A career in law enforcement is one that will certainly be challenging, but very rewarding. The path to becoming a police officer starts with a police entrance exam. It’s a test that’s designed to filter through applicants whose skills and abilities are well-suited to the type of work police officers do. And how well you do on that police entrance exam matters.
In this article, you’ll find all the information you need for knowing how to ace your police entrance exam. Here’s what you want to know and do:
- Choose your location and know your requirements.
- What’s on the test?
- Do some practice questions.
- Identify your weaknesses.
- Focus your study efforts.
- Take practice tests.
- Test day expectations.
Choose Your Location and Know Your Requirements
The location you are aiming to work at is extremely important when you’re looking at scheduling your police entrance exam. This is because the geographical location along with the agency you choose will each have their own requirements for what you’ll need to know, and the expectations for passing may be different.
The tests themselves will vary from state to state, city to city, and agency to agency. There are three common scenarios for the creation of the exam that you’ll be taking. Your exam will be one developed by the state, one developed by a third party, or one developed by the individual department you’re testing for.
You can easily find out what test type you’ll be taking. Usually, you’ll be able to find that information online. If you look up your chosen agency’s website, such as the state highway patrol if that’s your desired career path, you’ll likely find a link to a page dedicated to that organization’s specific test information. You can also call the police academy you’ll be attending to get your questions answered about the police entrance exam you’ll need to take.
There are two versions of national tests that states use. You’ll find many police departments use one of these.
- POST – This is the National Police Officer Selection Test that assesses applicants on their arithmetic, reading, and writing. It’s meant to ensure that those entering into the police academies are qualified at the basic level and capable of learning what they’ll need to during their training. The POST exam helps law enforcement agencies with screening applicants so they don’t have to spend unnecessary time and money on interviews and other selection procedures.
- NCJOSI – The National Criminal Justice Officer Selection Inventory exam is much like its counterpart, the POST. It tests applicants at entry-level to assess their readiness to attend a police academy. This test has two versions. It’s up to the governing organization which they select to use. Both versions test for the same subjects, however, version two is longer and covers more in-depth aspects of the subject areas.
What’s On the Test?
Your entrance into the police academy will depend on your passing of the police entrance exam. While the written part of the test is what we’re focusing on the most for this article, there are some other pieces you’ll have to pass, as well. Here’s what’s included in the entire entry process:
- Written test
- Oral interview
- Physical agility test
- Medical and psychological check
- Background review
The test you take could be longer or shorter than what other applicants are taking in other parts of the country or even within the city you’re located in. Regardless of where you’re completing your exam, there will be five basic categories of skills you’ll be tested on. They are reading comprehension skills, writing skills, math skills, language skills, and memory/observation skills.
Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll be tested on for each of the individual skills sections:
Reading Comprehension Skills – There will be a passage to read with multiple paragraphs. You will be asked to interpret what is in the passage. The subject matter could cover anything, but often you’ll find the passages to be written about police work. You need to be able to read the sentences, then show you have the ability to answer true/false questions correctly, choose the correct answer in a multiple-choice question, or choose the best way to complete a sentence regarding the passage.
Writing Skills – In this section, you’ll be asked to showcase your grammar skills and your ability to spell correctly. There will be some open-ended questions to answer with correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. You’ll also have to write an essay where the topic is provided for you. You will still be assessed for the grammar and spelling pieces, but also for your ability to have it make sense with a proper flow.
Math Skills – This section has some word problems that will require you to use basic math knowledge to figure them out. You’ll use any of the multiplication, division, addition, or subtraction procedures to solve most of these. You will also need to be able to solve for percentages. The questions will be asked in the form of multiple choice. The testing facilitators will provide you with scratch paper and pencils. You will not be permitted to use a calculator.
Language Skills – The language section is a lot like the written section in that you’ll be demonstrating your level of skill for the proper use of grammar rules and punctuation. You’ll answer questions that give you options for how to complete a sentence correctly, as well as some questions where you have to find errors within a text.
Memory/Observation Skills – This is where you’ll be tested for your ability to recall things from memory. You will be presented with photographs, directions, and various objects. You’ll then have to answer questions about what you saw or read. For many applicants, this is an area they need to practice. It’s something you can easily get better at just by practicing it over and over.
The questions that make up all of the police entry exams, regardless of who designed them, will be appropriate for anyone with an understanding of 12th-grade knowledge. How many questions, the specific content, and the length of the tests can vary from department to department.
How to Prepare for the Police Exam
Now that you know what’s on the test, as well as where you’re planning on taking it, it’s time to get yourself ready. Your efforts to be prepared are what will get you the score you want and your name is positioned higher on the eligibility list where you’re rated against your peers.
Do Some Practice Questions
Before you sit down to study for your test, you need to make sure you know what you need to focus on. There will always be those who feel they don’t need to study at all for this exam. Most of those people will fail or, at the very least, not do as well as they would have liked. However, there is also a risk for people who study more than they need to. Your study sessions need to be strategic and targeted so you don’t waste your time with something that doesn’t need your attention.
Practice questions can help you figure out what you need to spend your time on. You don’t want to start by doing a full-length practice test. Save that for later. After you’ve done a bit of studying, practice tests can help you determine if you’ve put in enough effort or not. Until you’re ready to take one, though, a practice test could end up overwhelming you and undermining your confidence.
Use the practice tests to help you see if you’ve prepared enough for the exam. Use practice questions to gauge where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
Identify Your Weaknesses
The practice questions or quizzes you take will highlight what subjects you already know a lot about, as well as what you struggle with. By doing this, you’ll be able to prioritize studying what you’re the weakest in first.
When you take the time to identify your weaknesses, your study sessions will be more efficient. If you skip this step and dive into your preparation without knowing what you’re the weakest in, you’ll inevitably be wasting a lot of time on subjects you may not even need to look at.
One note about identifying your weaknesses. Don’t think about your weaknesses as anything other than a learning opportunity. Don’t feel bad or down about the subjects you need help with. With focused efforts, you can turn your weaknesses into strengths that help you achieve the score you’re aiming for on your police entrance exam.
Focus Your Study Efforts
Make a plan for how you’re going to study before you sit down to actually do it. This doesn’t mean you need to create a schedule with times and places that you have to adhere to, ignoring everything else. Just come up with a prioritized list of what you’re going to study and the different ways you can accomplish your goals. This will give you a guideline to follow. It will help you stay on track.
Start with the subject you need the most help with. You want to do this because then you’ll ensure you have the most time to learn it. Once you start working on that subject, you may find that it’s just not sticking. If you start with that subject, you can take the time to figure out what the best methods are for you with regard to retaining the information you need. If you wait and start trying to learn a subject that’s hard for you not long before your test day, you could end up causing yourself unnecessary stress and anxiety because you know you’re running out of time.
If you start studying and find that your efforts aren’t making much of a difference for you, change things up. Try different study techniques. If reading the material isn’t doing anything to increase your understanding of the subject, then maybe you need to add an auditory piece. Backing up what you’re seeing by also hearing the information adds another layer to your learning.
Some of the other methods you can try to include making flashcards, finding study groups, getting a tutor, and reviewing any textbooks you may still have.
Take Practice Tests
When you get to a point where you feel you’ve spent ample time studying, you should try taking a practice police entrance exam so you can evaluate how prepared you are to take the real thing. If you can prove to yourself that you can pass a practice test, you’ll feel more comfortable leading up to your actual test.
If you find you don’t do as well as you wanted to, then you’ll know you need to spend a bit more time studying. You’ll even know what subjects to study because the practice tests will show you what questions you got correct and which ones you missed.
Whether you do well on your first attempt at a practice test, or not, it’s a good idea to take multiple versions of police tests. You get a broader range of exposure to more questions if you take several of the available practice tests. You can compare your results and average them to get a good feel for how you’re going to fare on the real entrance exam.
Those who need to should spend more time studying and then try the practice tests again after their additional efforts.
When you can pass different practice tests with comfortable margins, you’re ready to take your police entrance exam and ace it. The confidence you’ll gain simply by proving to yourself you can pass the practice exams is enough to lower your stress and anxiety levels surrounding this important step in your process to become a law enforcement officer.
Check out the police promotion guide here: https://civilservicehq.com/how-police-officers-get-promoted-the-complete-guide/
Test Day Expectations
Knowing what to expect is another way you can ease some of your anxiety. You should be able to walk into your test knowing what you’re going to experience. Much of what stresses us out is in what we don’t know. This section includes everything you need to know about your test day.
First, make sure you have a valid form of identification with you. It must be government-issued and include a photo.
You’ll often need to have a required Liability Waiver and Release Agreement with you to check-in at the testing facility. It will need to be notarized or you won’t be permitted to take the test.
You should be familiar with the route you’ll be taking to get to the test center. Leave with enough time to ensure you make it to the facility early. You’ll need time for registration and check-in.
Many departments will have applicants take their Physical Ability Test right after completing the written exam. The smartest thing to do in this situation is to wear the clothes you’ll need for the physical part of your entrance exam. If for some reason you are unable to do that, you can bring the clothing with you and change quickly. There’s no guarantee there will be somewhere meant for changing available, however.
Understand several items are not permitted inside the testing rooms. You will not be allowed to take any of the following with you:
- Purses or other types of bags
- Electronic devices
- Mechanical pencils
Check with your individual center to get more specifics on what items are prohibited. If you are found to have one of them in the testing room, you’ll likely be disqualified.
Different locations will have various timelines, but many of these exams will take the better part of a day. You want to make sure you plan accordingly for things like rides, childcare, meals, and even bathroom breaks.
You Can Ace Your Police Entrance Exam
The key to acing your police entrance exam is in making the right preparations and knowing what to expect. Make sure to find out what the requirements are for the academy you’ll be attending, do some practice questions to identify what your weaknesses are, focus your study sessions accordingly, assess your preparedness with some practice tests, and make all the necessary arrangements before your test day. When your big day comes, make sure you get good rest the night before and show up early ready to take your exam. Be early, be prepared, and be confident you are about to ace your police entrance exam. Next, you’ll be on your way to police academy training.
What happens if you fail your police entrance exam?
It’s not uncommon for people to fail the police entrance exam on their first attempt. If you fail the test, while it’s not ideal, it is ok. You will be permitted to take the test again, but you’ll have to wait at least 30 days before you can, in most cases.
How long is a police written exam?
Exam lengths vary amongst states, counties, and cities. You will be looking at between one and three hours normally. On top of that, most testing facilities will also have you doing your physical fitness test after so you’ll likely be at your entrance exam for anywhere between five and eight hours.
When will you get your test results?
You will get your results as soon as is possible. While it may be different between facilities, most will have the results posted online within three business days of the test date.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your police exam click here.
For more information about the civil service be sure to check out our free guide here: https://civilservicehq.com/
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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