2022 Edition

Guide to Police Officer Entrance Tests

Police Entrance Test Summary
What: Police officer entrance exams are given by law enforcement agencies at all levels to screen for potential candidates to hire as police officers.
Who: Any person wishing to have a career in law enforcement must first take a police officer entrance exam.
Where: Individual municipalities, towns, cities, counties, state and federal agencies offer police officer exams at various locations.
When: How often the police officer entrance exam is given varies by the location and agency administering the exams, but many departments and agencies offer the exam annually.
How: Candidates usually take a written test first. Some may also be required to take other types of tests, but others will have to wait until they are about to be hired to complete the remainder of the tests and evaluations.
Type: Most police officer entrance exams are written tests consisting of multiple choice basic aptitude and general knowledge questions, as well as decision making and analytical thinking questions that may vary in type and amount.
Why: Police officer entrance exams are one of the most important screening tools used to hire potential police officers. High scores received on the exam usually make it more likely that a candidate will receive an employment interview.
Time: Time limits for exams can vary widely by location.
Language: English
Preparation: There are manuals, study guides, video tutorials and courses that can help prepare a candidate to take the exam. There are also often age and education or military experience requirements that must be met.
Cost: Costs for police officer entrance exams vary widely and some may have no fees at all.

Police officer entrance exams are the first step in the process of trying to gain employment as a police officer. Entrance exams for police officers are offered by each individual municipality, town, city or county that maintains a police department. There are also exams given at the state and federal levels for state troopers and other state or federally run law enforcement programs and agencies. Police officer entrance exams can vary widely, but most also have many similarities.

Police officer entrance exams are tests that are given by police departments and government agencies to screen for potential officers to join the police department or law enforcement agency. All locations offer some type of a written exam in order to select candidates. Some districts may require an oral interview, video test, medical evaluation, psychological assessment, or physical abilities test as well, although most districts will not require the additional tests and evaluations until after a candidate makes it through the initial screening process by scoring well on the written exam.

Any person who is interested in becoming a member of the police force will need to take a police officer entrance exam in the location in which they are hoping to be hired.

Each police department can tailor their own test however they see fit, but there are some similarities among most police officer entrance exams. There is a written portion to every test. The written test usually evaluates one's knowledge and skills in math, grammar, reading comprehension and writing and consists of multiple-choice questions. The number of questions and the time limit for this portion of the test can vary. A test used by many police departments and law enforcement agencies is the National Police Selection Test (POST), which focuses on the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.

There may also be  questions involving inductive and deductive reasoning, as well, as well as problem-solving ability and judgment questions. The question context will usually involve police situations.  However, prior knowledge of police practices should not be required, as the exams are assessing a candidate's aptitude to be accepted to a police academy.  The types of questions asked can vary depending on the location of the law enforcement agency and the jobs for which the potential police officers would be responsible.

Some districts and agencies may also require a video test, where candidates see real life scenarios and have to make decisions based on what they see on the video. This method tests decision-making and critical thinking skills as well.

Usually the written portions of the exam determine if a candidate will even be considered when an opening for a position comes up in the law enforcement agency. This is an extremely important exam because many times the score received on the exam determines the ranking the candidate receives on the potential hire list. Some agencies and districts will also require that candidates have an oral interview, psychological assessment, medical evaluation and physical abilities test, but often these tests and evaluations are not completed until a candidate has already made it through the preliminary round of screening and has been selected as a viable candidate for a position as a police officer. A high score on the written exam will usually score a potential candidate an interview for the next phase of the job selection process better than just about any other criteria.

Various locations offer police officer entrance exams on different schedules. There are usually specific dates that the exams are offered and those dates can be obtained by the appropriate departments or agencies. Many times the police officer entrance exam is given once a year. Some jurisdictions require applicants to first register for the exams, while in other cases there is public notice given about the exams and anyone can show up to take the exam. Fees can vary widely, if assessed at all, among locations as well. Pre-requisites to be eligible for police officer entrance exams can vary as well, but usually require that candidates be within a specific age range (for example, over 21 but younger than 40), that they be US citizens, and that they meet some minimum educational or military experience requirements.

Taking a police officer entrance exam can be one of the most important exams an individual who wishes to have a career in law enforcement will ever take. It is important to be as prepared as possible for the exam, since the higher the score received on the exam, the more likely the candidate will receive an interview or be allowed to move on to the next step in the hiring process. Much of the basic aptitude information is education related and can be reviewed through practice exams or study courses or guides. The decision making and critical thinking portions of the exam should be prepared for by going through potential situations and determining responses and solving problems. There are many manuals, study guides, video tutorials and study courses available to help candidates prepare for police officer entrance exams.

Interested in becoming a police officer? Check out our Police Office Entrance Exam Directory.

Quality starts with who wrote the material.
Our practice exam writer
Police Sergeant Tyler Nelson
 is a 13 year police veteran who currently works with the Mohave County Sheriff's department in Arizona. Officer Nelson has taught several courses in law enforcement. During his career, he has worked as a patrol officer, SWAT medic and field training officer. Officer Nelson holds a Master Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice from Southern Utah University.

Mark Mellett
 is a former Assistant District Attorney from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in gun and drug cases. Prior to work as an ADA, Mark served in the U.S. Navy JAG Corp as a prosecutor. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from the University of Notre Dame and his law degree from the Duquesne University School of Law.