If you want to become a police officer in the United States, you need to prepare yourself for a longer recruitment procedure that incorporates more elements than the usual application form and interview.
Your first step is to review the job listings and choose the most appropriate position in law enforcement that you are going to apply for. Then you need to learn more about the law enforcement entrance exam and all its components.
It is fair to say that the written test is one of the important parts of the selection process. The higher your score is, the better your chances of getting that dream job. Generally, agencies are looking at candidates who have scored 80% or more on the written test. Therefore, you need to invest sufficient time and efforts to prepare well.
Below, we have compiled a list of several practical tips that will help you pass the written test with flying colors.
Find out the basics
You need to find out what exactly the written test will contain so that you can prepare properly for it. Even though the structure of the written test is more or less the same, each state and individual agency have some specifications. Therefore, the best source of information is the department you are applying for. Usually they prepare some guides or study kits with sample tests that you can use. The best thing, however, is to find a prep package that you can download for free or buy at a reasonable price in order to prepare properly. JobTestPrep are one such option. Or you can choose video lessons or practical guides. The idea is to know the basics so that you are not surprised at the actual day of the exam.
Understand the overall test process
It is important to know why law enforcement agencies have such a complicated selection process and how important the written test is. It is one of the ways to separate the candidates. Usually those who get 80% will move on for the next steps of the selection process but those who pass with 90% or more face better chances.
The written exam tests the general knowledge and basic skills of the applicants. Skills, that you are not going to develop from this point on in the police academy. Therefore, the better the results, the better the impression a candidate makes.
Check with peers
One of the best ways of finding reliable information is to check with someone who has already done it. Do you know a person who has sit the police written test recently? Ideally in the same state or department but in any other will also do. Then you can also check the social media and find relevant groups or discussions, which you can join. Learning from the mistakes and experiences of others is a clever way to avoid some mistakes of your own.
Prepare for the written test
Now that you are familiar with the structure of the police written exam, you have to start preparing for it. As we have already mentioned, your first source of information should be the department you are applying with. They will provide you with the details as to what type of test they use – many states use the National Police Officer Selection Test (NPOST). Some police agencies will use tests developed by third-party companies or develop their own tests. This information is of paramount importance for your prep process.
The next thing to do is to find relevant test prep books, guides and sites that can help you ace the exam. There are also plenty of free prep materials so make good use of them too.
Schedule your study time
Once you have found the relevant prep materials, it is time to study. We suggest that you distribute your study time evenly every day instead of cramming before the test. Thus, the knowledge will remain stronger and your reading and writing skills will improve significantly. It is up to you to find the right study schedule. The best thing is if you can devote a certain period only to test prep free of any other destruction and disturbance. It is important, however, to pass every element of the exam.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
As part of your written test prep you need to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This will be very important in terms of studying properly for the exam. Be honest with yourself – it is ok if you are poor in spelling or grammar or you miss some basic math knowledge and skills. Once you admit your weakness and identify them properly, you will have the chance to focus on these parts of the exam and improve your knowledge significantly. This might mean, that you need to reschedule your study routine. Be as flexible as possible and look for help if needed.
Improve your strongest skills
Identifying your strengths and weaknesses is not only to find what you are bad at but also to focus on what you are good at. If you are good at writing reports or in reading comprehension then it is worth spending sometime on that too. As we all know practice makes perfect. So instead of struggling with say math, you can focus on these parts of the test where you can score the highest result and compensate for the rest. Besides, knowing that you are good at some of the written test components will make you feel confident in your overall abilities. And being calm and confident at the test day is only a plus for any candidate.
Rest well prior to the written test
The day and the night before the test are very important. We have already advised you against cramming, so ideally you are not going to spend it bent over the books. Go for a walk, meet with your friends and have a good night rest. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep, so that you don’t feel tired during the exam. Have a healthy breakfast in the morning prior to the test. Include “brain food” – proteins are good for stimulating brain activity.
If you are not familiar with the venue of the test, you should go and check it so that you don’t lose time on the next day trying to figure out where you should go.
Manage your time properly at the test
It is mandatory to arrive on time for your written test or you will be disqualified. It is good to show up early and take your seat.
You are aware that each section of the test is timed and therefore you need to observe it strictly. Distribute your time the way you have practiced at home – a few minutes to read the instructions carefully, time to complete the task and time to spare in order to check it.
Make sure to bring a watch with you since no mobile devices are allowed at the test.
Always leave some time at the end of each section to check if you have answered all your questions, correct occasional mistakes and make sure that all looks ok.
Check your answers
It is very important to check your answers before moving to the next section of the written test. You need time to review the task and ensure that you have done it properly. If you have decided to skip a question because you were unsure of its answer, double check that you have left this question blank on your answer sheet and put the right answers below it. Imagine what it will be if you have omitted question number 10, for example, and then instead of answering 11 you put an answer to 10. All the answers below will be wrong. And even if you spot it before the time for the section ends, it will be a great effort to correct them all. Therefore, the best advice is to keep an eye on the watch but not to be too hectic in filling in the answers.
BONUS: 5 Tips for writing a good report on the written exam
One of the important tasks on the police written exam is writing a police report. Any candidate who is unable to write a legible report has little or no chances of becoming a police officer. It is true that your report writing skills will improve over time during your time in the academy and while on the job. However, you need the basics in order to be accepted.
Below you will find 5 tips on how to approach this written task in order to produce a good report. Make sure to practice this part of the exam at home so that you are not stressed out at the actual test. This is what you need to do:
- Read the provided information quickly but carefully – you are given 20 minutes to accomplish this part of the test so you do not have much time to spend on reading and wondering what to do. Therefore, you need to devote 2-3 minutes on reading the information given while paying attention to the details.
- Separate relevant from irrelevant information – while reading note down only the important facts. These will be your main findings that should be included in the report. Remember that there is a fair amount of irrelevant details provided too.
- Formulate your recommendations and consecutive actions – as a police officer you will have to be able to provide logical solutions to the given problems. Problem solving is one of the main competences associated with a law enforcement job.
- Write your report in a logical and concise manner – make sure that you answer the question of the task in a logical way. You need to show that you can communicate in a clear and concise manner both in oral and written form.
- Use key words and phrases from the core competences – include such words and phrases that are being tested in the written exam. This will make your report sound more professional.
If you keep these tips in mind while approaching the report writing task, you should be able to produce a decent report that will add up to a good score. Try to write neat and clean as this also matters. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the time as well. It is advisable that you give yourself couple of minutes to read your report at the end so that you can correct any grammar or spelling mistakes that you have made while writing.
We suggest that you start implementing the tips in this list while you are preparing for the written exam at home. Thus, it will turn into a routine and at the day of the test you won’t have to wonder how much time to allocate to reading the task, answering and checking answers or correcting mistakes. With the right prep materials and sufficient practice, you are ready to ace the police written test.