The Written Exam for Police Officer Exam Study Guide

Updated on Mar 16, 2011

Once again, know that the written exam may be the most important step in your path to becoming a police officer. It is generally the first screening device in the selection process. It is your first opportunity to show that you have the skills and abilities to become a police officer—and unfortunately, if you do not pass the exam, it may be your last opportunity.Under most circumstances, you will not be permitted to continue in the selection process unless you receive a passing score on the written exam. This is by design; agencies rely on the written exam as their first elimination step because it is easy and inexpensive to administer. In the nation's largest cities, literally thousands of applicants might take the written exam at the same time at schools or auditoriums throughout the area.

How do you make sure you will stand out and that your score will help you to be among the first applicants invited to move onto the next steps in the screening process? The written exam is almost always a multiple-choice exam; although not all exams are identical, they will most frequently follow the formats of the practice exams in this book. Although some agencies may send you study material or a fact sheet about the exam, you are not expected to have knowledge of police procedures or rules or to know the laws of your state. Those are the topics you will learn and be tested on when you attend the police academy after successfully completing the screening process.

If the written exam is not based on police knowledge, what is it all about? The exam tests for many of the abilities you see in the headings of the chapters of this book. Questions will evaluate your ability to reason; to understand and answer questions about reading passages, pictures, and maps; and to select actions you would take based on a given fact pattern. There will also likely be a section on grammar, spelling, and selecting the correct word to complete a sentence or idea. Finally, there will be math-type questions that may ask you to add, subtract,multiple, and divide, and to pick up number patterns.

You may not see the connections to policing in these types of questions, but the format tests whether you have the ability to master the complex sets of rules and procedures and laws that you will study in the police academy, and whether your vocabulary and language is sufficient enough to read and understand material that will be presented to you and to speak with people and write accurate reports detailing your activities.

To discern your ability to grasp police-like situations, many of the questions and fact patterns that will presented to you will be similar to what you would be asked to do while working. For example, you might read a passage that explains the difference between two legal concepts and then answer a series of questions about those concepts or about how you would apply them in a situation that will be described. Similarly,you might read a passage written in the same style a police procedures manual would be and asked to answer questions that indicate whether you understood what you read. Or you might be given a common police situation and asked questions about how you would write the follow-up report.

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