Had the OA today and got the dreaded 5.2 so missed it by .05. I am still trying to process what that means and am mulling over what I can and can't say to help those of you who still have this in front of you.
I guess the first thing I would say is that there wasn't just about anyone who tested today that I would have been upset if they had made it and I did not. We wound up having a pretty low success rate with only 3/12 passing.
I think my gut reaction is that there are parts that are a little arbitrary and out of your control a bit and the parts that you can control, on the SI in particular, you really have to squeeze every point out of it.
We had some interesting group dynamics on the GE that really hurt one person in particular. He seemed like a very solid candidate and I think he took it in the chops the way things played out. Now he could have done something to try to redirect things, but we got in the weeds pretty fast and two people fought to almost the bitter end on their projects. We came to a consensus with about thirty seconds to go. It wasn't pretty and I hope that this isn't how State operates in the field, but I passed and thought it was my strongest part of the day.
I had the SI next. In my opinion this is the one section of the test that you have the most control over and really need to rack up the points. It was definitely the most straight forward of the three sections. There is probably an element of luck to some of the questions you are asked, but if you know the thirteen dimensions inside and out you should do well on this part of the test.
Looking back on it now and to have missed by .05 this is the part I blew it on despite passing this section. There is one section of the SI where you pick one of two questions and on one of the questions both choices gave me some trouble. It wasn't that I hadn't thought about it, but both questions were very personal and I wasn't sure how to handle the question. So I wound up giving a very mediocre answer at best. This section should have been a huge strength for me and I definitely did not have my A game for some reason. The assessors were fine and they didn't interrupt me so no excuses other than not performing up to my abilities.
The CM is what it is. This is the one section that I did not pass. Like everyone has said before it is a bear to get through in terms of time, but it didn't appear to be an overly complex set of issues. I didn't pass so what do I know. I am not sure what you can do to prepare for this other than trying to find case management examples and getting used to dealing with the time crunch.
Overall I think it was a pretty fair process. I guess I find it a bit surprising that you can get to the end of such a competitive process and for most people this is your first direct experience with State. I am not too sure what I would do different other than making the SI more in depth. That seems to be the less arbitrary of the three parts and having several experienced FSO's interviewing candidates would be a very useful thing to do. As fast as you fly through the SI I am not sure if candidates are getting the best opportunity to really show their depth.
That being said it is the same for everyone and the examiners do a great job of keeping a level playing field for everyone.