Practical Tips for Improving Your KSA Answers

When it comes to applying for a federal job, knowledge, skills and abilities are intended to measure the qualities that set you apart from other applicants. The author discusses some specifics about each aspect of KSAs.

When it comes to applying for a federal job, you probably already know just how important it is to ensure that your KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) answers are on target. KSAs are intended to measure the qualities that set you apart from other applicants, making sure that you are right for the job.

KSA Specifics

Let’s talk about the specifics of each aspect of your KSAs.


Knowledge applies specifically to the body of information that you should already know in order to do the job and do it well. You should have factual or procedural knowledge that you can apply to your work, making sure that your performance is excellent in the face of your competition but also makes the job a possibility for you in the first place. These are simple facts that you need to know.


Skills are about how you manipulate the aforementioned knowledge. With the skills section of the KSA statement, you will be measured by the quantity and overall quality of your performance. For example, depending upon the job in question, you may be asked to show how quickly you can type or how proficient you are in operating a vehicle. Skills in computation or editing also show how well you are able to manipulate data – an important aspect of the KSAs.


Ability, finally, is the measure of how well you can perform a task at any given time. KSA evaluators want to see how well you can plan, how well you can organize, and overall just want to know not that you have the potential to perform well but that you can do it at the present time.

The KSA Test

So what does the test look like? KSAs are enormously important, though some agencies may put more emphasis on one aspect of the test than another. Regardless, you should be well prepared for the entirety of the KSAs. All KSAs are related to the job being done, of course; no matter what you end up showing the agency, it must be related to the job you do.

For the written portion of your KSAs, there are a number of ways that you can incorporate practical strategies to improve your prospects. Let’s talk a little more about what this looks like for your KSAs.

First, above all else, it is absolutely imperative that you use KSA formatting properly. Unless stated otherwise by your job application, you should make each of your answers no more than one page long. Your answers must also contain a few very specific pieces of information. You should make sure that your answer includes the job title, the announcement number, your own name, and the KSA number.

When it comes to writing the KSA itself, make sure that you use proper spelling, grammar and conventions. The written answers should be in the first person and in a narrative tone. Rather than sounding stilted, make sure they are both personal and professional.

Of course, this is easier said than done. There are a few topics that should definitely be included in your KSA answers, however. You will need to explicate in full detail that you meet all the requirements that are necessary to perform well at the job in question, and you can do this by talking about the following bullet points.

  • Experience. If you have experience that is relevant to the position for which you are currently applying, be sure to write in as much detail as possible what that entails.
  • Training. If you have attended courses, professional development training, or workshops that are relevant to the position, then be sure to write about these and the skills you gained as a result of your attendance and participation.
  • Education. Talk about your education up to this point, making sure that you show that you meet the expectations that are listed on the application.
  • Volunteer work and internships. If you have relevant experience, regardless of whether you have been paid for your time, be sure to list these volunteer and intern positions.
  • Awards. Have you ever received an award for your work or for relevant coursework? If so, then do not forget to include these in your application.

As with all of the above components, you should meet all the requirements of the job for which you are applying – or, better yet, exceed them. The KSAs, however, are not a glorified version of your CV. Your KSA answers will be tallied and scored, and if you are in competition with similarly qualified candidates then these scores can have an enormous bearing on how you will do in comparison.

As such, you should be sure to talk about some of your most important accomplishments throughout your work and school history. Were you a leader? Did you have to resolve a problem, or did you find a new approach for tackling a project? What did you do to go above and beyond in the above categories? You should be sure to be specific both about your role in the work and in the ways that you exceeded expectations.

A few more practical tips can go a long way in showing that your writing is polished and well revised. By using action words (such as organized, analyzed, managed, and initiated) and including all of your relevant work experience, you can blow away your competition. Also, while proper grammar and spelling are a must, a well-organized KSA essay means using narrative paragraphs and even bullet points if you need to be concise.

No matter what, be specific and precise, bringing in aspects of each relevant experience. Do not just talk about how you organized and analyzed data; write about how you have accomplished this, with what program, and with what proficiency. Do not just say that you prepare reports; discuss what kind of reports you prepare. This is also an excellent opportunity to give examples of education or training that you have completed, showing the relevance of your participation. When it comes to being specific, you should be sure to use your own words rather than borrowing language from the position description.

If your answers are relevant and useful as well as specific to the examples of what you have done in the past, then you should be well on your way to acing your KSAs.

About the Author

Jason Kay is a professional resume writer and regular contributor to, a professional federal resume service and repository of sample KSA statements.