You’ve taken the first step. Your application is in the hands of a police recruiter. Now you’re ready to take the plunge with the written test. Like everything else in your quest for the badge, the key to success in the written test is: preparation.
First on your prep list is the test study guide. Before you leave the recruiter’s office, ask for one, or where you can get one. Many agencies have an online guide available on their website. These test guides tell you what types of questions to expect and how many there are per section, how much time you have on each section,and what skills and abilities are tested. If your agency does not have a test guide, ask the recruiter or your department contact, for information about the test.Find out where the test is taken, the time required to complete the test, what types of questions will be on the test (multiple choice, essay, etc.) and what areas of knowledge will be tested.
Ask also if the test is Civil Service. Civil service tests are usually only offered once or twice a year, and re-testing may also be limited. Check your guide for specifics, but in general, police written tests are timed,contain 100 to 200 questions in several sections, require 2-3 hours time for completion and are scored as pass/fail or require 70% correct to pass. Most tests are completed by hand (pencil-marked answer sheets), but many are taken on computers.
Study preparation for the written test is simple and straightforward. Read your test guide front to back and then read it again. Check out the library, internet and bookstore for more resources on police written tests, especially for sources with sample questions. Most libraries will have books in the reference section that contain explanations of the test sections most commonly used and sample questions for each. If
you find a test section that you feel is a weak area for you, spend extra time on it to tone down test day anxiety.
Nearly every police written test will include 5 areas of evaluation. These areas may be covered in separate sections of questions, or may be bundled within 2 or 3 sections. They include:
1. Accuracy of Observation/Memory
Your ability to retain and recall specific information. You will be given printed information, allowed to read and study it (no note-taking) for a certain amount of time (5 to 25 minutes), then the materials are returned and you are tested on the contents. Tests may be strictly memory recall, or may ask for conclusions to be drawn from the information given.
This test section evaluates your ability to perform police-related duties such as: remembering suspect descriptions, wanted posters/pictures, department policies and procedures, and safety and tactical procedures.
2. Written Skills
Your ability to communicate in writing. You will be given either a spelling or vocabulary test usually consisting of 25-50 words to be defined and spelled correctly. You will also be given, in some form, a scenario to read and take notes on. You will then write a report that relates to specific test-defined points of the scenario.
This test section evaluates your ability to perform police-related duties such as: report writing, witness statements and completing department forms.
3. Reading Comprehension
Your ability to understand what you read. You will be given materials to read and will then answer multiple choice questions on that information to show that you understand and can apply information you read.
This test section evaluates your ability to perform police-related duties such as: accurately reading and comprehending technical and legal information – court orders, department policy, state law, haz-mat warnings and training materials, for example.
Prepare for test sections 1 – 3 by cornering family and friends to give you verbal or written answer pop-quizzes on information you’ve read in newspapers and magazines. This is so close to a game that you shouldn’t have any trouble finding people to ‘play’.
4. Decision Making/Judgment Skills
Your ability to identify and comprehend critical elements of a situation and to choose an appropriate course of action. You will be given written, audio or video materials and then asked to pick the best response out of several responses, within an extremely limited time frame (10 seconds, for example).
This test section evaluates your ability to perform police-related duties such as: responding calmly to provocation, handling authority appropriately, using unbiased enforcement, professional ethics and social maturity.
Prepare for test section 4 by studying sample questions,reading newspaper accounts of crimes and proposing what your response would be, and observing officer response during a police ride along.
5. Navigational Skills/Directional Orientation
Your ability to read maps and recognize the direction you are traveling. You will be given materials that ask you to find locations on maps, show point to point routes for specific location responses and suspect vehicle and foot chases.
This test section evaluates your ability to perform police-related duties such as: routing to calls to decrease response time, knowledge of street closures and need for re-routing, radio transmissions of a suspect chase, and emergency response to officer down/needs assistance.
Prepare for test section 5 by observing the officer during a ride along, sticking a compass in your vehicle and learning to use landmarks as orientation guides and lastly, involve friends or family in imaginary suspect ‘chases’. Your ‘chase’ exercise would be something like this: Both drivers are in cell phone contact. Your vehicle is 2 blocks away from your partner’s vehicle. You will begin your imaginary ‘chase’ of a suspect (at legal speeds)while giving directions to your ‘backup’ over your cell phone. Set a time limit (5 minutes). When the suspect is
‘apprehended’, see if your backup finds you. Then switch roles and have your partner be the lead vehicle. Your job will be to follow, and also to anticipate routes that would allow you to block the suspects anticipated direction of travel. Again, this is a great game and you’ll have little trouble finding partners.
The police written test is designed to evaluate multiple abilities and skills. In addition to the five evaluation sections noted above, you will also find simple math and problem-solving math questions, and behavioral questions that indicate character, compliance with laws and personal accountability.