This very interesting article gives a description of the process the State Department undertakes to create new fictional countries and case studies for the Group Exercise.
The article reads:
Recent Foreign Service officer (FSO) candidates who survived the day long oral assessment may recall a testing scenario based on the fictional nation of Sythia, a multi ethnic, aspiring NATO-member country with a serious drug-trafficking problem. Other candidates may have been “assigned” on test day to the fictional U.S. Embassy
in Kuman, a poor, former Soviet client in the Third World with an authoritarian government and nascent democratic movement that was struggling to attract investment by American oil companies.
Some of those candidates are now FSOs, and they are helping the Board of Examiners (BEX) develop the next fictional country, known so far only as “Country X.” BEX will use this country in future versions of its famed group exercise, a key component of the oral assessment and a challenging FSO rite of passage.
“We regularly update our testing materials with new fictional countries,” explained BEX Staff Director Woody Staeben. “Our materials should describe a place that could be a plausible imaginary country but should not be recognizable as any actual country.” BEX staff developing the characteristics of Country X based on their years of experience serving at posts overseas—plus a generous dose of imagination—recently invited new FSOs to play the role of oral assessment candidates in a mock group exercise designed to test the utility of Country X. The FSO “candidates” had to defend fictional projects the embassy might implement in Country X and then, since the scenario dictates limited resources, reach consensus on the projects to support or discard.
As part of the oral assessment, the exercise tests prospective Foreign Service officers’ planning and organizing skills, interpersonal skills, leadership, judgment, oral communication and composure. BEX staffers observed the mock exercise and debriefed the role players, asking such questions as whether the features of the new fictional country were plausible and whether the projects proposed made sense, given the country’s geography, economy and political climate.
“Feedback from our role players helps refine our picture of Country X and the group exercise projects,” said Mary Kruger, the senior BEX assessor who coordinates development of the new country for the board. “BEX officers are now revising the projects they drafted based on that input.”
The entire process of developing a new Country X can take more than one year. Before Country X is used in a real group exercise, it must receive a name. Kruger also oversees this process and receives plenty of novel suggestions from colleagues. When Country X finally comes into use for assessments, it might have a name such as Andruvia, Bajukistan or Chomlandia.