Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work as a correctional officer in a county jail, prison, or maybe what it takes to become one? As someone whose been in law enforcement for over 10 years, I can tell you that there are some people who don’t care about upholding the law, and unfortunately, a good number of prisoners fall in this category.
This means that correctional officers must not only have a strong mind, but also be capable of maintaining their composure at all times, since things occasionally get really tough and volatile. The nature of the job requires a mentally tough individual, whose not only smart, but physically capable in case you know what hit the fan.
The requirements for this professional shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. You cannot have been convicted of a felony, must be a person of high character, prior military experience isn’t necessary, but it does look favorable.
Similar to that of the NYC Correctional officer selection process, you will have to pass a couple of important examinations such as the corrections officer test, and the oral interview before getting hired.
Some states like the North Carolina Department of Public safety requires that all applicants pass a physical fitness test (also known as physical Abilities Test). It should be pointed out that many agencies don’t administer a fitness exam.
If you are serious about getting the job, the best advice I can give you is to familiarize yourself with this test because your score will determine whether you advance in the hiring process or not. Usually scoring under a 70% will disqualify you.
So, what does the correction officer exam entails, and how can you pass it? Before we get to that point, let’s review the responsibilities of a corrections officer.
Duties of a Corrections Officer
Correction officers are essentially the security personnel tasked with overseeing accused criminal offenders pending trial, as well as convicted criminals sentenced to serve time.
These officers work in courthouses, jails, reformatories, and federal/state prisons, where their key duties include maintaining a secure, safe, and humane prisoner confinement, in addition to establishing an environment that contributes to reducing the likelihood of re-offending by preventing assaults and maintaining security.
Areas of assessment and how to prepare for them
The first step when preparing for the detention officer test is to find out the kind of questions asked in your state or county, so that you can know where to direct your study efforts. It’s important to note that you can look over practice test questions before taking the test.
This is all made possible when you download a correctional officer exam study guide. Many of the study materials has examples with test questions, as well as best answers.
There are a few differences between the tests administered to correctional officers in different states, though they comprise typical sections for verbal reasoning, reading comprehension, situational reasoning, and memory and observation.
For the next section, I’ll relate the duties of a corrections officer to the areas that are examined in a correction officer test.
Tests assessing Cognitive ability areas
Correctional officer testing seeks to measure four cognitive abilities of candidates, including mathematics, reading comprehension, problem solving, and writing ability.
Problem-solving: These questions examine your ability to anticipate situations and come up with alternative plans of action. As a correctional officer, you will deal with both routine and unusual events, and you will often find yourself in positions that require fast and effective action to control the situation.
Reading comprehension: these questions seek to identify your ability to comprehend written materials and the ideas associated with them. As a correctional officer, you will be required to read, understand and interpret procedures, policies, and various departmental correspondences containing vital information for the effective performance of various tasks and responsibilities. These questions are usually very long, and you must read through all the material carefully in order to provide a correct response.
Mathematics: This section evaluates your ability to perform simple on-the-job arithmetic computations such as addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. Such questions prepare you for various duties of an officer, like calculating the worth of items, establishing bond percentages, and a few other vital tasks. Usually, candidates are provided with all the information required for computations, and they have to determine the proper calculations or formulas based on the question asked.
Writing ability: This test checks your ability to use correct spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation when communicating through writing. This is a necessary skill since correctional officers are regularly required to write reports on all incidents that they respond to, as well as any cases they are currently pursuing.
This can only be accomplished if you are able to provide logical information accurately and coherently. The questions may require you to fill-in a missing word, arrange words in a sentence, or substitute awkward phrases in a sentence. Some states like Massachusetts provide every applicant a downloadable preparation guide.
As you go through a correctional officer exam study guide, you will notice that most correctional officer test questions revolve around topics related to the work you will be doing on a daily basis. Most topics touch on various aspects of professional ethics, crisis response, constitutional rights, health care issues, trial procedures, memorization, and detention facility management.
However, the questions also focus on specific topics like control centers, housekeeping plans, personality disorders, in-take and pat-down procedures, hostage situations, drug abuse, food strikes, inmate rights, elderly and terminally ill inmates, due process, evidence discovery, sentencing guidelines, and first and fourth amendment issues.
How to pass
As I’ve indicated above, the correctional officer exam is extremely broad, and there is really no way to read every single topic that is likely to be covered thoroughly. As such, I’d suggest you go through plenty of sample correctional officer exams online, and if possible, visit the agency’s webpage, sometimes they have practice tests there. I know New York State provide downloadable guides for the following counties in NYS: Nassau, Westchester, Suffolk, Orange, Rockland, and Putnam county.
Study the topics covered in the sample test questions when relaxed and with a fresh mind, to avoid overwhelming yourself and feeling frustrated. Every now and them, you can take timed, correction officer practice tests, to see how ready you are.
Look for several correction officer practice exams to go through before the exam day, and I believe that this should be enough to get you through to advance you to the next round of the application process.
Basic test rules
So, after you have gone through as many correctional officer practice exams as you can, it’s time to sit for the exam. No need to be nervous, as there’s a really good chance that the questions you see are more or less the ones you went through during your studies and preparations. So, get enough rest/sleep on the day before the exam, and:
- Arrive at the exam venue before the scheduled time
- Have a winning attitude and believe that you have the necessary skills and abilities to serve as a correctional officer.
- Carry formal identification that has your photo
- Carry two pencils and a sharpener
- Leave your portable communication devices at home
- Be confident, focused and attentive