The Ultimate Guide To The USPS (United States Postal Service) Exam (with 5 Practice Test Questions!)

The United States Postal Service (USPS) now uses the Virtual Entry Assessment (VEA) test suite for all entry level positions.

Each of the constituent tests of the VEA maps to a unique set of USPS jobs and evaluates very specific behavioural traits and skills.

It is imperative you prepare yourself well to ace these assessments.

Read on to explore the four VEA versions in detail along with sample questions and helpful tips to aid your groundwork.

PRO TIP#1: You might still find Postal Service Exam 473 being discussed in various online forums and websites.

Remember, even though 473 was the only exam administered for a USPS position till as late as April 2019, it is now rendered obsolete.

It has been retired and replaced by the four VEA assessments detailed below.

EXTRA PREP: Visit JobTestPrep for the best online USPS practice test questions. Test packs start from $39 with a money back guaranteeclick here for more info.

Basics Of The USPS VEA Tests

Following are the four versions of the VEA used by USPS:

  1. Virtual Entry Assessment – MC (474) for Mail Carrier jobs
  2. Virtual Entry Assessment – MC (475) for Mail Handler jobs
  3. Virtual Entry Assessment – MC (476) for Mail Processing jobs
  4. Virtual Entry Assessment – CS (477) for Customer Service Clerk jobs

After you apply online against an open position and your candidature goes through initial screening, you will receive an invitation email from USPS as part of your evaluation process.

You do not need to visit any test centre and can write the exams at a time and place of your choosing.

Each is a self-administered assessment with expected duration of 45 minutes.

However, you have only seventy two (72) hours to complete the test after receipt of the link in the invitation mail.

Even if you initiate but fail to complete the assessment within the 72 hour window, you will be excluded from the application process for the job applied.

Once you successfully complete your VEA within the allotted time, you can login to your candidate profile on the USPS eCareer website and check your score.

This score will be used for your application against all USPS jobs that require the same VEA version.

High Cut-Off Scores

Hold your breath – for all these tests, 70 is the pass marks out of a total of 100!

You need to score at least 70 to be even considered ‘eligible’ for the selection process.

Anything below that and all you will see is the word ‘ineligible’ on your screen.

Since competition is fierce and all applicants are ranked based on the marks obtained, it is advised to try and score as high as possible.

That should increase your chances of continuation with rest of the hiring process.

To put this into perspective, if you score 90 and your friend scores 75, both pass the exam.

But, by virtue of scoring higher, you will be ranked much better than your friend and will have a higher probability of getting a call for subsequent stages.

Note: If you don’t pass a particular version of VEA in a given attempt, you have to undergo a compulsory waiting period for the same test.

You can re-take the same VEA version only after one year.

PRO TIP#2: If your score makes you ineligible for a particular version of VEA, you cannot sit for the same test again in a year but are free to appear for the other VEA versions.

On the other hand, if you fail to complete your assessment within the 72 hour window, you will be ineligible only for the specific job applied for.

You can still appear for the same or other versions of the VEA.

There is no compulsory waiting period in that case.

Now that we are done with the basics, let us take a high level look at the four VEA versions.

As there are many overlapping assessments, we would discuss the constituent tests in detail in the next section.

Virtual Entry Assessment – MC (474) For Mail Carrier Jobs

This version of VEA is used in the selection process of the following job roles:

  • City Carrier
  • City Carrier Assistant 1
  • City Carrier Assistant 2
  • Casual City Carrier
  • Rural Carrier
  • Rural Carrier Associate
  • Assistant Rural Carrier

The 474 VEA exam consists of the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Work Scenarios (8) questions
  3. Tell Us Your Story (20) questions
  4. Describe Your Approach (56) questions

Virtual Entry Assessment – MC (475) For Mail Handler Jobs

This version of VEA is used in the selection process of the following job roles:

  • Mail Handler
  • Mail Handler Assistant
  • Casual Mail Handler

The 475 VEA exam consists of the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Work Scenarios (9) questions
  3. Tell Us Your Story (22) questions
  4. Describe Your Approach (79) questions
  5. Check for Errors (12) questions

Virtual Entry Assessment – MC (476) For Mail Processing Jobs

This version of VEA is used in the selection process of the following job roles:

  • Mail Processing Clerk
  • PSE Mail Processing Clerk
  • Casual Mail Processing Clerk
  • Data Conversion Operator
  • PSE Data Conversion Operator
  • Casual Data Conversion Operator

The 476 VEA exam consists of the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Work Scenarios (9) questions
  3. Tell Us Your Story (22) questions
  4. Describe Your Approach (79) questions
  5. Check for Errors (12) questions

Virtual Entry Assessment – CS (477) For Customer Service Clerk Jobs

This version of VEA is used in the selection process of the following job roles:

  • Sales/Svcs/Distribution Associate
  • PSE Sales/Svcs/Distribution Associate
  • Casual Sales/Svcs/Distribution Associate

The 477 VEA exam consists of the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Work Situations (10) questions; note the difference in name, content-wise similar to Work Scenarios section in other VEA versions
  3. Tell Us Your Story (21) questions
  4. Describe Your Approach (56) questions
  5. Work Your Register (3) questions

While preparing for a particular job, check out sections you will encounter in the applicable VEA version and plan accordingly.

Introduction

This is a common section in all the VEA versions.

It contains a brief paragraph on the history of the postal services, jobs mapped to the test you are writing, necessary instructions and one sample question for each constituent section.

Work Scenarios

The Work Scenarios segment is common for all versions of the VEA (though, as mentioned earlier, it is christened differently in 477).

This section assesses your intrinsic situational awareness in a typical work environment.

Questions are of multiple choice behavioural type.

Each has a write-up followed by different possible responses.

You are to identify both your most likely’ and ‘least likely’ responses based on your own viewpoint.

If it so appears that none of the options appear most likely or least likely to you, pick the closest ones.

On the face of it, there is no right or wrong response.

You are expected to answer the question based on how you would respond to a similar situation in real-life.

However, keep in mind the increasing focus on soft skills, customer centricity and importance of being a solid team player. That should help you pre-empt the desirable skills being looked for.

PRO TIP#3: Don’t spend inordinately large amount of time in trying to figure out the ‘best’ answer to one particular question.

Nonetheless, ensure you are happy with your choice before you move on to the next question.

You are not allowed to go back to the previous question after you have moved ahead!

PRO TIP#4: You may find similar scenarios worded differently or placed from a different viewpoint.

These are generally in-built test mechanisms to check your behavioural consistency on situational judgement.

Also, if you are trying to guess the ‘best’ answers, these are designed to flag ‘false’ responses.

Being honest and consistent is the key!

Sample Question #1

You are approaching the lunch hour in your shift.

It is the Holiday season and your day has been really busy.

A customer comes in and asks to check if she can redirect the shipment she had sent a while back.

This is usually a time taking activity that might delay your lunch break.

Select the action you will be most likely to take and the action you will be least likely to take while attending to the customer.

Response:

Option 1 is not the best recommended option.

You manage not to delay your lunch break.

You also help her by informing of the option to check eligibility online.

However, in effect, her actual query still remains unaddressed and the customer is likely to leave unsatisfied.

Option 2 is far from ideal.

You are only finding an excuse of not doing your job.

In addition, you are needlessly redirecting customers to an escalation authority.

This is not expected from a customer-centric team member role.

This should thus be the least desirable option.

Option 3 could result in an irate customer.

Even though you offer to help her checking for eligibility, the prolonged wait could leave you with an unhappy customer.

Option 4 should be the most desirable.

Irrespective of it being a busy day, the time taking nature of the task or impending lunch break, you do what you are supposed to do in the first place.

You go the extra mile to ensure a satisfied customer experience.

Sample Question #2

It is a busy Monday morning.

There are lots of work to be done but you see your colleague continuously fidgeting and moving away from his desk for prolonged periods.

You anticipate by the end of the day there will be a slippage in the work assigned to your team.

Select the action you will be most likely to take and the action you will be least likely to take in this scenario.

Response:

Option 1 is not the best recommended option.

Even though you think that you have taken corrective option beforehand by reporting to the Postmaster, this reflects bad team-spirit.

It could create a negative team environment and impact working relationship with your colleague in future.

Option 2 is also not the most favoured option.

While you proactively take additional work, the actual issue remains unaddressed.

If the colleague is intentionally shirking work, you might end up with an errant colleague and unfair workloads to cover for him in future too.

Option 3 should be the most desirable option.

You show positive team spirit and open communication by talking to your team member about a perceived issue.

You also find an opportunity to resolve the situation without escalating or hindering teamwork.

Your colleague might be having genuine problems and would really appreciate some help from the team in times of need.

Option 4 should be the least desirable.

Talking about a colleague behind his back and instigating others to get him reported must never be encouraged in a well-functioning team environment.

Tell Us Your Story

This is another section that is common to all VEA versions.

It contains questions specifically related to your past work experience.

Understand that this is the place in the assessment where any information you submitted earlier as part of the application process may be corroborated.

Therefore, while answering this section, make sure all details that you shared in previous phases dovetail with the responses you provide here.

Be careful that all specifics on past work events, gap in employment etc, tally exactly.

Needless to say, you are expected to be absolutely honest while presenting the facts.

Any inconsistency may be the ground for immediate ineligibility.

As in earlier sections, check your response before you move on to the next question.

You may not go back to earlier questions.

PRO TIP#5: Keep a copy of your resume handy while you answer this part.

Ensure you have exact dates for important employment events.

This should avoid any inadvertent discrepancy while taking this test.

Describe Your Approach

This section too is present in all versions of the VEA.

It is also by far the segment with the most number of questions.

All questions are behavioural types and are meant to gauge your personality fitment to the role you are applying for.

You would be typically presented with a combination of two statements (say, statements A and B) and required to choose your response on a subjective scale – Most like statement A, Somewhat like statement A, Somewhat like statement B, Most like statement B.

Since these are behavioural questions meant to assess your personality traits, there can be no obvious right or wrong answer.

But if you have researched the job role well, you may still guess the desired behaviours.

Best bet, be honest.

And if you really feel like trying to guess the ‘ideal’ behaviour, ensure you are consistent.

As in other parts involving behavioural questions in all VEA versions, there are checks and balances internally to weed out attempts to con the system.

There can be complementary questions and you need to be careful so as not to get flagged for behavioural inconsistency.

Note that, it is highly probable that neither of the two statements will exactly describe your approach.

Pick up the statement that reflects more like you usually behave.

If neither fits the bill, choose between the two ‘somewhat…’ answers.

Trust your gut!

Sample Question #3

Identify which of the following statements describes you best:

Response:

Respond to reflect your general approach to work.

Keep in mind the kind of behaviour that would likely be expected from you in the position you are applying for.

For example, work in carrier, mail handling or mail processing roles can be very repetitive and mostly follow a defined set of activities.

If you largely like jobs with lots of variations, you might sooner or later feel your work dull or tedious in these roles.

Obviously it will not imply a great fitment.

On the other hand, customer service clerk jobs in sales, service or distribution might have to deal with different situations with different customers.

In that case the ‘ideal’ expected persona would vary.

Check For Errors

The Check For Errors section is administered in the 475 and 476 versions of the VEA.

As the nomenclature suggests, the goal is to find how adept you are at identifying differences between two separate numbers.

The test itself looks deceptively simple.

There would be two different number combinations and you are to indicate whether there is a ‘Match’ or an ‘Error’.

There would be 12 questions in total and you may expect them to be presented in groups of four.

Each number would be an 8-digit string.

Be careful and vigilant as you check out the number strings.

As soon as you find the first anomaly, do not check any further.

It then automatically qualifies as an ‘Error’.

In case you find it difficult to visually check and compare entire strings, feel free to devise your own ways – you may start from the left and check two numerals each or divide in groups of four.

It should be fairly easy with rigorous practice.

You may also want to say out the numbers aloud or use a stylus, pen or pencil tip as an aid if that helps to focus.

Be confident of your responses before you move on to the next set of questions.

You would not be allowed to move back to the previous set.

PRO TIP#6: There are certain digit pairs which are most commonly used in error-checking kind of questions.

For example, 3 & 8, 1 & 7, 6 & 9, 8 & 0 etc.

With practice you can pick these ‘usual suspects’ more easily!

PRO TIP#7: Human eyes often get tricked while looking at a large number of consecutive zeroes (0).

If there are 4 or more consecutive zeros, check carefully – that sequence might hide a possible mismatch.

PRO TIP#8: Even though it is nowhere explicitly stated in either the 475 or 476 versions, you may benefit by working this section quickly (and, of course, correctly!).

It appears that the internal mechanism may keep a tab on the time taken to complete this section.

It could be advantageous to complement accuracy with speed to jack up your score.

Sample Question #4

Response:

1st set: Error

2nd set: Error

3rd set: Match

4th set: Error

Reasoning:

1st set: Starting from left, the numbers in the 6th position differ ( 3 and 8).

2nd set: Starting from left, the numbers in the 5th position differ ( 0 and 8).

3rd set: Both numbers are identical.

4th set: Starting from left, the numbers in the 4th position differ ( 6 and 9).

Note that there are differences in the 5th (9 and 6), 7th (8 and 3) and 8th (7 and 1) positions as well, but as soon as you get the 1st mismatch, it can be flagged as an ‘Error’.

You do not need to check the numbers any further for additional mismatches.

Work Your Register

This section is present in only the 477 version of the VEA.

This focus is not to evaluate whether or not you know about register operating procedures.

You would also not need to compute the amount of change required. It is already given in the question.

The assessment only checks your ability to work a cash register efficiently by presenting exact change with the fewest number of coins and/or bills.

Do not hurry.

Do not try to randomly guess.

There are different ways you can pay a change by different denomination coins and bills.

You need to ensure that you mark the option that uses the best possible combination.

You may need to click on the area marked on top of each denomination and pick appropriate numbers from the drop-down menu.

First calculate the number of each bill or coin required and then only mark the numbers.

There are only 3 questions in this section. As with other parts of the VEA tests, you must carefully double check your response before you move on from one question to the next.

You are not allowed to move back to earlier questions after you have recorded and submitted your answers.

PRO TIP#9: It is advisable to always start with the largest denomination of bills and move downwards.

That way it will be more methodical.

Since you use the largest currency first, you will automatically optimize the total number of currency used.

You can thus figure the correct answer accurately and at the first iteration.

PRO TIP#10: Remember, the total sum of change given by a coin or bill of any denomination must always be lower than the value of the coin or bill of the next higher denomination mentioned.

For example, assume you are asked to work out the change with $20, $10, $5, $1, $0.25, $0.10, $0.05 and $0.01.

Since there is a $20 bill, the maximum number of $10 bills that you can use is 1.

Similarly, to use the fewest number of currencies overall, the max number of denominations you could use: 1 for $5, 4 for $1, 3 for $0,025, 2 for $0.10, 1 for $0.05 and 4 for $0.01.

You can validate your answer against these limits to cross- check whether you have deduced the optimal set required for giving the change.

PRO TIP#11: As in the Check For Errors section in the 475 and 476 versions of VEA, sources hint that in this section too, it is in your best interests to answer as quickly as possible.

Though it is not explicitly mentioned, it might be expedient to try and complete this section with both speed and accuracy.

It could have a positive effect on your score.

Sample Question #5

Total Amount: $3.33

Amount Paid: $20.00

Change Due: $16.67

Use the fewest coins and/ or bills to provide required change.

Response:

$20: 0;
$10: 1;
$5: 1;
$1: 1;
$0.25: 2;
$0.10: 1;
$0.05: 1;
$0.01: 2.

Reasoning:

Let us consider the change due starting from the largest denomination.

$20: Since change due is $16.67, we would not require a $20 bill.

$10: Since change due is more than $10 but less than 10X2=20 (in which case we would have used a $20 bill instead), we need a single $10 bill.

$5: Amount now left = $16.67-$10= $6.67. Since this is more than $5 but less than 5X2=10 (in which case we would have used a $10 bill instead), we need one $5 bill.

$1: Amount left = $6.67 – $5 = $1.67. Evidently we need only one $1 bill.

$0.25: Amount left = $1.67 – $1.00 = $0.67. We can readily figure that 25X2=50 and 25X3=75. Thus maximum number of 25 cents we can use is 2, amounting to $0.50.

$0.10: Amount left = $0.67 – $0.50 = $0.17. So, we can use only one 10 cents coin.

$0.05: Amount left = $0.17 – $0.10 = $0.07. Obviously only one 5 cents coin can be used.

$0.01: Amount left = $0.07 – $0.05 = $0.02. This can be paid using 2 pennies.

As you can see, this approach would optimize the total amount of bills and coins paid.

How To Prepare For The USPS Tests

Here are a few general tips that might help as you prepare for the assessment:

1. The behavioural questions form the majority in any version of the VEA.

Now that you know the kinds of questions that might be asked, prepare yourself well.

Identify behavioural traits that are expected for a particular position.

Do your research.

2. Find out if Check For Error and Work Your Register sections would be included in your VEA assessment.

If yes, you need to practise diligently to get a grip on these question types.

While it is not rocket science, the more you practise, the better you get!

Remember, these are also the sections which purportedly reward speed with accuracy.

3. Bear in mind the one year cooling off period in case you fail to make the cut in your attempt.

Prepare extensively and target to ace the assessment the first time itself.

4. Do not try to over-analyse responses for the behavioural section.

Some of the questions will appear open to interpretation.

Trust your gut.

5. Take the test in a set-up with stable internet connectivity.

Find a place and time that will allow you undisturbed concentration for at least an hour.

PRO TIP#12: For optimal experience, it is recommended that you take the United States Postal Service VEA assessments on a desktop or laptop running the latest version of Internet Explorer IE 7-11, Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, or Safari web browsers.

6. Take as many practice tests as you can before you can the real exam.

We recommend JobTestPrep who provide simulator USPS exams with questions, answers and full explanations.

To find out more about these practice tests, visit JobTestPrep by clicking this link.

 

 

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