The thought of attending an assessment day can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re like me, you want to have a full understanding of what you’re walking into – it’s completely natural. A quick Google search can give us all the answers we need. However, this wasn’t the case for me. When I was asked to attend the assessment day in June 2019, it was like a needle in a haystack trying to look for some sort of insight into what I could expect from the day. It’s no secret that I like to be as prepared as possible, for literally everything, so this was somewhat challenging.
Now I can speak as someone who went through the assessment day, successfully. I’m your eyes and ears into that office. You’re welcome. No biggie. But honestly, you’ve got nothing to worry about. The whole process is such an enjoyable experience in itself, and will only propel your commitment to making a difference even further. The VSO assessment day is your first step into working on an international development project and you should be massively proud of yourself for getting this far.
In this blog post, I’ll be covering pretty much everything you need to know about the VSO assessment day in London. This will include information around travel and accommodation to the scheduled itinerary as well as FAQs I get from other candidates. I must point out that I can only speak from my experiences, and that this blog post isn’t a cheat-sheet or guide to success.
🎉 The Big Day
In my humble opinion, you need to treat this like a job interview. You can’t just go in with the mindset that this is what you want to do in your gap-year, because pioneering change and raising awareness around international development is something that becomes a commitment for life. Genuinely.
You’ll be given a specific time that you’re expected to be at the VSO office. My best advice is that you turn up early. Remember when I mentioned treating this as a job interview? Well, that’s the memo. Not only does this show that you’re super punctual, but are excited about the opportunity. When I did this, it also became the perfect ice-breaker when speaking to other candidates who had the same idea of turning up ahead of time. Shoutout to Leah who was the first person I met!
Some people who were supposed to attend didn’t show up, which meant we started filling out some important documents while we were waiting. Obviously this must be incredibly frustrating for the VSO team so in case you do need to cancel, let them know in advance!
Before we get into the juicy stuff, here’s a look of what the itinerary might look like:
✅ Team building activities
✅ Fundraising/Action at Home
✅ Group interview (with scenario based questions)
✅ One on one interview
✅ More documents
There will be a large group of invigilators present throughout the day, which will seem overwhelming to begin with. They aren’t there to catch you out or trip you up, they just want to make sure that people want to do the programme for genuine reasons and not just a holiday. The great thing about these people being there is that most of them have been in that situation before themselves. Many of them are past volunteers with VSO, or older people who have worked out in the field themselves. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions about being overseas!
Some of these invigilators will be present in your group interview, which is where you will be given examples of scenarios that could happen overseas and tell them how you would respond. Obviously you will have to come to an agreement in a group, so make sure you’re a team player and taking into consideration everyone’s point of view while also coming up with the most effective solution.
One invigilator will also conduct your solo interview. Everyone always wonders what kind of questions will be asked, but I can honestly this will be more like a friendly discussion. They just want to know more about your life and understand your reasons for wanting to do the programme. They’re not monsters, so just be your confident self around them.
I assume that the team building activities depend on group size, but they’re just the kind of challenges you probably did in school. Limited resources, think outside the box, and all that jazz. I know it can be really difficult to feel as though you’re contributing/voicing your opinion when there is a large group, but remember that listening is just as important. Put your opinions forward, listen to others, and develop a successful outcome. Post-activity, this also creates room for discussion. So you’ll be able to talk directly to the larger group (including the invigilators), with your reasonings. Don’t worry, it’s not scary!
As you must fundraise to show your commitment to be on the programme, you’ll also get to sit through a presentation from the fundraising team which is really helpful. It gives you lots of ideas of what kind of events you could be doing in your local community, such as bake sales and movie nights, and shares success stories from other volunteers.
🚂 Travel & Accommodation
As the VSO assessment day is at their headquarters in London, this is where you will need to travel to. If you’re traveling from somewhere further away, like me in Newcastle, you might need to book accommodation the night before the assessment day. You have the option to book this yourself and get reimbursed by the company (up to a certain cost), or the VSO team can book this for you which they did for my trip. They booked me into Travelodge Hotel Central which is just a five-minute walk from their office and close to lots of shops and restaurants for you to indulge in.
If you’re not used to traveling in and around London, I definitely recommend downloading the Trainline app as this is perfect for finding your way around and knowing which rail line you need to travel on. There’s also a lot of Transport for London staff around, so don’t be shy and ask them if you’re feeling a little bit lost!
VSO Assessment Day FAQs
Where was the assessment day?
The VSO assessment day is held at the VSO office in Kingston upon Thames.
What do I need to bring for the assessment day?
You will receive an email on what you need to take with you. This usually includes three forms of acceptable identification for a DBS check.
Do I need to pay for my transport and accommodation?
VSO will cover the transportation costs to your assessment day. If you live far away from London, they will usually book your accommodation the night before.
If successful, do I need to pay to do the VSO programme?
No! This is completely funded through the government’s ICS programme. However, you will need to fundraise a certain amount to show your commitment.
I honestly wish you all the luck in the world with your VSO assessment day. I’d love for you to let me know how it goes. To keep up to date with my volunteering experiences, including more advice articles like this and in-country stories, keep checking my blog!
If you have any further questions about the assessment day with VSO or ICS itself, leave a comment and I’ll definitely get back to you!
P.S. You might see David kicking about, who was crowned the Great British Bake Off Champion in 2019! Definitely a new claim to fame… 🎂🤣