Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

Becoming a police officer starts with browsing job openings and selecting the best position that you are qualified for and the one that fits your criteria. Your personal criteria can include a variety of factors including the type of agency you prefer to work for, the size of the department, and the geographic area where you want to work. 

Another factor that can influence your decision is the type of written exam that you need to take in order to be hired by a particular department. As there is no national standard when it comes to the police exam, each state is free to select the test that will determine the best candidates for them to hire. Furthermore, only a few states have state-wide approved exams. In most of the cases, each individual department decides on the entry exam that is to be included in their hiring process 

In our series of articles about state police exams, you will be able to find information about each state and the tests police departments use in that state. Today our focus is on Texas and the possibilities it offers to aspiring police officers. 

Texas police officer requirements  

In order to become a police officer in the state of Texas, each candidate must meet the following minimum standards. Those requirements are as follows: 

  • Be a U.S. citizen 
  • Be 21 years of age or 18 years of age if the applicant has received an associate’s degree or 60 semester hours of credit from an accredited college or university or has received an honorable discharge from the armed forces of the United States after at least two years of active service 
  • Holds a High School Diploma or has passed a general educational development (GED) test indicating high school graduation level 
  • Has never been convicted of any family violence offense 
  • Is not prohibited by state or federal law from operating a motor vehicle 
  • Is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition  
  • Meets Medical and Psychological Requirements  
  • Has undergone Criminal Background Investigation  
  • Has been honorably discharged from military if applicable  
  • Has completed successfully the basic licensing course  
  • Has passed the state licensing examination  
  • Has an appointment by a law enforcement agency 

Different types of the Texas police exam 

Once you meet the requirements of the police department you are applying with, you will get yourself ready for the steps of the hiring process. One of the crucial parts includes passing a written test. The state of Texas does not have a uniform written exam that is used by all agencies. Each department has the right to select their own exam and it is necessary to with the agency your are applying with to find out which exam they use in order to prepare for it. 

One of the common exams that you will come across is the LEVEL Entry Test by Bannon and Associates, which is recommended by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE). The Law Enforcement Validated Entry Level Test (LEVEL) was developed in Texas and is used by a large number of agencies in the state. It takes two and a half hours to complete the test, which contains seven sections. Candidates answer 100 multiple-choice questions covering the following topics: grammar and syntax, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, reading comprehension, arithmetic, and differential decision-making.  

NPOST and Frontline are two other popular tests used by several Texas cities. If you want to become a State Trooper in Texas, you need to pass the State Trooper exam that features questions equivalent to a 12th grade level of education. The main skills and abilities the test covers are reading comprehension, grammar, writing, and math. It is a pass/fail exam. There is also the TCOLE exam established by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which is taken after you have successfully completed the academy. The exam should be completed in 2 hours and 45 minutes and a score of 70% or higher is necessary if you want to become a peace officer in Texas.  

It is interesting to know which tests are used by some of the larger agencies in Texas.  

  • Houston is one of the best cities for aspiring police officers and it is important to know their hiring process. There is a reading comprehension test that candidates must pass. The test is given only to those applicants who have already passed the initial interview stage. Upon completion of the written test, you will meet a recruiting investigator as part of the initial approval. You need to allow 4-5 hours for the test and the meeting.  
  • Another popular choice for police officers in Texas is the City of San Antonio. The test used by that department is the San Antonio Entry-Level Law Enforcement Exam developed by I/O Solutions. The exam contains a total of 250 multiple-choice questions divided into two main sections and has to be completed within 3 hours. The first part is the Cognitive ability section that contains 100 questions divided between three subsections: 1. Language Skills – Verbal Comprehension and Verbal Expression; 2. Visualization Skills – Spatial Orientation, Flexibility of Closure, Selective Attention, and Visualization/Memorization; 3. Reasoning Skills – Problem Sensitivity, Deductive Reasoning, Inductive Reasoning, and Information Gathering. The second part is a Behavioral-Orientation section with 150 questions. You need to assess each question choosing between five options varying between “Strongly Agree” and “Strongly Disagree”.  
  • If you have chosen the City of Austin Police Department for the start of your police officer career, you need to prepare for their testing. The first written exam to take is the Nelson-Denny Reading Comprehension Test that is divided into two parts. The first part is focused on vocabulary and contains 80 questions and the second part is a reading comprehension task with 38 questions. In addition to that, you will watch a video of a crime and you will be required to describe in detail what you saw in writing. This part tests your writing abilities including grammar, punctuation, and spelling. In addition to that, you will have to take two written psychological tests – the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and the Inwald Personality Inventory (IPI).  
  • Police officer candidates in Dallas take the Civil Service Written Test, which checks reading, writing, and math knowledge. You have two and a half hours to complete the test and you need at least 80% in order to pass. Note that you are allowed to use a calculator for the math section of the test, which is usually forbidden for other written tests.  
  • El Paso is another large city with many opportunities for police officers. To join the El Paso Police Department you need to pass the Frontline National Testing System. It is an exam that includes two tests which have to be completed in 3 1/2 hours. The passing score is 70%.  The first test is a Video-Based Human Relations and Judgment Test where you need to answer multiple-choice questions while watching a video. The whole test lasts 90 minutes and you have 10 seconds to give an answer to each question. The second exam is a Writing Test that consists of two parts – writing a report and a multiple-choice writing and reading test. For the report, you will watch a video twice and then asked to write a report describing the scenario for a time limit of 10 minutes. Then, you will have to answer 15 multiple-choice questions for 10 minutes based on the information of the report you have written. The last part includes 30 multiple-choice questions. Each question misses a word and you need to select which of the options passes and you have 15 minutes to do it.  
  • Candidates applying to the City of Fort Worth Police Department need to pass the civil service exam QB Examination provided by Wollack & Associates. You will have to answer 100 multiple-choice questions that check your writing skills and reading comprehension. Each of the two sections contains 50 questions and you have 75 minutes to complete them all. The passing score is 79% or above. The writing section covers six topics: verb usage, recognizing sentences, subject-verb agreement, adjectives and adverbs, pronoun usage, and spelling. The reading comprehension part contains 13 short reading passages. After each passage, there are 3-4 questions that you need to answer in order to prove that you have understood the text. There are five types of multiple-choice questions to answer: identifying main ideas, reading for keywords, determining word meaning, drawing conclusions, and negative questions. 

Basic Texas police statistics  

Texas is the state with the highest number of law enforcement agencies according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2008 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies. The state has a total of 1,913 agencies that employed 59,219 sworn officers or nearly 244 for every 100,000 residents.  

The list of law enforcement agencies in Texas includes: 

  • Over 150 offices of federal law enforcement agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Customs and Border Protection; Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Secret Service; and U.S. Marshal
  • 12 state agencies with the Texas Department of Public Safety having two subdivisions – Texas Highway Patrol and Texas Ranger Division
  • Almost 300 county agencies 
  • Hundreds of city agencies 
  • More than 70 college and university agencies
  • Almost 100 Independent school district agencies  
  • 3 transit authority agencies 
  • 27 other agencies featuring airport, railroad, and park police departments  

The Texas Uniform Crime Reporting program collects data relating to the police agencies of the state such as the type of crimes, number of personnel and the like. According to their latest report, there are 478 police agencies in Texas including police departments, sheriff offices, and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). As of October 31, 2017, there were 41,912 full-time sworn officers and 26,039 civilian workers in these agencies. 

The average number of sworn officers per 1,000 inhabitants in the state is 1.5, which is lower than the average for the USA standing at 2.0. As a whole, there is a decrease in the number of officers working in Texas for the past ten years counting back from 2017. 

Sworn officers working at the police departments of the state were 27,734 of which 3,748 were female. The sheriff offices employed 9,991 sworn personnel with 1,481 being female, and DPS employed a total number of 4,187 sworn officers and 295 were female. 

Civilian workers at Texas police departments were 7,929 with a predominant number of females – 5,589. The sheriff offices had 12,645 civilian workers with almost equal distribution between male and female – 6,365 male and 6,280 female employees. DPS employed 5,465 civilian workers, 3,560 of which were female.  

Where to work in Texas? 

If you want to start your career as a law enforcement officer in Texas, you can choose between a great variety of departments. In case you are at the beginning of your career and with no experience, it is a good idea to look for a larger department. Some of the best options are: 

  • Houston 
  • Austin 
  • Dallas 
  • San Antonio 
  • Fort Worth 

Note that Austin and San Antonio were chosen as the top 2 out the best 25 cities for police officers. Austin has the first position and offers an average salary of $52,374 for police officers. The starting salary for police officers in San Antonio is reported to be $44,136.  

Houston and Dallas also rank among the metropolitan areas with the highest employment level in this occupation according to BLS reports. The area of Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land offers jobs to 16,630 law enforcement officers with an annual mean wage of $65,070. The area of Dallas – Plano – Irving gives jobs to 10,630 law enforcement officers with an annual mean wage of $68,550. 

You need to check with the particular department that you are interested in applying to find out which police exam they use. As each exam is different, finding out which exam you will be taking is a necessary step in order to properly prepare for the exam.  

This is the basic information about the Texas police exam that will give a competitive advantage to other candidates applying for jobs in the state. Knowing what to expect will reduce your anxiety and give you confidence on the day of the police exam.