Police Officer Test Preparation: Understanding the Written Exam
A written examination is required for almost all police departments in medium-to-large cities. The type of examination can vary from an essay examination to one that has reading comprehension, mathematics, and memory skills. Medium-to-large cities are likely to have in-depth written examinations, while smaller agencies may substitute essay exams, video exams, oral interviews, or in-depth background checks. This article focuses on the most commonly given examination: the written multiple-choice exam.
Preparing to Take the Written Law Enforcement Exam
When preparing to take a written law enforcement exam, remember that the main objective of the exam is to test your ability to memorize and to solve problems. Usually, the test is timed to prevent you from thinking too long on any given question. While timing the test is an effective way to simulate the stress under which law enforcement officers must make most of their daily job-related decisions, it creates an additional problem for test takers: the need to read and decipher quickly.
Many of the questions on law enforcement exams present a large amount of information that must be read and then sifted to find the appropriate answer to the question. The information may be relatively technical, or it may seem straightforward, yet require you to recognize minor details. With unlimited time many of the questions might be worked out and seem almost easy, but under strict time constraints, the questions are more likely to seem long and difficult to understand.
There are two critical steps that you can take to minimize the stress and difficulty of taking a law enforcement written exam. First, you should contact the agency or agencies to which you are interested in applying. Most law enforcement agencies will provide applicants with a packet of pretest materials. The packet informs the applicant of the specific ability areas tested and of a few potential testing formats that are used on that agency's exam. It may also provide pretest materials that must be studied prior to taking the written exam. In addition, the pretest materials include any information that the testing agency needs applicants to know prior to taking the written exam. These materials should be obtained from the agency as soon as possible after they become available.
Second, you should sharpen your test-taking skills. Most law enforcement exams focus on the same general ability areas: memorization, visualization, spatial orientation, verbal or written expression and comprehension, problem sensitivity, mathematics, deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, and information ordering. While pretest packets provided by law enforcement agencies provide a list of the specific ability areas that are tested, the materials do not provide examples of every potential question format that is used to test those ability areas. Although it may not be possible for a candidate to know every potential format that a question may be presented in, it is possible to prepare for more formats than are presented in the agency's pretest materials. Learning to recognize the ability area being tested and the common question formats used in that ability area can help you become quite comfortable with the law enforcement testing process.
To help you achieve this goal, the authors of this book provide a description of each of the ability areas commonly tested and include a broad range of the question formats that may appear on different agency's written law enforcement exams. Some tips for answering the different types of questions associated with each ability area are also included.
Applicants should review every practice test included in this book to become familiar with the wide variety of methods that are used to test each ability area. Remember, preparation and practice are the best ways to ensure a higher score on this type of exam.
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