The ITOP Simulation Exercise consists of three written tasks. The exercise is set in a fictitious organisation external to the FRS. The theory is that by having the tasks set in a neutral environment, advantage is not given to personnel with certain FRS knowledge e.g. specific CFS or training.
The types of tasks that you will complete are designed to be similar, or reflective, of the types of things you might be expected to do at the management level you are hoping to develop into.
The Simulation Exercise has a fair amount of Background Information to read through. The three tasks are based on this. In the first instance it is advisable to read through the Background Information, and the tasks, before starting to write your answers.
Task 1 tends to be the most lengthy, in terms of how much information there is, how long your answer needs to be, and how many PQA areas are being assessed. Task 2 (at Supervisory Level) tends to involve numerical analysis on which to base and justify your decisions. Task 3 is often writing a short article or letter aimed at a specific audience. All three tasks are based on the Background Information and set in the same context.
There have been several sets of the ITOP developed to ensure that materials remain current. Your FRS is likely to be using Set 2. Some FRS began to use Set 3 in 2008. The context and information are slightly different for each set, but will be familiar in terms of layout and types of tasks involved.
Tip: After reading through all the information, plan your time. Depending on the management level, you will have between 75 and 110 minutes to complete all three tasks. Work out how long you will allocate to each of the three, based on your understanding of what is required, and try to stick to it. Candidates often fail because they have written a very good answer to Task 1 but ran out of time and didn’t complete.
Tasks 2 and 3
Unlike the SJT, the Simulation Exercise has more ‘shades of grey’ in the marking. For Tasks 1 and 3, you are given the opportunity to consider the relevant issues and create your response which doesn’t have to fit exactly with a pre-determined answer. For Task 2 at Supervisory Level, there are correct responses and calculations, but credit will be given for the ‘working out’ of calculations, even if the final total is not correct.
Tip: It is important to provide explanations for decisions made, for example ‘I would do this, because’ rather than just, ‘I would do this.’
The area that candidates tend to score the least well on is Commitment to Development. There is not the opportunity to attain scores on this PQA in all 3 Tasks so it is important to consider this fully in the task that appears to lend itself to considering it the most.