The Police Officer Suitability Test for Police Officer Exam Study Guide (page 3)
By now you know that becoming a police officer takes study, effort, and time. You may also have realized for the first time that the process may involve years of your life. This does not mean you will be busy every day being a police applicant, but it does mean that the time you first apply to take a police exam until you are hired by a police department may span anywhere from a few months to a few years. If you have read this far, you probably are willing to put forth the effort required to do well on the exam and wait for this rewarding career.
It might still be a wise idea to get a better idea of whether you and a police career are a good fit. To do this, take the following Police Officer Suitability Test. This is another tool in your arsenal to help you decide whether you want to invest the effort and time it will take you to pursue a career in policing. While it might appear to be the career of your dreams, possibly the job is not really for you. Maybe something else would better fit your personality and your abilities. It is better to find this out sooner rather than later.
Remember that there is no such thing as a police personality—there is not only one type of person who makes a good police officer. Despite that, it is equally true that there are some people who are not the best fit with the job. Cops are not all alike; just like some are men and some are women, some are short and some are tall, their personalities can be as different as their demographics and their sizes.
Despite all the possible differences, there do seem to be some abilities and personalities that fit policing better than others and that seem to predict who will be successful and satisfied in this varied career. Remember that these personality traits are not related to your intelligence or dedication; they are more likely to indicate more about what you like to do and how you interact with the world around you.
These suitability factors were developed from the large body of research about police and from discussions with police psychologists and applicant screeners across the country. The factors fall into five groupings; each has ten questions spaced throughout the test.
The LearningExpress Police Officer Suitability Test is not a formal psychological test. For one thing, it is not nearly long enough. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) test used in most psychological assessments has 11 times more items than you will find in this test. For another, it does not focus on your general mental health.
You should view this test as an informal guide to help you decide whether being a police officer is a job you would enjoy and that would suit you. If it turns out you decide against pursuing a career in law enforcement, this test may provide you with the chance to understand yourself better and to lead you to a career that is more in keeping with your personality. Either way, you have gained self-knowledge.
The Police Officer Suitability Test
You will need about 20 minutes to answer the following 50 questions. It's a good idea to answer all of the questions in one sitting—scoring and interpretation can be done later. For each question, consider how often the attitude or behavior applies to you. You have a choice between Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, and Always; write the number for your answer in the space after each question. To score your answers, see the table below. How the numbers add up will be explained later. If you try to outsmart the test or figure out the "right" answers, you won't get an accurate picture at the end. So just be honest.
Don't read the scoring sections before you answer the questions, or you will defeat the whole purpose of the exercise!
How often do the following statements sound like you? Choose only one answer for each statement.
- I like to know what's expected of me. _____
- I am willing to admit my mistakes to other people. _____
- Once I've made a decision, I stop thinking about it. _____
- I can shrug off my fears about getting physically injured. _____
- I like to know what to expect. _____
- It takes a lot to get me really angry. _____
- My first impressions of people tend to be accurate. _____
- I am aware of my stress level. _____
- I like to tell other people what to do. _____
- I enjoy working with others. _____
- I trust my instincts. _____
- I enjoy being teased. _____
- I will spend as much time as it takes to settle a disagreement. _____
- I feel comfortable in new social situations. _____
- When I disagree with a person, I let that person know about it. _____
- I'm in a good mood. _____
- I'm comfortable making quick decisions when necessary. _____
- Rules must be obeyed, even if you don't agree with them. _____
- I like to say exactly what I mean. _____
- I enjoy being with people. _____
- I stay away from doing exciting things that I know are dangerous. _____
- I don't mind when a supervisor tells me what to do. _____
- I enjoy solving puzzles. _____
- The people I know consult me about their problems. _____
- I am comfortable making my own decisions. _____
- People know where I stand on things. _____
- When I get stressed, I know how to make myself relax. _____
- I have confidence in my own judgment. _____
- I make my friends laugh. _____
- When I make a promise, I keep it. _____
- When I'm in a group, I tend to be the leader. _____
- I can deal with sudden changes in my routine. _____
- When I get into a fight, I can stop myself from losing control. _____
- I am open to new facts that might change my mind. _____
- I understand why I do the things I do. _____
- I'm good at calming people down. _____
- I can tell how a person is feeling even when he or she doesn't say anything. _____
- I can take criticism without getting upset. _____
- People follow my advice. _____
- I pay attention to people's body language. _____
- It's important for me to make a good impression. _____
- I remember to show up on time.
- When I meet new people, I try to understand them. _____
- I avoid doing things on impulse. _____
- Being respected is important to me. _____
- People see me as a calm person. _____
- It's more important for me to do a good job than to get praised for it. _____
- I make my decisions based on common sense. _____
- I prefer to keep my feelings to myself when I'm with strangers. _____
- I take responsibility for my own actions rather than blaming others. _____
Attitudes and behaviors can't be measured in units, like distance or weight. Besides, psychological categories tend to overlap. As a result, the numbers and dividing lines between score ranges are approximate, and numbers may vary about 20 points either way. If your score doesn't fall in the optimal range, it doesn't mean a failure—only that an area needs more focus.
It may help to share your test results with some of the people who are close to you. Very often, there are differences between how we see ourselves and how we actually come across to others.
Group 1—Risk Questions
Add up scores for questions 4, 6, 12, 15, 21, 27, 33, 38, 44, and 46.
TOTAL = _____
This group of questions evaluates your tendency to be assertive and take risks. The ideal is in the middle, somewhere between timid and reckless: You should be willing to take risks, but not seek them out just for excitement. Being nervous, impulsive, or afraid of physical injury is an undesirable trait for a police officer. This group also reflects how well you take teasing and criticism, both of which you may encounter every day as a police officer. And as you can imagine, it's also important for someone who carries a gun not to have a short fuse.
- A score between 360 and 400 is rather extreme, suggesting a short temper that could be dangerous in the field.
- If you score between 170 and 360, you are on the right track.
- If you score between 80 and 170, you may want to think about how comfortable you are with the idea of confrontation.
- A score between 0 and 80 indicates that the more dangerous and stressful aspects of the job might be difficult for you.
Group 2—Core Character Traits
Add up scores for questions 2, 8, 16, 19, 26, 30, 35, 42, 47, and 50.
TOTAL = _____
This group reflects such basic traits as stability, reliability, and self-awareness. Can your fellow officers count on you to back them up and do your part? Are you secure enough to do your job without needing praise? In the words of one police psychologist, "If you're hungry for praise, you will starve to death." The public will not always appreciate your efforts, and your supervisors and colleagues may be too busy or preoccupied to pat you on the back.
It is crucial to be able to admit your mistakes and take responsibility for your actions, to be confident without being arrogant or conceited, and to be straightforward and direct in your communication. In a job where lives are at stake, the facts must be clear. Having control of your moods is also very important. While we all have good and bad days, someone who is depressed much of the time is not encouraged to pursue police work; depression affects one's judgment, energy level, and the ability to respond and communicate.
- If you score between 180 and 360, you are in the ballpark. A score of over 360 may indicate that your answers were unrealistic.
- A score of 100–180 indicates that you should look at the questions again and evaluate your style of social interaction.
- Scores between 0 and 100 suggest you may not be ready for this job yet.
Group 3—Judgment Questions
Add up scores for questions 3, 7, 11, 17, 23, 28, 37, 40, 43, and 48.
TOTAL = _____
This group of questions evaluates how you make decisions. Successful police officers are sensitive to unspoken messages, can detect and respond to other people's feelings, and are able to make fair and accurate assessments of a situation, rather than being influenced by their own personal biases and needs. Once the decision to act is made, second-guessing can be dangerous. Police officers must make their best judgments in line with accepted practices, and then act upon these judgments without hesitancy or self-doubt. Finally, it's important to know and accept that you cannot change the world single-handedly. People who seek this career because they want to make a dramatic individual difference in human suffering are likely to be frustrated and disappointed.
- A score over 360 indicates you may be trying too hard.
- If you scored between 170 and 360, your style of making decisions, especially about people, fits with the desired police officer profile.
- Scores between 80 and 170 suggest that you think about how you make judgments and how much confidence you have in them.
- If you scored between 80 and 170, making judgments may be a problem area for you.
Group 4—Authority/Leadership Questions
Add scores for questions 1, 10, 13, 18, 22, 25, 31, 34, 39, and 45.
TOTAL = _____
This group assesses the essential attributes of respect for rules and authority—including the personal authority of self-reliance and leadership—and the ability to resolve conflict and work with a team. Once again, a good balance is the key. Police officers must accept and communicate the value of structure and control without being rigid. And even though most decisions are made independently in the field, the authority of the supervisor and the law must be obeyed at all times. Anyone on a personal mission for justice or vengeance will not make a good police officer and is unlikely to make it through the screening process.
- A score between 160 and 360 indicates you have the desired attitude toward authority—both your own and that of your superior officers. Any higher may indicate that you were trying too hard to give the "right" answers.
- If you scored between 100 and 160, you might think about whether a demanding leadership role is something you want every day.
- With scores between 0 and 100, ask yourself whether the required combination of structure and independence would be comfortable for you.
Group 5—Personal Style Attributes
Add up scores for questions 5, 9, 14, 20, 24, 29, 32, 36, 41, and 49.
TOTAL = _____
This is the personal style dimension, which describes how you come across to others. Moderation rules here as well: Police officers should be seen as strong and capable, but not dramatic or heavy-handed; friendly, but not overly concerned with whether they are liked; patient, but not to the point of losing control of a situation. A good sense of humor is essential, not only in the field, but also among one's fellow officers. Flexibility is another valuable trait—especially given all the changes that can happen in one shift—but too much flexibility can be perceived as weakness.
- A score between 160 and 360 is optimal. If you scored over 360, you may be trying too hard.
- Scores between 80 and 160 suggest that you compare your style with the preceding description and consider whether anything needs to be modified.
- If you scored between 0 and 80, you might think about the way you interact with others and whether you would be happy in a job where people are the main focus.
The Police Officer Suitability Test reflects the fact that being a successful police officer requires moderation rather than extremes. Attitudes that are desirable in reasonable amounts can become a real problem if they are too strong. For example, independence is a necessary trait, but too much of it could result in an officer taking the law into his or her own hands. Going outside accepted police procedure is a bad idea; worse, it can put other people's lives in jeopardy.
As one recruiter said, the ideal police officer is "low key and low maintenance." In fact, there's only one thing you can't have too much of, and that's common sense. With everything else, balance is the key. Keep this in mind as you look at your scores.