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What is the Police Officer Exam?

One of the first major obstacles that you need to face and overcome toward establishing a career in law enforcement is your police entrance examination. Becoming a police officer requires one to take a written test of some kind. However, there is no one standard police exam that every prospective officer takes.

Furthermore, some states managed to set up a statewide testing system where all applicants from municipal police departments across the state take the same standardized examination. Each city will then set a passing score to properly evaluate their respective applicants. While the statewide testing system has been accepted and implemented by many cities, some larger ones still choose to administer their own exams.

Despite having no uniformity when it comes to the examination, the majority of the police tests cover the same basic components and categories of information. In other words, the structure and questions of the police officer exam will differ from each department, but the coverage of the test will remain the same.

You may wonder why a written examination is essential to the overall process of becoming a police officer. Is an interview not enough? First of all, state departments are incapable of interviewing thousands of applicants. Given the fact that police officer training programs are very competitive, there is also a limited number of applicants that each program can accept.

Police Officer Exam Structure and Format

Due to the fact that police officer examinations don’t have a standardized system, it is exceedingly important to pay attention to every given detail or information when you register to take the exam. There is no standard structure or format of the police officer examination. Therefore, as much as possible, do your best to gather relevant information about the exam so you’ll know how and what to prepare before you take the test.

Even though the police officer exam doesn’t have a specific format, the written test is more likely to take the form of a standardized multiple-choice test with 100 questions in total. And as with all police examinations, the test is most likely designed to evaluate your knowledge and understanding about the duties and responsibilities of a police officer. Your performance on the test will then be a good assessment whether you’re prepared for the job or not.

The police officer examination will test your knowledge and skills in several categories. Please refer to the table below for more information:

Principal Categories of the Police Officer Exam
English Language Skills, Reading Comprehension, and Verbal Expression The police exam is sure to include questions that will test your understanding of the English language, and particularly, law enforcement language. These questions may fall under the following subcategories:

  • Determine the accurately spelled word within a group of similar words.
  • Select the correct sentence out of a set of choices that are incorrectly punctuated.
  • Choose the correct definition of a vocabulary word to complete the sentence.
  • Interpret and analyze a police report.
  • Understand law enforcement vocabulary and determine where it is used correctly.
Mathematics and Logic In this category, you will not be asked to apply advanced trigonometry or calculus. Aside from basic math (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), you may encounter questions on topics such as fractions, percentages, and basic geometry as well. Most of the math questions in a police exam are presented in a word problem format.

On the other hand, logic questions on police exams will test your ability to read and interpret information. The logic questions may also ask you to do the following:

  • Interpret information presented in charts, graphs, and tables.
  • Define a crime with the appropriate statute.
  • Select the most relevant information when given a report.
  • Read and analyze a set of laws and actions taken by an officer.
  • Read a report about crimes in a specific area, with times committed, and decide on the best time to patrol.

Note: These questions may or may not be present on the police. All of the information about the instructions will be given to you on the test day.

Spatial Orientation, Visualization, and Memorization This exam category will test your observation skills, map reading, ability to remember what you see, and visual logic. You will likely be instructed to complete the following tasks on your police exam:

  • Identify or determine visual depictions of traffic incident descriptions.
  • Observe a street scene and the corresponding questions.
  • Identify similarities and differences in faces.
  • Decipher complicated patterns of shifted and rotated shapes.

Becoming familiar with what typical questions look like is the best way to excel in this category.

Information Management and Problem Sensitivity The questions in this section will test your ability to read and understand job-related information and also make decisions with the use of common sense. The questions in this category may ask to do the following:

  • Select or choose the best Police response to a given scenario.
  • Identify the least and most important information when given a description of a scenario or a crime scene.
  • Place a jumbled witness statement into a logical order.

Important Reminder: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself while taking the exam. These questions are designed to test your common sense and logical abilities.

Police Officer Exam Scoring System
The average passing score of the police officer exam is 70% of all questions answered accurately. Anything under the average passing rate means that a program will or may not even consider your application. In addition, the 70% passing rate won’t also guarantee that you will be selected. Thus, you need to strive harder to get a higher score percentage. An admission score of 85% is a probable percentage to aim for if you want to secure your place in the program.

Note: Keep in mind that this is just an educated guess. It will not change the fact that each school, academy, or training program is different from one another. The best way to determine the exact passing rate is to speak or ask your program administrators about it in advance.

In addition, you can also try to search for additional benefits that can help increase your chances of being accepted. One good example is to find out if your program provides extra points for applicants with military experience or residency in a specific area. For instance, if you have military experience when you file for the exam, you can inform the program that you are an honorably discharged veteran. Doing so may gran you with 5 bonus points on top of your final police exam score.

Police Officer Exam Frequently Asked Questions

What is a police officer?

A police officer is a warranted law employee. A police officer’s duty is generally directed with the apprehension of criminals to protect the safety of the general public.

What are the differences between police, cop, and sheriff?

Police are not elected. They have the power to enforce state criminal and traffic laws and also local ordinances that are adopted within their jurisdiction. A sheriff is mainly a peace officer who holds public office and is elected once every four years. Sheriffs can transport prisoners to local courts, unlike police officers. A cop and a police officer generally means the same.

How are military police ranks classified?

Police ranks are classified the same way as the military in general: Private, Specialist, Corporal, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, Sergeant First Class, Master Sergeant, Sergeant Major, and the list goes on.

How much does a police officer make a year?

Police officer salary depends on the years of experience an officer has. For example, an experienced police officer with 10 to 19 years of experience can earn up to $60,324 based on 960 salaries. On the other hand, a mid-career officer with 5 to 9 years of experience can earn a lower amount of $51,987.

What jobs are more dangerous than being a police officer?

Police officer jobs aren’t really that dangerous compared to these jobs below:

  • Logging workers
  • Aircraft pilot and flight engineers
  • Roofers
  • Construction Laborers
  • Structural iron and steelworkers
  • Electrical power-line installers and repairers

What are the police ranks?

Here is the list of police ranks based on class:

  • Police Technician
  • Police Officer
  • Police Corporal
  • Police Sergeant
  • Police Lieutenant
  • Police Captain
  • Deputy Police Chief
  • Chief of Police

Can police officers carry personal firearms?

It actually depends on the policy of their respective departments. There are departments that allow officers to carry personal firearms but off-duty guns are another matter.

Can military police arrest a general?

If the situation allows, yes, they can. However, the arrest should be authorized by a very high ranking officer in order to carry out the arrest, especially if it’s for a serious offense.

Police Officer Exam Prep Guide

Regardless of your inability to anticipate what is on your police exam, you can still prepare for the test effectively. To help you come up with test-taking strategies, we’ve created a list of strategies below that you can use as your reference:

#1 Create and Develop a Study Plan

Creating a study plan is one of the best ways to keep your preparation flow smoothly. A study plan will allow you to the following:

  • Familiarize the question types that are commonly presented in all police examinations.
  • Answer sample questions to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Practice and evaluate your progress effectively.

Become accustomed to the timing, structure, and pace of the exam.

#2 Manage Your Stress Levels

How to become a police officer? Have you ever asked that?

You will undergo and encounter a lot of stress during your prep time. While maximizing your time for preparation is essential, you should not lose sight of the most important aspect of your preparation—rest. Clocking in and out of your schedule is very beneficial when it comes to managing your stress levels. When it’s time to take a break, go ahead and take your break time. Don’t rush or overdo things. Your brain needs time to process information more efficiently.

#3 Focus On Your Goal

Don’t get distracted or discouraged with the thought of failing the exam. Keep in mind that the reason why you are preparing is to avoid failure. Be confident about yourself and don’t allow your inner negativities to get the best of what you can do. Not only that it’s a self-punishing attitude but it will also greatly affect your performance when taking the exam. People who focus on their weaknesses rather than their strengths will never reap positive results. 

Police Officer Exam Sample Questions

Practice Test Question #1

The police detective is called to the scene of homicide but told nothing else by dispatch. Which of the following statements can the detective infer is true before reaching the scene?

(A) The victim is dead.

(B) The perpetrator acted with premeditation.

(C) The perpetrator was committing a serious felony when the homicide


(D) The perpetrator was angry at the time the homicide occurred.

Practice Test Question #2

A police officer is told to assist in gathering all physical evidence at a crime scene. He looks around the area but does not see anything that looks like evidence of a crime. Has he completed his duty?

(A) Yes. Physical evidence must be visually identifiable.

(B) Yes. Physical evidence is evidence associated with the victim.

(C) No. Physical evidence is evidence associated with the perpetrator.

(D) No. Physical evidence includes items that are not clearly visible such

as latent fingerprints.

Practice Test Question #3

The Police Manual states that all officers must report questions or concerns about other officers through the official chain of command. Officer Martin has seen his partner remove evidence from a crime scene without logging it in as required. Officer Martin should _____.

(A) Report his concerns to his union representative.

(B) Talk with his partner, unofficially, to try to find out what is going on.

(C) Report his concerns to his direct supervisor.

(D) Send an anonymous note to the Chief of Police.

Practice Test Question #4

Officer Martin had the authority to enforce the criminal laws of both the state and his city, as both the state and his city have enacted criminal ______.

(A) Laws

(B) Codes

(C) Jurisdictions

(D) Venues

Practice Test Question #5

State law and departmental policy state that “offender’s vehicles could be impounded at the direction of law enforcement present at the scene.” Both state law and departmental policy were defining the scope of _______ applicable to vehicle impoundment.

(A) A warrant

(B) Physical evidence

(C) Chain of custody

(D) Officer discretion