Blacks, Hispanics, Oriental-Americans and American Indians who took the tough Foreign Service entrance in December will get a 5-point scoring break over nonminority test-takers.
State Department officials call the new system "differential scoring" and say it will be used to select people who will be offered FS jobs this year and in the future.
More than 10,000 people took the FS test. Of that number, about 225 will be hired for jobs in the State Department and International Communication Agency. Those jobs start at $13,900 and $16,200.
Under the differential scoring system, which other federal agencies may adopt to expand the hiring of minority group members, minorities can be considered for FS jobs if they get a score of 70 or better. Non-minority candidates must score 75 or better.
State Department officials estimate that 3,800 of the 9,000 nonminority candidates taking the December FS test passed with scores of 75 or better.An estimated 200 minority group members of more than 1,000 who took the test will pass with scores of 70 or better.
The new program is designed to increase the number of minorities in the U.S. Foreign Service. It now has 3,400 employes, only 8 percent of whom are members of minority groups.
Last year the Foreign Service hired about 200 new officers, 39 of them minority group members. This year, officials say, they are "aiming for" 47 minority group members to be among the approximately 225 to be hired.
State made the grade-score changes which go into effect today for the test taken in December, as part of a program to enlarge the pool of minority group applicants available to the FS.
Under departmental rules, minority group members do not have to take the FS test at all, although nonminority group candidates are required to take it. Minority group applicants may, if they choose, come in under affirmative action programs, which permit their college degrees and grades to be substituted for passing scores on the FS entry test. Or they may compete through the regular FS test program, with the new 5-point advantage.
State Department officials say the assessment of candidates for beginning FS jobs began yesterday. Those assessments include day-long oral exams before FS selection boards, exhaustive medical tests and security and background checks.
Backers of the differential scoring system defend it on grounds that preference in government has been given to veterans who could get 5 points added to test scores, and disabled vets who get 10-point benefits. This is believed to be the first time that any federal agency has given test score preference on the basis of minority status.
For purposes of the program, race and/or ethnic background is limited to blacks, Hispanics, Oriental-Americans and native Americans Indians). Women are not considered minorities for this program, unless they also are either black, Hispanic, Oriental-American or Indian.