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The Police Officer Test 101


The History Of Entrance Level Police Testing 

The good citizens of the United States of America have heeded the call to wear the badge and feel the honor since since 1626, when the first officer walked on the streets of New York as one of New York’s finest soon after  the founding of the  New York City Sheriff’s Office. It is not immediately clear from available literature pointing to that time whether there was any kind of sheriff evaluation similar to today’s Police Officer Test. However, over the next 386+ years, the security agencies have evolved, adopting  better and  more sophisticated tools in fighting crimes while at the same time using advanced techniques to filter the type of human resource that is enrolled into various police departments. One of the most important tools that is used to identify new police recruits is the police officer test.

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Technically, 1973 is the all-important year when the first police officer test was administered because it is the year when the Bureau of Policewomen was abolished, and the first gender-neutral civil service exam for police officers was held. It is also in the same year that the titles,  “Policewomen” and “Patrolmen” were officially renamed “Police Officers”. Before this the first civil service exam for “Policewoman” was given in 1938, meaning that such exams may have been commonplace earlier. The first formal police department began in 1838, when the General Court passed a bill allowing the city of Boston to appoint police officers. The Boston Police department was  created using the model developed by Sir Robert Peele for the London Police force. Today the police officer test is administered independently by the different police departments across the US.

In order for law enforcement agencies to sort the flood of applicants, police testing was developed. These entrance tests have many names and can differ from agency to agency. These tests have common goals:

  • To predict the success of applicants in a career in law enforcement
  • To ensure applicants have the skills required to perform in law enforcement careers
  • To shrink the hiring pool to allow only the best applicants to receive interviews

Whether you have a police test scheduled in the coming days or have just started to think about a career in law enforcement, it is not too early to begin preparation for passing the test and more importantly, for scoring high enough to get an interview.

Police and sheriff departments have different styles of police tests. Smaller and mid-size police departments will use standardized test developed by third party companies. The most common tests are the (POST) Police Officer Selection Test by Stanard & Associates, Inc. and the (NCJOSI™) National Criminal Justice Selection Inventory™ by I/O Solutions. Some of the largest police departments have developed their own entrance level exams such as New York Police Department and Portland Police Department (Oregon). While these tests do have slight differences, the main subjects are the same. The subjects that you will see on a written police test or exam are the following:

What’s On The Police Test 

For any candidate that has not reached his or her 35th birthday, one of the first steps toward becoming a police officer is to take and pass a police officer test, also known as a civil service examination in some US states. This test is administered by the Office of State Examiner for in the particular state.

Apart from satisfying the age rule, candidates do not need any previous knowledge of law enforcement in order to pass this examination which has been designed to evaluate knowledge, skills, and abilities that are needed by trainee police officers for the successful completion of police officer training and for subsequent success in the line of duty.

Additionally, in order to successfully complete the police academy training, the candidate must be able to read and understand the material on law enforcement procedures. As a result, as part of the written examination, there is a section of questions on reading passages of material that is similar to that which must be read on the job.

Candidates will have a set time limit approximately have provided with one hour and thirty minutes to two hours, this is considered sufficient to complete this part of the examination. The following types sections can be expected in the written test section;


In this section the candidate’s ability to recognize and use correct English is evaluated. Questions contain sentences with a blank indicating a missing word. The candidate selects the correct word from a group of multiple choices provided. Candidates should demonstrate their knowledge of correct word usage, subject/verb agreement, and spelling of common words.


The candidate is evaluated on their ability to recognize and utilize abbreviations or codes to communicate. The questions provide a list of standard codes that the candidate must use in order to provide the correct answer.


Here, candidates are evaluated based on their ability to read and understand technically written passages.They will be presented with a reading comprehension and expected to answer multiple-choice questions that are related to the passage. The reading material is usually was taken from material that new recruits encounter in their first few months of employment.


Here candidates are evaluated based on their ability to read and follow written instructions that direct them to complete specific assigned tasks. Candidates will recieve an excerpt from a manual that provides instructions necessary to complete a traffic incident report form. Multiple-choice questions are then completed based on this material.


Also important in the police officer test, this section evaluates a candidate’s assessment ability as regards the potential consequences of alternative courses of action and they are expected to select the course of action that is most acceptable. Typical questions give the candidate four scenarios from which they must choose the highest priority option to be dealt with first.


The candidate is evaluated on their ability to assess all facts pertaining to a given situation and consequently come to a logical conclusion. Typical questions give candidates several related facts and they should then, based on these facts, choose the sentence that true or false.


Here, candidates are evaluated based on their ability to observe facts in a given situation and compare these facts to a given standard with the intention of classifying those facts. Typical questions require the candidates to refer to an insert that is provided. The candidate must review the presented scenario and use the provided insert and also the facts given to settle on an answer.


Next, candidates are evaluated on their ability to notice details or events occurring in their immediate surroundings. Typical questions in this section ask the candidate to refer to the drawings of automobiles, and they must be able to pay close attention to detail if they are to answer these questions successfully.


Next, candidates are evaluated based on their ability to estimate the properties of time, distance and quantity. To make these estimates, candidates refer to various drawings provided.


Next, the candidate’s ability to interpret basic road maps is evaluated. Candidates are expected to only refer to a map and its legend to provide correct answers.


The police officer test then evaluates a candidates ability mentally evaluate three-dimensional situations using a two-dimensional representation.The candidates refer to drawings that must be interpreted correctly to provide the correct three-dimension solution.


Next, candidates are evaluated based on their abilities to successfully match a provided written scenario to a two-dimensional diagrammatic representation. Every question provided contains a written scenario and four sketches. The candidates chose the scenario that best explains one of the sketches.


Next, the candidates are evaluated based on their ability to control the physical surroundings so as to meet set out objectives. Candidates match one of the several provided sketches with the correct written procedure provided.


Next, the candidate is evaluated on their ability to compare provided facts and observations and pick out patters.Diagrams, number series, sketches are provided t the candidates who must identify a pattern and choose the correct answer that fits into the identified pattern.


In the second last section, candidates are expected to successfully pick out items that do not fit into a specific pattern provided.


Finally, candidates are evaluated based on their ability to complete forms according to some provided guidelines. Candidates can refer to a provided insert before providing the correct answer.

Test Taking Tips For Multiple Choice

Most multiple choice questions are a race against time and the police officer test is no different. Just remember to carefully read and follow the directions, pay attention to keywords highlighted in the questions, scan all the answer choices provided before choosing your answer, legibly mark your answer in the correct space on the answer sheetand skip challenging questions taking a mental note to return to them after you come to the end of the questions provided.

Good luck taking the police officer test.


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