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Free Guide on How to Pass the CritiCall Practice Test a.k.a. 911 Dispatcher Test

Free Guide on How to Pass the CritiCall Practice Test a.k.a. 911 Dispatcher Test

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The Criticall test assesses whether an applicant has the skills and aptitudes needed to be a 911 call handler and dispatcher.

No specialist knowledge or medical know-how is required to pass Criticall testing. The Criticall system is designed to test the key skills needed to do the job; it is concerned with what an applicant can do, rather than what they know.

What Is the 911 Dispatcher Criticall Practice Test?

911 call handlers and dispatchers perform a critical role in ensuring public safety. The Criticall tests were developed as a way of quickly and effectively screening applicants to make sure they have the basic key skills needed to carry out the vital roles they are applying for.

The 911 dispatcher test is divided into sections, each testing a different skill. Candidates are required to obtain the Criticall pass score in each section to become eligible to apply for 911 dispatcher positions.

What Does the Critical Practice Test Measure?

A range of key skills are measured on the Criticall test. These include:

The other quality vital to success is the ability to remain calm and perform well under pressure. Although this is not measured directly, candidates who are unable to cope with stressful situations are as unlikely to pass the Criticall test as they are to become effective 911 dispatchers.

What Is the Format of the Critical Practice Test?

Although the exact way the Criticall test is administered can vary from agency to agency, the standard examinations follow a common structure, being divided into sections as follows:

Attention to Detail

  • Data Entry and Multi-tasking. Candidates are given addresses, phone numbers, names, dates, etc. and must enter them into the correct fields in a simulated dispatch computer system. The same exercise is also done with audio questions, where data is presented in the form of simulated 911 calls.

    Candidates are required to respond to a range of decision-making questions, demonstrating their ability to both multi-task and make accurate choices under pressure.

    A pass of this section of the test is achieved with these marks:

    • Data Entry with Multi-Tasking – 60 KPM (keystrokes per minute)
    • Audio Data Entry with Multi-Tasking – 28 KPM (keystrokes per minute)
    • Keyboarding – 35 WPM (words per minute)
  • Cross-Referencing. This section of the test poses tasks that require the candidate to demonstrate the ability to accurately read address books, rapidly locate requested information and record it correctly. Candidates must also enter data presented verbally, usually as a recording. The pass mark for tests in this section is 70%.

  • Character Comparison. Presented with two tables of similar – but not identical – information, candidates are required to carefully comb through the data and identify any differences. The pass mark is 70%.

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Dispatcher Skills

  • Decision Making. This section poses the candidate with a series of questions, requiring them to determine which would be the appropriate emergency service to dispatch to an incident. As well as a written section, it includes a verbal component where candidates are required to speak their responses into a microphone.

  • Prioritization. Just as decision making is important to a 911 dispatcher's role, so is prioritizing incidents according to the urgency of response required. The questions in this section present details of several incidents that must be ranked in order of response priority. The pass mark for this test is 70%.

  • Memory Recall. Candidates are presented with both written and audio information that they have to remember and accurately recall a short time later. The pass mark for both the written and audio parts of this test is 70%.

  • Probability. The nature of a 911 dispatcher's role means that they are often presented with incomplete or conflicting information about an incident. A call handler may also be unable to clearly hear a caller due to noise or a poor telephone connection. To test a candidate's ability to deal with these situations, this section of the Criticall test is designed to assess how well they can distinguish between a range of possible answers based on garbled or incomplete data.

  • Map Reading. While modern computer systems are a great aid to the dispatcher's work, it remains necessary for 911 call handlers to have a good geographical knowledge of the area they cover. This section of the test asks the candidate to use maps to plan the most effective, safe and legal route for emergency services units to take to get to the scene of an incident. The pass mark for this test is 70%.

Basic Skills

  • Call Summarization. This section of the test asks candidates to listen to simulated 911 calls and audio recordings, and then summarize the information they heard on a computerized system. Both speed and accuracy are required to obtain a high score. As an additional test, candidates are also asked verbal questions about the information heard. The pass mark for both of these tests is 70%.

  • Reading Comprehension. This part tests the candidate's ability to read and understand information presented in written form, e.g. manuals and training materials, as well as written data recorded about incoming calls. The pass mark for this test is 60%.

  • Spelling and Sentence Clarity. While 911 dispatchers are not expected to be professional writers, a high standard of written English is required to accurately convey meaning and avoid misunderstandings. Candidates are tested on their ability to spell workplace-related vocabulary, and whether they can choose the simplest and clearest sentence structure to convey a basic message. The pass marks for both the spelling and sentence clarity parts of the test are 70%.

  • Math. The job of a call handler requires an ability to keep track of incoming calls and calculate distances, numbers of units and so on. Therefore, this section will test a candidate’s ability to perform basic math.

Practice Questions

Each section of the Criticall test includes practice questions before the test questions themselves. These are included to ensure that candidates have an opportunity to check their understanding of what they are being asked to do; they are not included in the test score. The 911 dispatcher test designers and administrators recommend that candidates make full use of the practice questions to minimize the chance of any mistakes.

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Critical Practice Test - Decision Rules

During the CritiCall test, candidates are required to make a series of decisions about which emergency service to dispatch to several hypothetical incidents. Since candidates sitting the CritiCall test are not trained 911 call handlers, they are provided with a series of rules to use when making these decisions.

It is important that candidates fully understand and memorize these rules prior to attempting the test – as the better these rules are understood, the greater the chance of success.


Candidates should dispatch the Police Department when:

  • Someone is attempting or threatening physical harm towards another person or persons
  • Actual physical harm has been caused by one person to another
  • When a person has caused, or is in the process of causing, damage to another person's property


Candidates should dispatch the Fire Department when:

  • There are immediate signs of a fire in progress (e.g. smoke, flames)
  • When a fire alarm is sounded
  • When a trapped or confused person needs to be rescued or released


Candidates should dispatch Emergency Medical Services when a person is suffering an emergency medical condition which requires intervention by trained medical personnel.


Candidates should dispatch public utilities when there is a problem associated with:

  • Malfunctioning or broken public water systems
  • Electric power systems (including, but not limited to, electrical power lines, streetlights and traffic signals)
  • Natural gas systems used for home heating
  • Blocked sewer drain pipes

When and Where Can You Take the Critical Practice Test?

Unlike some pre-employment exams, candidates do not sit the CritiCall test until they apply for a specific job. Agencies may choose to administer the tests in alternative ways, choose different question sets or only use parts of the CritiCall test.

As a general rule, when applying for a role as a 911 dispatcher or similar, candidates are invited to sit the 911 dispatcher test as part of the recruitment process and this will be at a time and date of the hiring agency's choosing.

CritiCall tests are computer-based, and take place in a simulated workplace environment.

What Is the Best Way to Prepare for the Critical Practice Test in 2024?

CritiCall is designed to test the abilities of a candidate, rather than their knowledge or experience. It is not possible to revise for the CritiCall tests as such.

There is no practice test and no questions from the system are made available to help applicants with CritiCall test prep. The most effective preparation, however, is to understand the form and structure of the tests and listen to CritiCall test tips from experienced agencies and previous successful candidates.

Candidates can, however, practice the individual skills which are tested during the Criticall examination, using a variety of publicly available tools and resources.

  • Keyboarding – Many free resources are available to help you practice touch typing and keyboarding skills. One that is specifically recommended as preparation for Criticall testing is found at This will help candidates test both their typing speed and accuracy.

  • Data Entry – The designers of Criticall have not created any test preparation resources themselves. However, they do recommend the Data Entry Practice Test created by Karen Freeman-Smith as a good way for candidates to assess their data entry skills and highlight any area where they may need practice. The tool is available, for free, at

  • Understanding Maps – For candidates who are not experienced in using maps or giving directions, it can be helpful to spend some time using Google Maps to create routes between different points, or to create simple sets of directions for others to follow.

  • Reading, Comprehension and Spelling – These can be improved via verbal reasoning tests.

  • Video of Criticall in Use – Although the Criticall software is not available to anyone other than the agencies who use it, it is possible to watch a brief summary which gives a short glimpse into how the system works. This is a clip from a news report into how the Criticall system is used. It also gives some short glimpses into the workings of the system and what candidates should expect when they sit the tests.

Candidates should also ensure that they familiarize themselves with the information they are given by the agency they are applying to, and the official test guide.

How to Prepare on the Day of the Critical Practice Test

The Criticall system is designed to replicate as closely as possible the experience of working as a 911 dispatcher and call handler. It tests the candidate's ability to deal with a stressful situation, multi-task, keep a clear head and remain calm.

People who have taken the test successfully, as well as the test designers and administrators, recommend that Criticall candidates give themselves the best chance of performing well by:

  • Eating a good breakfast
  • Being well hydrated
  • Getting a good night’s sleep before the test
  • Reading and/or listening to all test instructions carefully
  • Using the practice questions at the start of each test section
  • Enabling NUM LOCK on their keyboard

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Frequently Asked Questions

The CritiCall test length is dependent upon a candidate’s typing speed.

The test can take anywhere between one and three hours to complete. On average, most candidates take around two hours to complete the test.

Most experts advise that the best way to perform well on the CritiCall dispatch test is to get used to the structure of the exam.

People taking the test must have strong keyboard and data entry skills. It is difficult to revise these skills, and the best way to get better at these skills is to practice.

Data entry is a huge part of anyone working as a 911 call handler and dispatcher. If you are aware of how fast you need to type and perform, it is much more likely that you will perform better.

On top of familiarizing yourself with the test, you need to also ensure you sit any practice tests available.

There are few exact CritiCall mock tests available, but there are practice tests that mimic the format and structure. It is also important to practice keyboarding, data entry, comprehension and map reading abilities.

These are all fundamental skills for anyone working as a 911 call handler.

To pass the CritiCall dispatch test you need a score of around 60% to 70% in each area. Those who perform well on this test generally have good comprehension skills and can communicate information quickly.

Your score for the test is calculated on the three metrics of keystrokes per hour, words per minute, and your percentage scores on each section of the test. The more answers you get right and the quicker you can type your answers will lead to better results.

The CritiCall dispatch test is used as an employment screening for those who want to work as a 911 call handler.

The test examines an individual’s ability to process and communicate information. The speed at which they do this is a fundamental part of the examination.

There are a total of 23 modules that you may be tested on, and the examination can last anywhere between one to three hours.

The dispatch test is not only scored on your correct answers. In contrast to other examinations, there is no set time limit to the CritiCall test, but how long you take is a fundamental part of how the test is graded.

The grade you receive is based upon three components. The first component is keystrokes per hour, the second is words per minute. These two components how quickly you can type and respond to the questions presented. The final component is your percentage scores on each module that you have been selected for your test.

The option to retake the CritiCall dispatch test is dependent on what department you are applying for.

If you do fail the CritiCall test, your current job application will be terminated. To re-apply for a position as a 911 call and dispatch handler, the test is compulsory. Bear in mind that tests results take around two to three months to be processed.

There is no mirror image practice test that you can sit to study for the CritiCall dispatch test, but you can certainly revise.

Sharpening your keyboard skills, comprehension abilities and your ability to communicate your answers clearly will help you perform on this test.

You will be assessed from a selection of 23 modules. What modules you sit during the examination will be dependent upon the position you are applying for.

Some of these modules include numerical ability, reading comprehension, and spelling, grammar and clarity. These cognitive abilities can be practiced by sitting aptitude tests.

Practicing aptitude tests will also get you in the right mindset to sit an examination that can last up to three hours.

The difficulty of passing the 911 Critical Test varies based on individual preparedness, training, and experience. Success is linked to a solid understanding of emergency protocols, strong communication skills, and the ability to remain composed under pressure.

In addition, adequate preparation, including familiarity with response procedures, enhances the likelihood of passing the test.

Although being a 911 operator is not physically demanding, it is a difficult job role because of its mental strain.

You will be dealing with potentially distressing phone calls, and you will be responsible for relaying information to dispatch the right 911 service.

In addition to this, you will have to be patient with the phone caller and their requests. You will have to get as much information from them as possible, yet this is a very difficult ask from someone who may be panicked or even in possible danger.

A 911 dispatcher is a first-responder position, meaning you will be the first point of call for someone who may be in danger.

To apply for a position like this you must be 18 years of age, have earned a high school diploma or a GED, and it is beneficial to hold a state driver’s license.

To find the right 911 position, you must look through a state’s public safety answering points (PSAPs). These are points of contact for anyone who calls 911 and are often located at police departments, fire stations, call centers and public safety departments.

To successfully become a 911 dispatcher, you will have to go through an application process that includes: a CritiCall dispatch test, a one-to-one interview and a panel interview, a background investigation, a panel interview, a medical examination, and a psychological evaluation.

It can be a traumatic job role depending on the calls you receive. If you get a call where someone is in danger, this may have a lasting impact on your mental health.

You will also be expected to work long hours as a call handler. With being a telephone role, you will be sat down for most of the time taking phone calls. This makes the role quite sedentary, and your physical health may be impacted.

A call handler’s role is also very important to the responding process, making it quite a stressful job. If you do not handle pressure well, then this may not be a good career choice.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary of a 911 dispatch call handler is around $38,010 per year.

This balances out at $18.27 per hour. Your annual salary is dependent upon which department you are working, the shifts you work and the hours of your shift, and your total hours worked.

It is a relatively well-paid role, and it is also an important position in the responder chain.

If you have the right skill set, you will likely be able to find a position available even if it is not in the state you reside in.

Job satisfaction is also included often as a benefit of the position. Handling the calls well means you will make a genuine impact on someone’s life. Your work may even lead to them getting the vital attention they need.

You must have strong communication skills, listening abilities and be able to record essential information quickly.

Logistical skills and map planning are also very important for a 911 operator. If you cannot read maps or have a hard time understanding a city or rural grid, this position may not be for you.

Attention to detail is also important. If someone calls you and they are clearly distressed, you must pick out the right material to send the help this person needs.

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