As part of the hiring process, candidates are required to undertake a police polygraph, known colloquially as lie detection. This test often invokes fear, anxiety and dread; participants unsure whether the detection will report accurately their statements of truth. Once you know what type of police polygraph questions to expect, things get much, much easier.
As with every other part of the police exam, long-term preparation is essential.
Of course, you cannot lie your way out of a police polygraph test. More than just the polygraph is considered. For example – nonverbal cues, body language and other involuntary movements are considered. The statements you deliver to the examiner must be in-line with the answers you provided in your initial application.
One effective means of preparation is knowing what police polygraph questions you are likely to encounter. There are three main types of question, each of which is examined below. Once you understand the nature of the exam and the type of questions asked, your anxiety and fears become less and less of a concern.
In short, then, there is nothing to fear unless you have something to hide. If you have nothing to hide, the police polygraph test will be a breeze.
Accuracy of the Police Polygraph Test
The police polygraph test works by testing your body’s reaction to questions.
It records physiological data such as temperature, heart rate, pulse, conductivity of your skin, sweating and many other metrics.
Of course, there are ongoing debates as to how accurate lie detector results are. Even though anomalies do exist, whereby a truth may be recorded as a lie, the vast majority of the time the results are accurate. More importantly, the results are used as just one tool to determine whether you are telling the truth.
For instance, examiners review other factors such as your demeanor, language choice (whether you are directly answering the question, or whether you are talking around the question), and answers delivered in the pre-exam interview.
Types of Police Polygraph Question
There are three types of police polygraph question:
You will encounter all three question types during the exam.
Relevant questions are questions that seek to identify an obvious truth. For example: “Did you apply to become a presidential candidate yesterday?”. The answer to this question is both factual and obvious – you didn’t. For clear reasons, it is not possible to lie to this type of question.
Control questions are questions that identify your normal physiological response to an emotive question. For example: “Have you ever lied to a close friend or family member?”. When the examiner asks this question, you are confronted with the process of thinking about it. That process triggers a physiological response that is now used as a ‘control’; an answer used to measure the accuracy of other answers you give.
Irrelevant questions are questions that have no apparent bearing on the exam. They may come across as entirely random. Though the questions are random, the purpose behind them is not so random. For example, you may be asked: “Is today Monday?”. The point is this – that irrelevant questions carry no emotive weight. Those answers are, then, in direct contrast with relevant police polygraph questions – which carry a significant truth about you – and control questions – which carry emotive weight.
The structure of the police polygraph test is typically as follows:
- Pre-test interview: an interview used to harvest information that will be used to formulate questions for the polygraph test. The pre-test interview is also known as the control question test (CQT).
- Directed lie test (DLT): as the name suggests, the DLT is a test where you are directed, or told, to lie. You will be asked questions and your purpose is to intentionally lie.
- Guilty knowledge test (GKT): the part of the test where you will be asked questions, the answers to which both you and the examiner know, and then offered multiple answers to choose from.
The latter test, the GKT, is considered the most difficult part of the police polygraph test.
Sample Police Polygraph Questions
As well as personal information and suitability to become a law enforcement officer, the police polygraph exam also tests you on your background – particularly your criminal background.
You will be asked questions, then, on the following ten topics:
- Theft, including shoplifting
- History of alcohol abuse / substance misuse
- History of medication abuse or misuse
- Participation in crimes not yet reported / detected
- Involvement in bribery; either as the briber or the recipient
- History of violence, including domestic violence
- History or present falsification of personal documents
- Drug dealing or drug trafficking
- Criminal background as it relates to minor offences, including traffic offences
- Involvement in organized crime networks
You must have clear answers to each of these ten police polygraph questions.
It’s worth emphasizing that you may be disqualified from becoming a law enforcement officer based on the answers you give, even if you are telling the truth.
There are two approaches to consider, then:
- First, to lie about your background. That is the purpose of the police polygraph test; to determine who is lying about their background. If you are found to be lying, you are automatically disqualified from becoming a police officer. This approach is, then, strongly discouraged and should be avoided.
- Second, to tell the truth. If you have committed one of the above offences, you should be honest about it. You may be given an exemption, based on the offence and the time and context in which it was committed.
Nobody expects you to be perfect.
But by lying in the exam, officers have every reason to be cautious. It raises the question of what else you have lied about, and whether you will become even more deceptive as a law enforcement officer.
How to Prepare for the Exam
The best advice we can give is to stay truthful, even if the answers go against your application.
Remember – you need to give the best, most positive impression.
This begins from the inception of the exam – to how you greet your examiner, how you are dressed and how well groomed you have presented yourself – to how you answer questions; your willingness to cooperate and appear for the exam on-time; and whether you are nervous or confident in your chosen answers.
The complete picture is taken, and from that, the truth is determined.
Don’t make the mistake of focusing on just one part of the test. Though truthfully answering police polygraph questions is important, it is not the only element of the exam. Keep that in mind and, come exam day, you are guaranteed to perform to standard expected.
Searching for more police polygraph questions? Not sure how best to prepare for the exam? Join Police Test Guide today! We have put together a comprehensive learning program that prepares you for the police polygraph test – helping you through each stage of the exam.