Taking the Census Test and Offically Applying for a Census Job

by Les@SpillingBuckets on January 7, 2009

A few days ago we posted about a good short term job opportunity with the US Census Bureau helping them with the 2010 census data collection.
Well… Today Ryan and I took the official qualifying test and applied for government census taker jobs.
On Monday (January 5th) I called the toll free number (1-866-861-2010), got the number of our local office, and scheduled an appointment to take the test.

It turned out there was an exam scheduled at the local library for today (January 7th) – which was perfect: it is walking distance from our house, and was scheduled for a time that could work for both of us (even if it meant going to work a little late). I was surprised there was an opportunity so quickly; it seems as though there are many testing times available.

We got to the testing site at 9:20 for a 9:30 exam, but it didn’t start right away. Being the government there were many sets of paperwork to fill out – including an official application and an I-9 form which requires several versions of official ID. We also had to look up our neighborhood code (more specific than a zipcode) to help them determine where we would be working. They really try to place you as locally as possible – it’s easier for you, and cheaper for them (less mileage reimbursement).

There were four other applicants, the two of us, and one administrator. After everyone completed the proper paperwork we began the test. It is a 28 question multiple choice test that covers everything from solving math problems, to data analysis, to map reading. You are given 30 minutes, a scrap paper, and a sharp pencil to complete the exam.

The test isn’t very hard but not super easy either – there are many things you have to think about a few times to be sure you are getting the right answer and that you fully understand what they are asking, and some of the math is a nice refresher since you are not able to use a calculator (multiplying decimals for example with pen and paper, simple, but its been a while) – most of it can be reasoned out through logic.

At the end of the exam the moderator grades them right away. We didn’t have time to wait for the results, but you can stay and see your score if you are interested. Then we were given a pamphlet explaining “what happens next”.

So what should we expect now?

If we passed the exam we will undergo a background check to make sure there aren’t any skeletons or felonies in our closets. Then we will be given a phone interview, and finally we will be trained. The training is paid, and there are schedules either during the day, or at night and on weekends, in order to accommodate a variety of schedules.

Census jobs emphasize that the hours are not regular – so this could be a great opportunity to have side income during times that you normally aren’t working at your full time job if employed. You need to be available when people are normally home – so before and after working hours, and on the weekends.

Here is a 2010 Census practice test. The 2010 practice test is from the official Census Office, but I found it very closely matched to the test we took.

So now we wait to see if we are offered a position…

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam - NPF January 7, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I actually worked for the Census Bureau back in 2000 so I may be able to clear up a few questions you may have. First, the test is not pass fail, the highest scorers are hired in order. IE, someone with a 100% will be hired first when a job opens up.

Second, bonus points are awarded for meeting certain qualifications such as being a veteran (+10 if memory serves).

Third, most of the questions are actually logic problems (at least they were 9 years ago). Though they might ask you to multiply two decimals together, the multiple choice answers were designed to make sure you knew where to put the decimal, IE what is 1.1 x 2.5
A) 27.5
B) 2.75
C) 0.275
D) 0.0275

I also recall there being a question about where something would be filed alphabetically. All in all the test is only hard if you concentrate on trying to come up with the answer by brute force. It was much easier to take a look at the available answers and working backward (in the above question, you know the answers will have two decimal spots and will be less than 3 but greater than 1, only one answers meets those critera).

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Cathy Quik January 7, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Hmmm… That's a good idea for temporary income. I am seriously considering applying also (thanks to you guys). I have been working for months on starting a business, but am not making enough to live on yet…it's tough to go out and try to get a job at a company when you know that you don't intend to work there for very long.

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Les@spillingbuckets January 7, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Adam,

Thanks for the great info. Yes, your analysis of the test is correct, a lot of it is logic. Its the kind of test I found myself second guessing for a few questions, although I am sure I got most right.

I did not know that the hiring process was ranked, and was wondering why they asked if we were veterans during the registration. 10+ seems like a pretty steep advantage, but I am not against giving veterans an advantage.

What was your experience with the actual work after you were hired? What did you do? How much time did it take? Would you do it again?

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Les@spillingbuckets January 7, 2009 at 8:00 pm

That's one of the reasons we like this opportunity – it seems really flexible, and is definitely temporary.

Good luck with your business!

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Green Panda January 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I took the exam too! I called Friday and they scheduled me for Monday. The flexible hours and pay made me want to apply. I'm hoping I get a call. Thanks for sharing the job information!

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Becca January 8, 2009 at 2:03 pm

All government jobs give preference to veterens, actually. I'm pretty sure here at headquarters (I work at Census, but not on the decennial) they only get a 5 pt. preference.

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Adam - NPF January 8, 2009 at 5:23 pm

@Becca – I may be wrong with the exact increment, but I do recall many people having excessively high scores (~130). Veteran status is one example, but many "minority" items were given bonuses (not racial minorities but items such as veteran status). 5 points is much more reasonable as 10 points is a minimum of a 10% advantage.

@Les – I wasn't one of the field operatives, I performed data entry of applications and expense reports. I fell into this as I was one of the first people hired and I had a set schedule (to fit with my class schedule). I believe I worked 3-5 hours per day at a computer station which I suppose was much like any other office job. Although the process of getting hired was rather intensive, once you're in all expectations of efficiency and effectiveness drifted away. I distinctly remember being encouraged to take my time as there was so little work to go around (or it would come in bursts). Field work might be more interesting and time conscious.

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Dan Wallenmeyer January 15, 2009 at 10:19 pm

As a veteran and retired gov. employee, I believe the veteran gets five points unless disabled which gives ten points. The veteran needs to provide his or her honorable discharge paper.

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Confused January 23, 2009 at 3:48 pm

After I took the test I was given a panphlet by the Census employee. The pamphlet states that you can call to update your personal information and/or to check the status of your application. I called and was told they cannot access my application "because it's all computerized and there is no way to look it up." Uh, okay.

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Won't get hired January 23, 2009 at 9:51 pm

I took the test today in central Alabama with little hope of getting a Census job. Because my geographic area is so heavily populated with veterans, I seriously doubt I'll get hired EVEN THOUGH I made a perfect score, am a college grad with no felonies and am a former Enumerator back in 1990. I too have total respect for our veterans and the sacrifices that they and their families make so that I can complain about my government, but don't ya think a 10 point gimme is a little much? How can someone miss almost HALF of all the questions and still tie me?

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Les@spillingbuckets January 24, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Confused,

I'll be honest here – we *are* dealing with the government… so ….
(we all know they are the models of efficiency) ;-)

I gues we'll have to just wait and see what happens.

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Les@spillingbuckets January 24, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Won't Get Hired,

I don't think it's fair to begrudge veterans their service. I believe they only get 5 points unless injured, as Becca, who actually works for the department, stated. I don't like giving out advantages for things people cannot control – like their race or gender – but anyone who has served our country and been injured, I feel deserves to get the boost. They have "paid their dues" to the country, and I think giving them an advantage is acceptable – just as giving priority to full citizens (rather than visitors) is something acceptable to me.

When I called to apply for the test I asked the person on the line how likely I would be to get offered a position if I did well on the test. His reply was "extremely likely" "because we need a ton of people and we hardly ever get as many applicants as we would like." Now, I don't know how accurate that is – but it is encouraging.

Try to think positively and assume you'll get it. :-)

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Javier January 24, 2009 at 6:51 pm

How hard/easy is it to get the job back at the office processing the information?

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Javier January 26, 2009 at 5:39 am

Also, I live close to a bad neighborhood, what if I get sent to work there?

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ryan January 26, 2009 at 6:58 am

I too took the test and it seems the minimum "passing" score is 10 points. So, if you are a disabled vetran it is possible to get every single answer wrong and still be hired in 2010 when the Gov. mint (my second favorite mint by the way, spearmint being first) finally scrapes the bottom of the barrel for enumerators. I too believe vetrans have served and protected the country but I believe you should at least be able to answer 1 of the 28 questions.

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Curtis March 20, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Hello,
I took the Census test on Long Island, New York and passed with 80% correct. There is a lagging mystery of waiting to be called by the US Census regional office about information regarding the four day training. I was instructed not to call them but to wait for their call. It is not like pulling your hair out of your head but one does not want to be caught off guard in lacking preparation for it. Could anyone who (completed this four-day training) provide a little information of what's involved?

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Russell March 23, 2009 at 6:20 am

Does anyone know if they drug test once you've been interviewed over the phone?

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Laurie March 28, 2009 at 12:21 am

They do not do drug tests, so you may party hearty.

I've had the 1st training day. They call it "admin day," because you fill out paperwork and get read a bunch of stuff about confidentiality and have your fingerprints taken. On Monday (3/30) I'll start a week of group training and then we're sent on our way. They told me that one reason for the fingerprints is that they use your thumb print to boot up the hand-held computer. I am going to be an "enumerator," and the job is scheduled to last until 5/15.

Evidently, if you do well, you might qualify to get another temporary appointment. Labor laws say that they have to pay benefits after 90 days of work, so you have to have at least 4 days between appointments. I'm hoping that there will be subsequent offers of employment, because I've had no other work since I was laid off in October.

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liza May 20, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Okay Folks,
The job was not at all what is promised! I was asked to guarantee them at least 30 hrs per week and only worked a total of 37 hrs the entire assignment! The job was supposed to last 8-10 weeks, it lasted 4 wks. Hopefully the next phase will provide workers with more hours.

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Janey May 20, 2009 at 11:42 pm

I worked as a Crew Leader for Address Canvassing in California from Feb. 27 to April 28. It was one of the worst jobs I've ever had. Unlike Liza, I got work, but a lot of it was UNPAID. For a supervisory job that required more than 8 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, I was told NO OVERTIME or I would be fired. Yet the goals set and the constant availability made it impossible to control work hours. For example, my supervisor and my crew (varying from16 to 32 people) could, and did, call me at any time. Typically, I heard from the FOS before 8 a.m. daily and was often on the phone with crew in the field until dark, which was as late as 8 p.m. in April, after the time change. I dutifully claimed the 35 hours (yes!) or 40 hours a week I was allowed, with an occasional meager amount of OT grudgingly granted. I feel like a fool for putting up with this, but I wanted the job. But what is now happening is that I'm not getting full reimbursement for $300 worth of cell phone calls in April! In other words, not only did I not get paid for my work, I'm supposed to foot the bill for some of the expense of conducting Census 2010! Unbelievable . . .

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Lynn May 29, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Janey, I feel your pain.
Normally, no matter who the employer is, a non-managerial worker would get OT and the Dept. of Labor would sue for you. As a supervisor you are "using descretion and independant judgement" which makes the position exempt from OT. I am shocked at the amount you had tho. With so many people wanting these jobs…what city was this? For you, if they call you again or for anyone else, leaving your phone off for people to leave a message helps people get to the point or weeding thru the msg. might help cut this expense. Also month to month no limit phones are available cheap now.

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Dan August 4, 2009 at 6:35 am

Hey,
Here's a twisty questions for you guys?? (My problems) guide me.
1. I took the test sometime in Jan 2009, I tried calling them whether I got through the test? I called up so many numbers etc. But no result. I moved back to India in Feb2009. Im still in India. And all of a sudden a phone call comes from US census guys in month of July 2009. last week, to my uncle's number mentioned. So I called them up from India n they gave me an address to come n fill up i-9 form. I asked him whats my score in the test he told me i got 90%, which is very good n im going to get a good position. My question are

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Dan August 4, 2009 at 6:35 am

Hey,

1st of all im not a citizen of US. I have H1B status. Am I eligible for this position. And is it worth coming to US from India just for this job?? After coming to US if they look at my status n they reject me Im nowhere. Im thinking of calling them n tell them abt my status n if they r still willing to hire me then I will plan to come?? What do u guys opinion

If u guys think that I will be assured a job on my status even though its temporary Im willing to work but I will only come there only if I have a job., Its very hard for an immigrant as me to survive without a job., no benifits etc.

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yoomi December 21, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Its only a temp job, like 2 months…. not worth to come over here for that short term job

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matt February 9, 2010 at 3:02 am

I think veteran's should get breaks, but sadly, I am a son of a
wwII veteran, and unfortunately, my dad put me through alot
of mental abuse due to his own messed up head from that war.
Just wish, they would also ask, are you the child of a veteran,
cause in alot of cases the children of vets also went through
war trying to grow up and should be given points too.

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ginger February 17, 2010 at 8:42 pm

i have been called to be a census enumerator,,,,,,,i start training for 4 days next week. Can anyone tell me what the training involves??? Are you given a test at the end of the time,which you need to pass to continue employment?

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Guest February 23, 2010 at 2:59 am

When it was first announced the 2010 Census needed workers, the news spread like wild fire and people signed up in droves to apply and take the test, including myself.__The application and testing procedure is a total joke. On the one hand, when you schedule an interview, you are told that the test will take 30 minutes and then you are instructed to go on-line to fill out the job application. You are told to bring the completed app with you to speed the process along. But when you arrive at the designated testing facility, you are told by the facilitator that the process will take 2 hours. What?? One gal at my testing location pleaded that she was on her lunch hour and could not stay for two hours. The facilitator could have cared less. The applicant finally got up and left.

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Guest February 23, 2010 at 3:00 am

Continued from above:

And the reason it takes two hours is because 85% of the people don’t bother to go on-line and complete the app. Before the facilitator will administer the test, they allow all the idiots who didn’t bring a completed app to fill one out. Factor in all the dumb questions, slow writers and the fact that the facilitator has to check everyone’s i.d. before the test can even begin and you’ve already killed over an hour. After sitting around waiting for all the inepts (who shouldn’t be working as census takers to begin with)to complete the job app, the test finally starts. But not before everyone is instructed that if they complete the test before 30 minutes is up, they must remain seated. Seems that getting up and leaving might distract the other test takers. What?? All this for a lousy 3 week job? Typical government bureacracy! It’s not worth it folks. Read The Truth About Census Jobs at http://tinyurl.com/ydrg72j

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Gilbert February 27, 2010 at 2:30 am

I need help on the question regarding supervisor directing work and the other was the one with Rent check box and go to the next question??? Can anyone help me

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Scott P February 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I worked as an Enumerator in Spring '09 & have worked in various Office Clerk jobs from Dec 09-Feb 10. Some comments abou testing procedures: when scheduling folks, I always told them to plan on being there for 60-90 minutes because most people fill out their applications on site & some of them don't show up on time either. Plus, it takes time to check all ID's, read the pre & post exam script, answer questions from applicants, etc.

My overall impression of working for the Census in various roles over the past year is this– there are plenty of iffy management decisions but the people I work with are smart, hard-working folks who take pride in doing a good job. Are mistakes being made? Sure. Can you imagine any big corporation hiring hundreds of thousands of employees in their first year of existence without some mix-ups?

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Scott P February 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm

(continuing….)
Regarding the veterans preference, vets who provide proof of honorable discharge get a 5-point preference & vets who provide proof of disabilty get a 10-point preference. But that is NOT equivalent to getting a bump of 5 or 10 QUESTIONS. There are 28 questions on the exam. After it is graded, the number of correct answers is converted to a score with 28 of 28 becoming a score of 100. For example, a vet with a 5-pt preference who scored 95 on the test would be bumped up to 100. Also , the conversion score is NOT a straight percentage of correct answers. Regarding hiring, the BIG HIRING PUSH in coming up in March-April '10 so even though you may have tested months ago & figure you're out of luck, you may still get a call soon.

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Jow March 5, 2010 at 4:08 am

You get 5 points as a run of the mill veteran and still there are circumstances such as discharge type and service period that come into play. 10 points is only if you are fully disabled (this is 30% or more disability, medically considered to be 30% handicapped relating directly to military service, if memory serves).

Please understand that 28 is not a score everyone will get.

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Jow March 5, 2010 at 4:15 am

Depending on where you are located various states do provide benefits to DEPENDENT children of Veterans. If an adult wash given a handout due to a boohoo childhood (Especially WWII kids of Vets, that is like EVERYONE, I have 2 grandfather vets myself) the government would fast run out of money, no?

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Zoe March 5, 2010 at 4:17 am

I'm happy I was one of only two people but the other person didn't bother do the online AP so that did take a little bit but the facilitator gave the test and THEN had her finish her application (I had completed mine online).

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joe March 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Then don't sign up…. Or just carry a gun.

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Bankruptcy Ben June 11, 2010 at 6:48 am

How often is the census conducted. Every 4 years? Do you automatically get called up next time?

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Les@spillingbuckets June 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Ben,

The census is conducted every 10 years. The last one was 2000 and the next one will be 2020. You will automactically be sent paperwork to fill out (although maybe in 10 years it will finally be online…)

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