Police Officer Exam For Dummies®

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Table of Contents

About This Book
Conventions Used in This Book
What You’re Not to Read
Foolish Assumptions
How This Book Is Organized
Part I: The Road to Landing a Job as a Police Officer
Part II: Breaking Down the National Police Officer Selection Test (POST) and the NYC Test
Part III: After the Written Test: Meeting Other Requirements
Part IV: Practice Police Officer Exams
Part V: The Part of Tens
Part VI: Appendixes
Icons Used in This Book
Where to Go from Here
Part I: The Road to Landing a Job as a Police Officer
Chapter 1: Signing Up, Getting Screened, and Other Prep Work
Starting with the Notice of Examination (NOE)
Completing a Job Application
Understanding what will get you disqualified
Acting professionally
Taking the Written Test
National Police Officer Selection Test (POST)
New York City Police Department Police Officer Candidate Test
Completing the Personal History Statement
Taking the Law Enforcement Essay Exam
Passing the Physical Ability Test (PAT)
Making a Dynamite Impression during the Oral Board Interview
Undergoing the Medical and Psychological Evaluations
Medical evaluation
Psychological evaluation
What if I Get Eliminated during the Screening Process?
Chapter 2: Preparing Yourself for the Police Officer Tests
Knowing What You’re Up Against on the Written Test
The structure of the National Police Officer Selection Test (POST)
The structure of the New York City (NYC) Police Department Police Officer Candidate Test
Getting the Lowdown on the Other Police Officer Tests
Acing the physical ability test (PAT)
Prepping for the oral interview
Preparing for the psychological evaluation
Getting ready for the medical exam
Part II: Breaking Down the National Police Officer Selection Test (POST) and the NYC Test
Chapter 3: Solving Basic Math Questions on the POST
What Do Math Questions Look Like?
Addition questions
Subtraction questions
Multiplication questions
Division questions
Determining Percentages
What is a percent?
How to find a percentage
Finding Averages
What is an average?
How to find an average
Picking an Answer if You Don’t Know It
Practice Math Questions
Chapter 4: Reading Between the Lines: Reading Comprehension
Comprehending the Reading Comprehension Section on the POST
Longer passages
Definition passages
Examining the Reading Comprehension Questions on the New York City Test
Written comprehension passages
Information ordering passages
Inductive reasoning passages
Deductive reasoning passages
Problem sensitivity questions
Practice Questions for the POST Reading Comprehension Section
Practice Questions for the NYC Reading Comprehension Section
Chapter 5: Expressing Yourself with Proper Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling
Acing Grammar Questions
Choosing the correct verb tense
Watching out for subject-verb agreement
Picking the correct pronoun
Using the right adjective
Identifying complete sentences and fragments
Pluralizing nouns
Excelling at Spelling Questions
Practice Grammar and Spelling Questions
Chapter 6: Stretching Your Memory and Visualization Skills
Getting the Lowdown on Memory and Observation Questions on the NYC Test
Digging deep for memorization questions
Using your mind’s eye for visualization questions
Straightening out information ordering questions
Determining the best course of action
Getting your bearings
Recalling letters and numbers
Practice Observation and Memory Questions
Chapter 7: Reading and Writing Incident Reports
Tackling POST Questions about Incident Reports
Demonstrating comprehension of incident reports on the POST
Answering written questions about incident reports on the POST
Mastering Questions about Incident Reports on the NYC Test
Practice POST Incident Report Questions
Practice NYC Incident Report Questions
Chapter 8: Acing the Law Enforcement Essay Exam
Following the Proper Steps to Craft a Winning Essay
Understanding How Essays Are Scored
Warming Up to Sample Essay Prompts
Practice Law Enforcement Essay Exam Question and Answer
Chapter 9: Completing the Personal History Statement
Becoming Familiar with the Personal History Statement
Getting Ready to Complete the Personal History Statement
Gathering the necessary information
Collecting the necessary documents
Writing the Personal History Statement
Understanding that honesty is the best policy
Following directions and reading questions carefully
Checking your work
Part III: After the Written Test: Meeting Other Requirements
Chapter 10: Putting Your Physical Ability to the Test
Let’s Get Physical: The Whys and Wherefores of the Physical Ability Test
Understanding why police officers need the physical ability test
Breaking down the skill areas of the typical test
Getting the lowdown on the local test
Getting in Shape before the Test
What You Should Know and Do the Day of Your Test
Showing Them What You Can Do: Test Events
One-minute sit-ups
One-minute push-ups
Vertical jump
1.5-mile run
440-yard mobility/agility run
Modified squat thrust
Vehicle exit
Stair climb
Fence obstacles
Trigger pull
Dummy drag
Chapter 11: Presenting Yourself Well in the Oral Board Interview
Comporting Yourself Well
Dressing professionally
Acting professionally
Speaking in front of others
Honing Your Question and Answer Skills
Expecting the right types of questions
Knowing what the interviewers want to hear from you
Sample Scenarios
Interview 1
Interview 2
Interview 3
Assessing the sample scenarios
Chapter 12: Preparing for Medical and Psychological Evaluations
Getting Tested, Poked, and Prodded in the Medical Evaluation
What can you see? Testing your vision
Can you hear me now? Testing your hearing
Not for the squeamish: Blood and urine tests
Breathe in, breathe out: Checking your heart and lungs
How low can you go? Monitoring muscular and skeletal disorders
Other conditions
Understanding What Happens during the Psychological Evaluation
Taking the personality test
Interviewing with a psychologist
Part IV: Practice Police Officer Exams
Chapter 13: Practice Test 1: The National Police Officer Selection Test (POST)
Chapter 14: Answers and Explanations for Practice Test 1
Section I: Mathematics
Section II: Reading Comprehension
Section III: Grammar
Section IV: Incident Report Writing
Answer Key for Practice Test 1
Chapter 15: Practice Test 2: The National Police Officer Selection Test (POST)
Chapter 16: Answers and Explanations for Practice Test 2
Section I: Mathematics
Section II: Reading Comprehension
Section III: Grammar
Section IV: Incident Report Writing
Answer Key for Practice Test 2
Chapter 17: Practice Test 3: The National Police Officer Selection Test (POST)
Chapter 18: Answers and Explanations for Practice Test 3
Section I: Mathematics
Section II: Reading Comprehension
Section III: Grammar
Section IV: Incident Report Writing
Answer Key for Practice Test 3
Chapter 19: Practice Test 4: The New York City Police Department Police Officer Candidate Test
Chapter 20: Answers and Explanations forPractice Test 4
Answer Key for Practice Test 4
Part V: The Part of Tens
Chapter 21: Ten Tips to Help You Succeed on the Exam
Prepare Yourself
Get Plenty of ZZZs
Eat Healthfully
Arrive Early
Carefully Read or Listen to Directions
Read the Questions First
Pace Yourself
Mark the Right Spot!
Take a Guess
Chapter 22: Ten Things to Expect at the Police Academy
Rigorous Rule Enforcement
Physical Challenges
Strength Training
Firearms Training
EVOC Training
Academic Integrity
Language Training
Ethics Training
Human Relations
Field Training Program
Part VI: Appendixes
Appendix A: Law Enforcement Terminology and Resources
Appendix B: Climbing the Law Enforcement Ladder
Major/Deputy inspector
Assistant chief
Deputy chief
Chief of police
Cheat Sheet

Police Officer Exam For Dummies®

by Raymond E. Foster and Tracey Vasil Biscontini


About the Authors

Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice management from the Union Institute & University and a master’s degree in public financial management from California State University, Fullerton. He has also completed doctoral studies in business research.

Raymond has been a part-time lecturer at both the Fullerton and Fresno campuses of California State University, and he was the faculty advisor and chair of the criminal justice program at the Union Institute & University. His experience includes teaching upper-division courses in law enforcement, public policy, technology, and leadership. Raymond has published numerous articles in magazines such as Government Technology, Airborne Beat, and Police Magazine.

His first book, Police Technology (Prentice Hall), is used in more than 100 colleges and universities nationwide. His latest book, Leadership: Texas Hold ’Em Style (BookSurge Publishing), has been adopted by several universities for course work in leadership and several civil service organizations as required reading for promotion, and it has been well received in the wider market.

Tracey Vasil Biscontini is the founder, president, and CEO of Northeast Editing, Inc., a company specializing in the creation of test-preparation products. She holds bachelor’s degrees in education and mass communications from King’s College and a master’s degree in English from the University of Scranton. Recently named one of the “Top 25 Women in Business in Northeast Pennsylvania,” she is a former educator, journalist, and newspaper columnist whose award-winning writing has appeared in national magazines. Since founding Northeast Editing, Inc., in 1992, she has managed educational projects and authored test-preparation and library-reference content for some of the largest publishers in the United States.

Northeast Editing, Inc., is located in a former rectory in Jenkins Township, nestled between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton in northeastern Pennsylvania. Tracey’s company boasts a relaxed work environment that serves as her staff’s home away from home. When they’re not hard at work, the editors and writers at Northeast Editing, Inc., enjoy breaks in a large backyard and welcome hugs from Prince, a stray cat that showed up one day and never left. Tracey lives in Avoca, Pennsylvania, with her husband Nick, son Tyler, and daughter Morgan.

Lindsay Rock is the managing editor of Northeast Editing, Inc., where she has written and edited test-preparation and trade books since 2003. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Pennsylvania State University and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society.

Lindsay currently resides in Exeter, Pennsylvania. She spends much of her free time riding her bright yellow quad through the woods, golfing, and watching Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers football.


To the men and women of law enforcement, who put their lives on the line every day.

Authors’ Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Tracy Boggier, our acquisitions editor, who got the ball rolling; Elizabeth Rea, our incredible project editor, who offered advice and guidance every step of the way; our wonderful copy editors, Caitie Copple, Todd Lothery, and Christy Pingleton; and our knowledgeable technical editors, Stacy Bell and Richard Weinblatt.

Finally, more special thanks to everyone at Northeast Editing, Inc., who devoted countless hours of research and writing to help create this book.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Elizabeth Rea

Acquisitions Editor: Tracy Boggier

Copy Editors: Caitlin Copple, Todd Lothery, Christine Pingleton

Assistant Editor: David Lutton

Technical Editors: Stacy Bell, Dr. Richard Weinblatt

Editorial Manager: Michelle Hacker

Editorial Assistant: Jennette ElNaggar

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Cover Photos: © McCaig

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Sheree Montgomery

Layout and Graphics: Carrie A. Cesavice, Melissa K. Smith

Proofreaders: Jacqui Brownstein, John Greenough

Indexer: Estalita Slivoskey

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Chances are that if you’re reading this book, you’re considering pursuing a career as a police officer. Good for you! Police work is both challenging and rewarding. As a police officer, you’ll earn a good salary — police officers in the United States average about $53,000 a year. Police officers receive overtime pay and excellent benefits such as paid sick leave and vacation time, medical and life insurance, and outstanding retirement benefits.

A police officer’s duties vary somewhat depending on the location of the police department. An officer in a small town may perform a variety of duties, while a cop in a large city may have more specific, routine duties. All police officers keep people safe by enforcing the law. Most spend at least part of their shift patrolling a designated area in a patrol car, on a motorcycle, or on foot. In some areas, police officers patrol on horses or bicycles. During patrols, officers are on the lookout for criminal activity. Their goal is to protect citizens and their property by catching thieves and other criminals and preventing crimes from taking place. They also direct traffic when necessary and issue traffic and parking citations. Police officers write incident reports and sometimes testify at hearings and trials. Other duties include responding to calls about burglaries, robberies, automobile accidents, fires, and domestic disturbances; conducting investigations by interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence; and making arrests.

The police officer hiring process is unlike that of any other job. It consists of much more than simply filling out a job application or sending a résumé and going on a job interview. The police officer screening process involves numerous tests and evaluations designed to ensure that you’re ready to begin training to become a police officer. We wrote Police Officer Exam For Dummies to guide you through this screening process, from finding a Notice of Examination (NOE) to acing the oral board interview.

About This Book

Police work is challenging — and at times it can be stressful and dangerous. For the most part, though, police officers enjoy what they do. They know that their job is important, and they’re proud to serve their communities by keeping them safe. The police officer hiring process involves many steps that we cover in this book, including these:

check.png Obtaining a Notice of Examination (NOE), which tells you that a written exam is being given because of a job opening or openings. This notice tells you where and when the exam will take place, what you have to do to register for the test, and what requirements you must meet to be a police officer in the specified area.

check.png Filling out a lengthy and detailed job application that asks you very specific information such as whether you’ve ever been a defendant in a court action and whether you’ve ever collected unemployment or worker’s compensation insurance. The application also asks you to list each job you’ve held since you were 17 and every address you’ve lived at since elementary school.

check.png Taking and passing a written exam that may test your reading, math, and memory skills, and sometimes your writing skills. Though the written exam may vary a bit from one police department to the next, most departments give either the National Police Officer Selection Test (POST) or a civil service exam such as the New York City (NYC) Police Department Police Officer Candidate Test. We help you review exam skills for both tests in this book.

check.png Completing the Personal History Statement. If you think the job application for a police officer job asks personal information, wait until you complete the Personal History Statement. Most police departments ask you to complete this document when you fill out the job application. The statement probes into your past and your personal life, asking questions such as, “Have you stolen anything?” and “Have you ever used marijuana or any other drug not prescribed by a physician?” You can’t lie on the Personal History Statement — the police department uses it to investigate your background and requires you to complete a polygraph test about the information you provide.

check.png Passing a physical ability test (PAT), which determines whether you’re in good enough shape to make it through the strenuous physical training at the police academy. Like the written test, the PAT may vary in terms of what you’re asked to do — but rest assured that you won’t be asked to go for a relaxing stroll. Expect to exert yourself doing sit-ups and push-ups, running, jumping vertically, climbing stairs, and dragging a dummy. Expect to sweat.

check.png Completing the oral board interview, a test to see how well you answer questions, use common sense, and handle yourself in stressful situations. Members of the oral board include senior police officers and sometimes community leaders. Expect to answer all kinds of questions about your personality and educational and work backgrounds during this interview, which typically lasts about two hours. Does this sound like an interrogation? You bet.

check.png Undergoing a medical and psychological examination to see whether you’re healthy and mentally stable enough to work as a police officer. Expect to have both your body and brain poked and prodded.

In Police Officer Exam For Dummies, we give you all the information you need to make it through each step in the hiring process without being eliminated. We tell you how to prepare for each test and give you a chance to practice. Following the guidance in this book and completing the many practice exercises and tests is a great way to succeed and land a job as a cop.

Conventions Used in This Book

This book uses the following conventions to keep things consistent and easy to understand:

check.png We use the phrase written police officer test to refer to any kind of written test a police department may choose to give its job candidates. When we refer to the National Police Officer Selection Test — the POST — we call it by name. When we refer to a civil service test, we refer to the New York City test (NYC test) because this test is an excellent example of what you may see on a civil service test.

check.png When we discuss the physical test that police candidates take, we call it the physical ability test (PAT). Most police departments refer to this test as the PAT, but some also call it the physical fitness test or the police officer physical exam.

check.png We use the terms medical evaluation and medical exam interchangeably. We also do this with psychological evaluation and psychological exam.

check.png We use boldface to highlight keywords in bulleted lists and the action parts of numbered steps.

check.png We italicize any words you may not be familiar with and provide definitions.

check.png All Web sites and e-mail addresses appear in monofont. When this book was printed, some Web addresses may have needed to break across two lines of text. If that happened, rest assured that we haven’t put in any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. When you use one of these Web addresses, just type exactly what you see in this book, pretending that the line break doesn’t exist.

What You’re Not to Read

Of course, we’d love it if you read every word of this book — we wrote it, after all. We also understand, however, that life is hectic and time is limited, so here are some portions that you’re able to skip over without putting yourself at a serious disadvantage:

check.png Sidebars are the shaded boxes you see throughout the book that provide extra information or detailed examples. Though you’ll likely enjoy the gems of knowledge in the sidebars, they don’t necessarily give you an edge on the exams, so feel free to read them later.

check.png If you know you’re going to take the National Police Officer Selection Test (POST), you can skip the information in this book about the New York City (NYC) Police Department Police Officer Candidate Test — and vice versa. If you know you’re going to take a civil service test, concentrate on the NYC test information.

check.png The same holds true for the practice tests. If you know you’re going to take the POST, complete the practice tests in Chapters 13, 15, and 17. If you know you’re going to take the NYC test, complete the practice test in Chapter 19.

check.png Part V contains tips to help you succeed on police officer exams and tells you what to expect at the police academy. You don’t need this information to pass either the POST or the NYC test.

check.png We include the information in the two appendixes in the back of this book because we think you’ll find it interesting. However, you don’t need it to become a police officer.

Foolish Assumptions

We all know what happens when we assume, but while writing this book, we decided to live dangerously and make the following assumptions about you, our reader:

check.png You’re interested in becoming a police officer, and you want to know more about the job and the hiring process.

check.png You want to take some police officer practice tests so that you know what to expect and what to focus on when studying.

check.png You want to prepare yourself for each step of the police officer hiring process to help ensure your chances of overall success.

check.png You understand that successfully completing all exams, interviews, and evaluations means that you qualify to begin training to become a police officer. You know that patrolling the beat doesn’t occur until after you’ve received extensive training at a police academy.

check.png You can read, speak, and understand the English language reasonably well. (Writers of police officer exams assume this, too.)

How This Book Is Organized

This book is divided into six parts and 22 chapters. The table of contents outlines the specifics, but the following is an overview of what you can expect to see.

Part I: The Road to Landing a Job as a Police Officer

It’s not easy to become a cop. The screening process is long and difficult. You have to pass several tests to be considered for a job. Before you can start, you have to obtain a Notice of Examination (NOE). In Part I, you find details about the NOE and an overview of the various tests you have to take — either the National Police Officer Selection Test (POST) or the New York City Police Department Police Officer Candidate Test, the physical ability test (PAT), the medical and psychological evaluations, and so on.

Part II: Breaking Down the National Police Officer Selection Test (POST) and the NYC Test

If the written exam makes you a bit nervous, turn to Part II, where you find details about and practice questions for two common written police officer tests: the POST and the NYC Police Department Police Officer Candidate Test (sometimes called the NYC test for short). Subjects on these tests include basic math; reading comprehension; grammar, punctuation, and spelling; memory and visualization; and incident reports. In Part II, we devote a chapter to each of these subjects to prepare you for the written exam, and we also discuss the Law Enforcement Essay Exam and the Personal History Statement.

Part III: After the Written Test: Meeting Other Requirements

The written police officer test is just the tip of the iceberg — police officer candidates must also pass a physical ability test (PAT), shine during an oral board interview, and undergo medical and psychological evaluations. We cover each of these tests in Part III. Chapter 10 tells you what you have to do to ace the PAT — and no, eating doughnuts isn’t a category on the PAT. Chapter 11 tells you what to expect during the oral board interview, and Chapter 12 gives you a heads-up on the medical and psychological evaluations.

Part IV: Practice Police Officer Exams

Want to try your hand at taking a written police officer exam? Part IV includes four practice exams: three POSTs and one NYC test. And because practice exams aren’t much good to you unless you can check your answers, we include answer and explanation chapters for each exam.

Part V: The Part of Tens

The Part of Tens is a standard element of For Dummies books. Chapter 21 gives you some tips to help you succeed on police officer tests. Chapter 22 tells you what you can expect at the police academy — lots of studying and physical training.

Part VI: Appendixes

Although the information in Part VI isn’t mandatory — you don’t need it to pass any of the police officer exams — you may find it interesting and helpful. Do you know the difference between a burglary and a robbery? Are homicide and first-degree murder the same thing? Appendix A defines these terms and many others, along with codes such as FTA (failure to appear) and a 10-80 (a chase in progress).

Appendix B guides you through the law enforcement chain of command.

Icons Used in This Book

To make this book easier to read and simpler to use, we include some icons that can help you find key ideas and information. Keep an eye out for them.

tip.eps This icon appears next to information that may benefit you during the various steps of the hiring process. This information can save you time and effort.

remember.eps When you see this icon, you know the information that follows is especially important to keep in mind.

warning_bomb.eps This icon highlights information that may pose a threat to your success on the police officer exams.

example_gre.eps This icon points out sample questions that appear in the review chapters.

Where to Go from Here

The great thing about For Dummies books is that you can start wherever you want and still find complete information. Want to know how you’d perform on a police officer exam without any preparation? Turn to Chapter 13 and take a practice test, and then check your answers in Chapter 14 to see how well you did. Are you more interested in a specific subject, like incident reports? Check out Chapter 7. The point is that you don’t have to read this book from cover to cover. You can start wherever you think you need the most work, using the table of contents and the index to help you find particular topics.

If time is of the essence, find out whether you’re taking the POST or a civil service exam such as the NYC test, and turn to the appropriate chapter for information relating to the test you’re going to take. If you’re not sure where to start, we suggest Part I, which outlines the police officer hiring process from locating a Notice of Examination (NOE) to passing the medical and psychological evaluations.

Part I

The Road to Landing a Job as a Police Officer


In this part . . .

To apply for most jobs, you simply send in a résumé or fill out an application. Then you’re called for a job interview. If you’re qualified for the job and make a good impression, you may receive a job offer. If only becoming a police officer were this easy! To land a job as a cop, you must undergo a lengthy screening process during which you complete at least one written test, a physical ability test (PAT), an oral board interview, and medical and psychological evaluations — and you’re still not finished. After you make it through the screening process, you’re on your way to the police academy.

In this part, we guide you through the police officer screening process, or what you need to do to become a police officer. We tell you where you can find a Notice of Examination (NOE), which tells you how to register for the written test. We also explain how to fill out an application for a police officer job and how to prepare for the police officer tests.