What can I Expect from a Police Officer Exam?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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One of the first steps to becoming a police officer is to pass the written police officer exam. Police departments strive to avoid favoritism when hiring, so a written police officer exam will screen out those who are unqualified on a purely objective basis. In most cases the police officer exam is a multiple-choice test. It is easy to grade and score; so, it is considered a fair way to screen potential officers.

For entry-level positions, the police officer exam does not assume that the candidate knows any of the police rules or procedures. However, the candidate is expected to analyze a situation as a police officer would. The questions will typically evaluate how the candidate thinks and how she reasons.

The majority of the questions are reading-based questions. They include any necessary information to answer the question correctly. For example, a reading-based question will give a specific rule or statute, if it is important to answer correctly. The potential candidate must have the ability to read and apply the rule and answer the question based on that analysis. There are several forms of reading-based questions: questions of fact, questions of inference, questions that require a candidate to choose between several different actions, and questions that ask the candidate to judge the behaviors of other people.


Some questions on the police officer exam are questions that involve practical judgment. These questions give the candidate a fact pattern, then have the candidate make an on-the-spot decision for the kind of action that should be taken. Common sense and excellent judgment, like the type used in an actual police conflict, should be used.

Since police officers must be able to communicate effectively, there are questions that deal with grammar and expressions. In real life, a police officer must write a report in an organized and logical fashion without any room for misinterpretation; consequently, the exam is geared to identify those candidates with good skills in this area. There are several forms that these questions can include: picking out the sentence in a group that is grammatically incorrect, picking the best sentence, rephrasing an awkward sentence, and choosing a logical order for sentences.

Lastly, the police officer exam may have a few questions regarding filling out police forms, read maps, rely on observation and memory, mathematics, analogies, and coding. The likelihood of those questions depends on the municipalities. It is important to read the questions carefully, and then make a good attempt to answer them correctly.

Before a candidate is accepted into the police academy, she must also pass a variety of other hurdles. These include an oral interview and a video-based exam. Each is designed to screen the candidates and find the right person for the job. The oral interview is a good way for the police board to measure the candidate’s knowledge, ability to analyze, problem solve, show teamwork and interpersonal skills, and highlight the candidate’s honesty, motivation, and composure. The video-based exams require the candidate to watch a video and then respond as they would in real life to the situation.

A medical exam and a physical performance exam will also be part of the process. They are straightforward and measure the health and activity level of the candidate. They are designed to identify candidates who will not be able to respond physically to the strenuous nature of becoming a police officer.


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