Most federal civil service positions require that you pass a specialized exam to qualify for the job. Applicants to the U.S. Postal Service are usually required to take at least one of several pre-employment exams to assess their aptitude for the position. The most common exam, Exam 473 for mail handlers and mail carriers, is now taken using computers. It is offered both online and in proctored test-taking settings.
Exams Are Part of the Application Process
In the USPS eCareer system, you are scheduled to take the appropriate exam as a part of the application process for a specific position. You must take the exam to move forward in the application process unless you have already taken it. If you have already taken that exam within the retest time period (120 days for Exam 473) when you apply for the job, then the earlier score is automatically used. If the retest time period has passed, then you have the option to take the exam again or use your earlier score.
Material Covered in Exam 473
Exam 473 for mail handlers and mail carriers is divided into Parts A through D. Part A covers address checking, or comparing whether two addresses are the same. Part B is forms completion — the ability to understand and fill out forms used by USPS. Part C has two sections: coding and memory. In the coding test, you identify the correct code for an address. In the memory test you memorize codes to be assigned to addresses. Part D is designed to assess job-related experiences and tendencies.
Preparing for a Postal Exam
The USPS strongly recommends that you use the official USPS Test 473 Orientation Guide and not the postal exam preparation guides offered by a number of private companies. The official orientation guide includes a great deal of valuable information about the exam as well as sample questions and answers. USPS also recommends being well rested when taking the exam, and eating a light meal a couple of hours beforehand. If you are taking the exam at a testing center, you will need to bring a valid government ID and the login and password information you were sent by email.
The exam results are sent to the email address you submitted with your application as soon as you complete the test. Exam scores remain valid until the date on your notice of rating. Exam 473 scores remain valid for six years if you are not hired. Passing a postal exam does not mean you will be hired. Scores are modified by various criteria, including veteran status, and hiring is conducted based on the modified scores.