STEP 4: Destroy the POST Exam
This is STEP 4 of the series 12 Steps to Become a Police Officer: Mindset, Preparation and Equipment for Your First Year.
Police work can be fun. Police entrance exams are…. NOT fun! But, you have to do it, so read this!
You’ve done your research, narrowed it down to a few positions, resolved to succeed and developed your physical training regimen. You are now ready to face one of the most important gatekeepers to the exciting field of law enforcement: the police entrance exam. I will make this step clear by addressing these five questions:
1. What is the POST Exam?
2. What does the exam entail?
3. How do I register for the exam?
4. How is it scored?
5. How do I prepare for the exam?
1. What is the POST Exam?
In short, the POST exam is a state-mandated, standardized test that all law enforcement applicants must pass in order to advance to the next step in the hiring process. I will mention here that the hiring steps vary among agencies. Some departments require you to take the test as a pre-requisite to apply, while others invite you to after you have applied.
“POST” can stand for Police Officer Selection Test, or (as in California) Police Officer Standards and Training. Another common equivalent is the POST Entry-Level Law Enforcement Test Battery (PELLET-B). Go to your state law enforcement training regulatory websites to determine what exam is the standard for your chosen agency. An example of such a website is this one for California: CAPOST.Gov. For this article, I will use the term “POST Exam” to mean all of the exams that may come in different forms or go by different names. They all hold the same function as an entry-level qualifier.
“…the POST exam is a state-mandated, standardized test that all law enforcement applicants must pass in order to advance to the next step in the hiring process.”
2. What does the POST Exam Entail?
In short, the POST exam is normally a 100-200 multiple-choice question test. As the material is protected the testing is strictly proctored and monitored. The facilitator(s) pass out the exams and provide the instructions. You then have a set amount of time to knock it out. Then, it’s “pencils down” and you are then herded out of the room with the other candidates. Results are normally sent out in 3-5 weeks.
One particularly common format for the exam is the PELLET-B. The PELLET-B is a multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank exam to measure your reading and writing ability. You’ll have 2½ hours to complete this test, which is segmented into Spelling, Vocabulary, Clarity, Reading Comprehension and basic logical deduction problems. For more information on CA PELLET-B and practices tests, click HERE.
3. How do I Register to the Exam?
Generally, there are two ways to take the POST Exam.
A. Self-register as a requirement to apply for a position.
B. Take the exam as one of the hiring steps as directed by the prospective agency.
Many states have a centralized testing system, such as the National Testing Network. On that site, you can conveniently schedule your own exam. Often, you will have a choice of testing venues to minimize the commute.
The beauty of centralized testing firms is you can take ONE test to apply for multiple agencies. On the NTN site, you can check which agencies subscribe to NTN and would potentially access your results. If you are only interested in one agency, you check the applicable box, and only that agency will receive your results. If you’d like multiple agencies to get your scores, you can check several boxes (and pay more). Make sure you read each vacancy announcement to ensure you meet the agency’s requirements. That will help you avoid wasting time and money.
Note: Another convenient feature of many of these centralized testing companies, is they will host the physical fitness tests as well.
Take the Exam as Directed
Another common way to take the POST is to simply follow the directions of your agency AFTER you have applied. This usually comes in the form of a generic email to all of the candidates saying “Congratulations – You are now invited to take the POST exam” Yayyy, fun! Well, as fun as police work can be, getting there can be a grind. Just get in the mindset of ‘KILL IT’. Then, you can minimize the number of exams you’ll have to take on your way to getting that badge.
4. How is it Scored?
I want to emphasize a point here: EVERY POINT COUNTS. In larger agencies, there can be over 100 applicants for every vacancy. That is some intense competition. Many agencies (especially in California), you can START at $80-90k salary, with no college degree. In what other industry is this possible? Despite all of the allure that comes with a gun and badge, there is this simple fact: it can be a very stable career choice for people with minimal credentials. It is an especially popular choice for service members transitioning to the civilian sector. So, you need to study more effectively, practice more and take all of necessary steps you can to maximize your score in each category. One or two points can make the difference as to who gets the job and who does not. One point can change your life.
“One or two points can make the difference…”
There is some variance as to how agencies score their tests, but they are basically all separated into weighted categories. Here are some common tests found in CA.
You’ll have 2 and 1/2 hours for the California Highway Patrol (CHP)’s exam which consists of 125 questions on Spelling, Vocabulary, Grammar and Reading Comprehension. The LAPD Exam includes a Personal Qualifications Essay (PQE) to assess your written communication skills.
San Diego Police Department’s Written Exam may be a little more interesting, as it includes Reading Comprehension, Written Communication and Checking Ability, Decision-Making, and Map Reading. The San Francisco Police Department requires you to take a FrontLine National Exam. The FrontLine exam has three parts: Human Relations, Reading Ability and Written Language.
“If you feel like you are stabbing around in the dark, someone with experience can shine a light for you. See IPRSafety.com. “
Take things in their proper sequence.
5. How can I prepare for the Exam?
A good principle to remember in this step is to avoid spinning your wheels. That is, do not spend unnecessary time cramming material that does not apply to your given test. Take things in their proper sequence.
1. Set a strict, progressive schedule and START TODAY.
2. Determine exactly which exam you’ll be taking (PELLET-B, POST, CHP etc.)
3. Do some shopping and find material that most closely matches that material.
4. Schedule time for practice tests. This should be stringent, uninterrupted time. Try to schedule your practice sessions to mirror to the actual testing venue. (You’ll be writing with pencil and sitting for 2-3 hours, etc.)
5. Scrutinize your results with a vengeance. Contacting a qualified police instructor forguidance or even tutoring, such as at IPRSafety.com, can be a vey modest investment if you consider this will be a long and rewarding career. If you feel like you are stabbing around in the dark, someone with experience can shine a light for you.
6. Learn the art of multiple choice: It should always be able to eliminate one, and normally easy to eliminate two.
7. Don’t narrow your focus on just test materials. Subscribe to professional law enforcement periodicals such as Lexipol and Calibre Press. Find a good field guide such as a TacBook to familiarize yourself with common laws, codes and procedures. Having a well-rounded approach will help you with those unexpected “curve-ball” questions.
I hope this helps your understanding of this critical step in the process toward becoming a police officer. The POST exam is not exactly fun, but CHARGE HARD and DESTROY IT nonetheless!
Did I miss anything? Was it on point? Let me know! Also, please comment and share some funny stories or valuable lessons from your POST experience.