US Police Civil Service Exams

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US Police Civil Service Exams

US Police Civil Service Exams

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US Police Civil Service Exams

The US Police Civil Service exams are commonly referred to as POST.

This acronym has two terms of origin:

  • The committee that decides on the test criteria is called the Police Officer Standards and Training (POST)

  • One type of exam used is called the National Police (or Peace) Officer Selection Tests (again, shortened to POST).

Although these are two different entities, the term ‘POST’ is often used to refer to the entire police application and exam process.

The exam is a compulsory entry-level test used to assess the basic cognitive and academic skills necessary to work as a police officer. All applicants are required to take the POST before progressing to the next stage of recruitment.

One of the most popular exams is the PELLETB, taken in California, which you can read about in our dedicated article.

What Do the Exams Assess?

The police tests are designed with law enforcement in mind, so consist of specific and relevant questions to assess the skills needed.

As there is no one set exam, the committee for every state or police department will select an exam of their choice that fulfills the criteria.

Commonly, the areas of skill assessed in a selection test are:

  • Math
  • Writing
  • Grammar
  • Reading comprehension

These skills are deemed necessary to perform well as a police officer and carry out tasks such as report writing, incident reporting and assessing a situation accurately.

A candidate for the US police must also possess specific characteristics such as:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • A desire to see justice

Some police exams assess this through personality or psychological tests.

Other minimum requirements to apply to join the US police force include:

  • A high school diploma or General Education diploma
  • Being between the ages of 21 and 37
  • US citizens only
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license
  • Must pass a full background check

How Might US Police Exams Differ by State?

These exams are compulsory throughout the US but can vary state by state.

Each US state has a committee responsible for choosing an exam that fits their criteria, meaning that there is no standard country-wide exam.

You should find out which particular exam structure and content your state uses to help you prepare adequately.

For example:

Florida

Current police force of over 40,000 officers

The state of Florida offers three basic ability tests, of which you will be expected to complete one.

All the tests assess relevant job-related skills and are of an equivalent level of difficulty.

The Entry-Level Police Exam has a pass mark of 74%, the Criminal Justice Basic Ability Test (CJBAT) has a pass mark of 79%, and the Florida Basic Abilities Test (FBAT) has a pass mark of 71%.

A different examination board delivers each.

The tests assess a combination, or all, of the following:

  • Language abilities – Written comprehension, written expression

  • Visualization abilities – Inductive reasoning, memorization, problem sensitivity (the ability to recognize or predict a problem) and flexibility of closure (the ability to identify a hidden object within distracting material)

  • Reasoning abilities – Spatial orientation, deductive reasoning and ordering information

Test scores are valid for four years after taking the exam, and if you are unsuccessful in your attempt, you must wait six months before you can retake the test.

In some Florida police departments, you may be required to take an additional test called the Test for Adults Basic Education (TABE); a preliminary test that assesses fundamental skills.

New York

Current police force of over 77,000 officers

Law enforcement in the state of New York is a highly competitive industry, with recruitment opportunities happening only once every few years.

To apply to become a police officer anywhere in the state of New York, you must first pass a written exam consisting of ten sections including:

  • Visualization
  • Reasoning
  • Problem sensitivity
  • Memory
  • Spatial orientation
  • Written comprehension

If successful, you will then have to complete further tests depending on the police department in which you wish to work.

The New York City police exam consists of four sections:

  • Understanding and interpreting written information
  • Applying it to relevant situations
  • Preparing written information
  • Memory

New York State has recently migrated over to the EB Jacobs Law Enforcement Aptitude Battery (LEAB-II).

This three-hour exam involves both pen and paper and online tests. It has a reputation for catching candidates off guard with questions about their life and experiences as well as the typical aptitude questions seen in other equivalent examinations.

Texas

Current police force of nearly 60,000 officers

All police applicants in the state of Texas must pass the State Trooper exam which poses questions at a level equal to a 12th-grade education.

Many Texas police departments use the Law Enforcement Validated Entry Level test (LEVEL).

This police exam has a two-and-a-half-hour time allowance.

It consists of seven sections:

  • Vocabulary
  • Arithmetic
  • Reading comprehension
  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Differential decision making (making the best choice from the options available)

Beyond this, individual city police departments administer further exams at their discretion.

Houston requires a four to five-hour exam involving a reading comprehension exercise and an interview with a recruiter.

Dallas asks candidates to pass a two-and-a-half-hour exam involving reading, writing and math-based activities with a pass mark of 80%.

Austin demands a comprehensive and challenging set of assessments including reading comprehension, vocabulary tests, a video observation exercise and two psychological tests.

Montana

Current police force of under 2,000 officers

The Montana police application process is overseen by the Montana Law Enforcement Testing Consortium (MTLETC).

It involves the Post Officer Selection Test, comprising of four sections:

  • Mathematics
  • Grammar
  • Reading comprehension
  • Incident report writing

The exam relates to law enforcement situations, but no prior knowledge or experience is required to be able to answer the questions.

US Police Civil Service Exams
US Police Civil Service Exams

Example Questions and Answers

Many of the admission exams administered by police departments around the US typically offer questions based on a standard set of skills, such as:

  • Memory
  • Visualization
  • Reading comprehension
  • Spatial awareness
  • Problem sensitivity

As a general exercise to test your skills and improve in areas commonly assessed by the police admissions process, the following practice questions resemble real questions you may be asked:

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Information Ordering

This type of question is assessing your logical processing and understanding of the appropriate development of a situation relevant to law enforcement.

For example,

Q. The following steps are necessary for recording a crime.

Put them into the correct order.

a) Offer advice on what happens next
b) Take the identifying details of the person reporting the crime
c) Find a vacant room to conduct an interview
d) Record the details of the allegation
e) Ask the person reporting the crime their version of events

Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning questions test the candidate’s ability to read information and understand it from multiple angles, beyond what is explicitly written.

For example,

Read the following passage:

'The offender escaped the scene of the crime with just one member of the public giving chase unsuccessfully. The victim later presented to his local police station to report the crime. The police officer investigated surveillance camera footage of the area to attempt to identify the suspect. The victim was escorted to the hospital to have their injuries assessed.'

Q. What do you believe was the nature of this crime?

a) Verbal abuse
b) Fraud
c) Physical assault
d) Homicide

The correct answer is: c) Physical assault.

The candidate can deduce this from the fact that the victim was alive but had sustained injuries that needed medical attention.

Reading Comprehension

A reading comprehension question assesses the reading level of the applicant and asks basic questions to determine whether the text has been understood. Questions may seem simple and straightforward.

Here’s an example:

Q. Read the following passage and answer the questions below:

'The defendant was found guilty of driving under the influence and has vowed to attend a rehabilitation center for the remainder of his recovery. He has settled out of court claims for the victim’s car, which was irreparably damaged in the collision. The defendant professes his sincerest apologies for those he has embarrassed or hurt while battling his addictions.'

1. For what crime was the defendant arrested?

2. Were any other cars damaged during the incident?

3. Has the defendant admitted responsibility?

The correct answers are:

1. Driving under the influence
2. Yes
3. Yes

Memory

Memory tests often involve the candidate watching a short video demonstrating an incident or event related to law enforcement. Once the video has ended, a series of questions test the candidate’s recall of the events in the video.

Written Expression

These questions are designed to assess your ability to communicate a concept or idea clearly, either through speaking or writing.

Q. Choose the correct word to complete this sentence:

The police officer ______ the cars driving dangerously.

a) Witness
b) Observing
c) Witnessed
d) Encouraged

The correct answer is: c).

'Witnessed' because the other terms are not grammatically or situationally accurate.

Problem Sensitivity

Problem sensitivity refers to the ability to identify that a problem exists or might exist based on the data available.

The investigative nature of law enforcement means that candidates must show that they can judge a situation correctly and have an awareness of the nuances of social interactions.

The candidate is not required to solve the problem, merely identify where a problem exists.

Q. Police officers respond to a call from a worried member of the public who reports witnessing an escalating argument between two young males. As they attend the scene, they hear raised voices but the youths in question step away from each other quietly when they see the officers. The young men state that there is no problem and that they may have just been talking too loudly. One of the men is holding something behind his back and seems agitated.

Based on the above information, do you feel the police officers should continue to question the men?

An example of a good answer is:

It seems that the attending officers do not have all the information relevant to the situation. The reports of the witness do not match with the men’s version of events. One of the men seems agitated and is hiding something behind his back that may be relevant to the situation. Therefore, I believe that the officers do need to continue their questioning.

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning is the ability to observe rules, concepts or events to see how they may be connected.

In a real-life situation, a police officer may need to link a series of crimes to one offender.

Q. Use the following table to answer the question.

Florida Crime Rates

 2010201120122013
Theft258555599655
Fraud221198117298
Assault101155192145
Total5809089081,098

1. All types of crime have increased in number over time.
True or False?

2. Overall, crime is reducing in the state of Florida.
True or false?

3. In 2013, Florida introduced new measures to reduce rates of assault. They were successful.
True or false?

The correct answers are:

1. False. Assault rates declined in 2013.
2. False. Over time, the total number of crimes is rising.
3. True. After increasing year on year, rates of assault decreased in 2013.

Spatial Orientation

When out in public, police officers need to be aware of their location, movements and direction.

Spatial orientation questions assess whether they can observe a map or environment and determine their position.

US Police Civil Service Exams
US Police Civil Service Exams

If you are at the police department and face south, which direction(s) would you have to walk to get to the school?

a) North and then west
b) South
c) South and then west
d) South and then east

The correct answer is: c) South and then west

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Mathematical Aptitude

These questions are designed to test basic mathematical skills. Check with your exam provider whether you are permitted to use a calculator in the test.

Q. Inspector Johnson submits his expenses for October. He spent a total of $92.50.

$45.90 of this was used to top up the gas on his patrol car. $21.09 was spent on refreshments during patrols. The remaining expenses were marked as miscellaneous.

1. What was the total cost marked as ‘miscellaneous’?

2. Is Officer Johnson in breach of his expenses allowance of $95 per month?

The correct answers are:

1. $25.51. Deduct the gas and refreshments costs from the total to work out the remaining miscellaneous costs.
2. No. The total spend was $92.50, which is less than the allowance of $95.

Flexibility of Closure

Flexibility of closure refers to the ability to focus on one task while ignoring outside distractions or other materials.

This is an essential skill in policing when searching for a small object in a large area or trying to identify a suspect in a crowd.

Q. Look at the image below and answer the questions.

US Police Civil Service Exams
US Police Civil Service Exams

1. How many times does the letter ‘A’ appear?

2. The letter ‘Z’ appears in the image three times. True or false?

3. All the characters are letters. True or false?

The correct answers are:

1. 2
2. False. ‘Z’ appears twice.
3. False. The number '1' appears in the image once.

What to Expect When Taking the Exams

Exams can be online or by pen and paper, and each has its own pass mark.

Whichever test you take, the questions are related to work as a police officer. However, you will not necessarily need any specific experience or insight to be able to answer correctly.

It is always advisable to find out from your state and police department exactly which tests you’ll be required to take so that you can tailor your preparation accordingly.

You will also be told important information such as the location of your assessment center, what to bring with you and the time allocation needed.

Top Tips for Doing Well in the US Police Civil Service Exams

  • Take practice tests. It’s essential to prepare well for the police exams and, as well as the example questions here, you can also find more practice tests online. Take the practice exams under test conditions to get used to the time allowance and how to pace yourself to complete as many questions as possible.

  • Access a study guide. Local police departments can provide study guides that provide examples of the types of questions asked in an exam. If you can find out which testing company is administering your test, you may be able to access a study guide from them.

  • Know what to expect. Your local police department can provide information about the assessment center location, what to bring with you and how long the test will be. Find out all the necessary information beforehand so you can approach the exam calmly.

  • Be prepared for multiple-choice questions. Many questions on the various police civil service exams provide multiple-choice options for the answer. If you encounter a question you struggle to answer, use a process of elimination to exclude answers you know to be incorrect to narrow down your options. An effective approach is to try to decide on the correct answer before looking at the multiple-choice options.

Other Stages Involved in the US Police Recruitment Process

Beyond the written police selection tests, an applicant will also be expected to pass a physical fitness test.

The physical fitness test is designed to ensure a baseline fitness level that is sufficient to cope with the physical demands of law enforcement.

Everyday policing can involve chasing and using physical force to detain suspects. A standard physical fitness test can assess strength using push-ups and sit-ups and other bodyweight exercises.

A timed run will test cardiovascular fitness, speed and stamina.

You will need to present a waiver form signed by your doctor to confirm you are medically fit to take part in the tests.

It is common for a state to insist on medical tests for all police service applicants to ensure good health and to support officers who may need additional measures putting in place. It may be appropriate to visit your doctor for a check-up before your tests if you have any health concerns you’d like to address.

Finally, candidates must possess and be able to demonstrate the right attitude and approach to law enforcement to be successful. Usually these will be assessed by interview.

Confidence, honesty and a strong moral compass are all vital attributes for a career in the US police force.

Final Thoughts

The US police force is an attractive employment option, and as such, applications are very competitive.

The first stage of the recruitment process involves passing an exam to demonstrate your basic abilities in areas such as reading, writing, visualization and memory. Exam questions are related to law enforcement, but no prior experience is necessary to do well in the tests.

Candidates wishing to apply to join the US police have the best chances of success if they understand what is involved in the preliminary tests and spend time practicing in the lead up to test day.


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