The Written Exam for Police Officer Exam Study Guide (page 3)
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.
Sample Police Situation Report Question
Instructions: Answer the next two questions based on the following information.
- Officers Biddle and Barron were dispatched in response to a 911 call regarding an automobile accident. At the scene, they obtained the following information:
Date of accident: July 18, 2008 Type of accident: Hit and run Victim: Bob Sellis, a pedestrian Type of car: Ford Color of car: Green Driver of car: Unknown male
- Officer Barron is writing up the crime report. Which of the following expresses the relevant information most clearly and accurately?
- On July 18, 2008, pedestrian Bob Sellis was the victim of a hit and run accident when he was struck by a green Ford, driver unknown.
- The hit and run victim, pedestrian Bob Sellis, was struck by an unknown male driver of a green Ford.
- A green Ford hit and ran from Bob Sellis, a pedestrian on July 18, 2008.
- Bob Sellis, a pedestrian, was hit and run by a man driving a green Ford.
Choice a is the only one that contains information provided in the question. Choices b and d imply that Sellis was struck by a driver rather than by a car; choice c creates an illogical category of "hit and ran."
- Which of the following is a correct assumption based on the material provided?
- Bob Sellis was exiting his vehicle when he was struck.
- The man driving the green Ford was talking on a cell phone.
- Bob Sellis was seriously injured when he was hit.
- Bob Sellis was not killed by the unknown male driver.
d. Since there is no mention of anyone other than Bob Sellis talking to the police, it must be assumed he provided the information and must therefore be alive. Choices a, b, and c contain information that is not provided in the fact pattern.
Memory and map-reading questions might present you with wanted posters that you will then have to answer questions about, without looking back at the pictures. The maps might ask you to select the best way to get from one location to another.
The math questions on the exam might also be related to law enforcement responsibilities. An example of this could be a description of a burglary scene that required you to total the value of missing or stolen property. Some of the numbers in series or patterns might resemble what a state's license plates look like.
Sample Math Questions
Instructions: Based on the information provided in the following descriptive paragraph, answer the next three questions.
You are dispatched to take a report of a burglary at Tom's Tire Store. Tom is convinced that someone drove a truck up to his store to take the tires because a large number have been taken. According to Tom, six Silver Edition touring tires, six Pathfinder Truck/SUV tires, and four each of the All Season Regular and All Season Ultra tires were stolen.
The tires are valued at:
- Silver Edition touring tires $66 each
- Pathfinder Truck/SUV tires $111 each
- All Season Regular tires $41.99 each
- All Season Ultra tires $83.99 each
- What is the total value of the Pathfinder Truck SUV tires reported by Tom?
b. You calculated 6 × 111. Choice a is an incorrect multiplication; choice c is probably based on recalling four rather than six tires having been taken, and choice d is the value of only the Silver Edition tires.
- What is the total value of the All Season Ultra tires reported by Tom?
- What is the total value of all the tires reported by Tom?
d. You calculated 4 × $83.99. Choice a is an incorrect multiplication; choice b is the value of the Pathfinder Truck SUV tires, and choice is c is most likely based on recalling six rather than four tires having been taken.
a. Choice a is the sum of all the values calculated (6 × 66) + (6 × 111) + (4 × 41.99) + (4 × 83.99). Choice b reverses numbers and results in an addition error; choice c omits the value of the All Season Ultra Tires, and choice d omits the value of the Pathfinder Truck/SUV tires.
As these samples illustrate, each question tests more than one thing. Judgment, reading, and the ability to do math are combined in the samples. You were required to do more than merely add up numbers; you had to note not only what was missing and how much each cost, but also how many of each were missing.
Preparing for the Written Test
Not every question will have a policing angle, but many will.While it is difficult to study for an exam that does not test specific facts you learned in school or at a job, there are ways to improve your score on this type of an exam. You have begun your study routine by purchasing this book with sample tests. When you take the sample tests, create a situation that matches the conditions under which you will take the actual written exam. This usually means you will be given about two hours to take the exam and you will not be permitted to leave the room once the exam booklets are distributed.
To get the best effect of the sample tests, create a test situation identical to the real thing. Go to a quiet place; turn off your phone, music, or television; sharpen two or three pencils; and take the exam just as you would if it were the real thing. This not only prepares you for the type of questions and the atmosphere, it provides you with insight into your own behavior.Do you need to practice sitting still in a quiet atmosphere? Are you able to maintain your attention span for two hours while concentrating on only one task? If you grab your cell phone or feel the need to get up and walk around, you will need to stop yourself from doing those things.
All of the questions will in some way test your reading and memory abilities, whether they are labeled that way or not. If you know you do not read as much as you should, begin to read regularly. Reading a newspaper is an excellent way to improve your reading and your comprehension skills. Test passages are generally written at the same skill level as a daily newspaper. A newspaper also introduces you to places and names that are unfamiliar; after you read an article, test yourself to see how well you recall what you read. After reading, ask yourself some questions that are similar to those in the practice tests. This will help you to learn to focus and to remember what you have read Think about what happened, to whom it happened, and who reported the events. Each of these questions is similar to creating a police report, and also to what you will be asked to do on the written exam.
Learn to read carefully and to pick out key words. Does the passage say "always," "never," "often," or "sometimes"? These words are important for answering the questions that follow. Look for negatives; if a sentence has the word not and you miss it, the meaning will be lost on you. "I did not pass the written exam" is exactly the opposite of "I did pass the written exam," but only one word separates the two realities. To make sure the second sentence pertains to you, learn to read carefully without skipping over important words.
If you come across words you are not familiar with, use a dictionary to learn their meanings. It can be fun to guess at the meaning of a word based on another word it looks like, but you can be tricked. Since the roots of many English words come from a variety of languages, two words that look similar often have very different definitions. Knowing the meanings of words will help you answer not only the actual vocabulary questions, but all the questions. If you think a word means something different from what it does mean, you are likely to misinterpret a reading passage. If the passage is followed by four or five questions, you could lose all those points just because there was one key word you did not understand.
Some questions may ask you to rephrase sentences that are awkward or are not grammatically correct. One way to prepare for this is to improve your own speech patterns. Do you use slang or speak in incorrect sentences? If so, when faced with sentences that need to be corrected, you might see nothing wrong with them. (Using standard English and avoiding slang will also serve you well when you meet your background investigator or if your agency requires an interview prior to being hired).
For additional tips on the written exam, review the material that explains specific test sections in later chapters of this book.
The rest of this chapter outlines the steps after you pass the written test. Depending on the agency to which you have applied and your score on the exam, it may be only months before you are called to the next step in the selection process or it may be years. In many jurisdictions, your next hurdle will be the physical agility test.
Written Exam Tips
- Gather as much information as you can about the exam in advance. Some agencies will issue study guides, while others hold study sessions. If your agency has a website, you may find sample test questions online.
- Practice, practice, practice! Review the material in the instructional chapters of this book, which offer tips on how to improve in each skill area on your exam.
- Take all the applicable practice police exams in this book.
- Listen carefully to any and all directions given by the person who administers the test.
- Budget your time during the exam. Don't spend too much time on any one question.
- Read through the entire question before answering it, and make sure you carefully read each answer before choosing the correct one.
- When you read questions, look for words that modify such as not, never, and only.
- Stop to check every now and then to make sure you are filling in the correct bubble or blank for each answer. You don't want to fail the test because of misplaced marks!
- If there is time left after you are finished, go back and double-check your answers.