The Civil Service System

Civil Service Glossary

The City fills many of its positions through the Civil Service Process, a process guided by the New York State Civil Service Law, which is in place to help ensure that the hiring process is competitive and fair. The City uses employment examinations to measure a potential candidate's merit and fitness for a particular title. In most instances, taking an exam is the beginning of a hiring process that may lead to employment with the City.

After each exam, the City establishes an eligible to hire list. This list consists of all candidates who passed the exam, ranked in score order and is available to each City agency with open positions in the corresponding title. When an agency has a hiring need, candidates are contacted for interviews in list number order. New York State Civil Service Law requires agencies to employ the One-in-Three rule, whereby they must consider and hire one of the three candidates at the top of the eligible list for appointment to a vacant position. Eligible lists usually remain active for four years.

 Some positions available within the City do not require an exam. These positions tend to require special skills that make recruitment for the positions particularly difficult.

Typical Test Parts for Examinations

Often, there is more than one test part making up an exam and passing all tests will determine if a candidate appears on the eligible list for the corresponding title.

Multiple-Choice Tests generally consist of 60 to 100 multiple-choice questions which offer a number of response options. The candidate records the selected answers on a Scantron sheet by coloring in circles with a No. 2 pencil or records answers while sitting at a computer at a DCAS testing center. Non-computerized tests are generally given on Saturdays at high schools located throughout the city's five boroughs. If you require an accommodation due to a special circumstance, download the Special Circumstances Guide to learn more.

 Education and Experience (E&E) Tests can be used to rank candidates or to determine if they meet the minimum requirements to be qualified for a particular title. Competitive E&E tests are used to fill positions in which specific experience and education are good indicators of a candidate's qualification for a particular title. It is important to be complete and accurate when completing an E&E test because the information you provide will be the only information used to rate this test.  If the education needed to meet the minimum qualifications of a particular test was obtained outside of the United States, you will have to have your foreign education evaluated by one of our approved foreign education evaluation services.  Download the Foreign Education Evaluation Guide to learn more. 

Online Education and Experience Test (OLEE) allows candidates to apply for an education and experience test online, take the test, and receive immediate feedback about their test results. OLEE makes the tests more accessible to candidates, since it allows candidates to take the tests from their homes, or at locations convenient to them, such as the local library. OLEE has also resulted in establishing civil service lists from these exams more quickly.

 Practical/Physical Tests require a candidate to demonstrate skill or fitness in performing specific job tasks. Examples include typing tests for clerical positions and physical ability tests for Firefighters and Sanitation Workers. In these tests, candidates are rated by an expert examiner on their ability to perform a work sample, representing essential tasks of a title.

After Taking a Test

Multiple-Choice, Essay and Oral Tests
The City begins the process of validating an answer key or a rating guide and scoring each examination. As part of this process, State Civil Service Law provides a limited period of time in which each candidate is eligible to protest proposed answers to multiple-choice test questions or the rating guide for essay and oral tests. Any challenges received during the protest period are resolved by a panel (see TVB below) and the final answer key or the final rating guide is approved for test rating. Once all test parts are rated, the list is created in rank order by passing score and is eventually established as the eligible list, which is used to hire employees for vacancies. The creation of the eligible list usually occurs six to nine months after the test date. 

Upon publication or establishment of a list, the City notifies all candidates of their official score and list number. Candidates who believe they were scored incorrectly may appeal their scores at this time.

Test Validation Board (TVB)
Generally, the applicant protest period for non-computerized exams begins in the fifth week after the test is given. Candidates then have thirty (30) days to submit written protests to the proposed key answers. Candidates must explain why their answers are as good as or better than the posted key answers. The Test Validation Board (TVB) reviews each protest and if necessary, makes appropriate changes to the answer key. The TVB traditionally consists of one representative of the union, a subject expert and an exam expert. Upon completion of the TVB review a final answer key is established, the exams are rated and the eligible list is published and/or established. There is a 30-day period after the exam results are released (upon the publishing or establishment of a list) during which candidates are permitted to appeal the calculation of their final score.

Please follow the links below for the protest procedures associated with computer-based or paper-and-pencil tests: