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Maryland Department of Transportation
State Highway Administration
General Information
Reasons for Tests

Several years ago, the Department of Transportation entered into a new Human Resources system known as the Transportation Service Human Resources System (TSHRS). Within this system, each transportation modal has been given responsibility to recruit, test and generate eligibility lists for unique classifications within their Department.

MSHA receives many applications each year for a variety of job openings. Because no two jobs are exactly alike, we need to use different types of testing methods to determine which applicants are best suited for each job and which candidates should be referred to the hiring division for an interview.

In all cases, we try to use a test that will predict who will perform well on the job. Most applicants do better on a test if they believe the test is a reasonable way to measure their skills. Your score on a test may even be higher if you feel that the test gives you a fair chance to demonstrate what you know and what you can do. Our tests are developed using a process to make them absolutely fair to all that take them and to make them accurate measures of ones ability to perform well on the job.


Test writing is a process that involves ongoing partnerships within our organization. Employees who have exceptional knowledge regarding a job, help Testing Analysts write the tests. These are most often employees who perform well on the job and their supervisors. These job experts and our Test Analysts jointly identify the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for a person to work well on that particular job. They jointly develop a test to measure these qualities.


Test scores are used to rank candidates into 3 categories on an eligibility list. The 3 possible categories are: Best Qualified (BQ), Well Qualified (WQ), and Qualified (Q). Scores cannot be compared from one test to another. The range of test scores may vary according to the difficulty level of each test. Scores on a new test may be different (higher or lower) than scores of the test it replaces. With each new test administration, a number of factors may change. Some of these factors include the candidate pool and the test itself.

Once a candidate is placed on an eligibility list, their score is generally "active" for a period of about one year. Please be advised that occasionally lists are exhausted before this period has expired, and a new test is then sometimes administered. Additionally, eligibility lists can be extended for periods of six months or even longer. Candidates are urged to keep track of their status on all eligibility lists that they are currently on.


Qualification Supplement

We look for experience and training that indicates an applicant is well prepared to perform the duties of a job. Applicants must first show that they meet the minimum qualifications to be considered. The information given in response to the Qualification Supplement exam will determine an applicant's score. There will be instructions within the Qualification Supplement that request the applicant to provide specific information.

To efficiently score the large amount of Qualification Supplements we receive, we ask that you do not make reference to an attached resume. Resumes and other like materials often do not include all the information we need and the information is not always easy to find.


You must follow the instructions exactly and provide your information in the exact order and format specified in the Qualification Supplement. If you do not follow the instructions and format, you may not receive a score that truly reflects your experience and training. If, for example a questions asks how many times you have performed a certain task, what the dates were, who your supervisor/employer was, and what your level of responsibility was, be sure to provide all this information each time it is requested. You will not get full credit without these facts.

EXAMPLE: If we asked about your experience driving a dump truck, you might answer, "I drove a 5-ton dump truck hauling dirt and gravel 40 hours a week for 30 months from April 1990 to October 1993. My job title was Facility Maintenance Technician III and my employer was RKT Construction Company of Upper Marlboro, Maryland."

Be sure to fill out your application and any Qualification Supplement responses completely. SAY WHAT YOU MEAN CLEARLY AND EXPLICITLY! The person scoring your exam can not "read into" your writing or give you credit for anything that you have not clearly stated. The person scoring your exam will not have time to spend digging the necessary details out from your application form or resume. You must provide the information in the order and format requested. We do not accept further information after the closing deadline. Include only the information requested. Irrelevant information will not be scored and might make it harder for the person scoring the exam to find the relevant information. The people scoring the exams have to hand-read the applications and Qualification Supplement responses. It is more likely that you will receive all the points that you are entitled to if your Qualification Supplement responses are easy to read and score. It also helps in generating our eligibility lists in as much a timely manner as possible.

Multiple-Choice Tests

Multiple-choice tests have a strong record for measuring abilities of groups of applicants. Research demonstrates that people who do well on these tests are likely to do well on the job. While the match between test scores and job performance is not perfect, these tests are an effective tool for determining which applicants might be best suited for the job.



Skim through the test to see what kinds of problems you have to solve. Do you want to warm up on easy questions? Do you want to work on the hard ones while you are fresh? Do you want to leave some complicated questions until last so that they do not use too much time? Just be sure to keep track of which questions you need to go back and answer.


A common reason applicants do not score high on tests is that they do not read the questions and instructions carefully. Sometimes we develop information about rules or procedures in the test. These rules and procedures are often difficult and may differ somewhat from rules used in our agency. This information gives other state agency employees and outside applicants an equal chance to demonstrate their skill in solving problems.


Approach a test as if you are performing the duties of the job. Act as if each situation has actually occurred while you are working. Consider all of the information given in the question before your choose an answer. Answer the question as it is presented. Do not change the question by assuming other facts about the situation. Think about a good way to solve the problem before you read the answer choices. Consider what you should do as an employee in this position. Can you handle the problem without consulting your supervisor? What level of responsibility do you have?

Decide whether the action you choose would cause any problems. Would it solve the immediate problem but allow the same problem to come up later? Is it reasonable and legal? Would any of the other alternatives solve the problem as well without causing new problems?

Scratch paper is often an effective tool in finding the correct answer. Use scratch paper to reword the answers in simpler terms to allow easier completion. You may be able to draw a picture or diagram to help you reason out a solution. If you have time left at the end of the testing period, go back over your answers. If you have good reason to change an answer, do so.


Many of the suggestions above apply to oral tests (a.k.a.- structured interviews) as well. In an oral test, you will sit with a panel and answer questions that are job-related. Some of these questions may ask how you would handle situations that may arise on the job. The purpose of the test is for you to demonstrate that you have the skills and abilities needed to solve job-related problems. You need to place yourself into the job, analyze what you should do, and consider the consequences of the actions you might take. A structured interview panel is interested in the content of your answers. Therefore, the more thorough your responses, the better.

Often, a complete answer requires you to bring up a number of related points. You need to tell the panel what assumptions you are making and the reasons for your actions. Tell them what alternatives you consider and reject for good reasons. Do not skip the part of the answer you think the oral panel already knows. They have to hear you say it if they are going to give you credit for it. To prepare for an oral exam, practice talking about solving job-related problems. It may help to investigate the kind of problems that occur in that type of job, so that you can become comfortable talking about them.

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Revised: June 18, 2008