PCO FAQs

Professional Career Opportunities (PCO) Exam Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This page contains a collection of answers to the most common questions about the Professional Career Opportunities (PCO) program.

What is the Professional Career Opportunities (PCO) Examination Program?

The PCO examination program uses one test to fill over 150 professional positions in New York State. The examination program has three parts: Part 1: The Online Examination Application, Part 2: the Online Test and Part 3: the Skills Inventory for Select Job Titles. All parts of this examination program can be completed on a desktop or laptop computer anywhere you can access the internet using a computer (e.g. home, library, career center, etc.).

Part 1: The Online Application

Part 2: The Online Test

Part 3: The Skills Inventory

After The Examination

The Online Application

Q. What is the Online Application?

A. The online application is the first step to take the PCO exam and is where you must show you meet the minimum qualifications (having a bachelor's degree or anticipate having a bachelor's degree by June 30, 2023).

To apply to the PCO examination program, you must complete and submit the online application. This application includes a section to report your bachelor's degree. If you do not yet have your bachelor's degree but anticipate having your degree by June 30, 2023, you can apply to this examination program and enter your anticipated degree date in the online application.

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Q. How do I apply to take the online test?

A. Go to the PCO examination page, read the examination announcement carefully and click on "Apply Now". If you do not already have one, you'll need to create a personal NY.GOV ID(External Link) to apply online.

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Q. Is there a fee to take the online test?

Yes, the PCO requires a non-refundable application processing fee, but there are some instances in which individuals may qualify for a fee waiver, as shown below.

When applying for an examination online, application processing fees must be paid by credit card. Only Visa and MasterCard are accepted. You will be asked to verify the billing address and credit card security code during the transaction.

  • You are unemployed and primarily responsible for the support of a household. On the examination application, select the option, "I am unemployed and primarily responsible for the support of a household."
  • You are eligible for Medicaid, receiving Supplemental Social Security payments, or Public Assistance (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families/Family Assistance or Safety Net Assistance) or are certified Job Training Partnership Act/Workforce Investment Act eligible through a state or local social service agency. On the examination application, choose the option, "I am receiving public assistance."
  • You are a New York State CSEA-represented employee applying for an open-competitive examination. On the examination application, choose the option, "I am applying for an OPEN-COMPETITIVE examination and my fee is paid by my union because I am a New York State employee represented by CSEA in Negotiating Units 02, 03, 04 or 47." (State employees represented by PEF are required to pay the Application Processing Fee.)
  • You are a Veteran discharged under honorable conditions from the Armed Forces of the United States or New York State applying for an open-competitive examination. On the examination application, choose the option, "I am applying for an OPEN-COMPETITIVE examination and I am a Veteran."

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Q. When is the application and fee due

A. You must submit your online application and pay the non-refundable processing fee by 11:59 pm on November 30, 2022.

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The Online Test

Q. What is the Online Test?

A. The Online Test is a training & experience test which uses an online questionnaire that asks questions about your education, training, and work experience. This online questionnaire is your test, and the answers you provide to the questions will be used to rate and score your test. The PCO test rates your training, education, and experience in the following five areas: Analytical Reasoning, Customer and Client Service, Professional Relationships, Reading Comprehension, and Written Communication.

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Q. When do I take the PCO online test?

A. After you submit your Online Examination Application by November 30, 2022, you must complete and submit the PCO online test by 11:59 pm on December 15, 2022. If you submit your test before that time, you can edit your responses and resubmit your test at any time until the deadline.

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Q. Where do I take the online test?

A. You can complete the online test anywhere you can access the internet using a personal computer. (e.g. home, library, career center, etc.)

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Q. What should I use to access the online test?

A. Use a desktop or laptop computer to access the online test. Do not use a phone or tablet.

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Q. What Internet browser should I use?

A. You should use Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Safari to access the online test.

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Q. What can I do to make the online test process go as smoothly as possible?

A. We highly recommend that you first watch the online Training and Experience Test Tutorial. After launching the test, you should review the online test in its entirety and collect all the information you will need to complete the test (e.g., information pertaining to specific work experience, including dates of employment and supervisor contact information). Then, set aside a block of time that is free of interruptions while you work on the online test. Answer all questions as completely and accurately as possible. Save the information that you enter on each page by clicking on the "Save" button at the bottom of each section. Review all saved information before submitting your completed test and retain a copy of your response summary after submission.

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Q. The online test does not launch after selecting 'Start'. What should I do?

A. Make sure your pop-up blocker is off and the Internet browser you are using is up to date.

You may also have to clear your Internet browser cache and cookies in the browser's settings.

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Q. I receive an 'App Access Locked' or 'App Not Assigned' error message when trying to sign into the Testing Dashboard. What should I do?

A. This message appears if you are trying to sign in using an incorrect NY.gov account. You should be using your personal NY.gov username and password to access the test. This is the same username and password you used to apply for the test. If you are already a NYS employee, you will not be able to access the test using your government NY.gov username and password.

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Q. What if I have a question about how to respond to specific questions on the online test?

A. The PCO test includes general instructions, instructions for navigating the questionnaire, and specific instructions for completing the PCO online test. To be fair to all candidates, staff cannot provide individual assistance or directions as to how you should respond to specific questions. You should review the instructions carefully and answer as best you can.

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Q. Do I need to complete the online test in one session?

A. No. You may enter and save your responses to one or more sections and then return to complete other sections at another time. To do so, make sure you save your entries in the sections you have completed, and then select 'Save and continue at a later time' at the bottom of the main checklist. The 'Save and continue at a later time' button brings you back to your Testing Dashboard.

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Q. I completed a section in the online test, but when I returned none of my information was saved. What happened?

A. As you complete each section, you need to "Save" before navigating off the page. If you attempt to return to the checklist, or move to another section without saving, a prompt will appear on the screen asking if you want to proceed without saving. If you did not save, you will need to re-enter the information.

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Q. I hit the back button to return to another part of the Online test, but my prior entry did not save. What happened?

A. This system is not designed to handle use of the back button. If used, any unsaved information will be lost. Instead, please use the navigation provided on each page.

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Q. I started to complete the online test but was signed out. None of the information I completed appeared when I signed back in. What happened?

A. If you are logged off for any reason (e.g., a period of inactivity), you will be required to log-in again. If you were in the process of completing a section but did not save the information, any information on that page will be lost; however, information saved previously will remain.

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Q. Will I be able to edit my responses after I submit?

A. After you submit the test, you can edit your responses at any time up until the deadline. You must SAVE and RESUBMIT your questionnaire every time you edit it for your changes to save. No changes are allowed after the December 15, 2022 deadline listed on the exam announcement.

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Q. How do I know my online test was submitted correctly?

A. After you submit your online test, you will receive a confirmation on the screen stating that your online test has been successfully submitted. This confirmation pop-up also includes an option for you to download and save or print a copy of your submission details. We strongly recommend that you retain a copy of this for your records as it includes your submission details and responses.

You can also confirm your submission from Testing Dashboard. If you have submitted the test and the exam period is still open, you will see a blue flag next to the exam number on the 'Available' page. If you hover over that flag, it will say 'Response submitted earlier'. If you have submitted the test and the exam period has ended, you can confirm your submission by selecting 'History' at the top of the page. If you successfully submitted, you will see a record for that exam number with a status of 'Submitted' and your submission date.

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The Skills Inventory

Q. What is the Skills Inventory?

A. Applicants who wish to be considered for any of the PCO Select Job Titles including titles needing proficiency in a language other than English and titles needing an understanding of diversity management must fill out the PCO Skills Inventory. The Skills Inventory uses an online questionnaire that asks questions about your education, training, and work experience. The answers you provide to the questions will be used for Selective Certification, the narrowing of a pool of candidates by requiring specialized education, experience, and/or language proficiency particular to the job title being filled.

This Skills Inventory will be the only basis for determining your eligibility for consideration to fill the Select Job Titles. The Skills Inventory is optional as not all candidates who are successful on the test possess the specialized requirements for the Select Job Titles. Your examination score will be determined by your score on the test and will not change because of the selective certification process as the Skills Inventory is not scored.

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Q. Do I have to complete the Skills Inventory?

A. Applicants who wish to be considered for any of the Select Job Titles including titles needing proficiency in a language other than English and titles needing an understanding of diversity management must fill out the Skills Inventory.

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Q. When do I complete the Skills Inventory?

A. After you submit your Online Examination Application, you must complete and submit the PCO Skills Inventory by 11:59 pm on December 15, 2022. If you submit your test before that time, you can edit your responses and resubmit your Skills Inventory at any time until the deadline.

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Q. Where do I complete the Skills Inventory?

A. You can complete the Skills Inventory anywhere you can access the internet using a personal computer. (e.g., home, library, career center, etc.)

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Q. What should I use to access the Skills Inventory?

A. Use a desktop or laptop computer to access the Skills Inventory. Do not use a phone or tablet.

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Q. What can I do to make the Skills Inventory process go as smoothly as possible?

A. We recommend that you review the Skills Inventory in its entirety and collect all the information you will need to complete the Skills Inventory (e.g., information pertaining to your education, licenses, certifications, and specific work experience including dates of employment and supervisor contact information.). Then, set aside a block of time that is free of interruptions while you work on the Skills Inventory. Answer all questions as completely and accurately as possible. Save the information that you enter on each page by clicking on the 'Save' button which is located at the end of each section. Review all saved information before you submit your completed Skills Inventory and retain a copy of your responses after submission by selecting 'view or print a summary of the information you saved'.

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Q. Do I need to complete the Skills Inventory in one session?

A. No. You may enter and save your responses to one or more sections and then return to complete other sections at another time. To do so, make sure you save your entries in the sections you have completed, and then select 'Save and continue at a later time' at the bottom of the main checklist.

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Q. I completed a section in the Skills Inventory, but when I returned none of my information was saved. What happened?

A. As you complete each section, you need to 'Save' before navigating off the page. If you did not save, you will need to re-enter the information.

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Q. I hit the back button to return to another part of the Skills Inventory, and now I can't continue. What happened?

A. This system is not designed to handle use of the back button. Please use the navigation provided on each page.

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Q. I started to complete the Skills Inventory, but I left my computer and when I came back, I was signed out. None of the information I completed appeared when I signed back in. What happened?

A. Your log-in session will remain active if you save information or refresh any page within 30 minutes. After 30 minutes of inactivity, you will be required to log-in again. If you were in the process of filling out a form but did not save the information, any information on that page will be lost; however, information saved previously will remain.

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Q. Will I be able to edit my Skills Inventory responses after submission?

A. After you submit the questionnaire, you can edit your responses at any time up until the deadline. You must SAVE and RESUBMIT your questionnaire every time you edit it for your changes to save. No changes are allowed after the December 15, 2022 deadline listed on the exam announcement.

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Q. What if I have a question about how to respond to specific questions on the Skills Inventory?

A. The Skills Inventory includes general instructions, instructions for navigating the questionnaire, and specific instructions for completing the Skills Inventory. To be fair to all candidates, staff cannot provide individual assistance or directions as to how you should respond to specific questions. You should review the instructions carefully and answer as best you can.

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Q. How do I know if my Skills Inventory was submitted correctly?

A. After you submit your Skills Inventory, you will receive a confirmation on the screen stating that your questionnaire has been successfully submitted. Before you submit your Skills Inventory, you will be prompted to review your entries. We recommend you print a copy of your responses to keep for your own records because this will enable you to check the information before you make your final submission. You can also return to the PCO Dashboard to review your submission.

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Q. I have submitted my Skills Inventory. What happens next?

A. This Skills Inventory submission will be the only basis for determining your eligibility for consideration to fill the 'Select Job Titles'. Once the eligible list(s) are established, your submission could qualify you for Select Job Titles, titles requiring Language Proficiency (language other than English), or to positions filled using the Diversity Management Option which is used is to fill vacancies that have a demonstrated need for candidates who have an understanding of diversity management and equal opportunity principals which are necessary to perform the essential duties and responsibilities of the position. Your score will be determined by your score on the test and will not change because of the selective certification process as the Skills Inventory.

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After The Examination

Q. What happens after the examination?

A. After taking an examination, you will be notified by email when official scores are available online, usually within 90 - 120 days of the examination date. Eligible lists and score notices are available on the Eligible List Management System (ELMS). If you have any other questions regarding your status, you may also call our List Maintenance Unit at (518) 457-4295 for more information.

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Q. How is the eligible list used?

A. General and select titles are filled from the PCO. All candidates who meet the minimum qualifications and pass the test will have their names included on the generalist eligible list. Select titles require specific education and experience. Selective certification filters the eligible list by the specific education and experience required for the title based on eligible candidates' education and experience as indicated on the Skills Inventory. The selective certification will contain only the names of eligible candidates who have passed the test and meet the specialized requirements.

A Diversity Management Option is used to fill vacancies that have a demonstrated need for candidates who have an understanding of diversity management and equal opportunity principals which are necessary to perform the essential duties and responsibilities of the position. All general and select job titles may be filled from the Diversity Management option.

The eligible lists are provided to State agencies where the job openings are located. They must follow the rule of three when selecting candidates to interview for a position.

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Q. How long will my name stay on an eligible list?

A. Most eligible lists are initially established for four years. However, a list can be superseded by a new list after one year. If you decline a canvass by either letter or telephone, or at the interview, your name may be inactivated for the type of appointment, shift, agency or location. See your canvass letter for additional information on declinations. If you decline or are unable to accept a job at a specific time, you may reactivate your name at a later date.

Some examinations are given more frequently, and names of new candidates are interfiled in score order on the eligible list. These lists are referred to as continuous recruitment examinations, and each candidate remains on the list for a period of eligibility that is specified in the examination announcement, typically for 12 months.

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Q. What does "status" mean?

A. Active - the person is eligible for appointment from a list.
Inactive - the person is not currently eligible for appointment from a list.
Appointment Pending - an agency has indicated that the person has been appointed, but the appointment has not been approved.
Appointed - the person's appointment has been approved

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Q. How do I inactivate myself on a list?

A. To be removed from a list, you can request inactivation on ELMS Online.

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Q. I received my score, what happens next?

A. Once you know your examination score, you may begin to receive canvass letters from select state agencies. Agencies send out canvass letters to determine your interest in a specific job and its location, and to request your availability. Canvass letters are not job offers. If you receive a canvass letter, do not leave your current job. If you receive a canvass letter for a job you are interested in, return the canvass letter to the address indicated on the letter by the return date. If you return the canvass letter late, the agency is not required to consider you for that job, even though you will remain on the eligible list. Agencies are not required to send canvass letters or conduct interviews. However, in most cases they do. Once they have conducted interviews, agencies are required to hire from the eligible list according to the rule of three.

If you are undecided about your interest in a particular position that you've received a canvass letter for, it is recommended that you respond to the canvass inquiry and indicate that you are interested in being interviewed. After you have found out more about the job, you can always decline an offer if you receive one.

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Q. Will I get a job if I get the highest score?

If you are the top scorer, you might be considered for a job, but having a high score does not guarantee that you will be hired - see the Rule of Three below. The canvass and interview are equally important parts of the selection process.

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Q. What is the "rule of three?

All candidates at the highest score are immediately eligible for consideration for appointment. Candidates at lower scores can be considered only when there are fewer than three candidates at higher scores.

Any candidate's eligibility for appointment depends not only on his or her rank (all eligible who received the same score are equally ranked) but also how many other candidates are tied at that and higher-level ranks. The following two examples illustrate how this might work:

Example One

Score
Number of Candidates at
this score

Rank of Candidates
100
1
1
95
1
2
90
1
3


In this case all three candidates at all three scores and ranks are eligible to be appointed.

Example Two

Score
Number of Candidates at
this score

Rank of Candidates
100
10
1
95
10
11
90
10
21


In this case, only the ten candidates at score 100 and rank 1 are eligible for appointment. If, however, through hiring or declinations the number of candidates at 100 is reduced to 2, then all 10 candidates at the score 95 (rank 11) can also be considered. Only if there were only two or fewer candidates at the scores of 100 and 95 (ranks 1 and 11) can any of the 10 candidates at the 90 score be considered.

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