Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

The job of a police officer is one of the most popular careers in the field of law enforcement. There is an opportunity for everyone to start work as a police officer provided that they meet certain criteria. Be warned, though, that it takes some time to become a police officer no matter if you decide to join the department right after high school or at a later stage.  

Before you start browsing the job openings, it is good to know that there is a strict selection process to pass through that always includes a written test. As there is no national standard for the written police exam, each state and agency determines what written test they will use. 

As Pennsylvania is the state with the highest number of counties in the US, it also has a great number of police agencies that use a variety of exam. If this is the state you want to work in, the information below will be of great use to you.  

Pennsylvania Police Officer Requirements 

In order to become a police officer in the state of Pennsylvania, applicants must meet a list of criteria to prove that they are suitable for the job. The requirements for the candidates are to: 

  • Be 18 years of age or older; 
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED Equivalency; 
  • Be citizens of the United States; 
  • Be free from convictions of disqualifying criminal offenses; 
  • Be able to read at no less than the ninthgrade level, as established through the administration of the Nelson-Denny Reading Test; 
  • Be personally examined by a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, or certified nurse practitioner who is licensed in Pennsylvania; 
  • Be personally examined by a Pennsylvania licensed psychologist and found to be psychologically capable to exercise appropriate judgment or restraint in performing the duties of a police officer; 
  • Be evaluated to determine physical fitness using the standards developed by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas; 
  • Certify whether they have taken a physical examination or psychological evaluation conducted in conjunction with an application for police employment within the previous year and the outcome of the examination or evaluation; 
  • Be subject to a thorough background investigation conducted by the applicant’s employing police department; 
  • Successfully complete a basic police training course given at a Commission-certified school 

There are two exceptions to the requirements listed above. If you are a candidate who: 

  1. Previously held a valid certification issued by the Commission within 2 years prior to the date of employment on the application.   
  2. Was sworn and full duty members honorably discharged from the Pennsylvania State Police within 2 years prior to the date of employment on the application for certification. 

In this case, you will only need to pass a psychological evaluation to obtain certification in case you have not received one.  

Still, it is recommended to check the job opening of the agency you are applying with, in case they have some specific recommendations and requirements about their candidates.  

Types of Pennsylvania Police Exam  

Pennsylvania has given freedom to their police departments to choose the type of written test they want to utilize for the selection of their future police officers. Hence, you can find a great variety of police exams throughout the state and it is necessary to check with your department which type is currently in use. 

Still, there is a minimum requirement for aspiring Pennsylvania police officers that is applied by all of the police agencies – to pass the Nelson-Denny Reading Test (NDRT).

You need to be warned, that the majority of the police departments will require further testing than the NDRT. Some of the most common written exams for the state of Pennsylvania are: 

The Nelson-Denny Reading Test 

The test was developed back in 1929 and has been updated several times ever since. It is used to check the reading comprehension level and abilities for college students and often in the professional field, such as entry-level police exams. NDRT measures silent reading vocabulary, comprehension, and rate. It has two forms Form I and Form J and both can be used interchangeably. 

The test contains 4 subsections: 

  • Vocabulary – this section contains 80 multiple-choice questions. There are unfinished sentences and five options and you need to select the one that best completes the sentence. 
  • Comprehension – this section includes 36 questions and contains seven reading passages. You will need to read as many passages as you can and complete as many questions. 
  • General reading ability – this section combines indexes from the previous section and is used by the examiner to assess the overall reading ability of the test-taker 
  • Reading rate – this is a supplemental subsection, where you will have to record a number corresponding to the last sentence of the first paragraph you have read during the comprehension section. 

It takes between 35 and 59 minutes to complete the test, depending on which subsections are included. You will receive detailed instructions on the day of the test.  

The Law Enforcement Aptitude Battery (LEAB) 

The LEAB test developed by EB Jacobs is one of the written exams used throughout Pennsylvania. It is also popular in Massachusetts and New Jersey. The test contains three sections – Written Abilities Test, Work Styles Questionnaire, and Life Experience Survey, and aims to check not only the reading and writing abilities of the candidate but also to make a behavioral assessment of the future police officers. 

LEAB is completed in 3 hours and 40 minutes and the three sections are not separately timed. This means that you have to distribute your time between them properly in order to be able to complete all the questions. The abilities test is the hardest part of all and you need to give it about 2 hours for completion. The Work Style Questionnaire can be completed in about 15 minutes, while the third component may take between 15 to 40 minutes depending on the questions included. You also need time to read all of the instructions carefully.  

The test can be in paper and pencil format or taken online. Each of the sections is scored separately and the final result is cumulative for all the sections. This is what to expect in each section of the LEAB. 

The written abilities test is divided into six subsections and includes 48 multiple-choice questions. You will face the following segments: 

  1. Written expression which includes grammar and vocabulary knowledge assessment as well as your ability to point the statement that best reflects an idea or to order given events into a sequence. The questions concern law enforcement and the usual scenarios depict police accidents. Nevertheless, no prior knowledge of law enforcement is required to complete the section.  
  2. Written comprehension checks your ability to understand written text related to law enforcement scenarios. 
  3. Problem sensitivity checks your ability to spot a problem in a given situation. Some of the questions concern recognizing a witness whose testimonies differ from that of other witnesses. The other type of questions concerns mishandling a crime contrary to the given instructions and rules. 
  4. Deductive reasoning checks if you can apply a general rule to a specific situation. 
  5. Inductive reasoning checks if you can identify the rule that applies to a given situation. 
  6. Information ordering measures your ability to place a statement in the correct sequence or determine how a situation should evolve following pre-set requirements.  

The work styles questionnaire contains between 74 and 102 statements that aim to assess your motivation, values, attitude, preferences, and opinion. It is basically a personality test. To each of the statements, you need to choose the right degree to which it refers to you. You can select between five grades (1) Strongly Agree; (2) Agree; (3) Not Sure; (4) Disagree; (5) Strongly Disagree. 

The life experience survey is like a biographical data bank to present yourself and your experience. You will have to answer between 47 and 96 questions, depending on the type of test selected by the agency.  

Important note: You need to answer all of the questions in the Work Styles Questionnaire and Life Experience Survey sections in order to pass the test. If you omit a question in either section, you will be disqualified. If you are not sure which answer to choose, you can guess.  

The National Police Officer Selection Test (NPOST) 

The NPOST is one of the written tests used in many US states. If you want to apply for a police officer in Derry, Harrisburg, Highspire, Hummelstown, Lower Swatara, Middletown, PaxtangPenbrook, Scranton, Steelton, and Swatara Township, you will have to take the exam in order to proceed further with the selection process. 

The NPOST is divided into four sections: Arithmetic, Reading Comprehension, Grammarand Incident Report Writing, which are individually timed. You have to score at least 70% on the test to pass it successfully but a higher score guarantees better chances to be employed. The questions included in the test assess verbal, logical, mathematical, writing, and critical thinking skills. The first three sections contain multiple-choice and True/False questions and for the last section, the candidate has to answer the questions in complete sentences. 

Each of the sections contains a certain number of questions assessing different skills. Here is what to expect: 

  • The Arithmetic part contains 20 multiple-choice questions and the time for completion is 20 minutes. It checks basic mathematical knowledge and candidates are not allowed to use calculators.  
  • The Reading Comprehension part contains 25 questions and the time for completion is 25 minutes. You will have to answer two types of multiple-choice questions – select the correct answer and select the best alternative to complete a sentence. There are also True/False questions following a sample report form or passage. This part of the test assesses your ability to read and understand written information.  
  • The Grammar part contains 20 multiple-choice questions and the time for completion is 15 minutes. You will have to either choose the right alternative or spot the misspelled word. This part of the test assesses your grammar, spelling, and punctuation knowledge.  
  • The Incident Report Writing Part contains 10 questions and the time for completion is 15 minutes. You will read a completed sample incident report and you will have to answer the questions following it in complete sentences that are grammatically correct and contain proper spelling and punctuation. This part of the test assesses your writing skills.  

Even though the questions are related to police work, no prior experience or knowledge of law enforcement is required to pass the test.  

The CWH-NGLE Test 

The CHW test was initially developed by CWH Research but is now owned by I/O Solutions. The test has two forms – the older one is the CHW-SSLE (Selection solutions for Law Enforcement) which includes a math section, while the newer version is the CHW-NGLE (Next Generation Law Enforcement) 

The written test uses two approaches to measure the abilities of prospective police officers – measuring their cognitive ability through questions related to their reading and writing skills and measuring their non-cognitive traits such as emotional stability, integrity or interpersonal skills via a situational judgment test. 

The test should be completed in 3 hours and 15 minutes and there are an additional 15 minutes for instructions. The components of the two sections are as follows. 

  • The cognitive abilities test features 40 multiple-choice questions that assess your reading comprehension and written expression. 
  • The non-cognitive test includes 96 situational judgment questions that aim to measure your interpersonal skills, level of responsibility, practical judgment abilities, emotional skills, work attitude and how well you are able to handle stress.  

Philadelphia Police Exam 

Philadelphia Police Exam

The Philadelphia Police Department, known as Philly PD is one of the oldest municipal agencies in the USA. It is the fourth largest police force and the sixth largest non-federal law enforcement agency in the country. The agency currently employs more than 6,400 sworn officers and over 800 civilian personnel and has several specialized units. 

If you want to become a member of PPD, you will need to pass the LEAB test with flying colors.  

Pittsburgh Police Exam  

Pittsburgh Police Exam

The Pittsburg Police (PBP) is officially called the Pittsburg Bureau of Police and is the third largest law enforcement agency in the state. It is the largest agency in western Pennsylvania and currently has 2,092 employees, including 1,230 officers and 188 non-sworn personnel. 

PBP is part of the Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety and has administrations, operations, and investigations units. 

If you want to become a member of PBP, you will need to pass the LEAB test. 

The demand for police officers in Pennsylvania is great but the selection process is highly competitive so make sure that you are well prepared. Check the selection criteria of each agency that you are applying with and pay attention to the written exam that will be used so that you can come to the exam backed with the necessary skills and knowledge in order to pass.