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MODULE 2: Prepare For Your Assessments (Practice Exams)


In this section you will learn about the USPS hiring exams.

  • What exams are needed for the different jobs
  • Why they ask these types of questions
  • Tips on each exam
  • Practice questions for each exam

On April 1, 2019 the USPS replaced postal exam 473 with four new exams – Virtual Entry Assessment exams 474, 475, 476 and 477.

These four exams are now used to fill over 95% of all Post Office jobs. They are completely different from the old 473 exam.

To greatly increase your chances on the new examinations, it is essential that you practice the same types of questions that are on the real exam and learn the best way to answer them.

In this way, you can familiarize yourself with the questions you may come across, eliminate the element of surprise and increase your confidence.

We have provided you with practice questions in this section, be sure to study them and read the tips that can help you with these questions.

STEP 1: Exam Information and Tips

These Postal exams are also known as Virtual Entry Assessments.

Anyone applying for a new job with the U.S. Postal Service must pass an exam. After the application process begins, candidates will be assigned one of four exams: 474, 475, 476, or 477. The exams assigned to you depend on the type of job you are applying for:

Each exam is designed to hire the best people for the job, to hire people well suited to the position and who will be successful at the job.

Any exam can be stressful and for some scary. Being aware of some helpful tips and reminders will help minimize your stress level at the time you are taking the exam.

1. Allocate “focused time” to this preparation course.

To do well on the exam, it is important to understand the exam itself, but you must also have time to study. Set aside time without distractions. This study guide can help you learn and later review the information you need to know and strategies for passing the exam.

Although you won’t know exactly which exam you will have to take until it is sent to you, you can be fairly sure which one depending on the job you are applying for (see table above).

If you need to, make notes and use bookmarks to identify information you wish easy access to later. Did you know some people learn better if their hands are moving when they are learning? It’s called didactic learning. Did you doodle in class? Taking notes serves the same purpose and even if you never look at the notes again it helps you retain what you are reading.

2. Do Not Register Until You Are Ready To Take The Exam.

After submitting your application for a specific job to the USPS, you will receive an e-mail with a link to the exam. So do not apply until you have completed this study guide and done the practice exams.

After receiving this e-mail, you have only 72 hours to take and submit the exam. There is no possibility to extend this period. Therefore, make sure you are well prepared for the exam before sending in your application. If you neglect to take or complete the exam in the 72 hours you will need to wait two years before you can take it again.

Module 3 will help you with the registration process.

3. Do Not Rush The Exam, Pay Attention To Details.

Individual postal exams are not timed, but most candidates complete them in 45 minutes. Note: The time taken to submit the assessment within the 72 hour time limit is also important.

Part of the 475 and 476 exams is the “error check”, designed specifically to test your attention to detail. Check each answer before continuing.

4. Do Not Neglect Preparation for The Subjective Parts Of The Exam.

Although three of the sections of the exam (Work Scenarios, What Drives You and Describe Your Approach) are subjective in nature, and there are no specific right or wrong answers, it is still good to prepare for these sections.

Sometimes the questions are asked in an unusual way, so it is advisable to review the test questions beforehand, so you know what to expect. Consistency is important in these sections of the exam.

5. Exam Scoring.

The minimum pass mark for the non-subjective postal exams is 70%. However, postal exams are competitive, which means that in your region, you may be competing with other candidates for a vacancy. So, of course, you should always aim for the highest score possible.

Two sections, Check For Errors and Work Your Register only have three questions so you have to get them all correct.

Consistency of answers is important in the subjective parts of the exam: What Drives You, Tell Us Your Story and Describe Your Approach. The USPS uses a testing system that can flag candidates who chose inconsistent answers.

The different exams have some of the same sections but may have a different number of questions and the questions themselves will be more specific to the position you are testing for. The table below shows you what questions and the number of them in each exam:

STEP 2: USPS Practice Exam Questions

Lesson 1: Work Situations (Situational Judgment Exam)

This exam assesses your situational judgement, how you handle different job situations

  • You will choose from multiple ways how to handle a work situation
  • The exam measures your general approach and attitude, common sense, teamwork and leadership skills
  • It is important to read each question carefully as they will first ask what you are MOST likely to do in one question and what you are LEAST likely to do in the next.
  • Remember to answer the question how you would want to be treated. Customer service is an attitude they want you to have on the job.
  • In some of the questions you will need to think like a “team player” so answer how you would want your coworkers to treat you.

Here are some sample questions:

Question 1:

The junior member of the team seems to have made some mistakes in on a presentation. You must present to the customer this afternoon and you have other projects that also need your attention today. How do you deal with this?”

Please select from the following options, picking the one you are most likely to do and the one you are least likely to do:

  • Tell the junior member of staff that they have made a mistake and they need to fix it immediately
  • Go to your manager and complain that the junior member of staff is incompetent
  • Present the incorrect information anyway and hope the customer doesn’t notice
  • Push back your other obligations and make the corrections yourself
  • Get together with the junior member of staff and work through the inaccuracies

Answer 1:

In this scenario, you are being tested on your decision-making skills, teamwork skills and your diplomacy. Remember you have been asked to choose the best and then the worst option:

  • Option e) is the best option – working with your junior staff member gives you both the chance to develop; the junior member can learn so she doesn’t repeat the mistakes, while you get an opportunity to deliver some training. This is the best option from a teamwork perspective.
  • Option c), presenting the incorrect information, is the worst option here, as not only are you risking a customer relationship and potentially damaging the business, you are also demonstrating a lack of care in your work.

Other options:

  • a) – Delegating this task back to the junior member of staff takes the pressure off you in the immediate but might not allow them to understand what they have done.
  • b) – Complaining to a manager about this in the first instance may not reflect well on the teamwork aspect, especially with the tone used. Giving more gentle feedback to a manager might be appropriate if you need more time for this and your other projects.
  • d) – Doing the work yourself may mean that at least you know it is done correctly, but this doesn’t allow a learning opportunity for your colleague and means extra stress for you. Part of effective teamwork is knowing when to delegate correctly.

Question 2:

You have come into work this morning to find that everyone in your office has been given a new office chair, except for you. What do you do?”

Please select from the following options, marking the most effective and the least effective:

  • Complain loudly to your colleagues about how unfair the situation is
  • Speak to your manager and ask why you haven’t received a new chair
  • Take a chair from one of your colleagues
  • Complain to HR about your unfair treatment
  • Quit

Answer 2:

In this situation, the most effective answer seems clear – b) is most effective, as there could be multiple reasons your supervisor chose you to not receive a new chair.

The least effective response to this situation would be e) to quit. It would be an impulsive overreaction to just leave and would be highly unprofessional.

Looking at a) and d), while it might be somewhat cathartic to complain to your colleagues or escalate it to HR, it won’t help the situation and could cause bad feeling in the office.

If you were to choose option c), it would not only cause friction between you and your colleague but could be seen as misconduct that could end up in disciplinary procedures.

Question 3:

You are answering the phone at the front of the post office and a customer is complaining about the service they have received. They are very angry and shouting. How do you deal with this situation?

Please select from the following options, ranking them from most to least appropriate:

  • Tell the customer to calm down, as you are not responsible for the poor service they have received
  • Hang up on them – it isn’t your job to listen to shouting people
  • Listen to what they have to say and empathise
  • Pass the call to a manager – they obviously aren’t going to listen to you
  • Agree with what they are saying and promise to give them exactly what they want

Answer 3:

It can become stressful when you are dealing with an angry customer.

Dealing correctly with this scenario will demonstrate your decision-making and interpersonal skills. It is also important that you consider company policy and values in your answer.

Here are the answers ordered from most to least appropriate:

  • c) This is the most effective way to deal with this situation. Most angry customers want to feel like they are being listened to and, while you might not necessarily agree with them, empathizing will make them feel like the company cares about them.
  • d) This is a good response if you feel that you are unqualified to help, or if the situation is getting out of control. Knowing when to pass a call on is an excellent teamwork skill.
  • e) While it might help the customer feel validated, agreeing with their complaint might not be in line with the company’s values – and might damage company reputation. Blindly making promises to fix an issue could also cause problems as it might not be possible to follow through.
  • a) This is a tricky one as you want the customer to stop shouting so that you can fix their issue – but telling them point-blank like that is likely to make things worse. It isn’t your fault that they have received poor service, but you do have to listen to the complaint.
  • b) This is the worst option – it won’t help the customer deal with their complaint; in fact, it will make it worse as they will call back even angrier. This response doesn’t portray a great level of emotional intelligence or professionalism.

Question 4:

Your lunch shift is approaching. A customer comes into the post office and asks if you can divert a recent shipment. This can take a long time and can take up your lunch break. Choose the action you are most likely to take and the action you are least likely to take to serve the customer.

  • Direct her to the section of the USPS website where she herself can check out eligibility
  • Since it’s your lunch break you ask her to check with your supervisor
  • Tell her to come back at a more convenient time.
  • You hate to be late for lunch. Nonetheless you ask details of the shipment, check out eligibility and enquire if there is anything else you can do for her.

Answer 4:

  • d) This is the best option. Whether it’s a busy day, a time-consuming job or an upcoming lunch break, do what you need to do first.
  • a) is far from ideal. You managed not to postpone your lunch You have also helped her by informing her that she can check her eligibility online. However, in practice, her problem is not yet solved and the customer may not be satisfied.
  • c) may anger the customer and is far from ideal. Even though you offer to help them check whether they are eligible for this service, the customer may be frustrated by the long wait.
  • b) is the least favorable option. You have simply found an excuse not to do your In addition, you will unnecessarily refer the customer to an authority to escalate the problem. This is not what you would expect from a customer-facing role. It is therefore the least desirable option.


Tip: Your answer should always reflect the most you can do to ensure a satisfactory customer experience.

Lesson 2: What Drives You (Personality Exam)

This section asks questions about what you like and how you work. This type of test is called a Psychometric test and is designed to measure an applicant’s suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics. Basically, that means that the USPS wants to hire people that will like the job and the environment.

If you think about it, wouldn’t you want to design a test to see if a job is something you would like to do, and that you would be good at?

Take the time to think about how you are at work. This may be different than you at home, or maybe not.

  • The important thing is how you like to work, how you interact with your teammates, your bosses, your customers.
  • Most importantly, be honest as this will determine if you are a good fit for the job and will keep your answers consistent.
  • There are no right or wrong answers.

Here are some sample questions:

  1. I prefer
    • Working as part of a team
    • Helping customers
  2. I usually
    • Postpone unappealing tasks
    • Adapt to new situations
  3. People think I
    • Am friendly
    • Get things done

Lesson 3: Tell Us Your Story (Biodata Questionnaire)

This section is designed to predict your performance in a job judging by your past experience.

  • Think about how you would answer these questions in an interview.
  • Have your resume handy as some of the questions may be factual and you need to be consistent in your answers.

Here are some sample questions:

  1. How many jobs have you had to leave in the last 5 years?
    • 0
    • 1
    • 2 – 5
    • More than 5
    • Not applicable – this is my first job
  2. Have you ever been fined for being late?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not applicable – this is my first job
  3. What is the shortest period of time you have received a pay increase at any of your previous jobs?
    • Less than six months.
    • Between 6 months and 1 year
    • Between 2 and 3 years
    • 4 to 5 years
    • Not applicable – this is my first job
  4. How many times have you been disciplined for breaking the rules?
    • 0
    • 1 – 2
    • 3 – 4
    • More than 5
    • Not applicable – this is my first job
  5. How would your most recent supervisor rate your opinion or ability to make informed decisions?
    • Excellent
    • Good
    • Average
    • Poor
  6. If you were in a management position at your last job, how would your supervisor rate your ability to help develop employee skills?
    • Excellent
    • Good
    • Average
    • Poor
    • I have not had any leadership responsibilities.

Tip: At first glance, it seems like this section is purely subjective, and you have to just be honest. That is not the case. As strange as it may sound, there are right and wrong answers.

The phrase “nobody’s perfect” isn’t just a saying. Naturally, everyone has both strengths and weaknesses. Don’t try to present yourself as a perfect person because you couldn’t possibly possess every desirable characteristic. In fact, it’s unlikely that anyone would receive a high score on all or most of the test’s desirable characteristics. Your answers should be balanced. In general, try to avoid giving too many extreme scores.

Avoid being too neutral on the skills questions. When you are asked about your skills, try to show that you above average and worth hiring.

Lesson 4: Describe Your Approach (Personality Exam)

Questions that describe your working style.

  • Take some time to think about your ideal work environment.
  • Remember you will be working in a team environment much of the day. If you are going for a mail carrier position the beginning and end of your day is with the team.
  • You want to be consistent with your answers, as some of these questions may be duplicates just stated differently.

Here are some sample questions:

  1. (a) I prefer to make a plan and stick to it.
    (b) I like to be spontaneous.

    1. More like (a)
    2. Something like (a)
    3. Something like (b).
    4. More like (b)
  2. (a) I usually go with the flow.
    (b) I prefer to be my own boss.

    1. More like (a)
    2. Something like (a)
    3. Something like (b)
    4. More like (b)
  3. (a) I listen to different points of view when making decisions.
    (b) I prefer to make my own decisions.

    1. More like (a)
    2. Something like (a)
    3. Something like (b)
    4. More like (b)
  1. (a) I help my colleagues when I finish my work.
    (b) If a colleague needs help, I stop what I am doing to help them.

    1. More like (a)
    2. Something like (a)
    3. Something like (b)
    4. More like (b)
  2. (a) I always finish my work tasks.
    (b) I try not to limit myself to what is expected of me.

    1. More like (a)
    2. Something like (a)
    3. Something like (b)
    4. More like (b)
  1. (a) How a colleague feels is important to me.
    (b) It’s better for people to keep their feelings to themselves.

    1. More like (a)
    2. Something like (a)
    3. Something like (b)
    4. More like (b)

Tip: Put your work brain on and answer the questions as quickly as you can. Don’t overthink your answers and be honest as they want to see consistency. And always pick a “More like” answer.

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, just YOUR answers.

Lesson 5: Move the Mail

Getting the mail in the right mailbox or mail pouch is important. You will be asked to indicate which mailbox or pouch the mail should be in based on some criteria.

Here are some sample questions:

  1. Mail pouches are sorted by zip code, which mail pouch should the letter with the address 18667 Milton St., Peoria, IL 80222 go in?
    • Pouch 88671
    • Pouch 80227
    • Pouch 20222
    • Pouch 80222
    • Pouch 18667
  2. Letters in the mail pouch are delivered to mailboxes, which mailbox should the letter in the previous question go in?
    • Mailbox 80222
    • Mailbox 18222
    • Mailbox 18677
    • Mailbox 18667
    • Mailbox 88667

Tip: Pay close attention as details are important. The only correct answers are d in both questions.

Lesson 6: Verify Customer Information (Detail recognition)

Nothing is more essential to the USPS than having the right address. This section tests your ability to compare parts of an address from one form to another.

  • Each question will present you with information about people and their addresses, new and old.
  • You’ll be required to compare the two sets of information and identify where they are not the same.
  • Again, it is best to double check your work.

Here are some sample questions:

  1. Is Andersen the correct last name?
    • Correct
    • Incorrect
  2. Is the old zip code 77449?
    • Correct
    • Incorrect
  3. Is the old city Springfeild
    • Correct
    • Incorrect
  4. Is the new zip code 11638
    • Correct
    • Incorrect

Tip: Pay close attention as details count. The only correct answer is 2.

Lesson 7: Check for Errors (Accuracy Exam)

This section tests how well you can check data and spot mistakes.

  • It is important when handling mail to ensure all addresses, data and information are correct.
  • Instead of assessing your personality like the other tests, this one checks your attention to detail and concentration.
  • Although speed is important you have time so double check your answers and get it right.
  • The data they give you to check is not real data, but it will look like what you can expect on the job.

Here are some sample questions

  1. Which of the following pairs do not match?
    • 98878544 | 98878544
    • 88878553 | 88878553
    • 86887555 | 86887755
    • 44688655 | 44688655

Tip: Since long sequences of numbers are hard to compare, break the numbers down. Compare the first four numbers first, if you find an error you can select it, if they all match move on to the second four numbers.

Did you get c as the answer?

  1. Which of the following pairs do not match?
    • Location A 96380273  96830273
    • Location B 63984201  63984201
    • Location C 68326741  68326741
    • Location D 96357514  96367514
  1. Location A and Location B
  2. Location B and Location D
  3. Location B and Location C
  4. Location A and Location D

Tip: Find the two that don’t match first and then find the answer. Did you get ‘a’ this time?

Lesson 8: Help Your Customer (Customer Service)

The USPS prides itself on delivering good customer service and they will be hiring people who demonstrate they will deliver that.

  • Each question presents you with a real-life problem
  • Remember you want to get good customer service yourself, so imagine you were the customer and then deliver what you would want
  • You want to be a team player, and some of these questions will let you demonstrate how you do that
  • They may have more math problem situations in some of the questions as well

Here is a sample price list of products you are hired to sell:

Here are some sample questions:

  1. A customer wants 6 Greeting Cards. What will be their total cost?
    • $20
    • $18
    • $16
    • $10
  2. Another customer wants 40 Bird Postcards and 1 roll of shipping tape. What will be their total cost?
    • $20.00
    • $30.00
    • $34.00
    • $35.60

Tip: Again, figure out the cost and then answer the question. Did you get answer c in the first question and answer d in the second?

  1. A customer walks into the post office and asks you a question about the size of a package they want to mail. You know there are dimension requirements and the policy has recently changed, so you don’t know exactly. It would be best for you to do which of the following?
    • Tell the person what you think the answer might be.
    • Refer the person to your supervisor.
    • Say that you are not allowed to give out that information to the public.
    • Inform the person that you don’t know but will find the new policy, so you are certain to give them the correct answer.

The correct answer is d. It is always best to give the customer the correct information even if it takes some time.

Tip: Ask yourself what service you would want for yourself and that is probably the right answer.

Lesson 9: Work Your Register (Math Exam)

This section tests how quick and accurately you can make change and requires only basic math skills that don’t require a calculator.

Here are some sample questions:

  • Each question gives you a total amount of the transaction, how much money the customer gives you and your answer is the change they receive in the smallest number of coins
  • Practice this as speed and accuracy are both important

Determine how to make change using the fewest bills and coins.

A customer buys $16.67 worth of items and gives you a $20 bill.

  1. How many $5 bills would you use in the change you give them?
    • 2
    • 3
    • 0
    • 1
  2. How many dollars would you use?
    • 2
    • 3
    • 0
    • 1
  3. How many quarters would you use?
    • 2
    • 3
    • 0
    • 1
  4. How many dimes would you use?
    • 0
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  5. How many nickels would you use?
    • 2
    • 3
    • 0
    • 1
  6. How many pennies would you use?
    • 2
    • 3
    • 0
    • 1

Tip: Figure out the change and then answer the questions. The answers are for 1. c., for 2 b., for 3 d., for 4 a., for 5 d., and 6 b. for a total of $3.33.

STEP 3: Tips for Taking the Exam

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to take the USPS exam. The link will be sent to you after submitting your application and you have 72 hours (3 days) to complete it. Have a quiet place with a good internet connection.
  • Ensure you have had a good night’s sleep and are fully hydrated.
  • Eat a light, nutritious meal. Even if you are a little nervous before the exam, it is important that you eat a light nutritious meal. This will increase your energy level.
  • Once your answers are submitted you cannot change anything. Be 100% sure before submitting.
  • Read the questions carefully, but don’t over-think it. Speeding through a question may lead to mistakes and wrong answers – take your time.
    Especially on the personality questions go with your gut instinct as it is usually right and will likely be the more honest answer.
  • Learn how to answer each type of question. There are a lot of different kinds of questions, when you get into a new section think about what they are asking and what you want them to know before you begin.
  • Have confidence in yourself, you can do this!
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