available in both English and French and questions may be a mix of bachelor- and master-level questions. It 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).

Differently from Part I, the Specialized Paper Part II can be answered in any of the six official UN languages (including Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish), even though it is, just as the first part, made available in both English and French. The second part of the Specialized Paper is also known as Constructed Response Items (CRI) because it 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).

Notice that the Specialized Paper (both parts I and II) is aimed at assessing candidates’ analytical skills and technical knowledge, and for this reason 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.

Do you want to know how to best prepare for both parts of the Specialized Paper? Check out our eBook:

UN YPP Exam Preparation Book – Manual for Candidates


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 your studies 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:


We highly advise applicants/interested young professionals to follow us on our social media—OpenIGO constantly updates its followers on internship opportunities as well as the opening of applications for international programs such as the UN YPP.

OpenIGO Network also offers preparation services for the UN YPP Written Examination! Our package includes study materials for the Specialized and General Papers, question practices with answer-key, review, feedback and more!

Access the link below to find out more about this:

UN YPP Written Examination Packages


OpenIGO is 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

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

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