How To Fast Track Your Career

Being a police officer is a very difficult job. Making it through the application and evaluation process to get hired is also extremely challenging. The applicant has to demonstrate their qualifications for a career in law enforcement and do so in a number of areas including physical fitness and mental acuity. The arduous application process is not designed to ‘make people fail’ but is purposefully challenging to maintain a very high standard for police work.


Once you’ve submitted an application to a police department the first step toward becoming an officer is the written exam. The specific makeup and format of the written test varies from department to department. Some departments use a written exam rented from outside companies that specialize in test creation and administration. Other departments use a test prepared by a state government agency charged with maintaining a standard of excellence for law enforcement officers (often called POST, short for ‘Peace Officer Standards & Training‘). Smaller departments often write their own written exam.

The goal of every police officer candidate is to get hired by the department as quickly as possible. The best way to expedite the process is to perform exceptionally well on the written police test. The higher score you earn on the test, the higher you’ll be on the eligibility list. A top five score will identify you as a highly qualified candidate, and that will get you hired faster. It’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the written exam just like you’d get yourself in shape for a physical fitness test. These tips will help you be well prepared for the first step toward earning your badge.


One of the primary goals of the written exam is to evaluate your ability to understand and critically analyze what you read. Processing information and quickly acting on it is obviously important for a police officer. Strong reading comprehension skills will also help you excel not only on your police test but any test. If you’ve fallen out of the habit of reading since high school now is the time to start again. Keep in mind that evaluating what you read is equally as important. Think about the meaning of what you read, discuss it with other people or write about it in a notebook. This skill is what separates people who do well taking tests from those who don’t. The better your analytical reading skills, the better you’ll perform on your written police test.


The written police test will include a number of questions intended to measure your ability to use good judgment to make the right decision in tricky situations. You obviously won’t be expected to have a full knowledge of police procedure, but you will have to demonstrate your ability to understand the situation and take the best course of action.

To some degree, these questions measure your ‘common sense’ but the more you understand about the police mindset, the better you’ll do. One good way to learn how police officers react to situations is to go on a ‘ride along’ making sure to take notes and ask questions. Another sound strategy is to take as many ‘practice tests’ as possible. Practice tests are readily available online and will not only familiarize you with what to expect but help provide some perspective on the way police officers think about situations they face in the field.


No matter how well prepared you are for the written exam it won’t do you any good without solid test-taking skills. Make sure to read every question and each answer option thoroughly. If you’re unsure about an answer skip the question and keep going. You can come back to it later. Once you decide on an answer ‘let it go’–don’t second guess or change questions that you’ve already answered.

Make sure to get enough sleep the night before your test. Arrive at least 15 minutes early so you’ll have time to get situated and relaxed before the exam begins. It’s also a good idea to have breakfast before the test–hunger pangs midway through the exam can be very distracting.
Don’t think of the written exam as a mere formality–it is your first opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve got the makings of a good law enforcement officer and to distinguish yourself from other candidates. A high score on the written exam will move you to the top of the eligibility list and put you on the ‘fast-track’ to a successful career as a police officer.

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