Math Strategies for Police Officer Exam Study Guide
Now that you have gotten back into the rhythm of working with numbers, review the strategies presented. You probably relied on many of them without even realizing it, but seeing them listed will help you remember how you derived your answers.
- Do not work solely in your head; use the test booklet or scratch paper. Remember to use paper and pencil to take notes, draw pictures, or calculate. You might think it is quicker to answer the problems in your head, but it will lead to errors and prevent you from double-checking your answers.
- Read the question in chunks, preferably a sentence at a time. Just as with other sections of the exam, read slowly and carefully to make sure you know what the question says and what type of calculations you are being asked to perform.
- Circle the question. This will help you before and after doing the calculations. First, after reading the set-up situation, circle the actual question so you know what you are being asked about. Second, after solving the problem and developing an answer, reread the circled question to double-check that you did what the problem asked you to do.
- Make a plan. Before you begin to write anything down, especially numbers, consider how you will solve the problem based on what you are looking for.
- Check your work after doing the math. It is possible to get a false sense of security after doing the calculations and discovering that your answer matches one of the multiple-choice answers provided. This is the major reason that you should consider looking at the choices provided only after you do your own calculation and check your work.
- Ask yourself whether your answer makes sense or is a reasonable answer to the situation provided.
- Re-read the question and fill your answer in to assure that it makes sense in the context of the numbers.
- If it is a problem that can be answered by involving more than one set of calculations, use the alternate format to see if you derive the same answer.
- Approximate or round off when appropriate. This may help you initially or as a way to check your answers. For example:
- $5.98 + $8.97 is a little less than $15. (Add: $6 + $9)
- .9876 × 5.0342 is close to 5. (Multiply: 1 × 5)
- Glance at the answer choices for clues. The answer choices may provide you with an indication of what the question is looking for, particularly if the answers contain fractions or decimals. Remember, though, not to rely on the answer choices so completely that you fail to perform the actual calculations to arrive at an answer. If you are not penalized on your exam for incorrect answers, when you have completed the math section, you might consider using the answers provided to guess, but, again, do not use the answer choices as a way to avoid doing the math.
- If a question stumps you, move on and come back to it later. But this strategy should only be followed for a question that does not contain multiple parts. If there is only one calculation for the question and you are completely stumped, leave it and move to the next question. If the question that has you confused is part of a series of questions based on the same set of facts and numbers, consider carefully whether you will have time to come back to more than one question or whether you should try to puzzle it out before moving on.
To check your work:
With these strategies in mind, you can practice combining numbers with math problems that are given to you in words. In some ways, these might be easier because there is a short story you can follow to lead you to the calculations, but you must read carefully or you will miss the formula you need to make the proper calculations. It is likely that the majority of the questions on your exam will be word problems. With this knowledge, review the sample questions to make sure you read each one carefully and use the words to help you determine what calculations you need to make.
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