Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

There is a great variety of police written exams that are used by the various law enforcement agencies to select only the most suitable candidates for the positions they are offering. Some states like Florida, for example, have established a written test that is valid only for the agencies within the state and this test, the Florida Basic Ability Test, can only be taken in Florida. In general, however, most agencies use several popular tests to assess their candidates and the National Police Officer Selection Test (NPOST) is one of them. 


Once you have chosen the agency or agencies that you want to apply with, you need to check which test they administer and prepare for it. If it is the NPOST, this article will be quite useful for you as it contains details about the NPOST, its section and sample questions so that you know what to expect on the day of the exam. There are also a few tips to help you prepare better and pass the NPOST with flying colors.  Learn how to Pass the NPOST.

What is the NPOST? 

Despite the adjective National in its name, the NPOST is simply one of the many popular tests used by various law enforcement agencies at municipal, local, state or federal level to select those candidates who have the foundational knowledge and skills for becoming police officers. Note that there is no national standards for the police entry exam and state and agencies can choose which one to use. 

The NPOST is currently the statewide entry-level test for the states of Iowa, Utah, and Wyoming, which means that the agencies within these states administer only the NPOST. In 25 other states, the State Associations of Chiefs of Police have also partnered with the test developer Stanard & Associates, Inc. to administer the test.  

The NPOST is similar to the academic exams and checks basic knowledge and skills such as reading comprehension, writing abilities, spelling, grammar knowledge, and arithmetic. Even though the questions are related to the duties, rights, and obligations of police officers, no prior knowledge of or experience in law enforcement is required in order to pass the test. A good preparation, though, can be quite useful as it will give you an idea of the types of questions you will have to answer on the test. 

The NPOST contains four sections: Arithmetic, Reading Comprehension, Grammar, and Incident Report Writing. Each section is timed and scored individually. The agency can choose whether to administer the self-scored version, which means that the agency will check the tests and score them, or to administer the version that will then be scored by Stanard & Associates, Inc.  

What does NPOST assess? 

The NPOST is designed specifically to be used by law enforcement agencies to check basic intelligence, mental skills, and education level of the candidates. The test measures the main skills necessary for a person to perform the duties of a police officer at an entry-level position. NPOST gives departments the option to quickly and efficiently select the most suitable candidates who possess the fundamental skills for the job and are worth investing in their further training. 

NPOST includes questions covering the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. While the topics are directly related to the job and duties of a police officer, no prior knowledge in the field is required. 

To be successful, candidates need to know how to answer multiple-choice and True/False questions, should be quick in providing the correct answer as the test is timed, and should be good in writing, spelling, and grammar as one of the sections demands answers in complete sentences.  

NPOST sections with sample questions 

In order to be objective, the NPOST is divided into four sections assessing the candidate’s basic skills. Each section is separately timed and assessed. You need at least 70% on each section in order to pass the test successfully. The first three sections contain multiple-choice and True/False questions, while the fourth one demands an answer in a complete sentence. 

Each correct answer brings points and there is no penalty for a wrong answer, so make sure to give an answer to each question even if you are just guessing. Use a pencil to fill in the circle of the correct answer on the answer sheet. Always provide only one answer. If you want to change the answer, simply erase well the previous answer and mark the new one. Don’t make any marks on the answer sheet or in the booklet. You will be provided scratch paper if you need to write something down that can help you with the test.  

In order to get an idea of what to expect, it is good to check the study guide provided by Stanard & Associates, Inc. For reference below, we will use some sample questions from their 2008 and 2009 study guides. Learn more about NPOST QuikPrep Course.

The four sections with their requirements and sample questions are as follows: 

  • Section I – Arithmetic 

The section contains 20 multiple-choice questions and you have 20 minutes to provide an answer. This section measures the ability of the candidate to add, subtract, multiply, divide, determine percentages and calculate averages. Note that you are not allowed to use a calculator but you will be provided scratch paper for any calculations you need to make in writing. Do not write in the booklet or on the answer sheet. The information in a given paragraph may be used for one or more questions. The questions you will need to answer will have the following format: 

  1. Officer Milton visits local area businesses as part of a theft prevention program. If Officer Milton visits three area businesses every week, except for his three-week vacation, how many groups does he visit in one year?

A. 49

B. 98

C. 147

D. 150

E. 166

 Correct answer: C 

 Questions 2 and 3 are based on the following information.  

 In preparing a report on a burglary in a dentist’s office, Sgt. Kramer listed the following stolen items and their values.  

Digital camera $810  

Laptop computer $650  

Printer $325  

Paper shredder $125  

 2. What was the total value of all the stolen goods?

A. $1800

B. $1810

C. $1860

D. $1910

E. $2010

 Correct answer: D 

 3. What was the value of all the stolen goods EXCEPT the paper shredder?

A. $1100

B. $1260

C. $1585

D. $1685

E. $1785

 Correct answer: E 

 4. A car was traveling 55 miles per hour in a 25-mph zone. If the driver is fined $10.00 for each mile per hour over the speed limit, what is the amount of the fine?  

A. $ 25.00

B. $ 55.00

C. $ 250.00

D. $ 300.00

 The correct answer is D because the driver was traveling 30 miles over the speed limit (55 – 25 = 30), and 30 x $10 = $300.00.  

  •  Section II – Reading Comprehension 

This section measures the candidate’s ability to understand written words and the ideas associated with them. You will read paragraphs related to police duties and then you need to answer 25 questions in 25 minutes. Note that no prior knowledge of law enforcement is required in order to pass this section. All the information is contained in the given paragraphs and you need to work only with it in order to give an answer. 

There are three types of questions in this section: 

  1. True/False questions. You will read a passage or sample report form and you need to determine if a statement made after it is true or false based on the information contained in it. 
  2. Multiple-choice questions where you need to choose the correct answer according to the information provided in the passage or sample report form. 
  3. Multiple-choice questions where you need to select the alternative that best completes the sentence based on the information provided in the passage or sample report form.  

The questions you will have to answer will be similar to the following: 

Questions 1 and 2 are based on the incident report form and the incident description below.  

blank report form

 Michelle Wilson, owner of the Coffee Bean at 1535 Madison Avenue, Park Center called police headquarters at 6:30 am, Friday, April 13, to report that her coffee shop had been broken into during the night. Officers Keith Michaels and Toby Manelli arrived at the store at 6:40 am to investigate the incident. Ms. Wilson was able to report immediately that an espresso machine and $78 from the cash register were missing.  

  1. The incident report can be fully completed based on the information in the paragraph.

A. True

B. False

 Correct answer: B 


 2. The incident was reported on April 13.

A. True

B. False

 Correct answer: A 

 Sample Passage  

When conducting investigations, police primarily gather two sources of information – information about people and about things. The field officer deals almost exclusively with people and their human frailties in perception and communication. The crime scene investigator (CSI) works with inanimate objects which cannot deceive, fight or escape. Both tasks are equally important but require different skills and techniques. Trial and appellate court cases have shown that the evidentiary value of information obtained from objects is higher than that obtained from persons. Unlike witness testimony, physical evidence speaks for itself, doesn’t lie and is unaffected by emotions.  

 Sample Questions  

3. According to the passage, which of the following would cause a greater impact in court?

A. The testimony of an eyewitness to a crime

B. A footprint found at the scene of a crime

C. A police officer’s notes of a crime scene

D. A victim’s theory on the motive for the crime

 Correct answer: B 


 4.  Based on the information in the passage, it can be concluded that the crime scene investigator

A. uses the same techniques as a field officer

B. deals with people more frequently than the field officer

C. would be responsible for finding fingerprints on a weapon

D. is more important to an investigation than the field officer

 Correct answer: C 

  • Section III – Grammar 

This section measures the candidate’s ability to spell and use grammar and punctuation correctly. You will be required to spot errors in grammar, spelling or punctuation. You will have 20 questions to answer and 15 minutes to do it. There are two types of questions contained in this section: 

  1. Multiple-choice questions where you need to choose the best alternative to complete an incomplete sentence. Make sure to read all the details before and after the blank space in order to guess correctly. 
  2. Multiple-choice questions where you need to choose the answer that contains the misspelled word in the sentence. Note that you are looking for the word that is written incorrectly. 

The questions you will have to answer will be similar to the following ones: 

  1. There were three _______ at the accident scene.

A. witness

B. witnesses

C. witness’s

 Correct answer: B 


 2.  Officer Perez and _____ arrested the suspect.

A. me

B. I

 Correct answer: B 


 3.  A recent study found that alcohol was a common factor in traffic accidents. Which word in the above sentence is misspelled?  

A. recent

B. found

C. alcohol 

D. common

E. accidents

 Correct answer: C 

  • Section IV – Incident Report Writing 

This section measures the candidate’s ability to write complete sentences with correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You will be given a completed sample incident form and you will be asked questions that you need to answer according to the information provided in it. Note that you have to answer in complete sentences, which are grammatically correct, with proper punctuation, and contain only words that are correctly spelled in order to get the maximum score. You have 10 questions and 15 minutes to provide an answer. Learn more about NPOST QuikPrep Course.

The questions on the exam will be of the following type:  


 1.  What is the name of the suspect?


Correct answer: The suspect’s name is Eric Harvey.  

 2.  What is the value of the MP3 player?


Correct answer: The value of the MP3 player is $200.00.  

 This is more or less the format of the NPOST that you will have to take on the day of the exam. The overall time for answering the questions of the test is 1 hour and 15 minutes but the overall duration is 1 hour and 45 minutes as it includes reading instructions, passing out and collecting the booklets.  


Knowing what to expect during the NPOST is critical for passing it successfully. Therefore, it is highly recommended to prepare for the test. There are various courses that you can choose from but one of the most recommended ones is the NPOST Practice Test & Study Guide by Sgt. Godoy. For a one-time fee, you will get access to hundreds of prep questions and several multi-media tutorials that can help you prepare properly for the test. You get unlimited access to the course along with 24/7 personalized support provided by Sgt. Godoy. In addition, you also receive some free tips on how to search for job openings and get your documentation ready for the law enforcement selection process.  

Learn more about NPOST QuikPrep Course