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Thread: I am taking the NYC civil service exam for city planner: advice for prep?

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    I am taking the NYC civil service exam for city planner: advice for prep?

    I am scheduled to take the City Planner exam late Feburary for the City of New York. I have lived here my entire life, went to SUNY Binghamton and have been working as a staff planner for a local private transportation planning firm for the past year. I am currently only work 3 days per week, sans benefits and the city is look like a good place to use as a springboard for several years....

    However, the Exam form is pretty extensive, with many different areas included in the "what to study for" part.

    Has anyone on this board taken this exam in the past?

    What were your experiences?
    What were the questions like?


    thanks,

    Michael

  2. #2
    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    I didn't take the NYC Civil Service exam but I did take our local municipality's (upstate NY) Senior Planner exam.

    Most of the questions were pretty basic planning. There were some on GIS and they were more detailed than I thought, I think one question was something specific about raster data. There were also a number of statistics questions. For the Senior Planner aspect there were some on supervision and management.

    Also, you might want to check the local library to see if they have any Study Guides for the planning exam. Ours had a few that were slightly helpful, albeit a bit outdated.

    Good luck!

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    dandy, thanks- I think I will check out the Queens Library after work today

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    Has not 1 single person on the board taken this exam? I thought we had an over-saturation on unemployed planners here in the NorthEast.....

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    **mods can you combine these two threads?** Please don't post the same thread in two different forums.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

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    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    I haven't taken the NYC Civil Service exams but have taken several of the NYS exams. If it's anything similar, then expect a lot of questions that have little to do with planning and are more in the realm of DPW or civil engineering.

    I also would not count on the City of New York for employment any time soon. IIRC most of the agencies have a hiring freeze and DCP just let some planners go. I think EDC is the only agency that is still actively hiring.

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    What do you think it takes to be a project manager over at EDC?

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    Cyburbian rover's avatar
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    I don't understand, why do you have to take an exam for the job?
    I've been looking for work with the NYC government.
    All I do is just go to agency websites and look for postings (like on the APA site)...do you really need the civil service exam?
    To me, it seems like a waste.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by rover View post
    I don't understand, why do you have to take an exam for the job?
    I've been looking for work with the NYC government.
    All I do is just go to agency websites and look for postings (like on the APA site)...do you really need the civil service exam?
    To me, it seems like a waste.
    Waste or not it is required if you want to work for a government in NYS. From the NYS Civil Service website:
    Our mission is to provide our State and local government agency partners innovative, cost-efficient human resources solutions for change and diversity based on fitness, merit and equal opportunity. The Department encourages jobseekers to consider joining our team of dedicated public sector employees through the civil service system.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    MOST public sector jobs at one time required a civil service exam (state, local, regional, county, etc.).
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    MOST public sector jobs at one time required a civil service exam (state, local, regional, county, etc.).
    Any idea why this has changed? Personally I'm glad I haven't had to take one.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  12. #12
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    On a related note, here's a timely NY Times piece on the NYC Civil Service system and potential reforms:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/07/ny...civil.html?hpw

    I hope they're able to implement some changes, though it looks like this would just happen in NYC and not the state at large. I understand why the CS system exists, but anyone that has applies for a municipal job in NYS or NYC knows just how awkward of a system this is.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian rover's avatar
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    I applied for a job with NYDOT. I did it online. I didn't need to go to a physical site and take a test. I did have to answer some questions online, but they weren't "test" type questions. Don't know if this is what would be referred to as a civil service exam.

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    I took the exam for an upstate municipality, it was probably similar if not identical to the NYC one, depending on the exact job you are sitting for.

    There were several questions related to drainage, grading, and site planning that I expect many planners would be unable to answer. I have a background in architecture and I think I did okay with them as a result of my construction technology coursework. This stuff isn't rocket science, but you might need to get ready for it -- especially if your planning coursework didn't cover physical geography much (BTW I am also Binghamton alum).

    Here is a paraphrased example of one of the more difficult questions:

    You are given a topographic map of a street intersection, with the centerline marked at 20 foot increments, as well as four drainage points. You are asked to determine which of the four drainage points a drop of water falling at a given point on the centerline would flow to.

    If you know the trick about water flowing perpendicular to the topo lines, and you understand all the terminology in the prompt, it will be pretty simple.

    There were also lots of questions about statistics, which I did not expect and I think I blew it on a couple of those. None of it was calculation heavy, just theory.

    Lastly, there were many policy/design questions where the answers were pretty much a matter of opinion. So you might do well to practice thinking like a 1980's era planner if you want to get these right.

    The rest of the test was just typical reasoning bullsh**, like the SAT verbal section.

    Hope that helps.

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    Thanks, Grant.


    The Test does mention something about statistics, Is that like the SPSS Program in the Bing lab? or something more general?


    Also, here is a copy of the exam overview: Does this look standardized or should I expect a test more unique to NYC-area?



    THE TEST: You will be given a multiple-choice test. Your score on this test will be used to determine your place on
    an eligible list. You must achieve a score of at least 70% to pass this test.
    The multiple-choice test may include questions on the ability to apply land use, housing, transportation,
    environmental and other applicable regulations, principles, policies and procedures; knowledge of New York City
    land use review and environmental review processes; knowledge of land use and zoning principles, including
    variances, floor area ratios and density controls; knowledge of capital facilities and infrastructure planning;
    knowledge of research techniques and methodology including data collection, analysis and organization; ability
    to analyze quantitative and qualitative data; knowledge of demographics; ability to apply basic mathematics and
    statistics as they relate to planning; knowledge of New York City geography and the New York metropolitan area;
    ability to review and evaluate site plans, read and interpret maps, graphs and charts; knowledge of city planning
    terminology; ability to communicate information in writing; ability to solve problems, coordinate activities,
    organize projects, prioritize and schedule work, develop time lines, and meet project deadlines; the ability to
    assess the appropriateness of planning and project proposals; knowledge of the function and role of New York
    City planning agencies including intergovernmental relations and coordination with regard to policy analysis,
    communication, advocacy, communityand economic development, and public participation including negotiation
    and coalition building; and the standards of proper employee ethical conduct; and other related areas.

    Thanks Guys!

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    I just want to give a little more info on the civil service exam for city planning that is under discussion here.

    This year is the first time the exam has been offered in five years, so lots of planners (like me) hired by the city during that period will be taking the exam. The exam isn't required to get a city planning job, but it may be crucial in keeping a city planning job when layoffs happen, which is likely.

    Planners without civil service status are provisional employees, and are thus subject to layoffs before those who have taken the exam and gained permanent status.

    Taking the exam if you are not yet employed by the city in no way means that you are more likely to be hired. However, if you do end up working for the city, it may give you some additional measure of job security in the future.

    As for the exam content, the prep workshop sponsored by the union seems to indicate that it won't be particularly challenging, but brushing off that stats textbook might not be a bad idea.

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    Stats? for planners? Ive never come across stats in my planning career in the private sector as of yet... but i will look...

    So then i'd imagine the exam is basic planning concepts for college then? not specific to NYC stuff? idk I think itll prob be a blend

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Nothing as complicated as you would use SPSS for. More like, "choose the best representation of central tendency for a data set with a large central cluster and a few outlying values?" And then the answer would be median, or whatever.

    So it was just basic statistical theory as it applies to demographics. No calculations or probability or anything like that. I would just review the definitions of the basic demographic terms, and maybe do some reading on the best practices for executing surveys and polls. Honestly, most of it seemed like common sense to me--but your test may be different (the description significantly differs from the description of my test, which I can't find ATM or I would post it).

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Future Planning Diva View post
    I just want to give a little more info on the civil service exam for city planning that is under discussion here.
    hey.. do you know if they offer a license or ceritifcation to go along with it? I'm in the private sector and not going anywhere, but I wouldn't mind getting a NYC cert.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    hey.. do you know if they offer a license or ceritifcation to go along with it? I'm in the private sector and not going anywhere, but I wouldn't mind getting a NYC cert.
    The filing period was open October 6-26, However there is no certification involved other than claiming you have civil service certification, if you pass.

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