Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

To become a police officer is one of the dream jobs for many young people. But before you start browsing the job openings, you need to be aware that this profession requires you to be properly trained and meet certain requirements in order to join a police department. There is a lengthy hiring process that you need to pass through and one of its components is the police exam. Note that there is no unified written exam that is used throughout the United States, it will vary from state to state and by department. Therefore, when you are applying with a department you need to know which written  exam they use. 

The state of Virginia is officially called the Commonwealth of Virginia and its nickname is the “Mother of Presidents.” The state has a population of over 8.5 million people and its capital is Richmond.  Agencies throughout the state uses a variety of written exams, so it is important to find out which exam an agency uses when you are applying. Below, you can find the basic requirements for becoming a police officer in Virginia and some of the most popular police exams used.  

Virginia police officer requirements 

To become a police officer in the state of Virginia, you need to meet the specific requirements for the job. Below you will find the minimum requirements set by the state, but it is also a good idea to check if the agency you are applying with has any additional requirements. In general, it is good to be familiar with the factors that can stop you from becoming a police officer.  

Aspiring police officers in Virginia need to meet the following requirements: 

  • Age: The applicant must be at least eighteen (18) years of age 
  • Education: High School Diploma or G.E.D 
  • Citizenship: US Citizen 
  • Other Requirements: Valid driver’s license 
  • Complete a physical examination 
  • Undergo Criminal history check  
  • Take a drug test  
  • Submit to literacy testing, psychological testing or other screening devices 
  • Sign an agreement attesting that all information provided as part of the application process is true and correct 
  • Comply with all field training or on the job training requirements  
  • Driver training and firearms training may be attended for completion of training requirements in those academies that require the applicant to have a law enforcement agency sponsoring the individual. 
  • Qualify with the firearm carried in the performance of duty  

Virginia criminal justice agencies have various hiring requirements which may vary from agency to agency. Therefore, attendance and completion of state-mandated training do not guarantee an offer of employment by a Virginia criminal justice agency.  

Types of Virginia police exam 

The state of Virginia gives complete freedom to its police agencies to choose the written test to be included as part of the police exam for the new candidates. The hiring process for each department is complicated and consists of several elements that feature a written test, oral interview, physical ability test, background check, medical and psychological examination and much more. You need to pass all of them to become a police officer.  

The written test is one of the important components that you can prepare for in advance and thus increase your scores. In the state of Virginia, you can come across several written exams and these are the most common ones: 

  • Law Enforcement Selection Inventory (LESI) 
  • The Frontline test 
  • The Police Officer Entry Level exam (PO-EL) by IPMA-HR 
  • The Law Enforcement Aptitude Battery (LEAB) by EB Jacobs 
  • The CWH entry-level police exam that combines a cognitive ability measure of your Reading and Writing skills with Situational Judgment Tests (SJT) 

It is necessary to check the agency that you are applying with to find out which exam they use sot that you can properly prepare. It is always a good idea to use a comprehensive online prep tool that can get you ready for several exam types so that you can apply with more departments and stand a better chance to become a police officer.  

Richmond Police Exam 

The Richmond Police Department (RPD) was established in 1807 and currently serves 204,214 people within 62.5 square miles of the capital city of the state. There are about 750 sworn officers and about 170 civilians in the department, which includes several specialized units and has four precincts. 

To become a police officer in the RPD you need to first submit a City of Richmond job application. To be hired, you must meet minimum requirements, pass an admissions test and successfully complete a background investigation. 

The written test that is used by the Richmond Police Department is the Law Enforcement Selection Inventory (LESI), which is a popular exam across police agencies in Virginia. The exam includes two types of testing; 

  • The first part of LESI checks cognitive abilities and common skills in four different areas: Arithmetic, Reading Comprehension, Grammar, and Incident Report Writing. You will be faced with multiple-choice and true/false questions in the first three sections, while you will need to write your response in the Incident Report Writing section using complete grammatically correct sentences. This part of the exam is almost the same as the National Police Officer Selection Test (NPOST). If you use an NPOST prep course, you will have no problems passing the test.  
  • The second part of LESI features the LESI Psychological and Personality Tests. You will have to answer questions that aim to assess your personality, values, opinions and check how appropriate you are for the position of a police officer.  

Preparing for the LESI will allow you to also apply in the police departments in other cities in Virginia such as Chesapeake, James City or South Boston. 

Virginia Beach Police Exam

With its population of 454,846 people, Virginia Beach is the biggest city in the state. It is a popular resort with magnificent beaches and beautiful city parks. 

The Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) was formed in 1963 and is the largest municipal law enforcement agency in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It employs 972 sworn and civilian staff in 4 precincts and has units like Bikes, Bomb Squad, Helicopter, Horses, K9, Motorcycles, and SWAT. To join the department, you need to apply through the City’s web application site – the WAVE-Web Application for Virginia Beach Employment site.  

The written exam that you will have to take is an Entry-Level Law Enforcement Written Exam developed by CWH Research. The test measures your reading and writing skills and also features Situational Judgment Tests (SJT) to assess your interpersonal skills, integrity, emotional stability, values, etc. There are two main versions of the test – the older one is the CWH-SSLE for Selection Solutions for Law Enforcement which includes math, while the newer version is called the CWH-NGLE (Next Generation) and does NOT include math. Now, the test is distributed by I/O solutions. 

The entire tests should be completed in 3 and a half hours and the time includes 15 minutes for instructions. 

The test features between 130 and 170 multiple-choice questions in three main areas: 

  • Factual Questions or Basic Skills – This part of the test assesses your reading comprehension, writing skills (grammar, punctuation, and spelling), and mathematical skills. 
  • Situational Judgment Questions – In this part of the test you will read a description of a situation and you will have to answer what would you do, what do you think about the situation, how the people described in the event should react or proceed. The situations cover various everyday events that involve different backgrounds, cultures, religions, age, gender or ethnicity of the participants.   
  • Questions about You – This part of the test aims to reveal your own skills and experience. You will have to answer questions about how you feel or what do you think about a certain situation. There are also questions asking you to describe yourself. 

Make sure that you answer all of the questions and be honest on the personal ones. 

Norfolk Police Exam  

The Norfolk Police Department serves the population of one of the oldest cities in Virginia since 1797. There are 885 sworn officers and civil employees in the department which features several special units such as a Bomb Squad, K-9 Unit, Harbor Patrol Unit, etc.  

In order to become a member of the Norfolk Police Department, you need to take the Law Enforcement Aptitude Battery (LEAB) developed by EB Jacobs. The test consists of three sections: Written Abilities Test, Work Styles Questionnaire, and Life Experience Survey. You have 3 hours and 40 minutes to finish them all. 

  • The Written Abilities Test features 48 multiple-choice questions that are divided into six groups: 
  1. Information Ordering 
  2. Problem Sensitivity 
  3. Reading Comprehension 
  4. Deductive Reasoning  
  5. Inductive Reasoning  
  6. Written Expression 
  • The Work Style Questionnaire aims to assess your personal attitudes, opinions, preferences, values, actions. You will have to answer 173 statements using a five-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree by selecting the option that best reflects your beliefs. 
  • The Life Experience Survey consists of 108 multiple-choice questions that explore your Bio Data or in other words your past history and experience.         

Make sure to be open and honest when answering the questions and leave none of them unanswered.  

Harrisonburg Police Exam 

The Harrisonburg Police Department (HPD) is another good opportunity to start your career as a police officer in the state of Virginia. The city has a population of over 55,000 and is a good place for career development. 

To join the HPD, you need to pass a hiring process that involves four main phases: 

  1. Testing 
  2. Investigation 
  3. Interviews 
  4. Training 

Each of the phases includes several steps. As part of the testing phase, you will need to pass the Police Officer Entry Level exam (PO-EL) published by IPMA-HR. The International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) is a Virginia-based company which develops police exams for various departments within the USA based on their specific needs. 

The PO-EL exam consists of five cognitive sections plus a Police Interest Questionnaire. The duration of the test is 1 hour and 45 minutes. Initially, the candidates are given a booklet that is called the TIP (Technical Information Packet). They have to study it for 25 minutes and then return it back before answering the questions on the test. No notes are allowed while reading the TIP.  

The Cognitive Abilities Test consists of multiple-choice questions in the following areas: 

  • Ability to Learn and Apply Information 
  • Ability to Observe and Remember Details 
  • Judgment and Problem Solving 
  • Verbal Abilities (Your use of words) 
  • Ability to Follow Directions 

The Police Interest Questionnaire aims to measure whether you are fit for the work of a police officer and contains questions that assess your characteristics such as values, attitudes, motivation.  

Note that there are different series of the PO-EL test, so check with the department which one is currently administered to applicants.  

Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office Exam 

Another option for a police career is in the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, which serves 1,116,897 people residing in Fairfax County in Virginia. This is the largest Sheriff’s Office in the state and employs 600 sworn deputies. Together with the Fairfax County Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, the officers maintain the law and order in the county. 

In order to join the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, you need to pass the Frontline Test. Being well prepared for its format will guarantee you higher results. 

The test is divided into three sections: video-based human relations test, reading test, and incident observation and report writing test. The first two sections contain one component while the writing sections includes two. The duration of the entire exam is 2 hours and 20 minutes but each of the sections is separately timed. The questions are related to the job of the police officer but no prior experience or knowledge of law enforcement is required to pass the test successfully. Each of the Frontline sections contains the following: 

  • The Frontline National Situational Judgment and Human Relations Video Test present to the candidates about 50 scenarios encountered by police officers while doing their job. After each scenario, you have 10 seconds to choose the best answer for the situation. The overall duration of the section is 90 minutes. 
  • The Frontline National Reading Test checks your ability to understand the written text as part of their everyday tasks. It contains multiple-choice questions where certain places are left blank in the text and you need to select the word that best fits the blank. The time limit for this section is 15 minutes. 
  • Frontline National Incident Observation and Report Writing Test has two components, the first of which is also a video-based test. You will watch a given situation and then write a report based on the information provided in the visualized scenario. You have 21 minutes to complete this part. The second component is a multiple-choice test containing 15 questions that need to be completed in 10 minutes. 

If you are well-prepared for the test, you will have no problems passing it with flying colors. 

The Arlington Virginia Sheriff’s Office also uses the Frontline as their written test for selecting the right candidates.  

As Virginia uses different police exams, it is necessary to know which one is administered by the specific department you have chosen. Being prepared for the written test gives you a competitive advantage over other candidates and a higher score increases your chances of being selected for a police officer.