Ultimate CritiCall Test Guide: Free Practice, Test Prep & More

The research and writing of this page were contributed by HL Contreras, a former 911 Police Dispatcher. She worked for six years at NCSO and MCCCD, four of them as a trainer of new 911 dispatchers and operators.

Have a question about your upcoming CritiCall assessment? Feel free to send our CritiCall expert an email at any time.


What Is the Criticall Test?

The CritiCall test is a pre-employment test used to screen applicants for public safety dispatcher or 911 call handler and operator jobs in the U.S and Canada. The CritiCall tests are computer-based assessments that ensure test takers possess the necessary skills to perform the required duties of the job, and they're usually administrated in the hiring agency’s offices.

Is the CritiCall Test Hard?

Emergency dispatching is not for everyone. Many people who get hired on as dispatchers don’t finish their training, and dispatching is one of the careers with a higher-than-average turnover rate.

That’s why public safety departments want to ensure they hire candidates that possess the skills and qualities needed to excel on this position. And they do so by using the CritiCall, which simulates the demanding tasks that every 911 dispatcher and call handler perform on every shift.

Get to Know the CritiCall Test Sections Inside Out (+ Sample Questions)

The CritiCall tests include up to 23 different modules and may take up to 3 hours to finish. But don’t worry, you won’t be tested on all 23.

They vary between departments because each public safety agency chooses the specific sections you’ll be tested on.

Now:

Many departments usually don’t disclose which components will appear on their tests. So, your best bet will be practicing the most commonly used one, which we outlined below.

Note that the CritiCall preparation pack found on this page covers all these components completely.

Don't feel like reading? Watch this 5-min video to see the exam's highlights plus a few sample questions.

 

CritiCall Decision-Making Test

Dispatchers must determine which appropriate agency to send to a scene - Fire Department, Police, EMS, or Utility. This module will challenge you with a single task – you’ll have to respond quickly to emergency messages that pop up on your screen and make quick decisions.

However, in other test modules, you’ll perform the decision-making task while doing other tasks at the same time. In addition, this part of this section is often done vocally, so instead of entering the answer into the computer system, you will speak into a microphone.

Here’s a snippet from this category in our CritiCall PrepPack™, which highly resembles what you’ll see on the exam:

CritiCall Decision Making Sample Question

Note that on the real exam, you'll have to follow certain rules while deciding which units to send to the streets. You'll be able to see examples of these rules in our preparation pack.


CritiCall Data Entry Test

The CritiCall data entry test evaluates candidates' ability to take various information segments and details and place them into the correct data field on a computer-based system. This information is provided in various formats, such as written and audio data entry, and includes addresses, phone numbers, names, license plate numbers, etc. Note that some of the data you'll enter is alphanumeric (including the challenging 17-character VIN numbers), meaning it consists of both numbers and letters.

CritiCall Data Entry Sample Question

(This example is taken from the CritiCall exam practice pack.)

During this assessment, you are also tested on your decision-making and multitasking skills. So, you’ll have an emergency pop up while you enter data, requiring you to multitask quickly.


CritiCall Typing Test

The ability to type fast is essential during the Criticall tests (and on your future dispatch job). While there isn’t a particular CritiCall typing test module, candidates' ability to type quickly will be evaluated in several test modules, such as the Data Entry, Cross-Referencing, and Vocalization Summary.

How fast do you need to type?

The minimum typing speed required from a 911 dispatcher candidate is set by the agency you’re applying to. Overall, it ranges from 15 to 50 WPM (Words per Minute), or 4500 to 15,000 KPH. For 911 dispatchers, it’s recommended to reach typing speed of 35 WPM, and to be able to type for at least 5 minutes.

In our full CritiCall PrepPack™, you’ll get exclusive typing practice tests that offer live feedback that follow you as you type and show your accuracy, WPM, keystrokes per minute, and more. This will help you track how your typing speed and accuracy improve the more you practice.

Here’s how the typing platform looks like:

CritiCall Typing Test Sample


CritiCall Call Summarization test

Call-taking may sound like you’re just answering the phone, but it’s much more than that. Depending on the agency, you may answer both emergent (9-1-1) and non-emergency calls for service. This could be anything from an armed robbery in progress to someone calling about a noise complaint or a minor property loss, and you'll need to decipher the differences within the first few seconds of the call.

This section of the test is administered vocally. You will listen to short stories, emergency and non-emergency call simulations, summarize what happened on your computer system, and then enter the correct addresses into their appropriate data fields. Also, you might be asked to answer questions about the information heard on these calls.

Your ability to summarize calls quickly and precisely is one of the most essential skills on these 911 jobs. That's why this test category appears in practically all departments' CritCall exams.


CritiCall Memory Recall Test

Memory is such an essential part of being an emergency dispatcher. Thus, in the CritiCall memory test section, you'll be presented with phrases, letters, or numbers and you'll need to recall the information based on your short term memory. Additionally, you will need to do the same for information given vocally.


CritiCall Map Reading Test

Dispatchers need to know how to read maps so they can send the right emergency service to the correct scenes and locations. In the Map Reading test section, you’ll need to select the best and fastest route while still obeying basic traffic laws, so the appropriate agency gets to the scene safely and legally.

The following is a sample question taken from one of our CritiCall practice tests:

Read the question and select the correct answer.

CritiCall Practice Test Map Reading Sample Question


You are driving north on Albert St next to the shop. you take the second available right turn. Then you take the first right turn and immediately take another right turn, driving west. You skip the first intersection and turn left on the first available turn.

What do you see to your left?

A. The Library

B. The Highschool

C. The Sea

D. The Shop

In the complete PrepPack™, you’ll learn specific tactics that will reduce your solving time, as well as tips and tricks to improve your map reading skills.


CritiCall Spelling Test

The usage of spelling and grammar is critical in emergency services to avoid confusion and errors and ensure that units are sent out based on the right information. This CritiCall spelling test section may be in both written and audio formats.


CritiCall Cross-Referencing Test

This part includes address books where you are required to enter the requested data into the correct table. Moreover, you may be required to enter data via audio recordings verbally. Regardless of the method, you must make sure to compute the data accurately without any errors.

The following excerpt shows how a Cross-Referencing practice question looks like in our PrepPack™:

CritiCall Cross Referencing Example


CritiCall Character Checking Test

In this section, which is also named Character Comparison, you are given two tables of similar data that look nearly identical. You will need to comb through each to figure out where they differ.

This module may also test a candidate's ability to multitask. Often, you’ll need to swift through the data while listening to an audio recording, as presented in the sample below, which is taken from the preparation pack:

CritiCall Character Checking Example


CritiCall Prioritization Test

One major task of being a dispatcher is knowing which emergency is most urgent. Therefore, you will be given situations and rank the urgency of the calls.


CritiCall Reading Comprehension Test

You will encounter various written material as a dispatcher, whether while reading training materials, data from incoming calls, or public safety services. Brushing up on these basic skills before the exams will be of great benefit to you.


CritiCall Sentence Clarity Test

This section is similar to the reading comprehension, where candidates will be given different passages that convey the same message and then need to choose the passage that makes the most sense.


CritiCall Math Test

Mastering basic math skills is an essential part of being a 911 handler/dispatcher. In this field, you are required to keep track of responding to units, the number of units in each district, the number of people at the emergency, and the number of emergency responders at a scene.

To assess your basic math abilities, some departments will administer a designated test portion with math problems, equations, percentages calculations, and more.

Try some of these tests in action using our free CritiCall sample test.


JobTestPrep's Accurate CritiCall Practice Simulations - a Proven Way to Pass the CritiCall Test

The key to passing the CritiCall is knowing exactly what question types to expect and mastering the specific skills that are measured on this assessment.

That’s because the CritiCall is not a standard exam you see at college or high school. It’s a unique assessment that requires you to stay alert for up to three hours and handle situations that you don’t face daily (unless you’re a 911 operator or dispatcher.)

Moreover, the short amount of time you’re given to every question raises the stress levels and may cause you to make critical mistakes.

So, to help you become fully prepared for the CritiCall exam and make a huge step forward in your recruitment process, we crafted a complete CritiCall test prep package that focuses on three powerful tools:

  • Tailored CritiCall practice simulations covering all exam modules with realistic question types that look and feel like the actual thing.
  • Laser-targeted drills aimed to teach you the exact qualities needed to pass the test with high scores.
  • Advanced tactics, explanations, and solving tips to improve your performance under time pressure.

Ready to ace the CritiCall? Let’s do it!

Immediate Access & Money-Back Guarantee


Five Must-Have Dispatcher Skills & How to Improve Them (From a Former 911 Police DIspatcher)

Data Entry

Are you a good, active listener? Can you identify vital information (the Who, What, When, and Where) after hearing it mixed in with ten other facts while a person speaks faster than you can type?

Repeat key points that your caller gives you, such as location and descriptions. This will let them know that you are listening to what they are saying and gives them confidence that you know how to help them.

Helpful hint: Repeating their words will confirm that what you've heard is on point and will also cause the caller to calm down and speak more slowly. Practice identifying the Who, What, When, and Where of scenarios you hear every day - this will increase your chances of success on the Data Entry segment.

Multi-Tasking

Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? What about pat your head and rub your stomach? This is sort of the same multitasking concept. Can you hold a conversation on the phone with your caller at the same time you type that information into your computer system? What about also calling your officer or EMS personnel on the radio to communicate to them where they need to go?

Your attention will be split into many different directions at the same time – often with different emergencies that are all important – and you will need to remember what you are doing, what you already did, and what you still need to do.

Helpful hint: A good dispatcher will most likely type upwards of 85 wpm and can transcribe as a person is talking to them. Need to improve your speed? Search online for free typing tests to increase your touch-typing pace, but don’t forget that you still need to be precise.

Decision-Making

What type of help do you need to send? Police? Fire? Medical? All of the above? Can this call wait for the next available officer or do you need to send someone right now? Do you need to send back-up? If so, who? When do you need to notify your Chain of Command?

These are the types of decisions you will need to make within seconds, but don’t worry, they’ll cover this in your training.

Helpful hint: The answers to these questions will be found in your agency’s policies, but you should have an idea if something needs more critical attention.

Prioritization

Two different calls just came into dispatch at the same time. The first call is to report a noise complaint; the second is to report an injury accident. Which call takes priority? That one seems easy, right? But what if you have an armed robbery in progress at one location, a bleeding head wound somewhere else, and multiple cars that are involved in a car accident on the main road?

You will need to get the most pertinent information as quickly as possible to prioritize your calls and send the appropriate services to the different locations.

Helpful hint: If you are ever not sure, just ask. Chances are, if you tell your coworkers or officers what types of calls you have, people will volunteer to take something off your plate. Remember, we are all on the same team.

Memory Recall

Your computer just crashed. The backup generator kicked on, but not before erasing all the information you typed in the last thirty seconds. Can you remember everything the caller just told you?

What about the person five minutes ago? Can you remember the pertinent details needed in order to send aid to your caller? Which officer was headed to assault call and which officer was responding to the burglary call?

Helpful hint: There are many ways to exercise your brain and improve your short term memory. Don’t just mindlessly enter data without giving it much attention; actively engage your brain and be alert.

The good news is if you aren’t already well-versed in these skills, you can develop them. Like all skills, they improve with practice.

And one last inside tip:

To get a behind-the-scenes look at what dispatching is really like, call your local police department and ask if you can shadow a 911 operator for a few hours.

You'll need to sign a confidentiality waiver, but it will give you a front-row seat of a day in the life of a dispatcher and make it easier for you to decide if you have what it takes to be a 911 dispatcher.


Interpreting Your CritiCall Test Scores

The CritiCall test passing score varies between departments, as every agency chooses different testing components and has slightly different requirements.

That said, the average CritiCall pass mark for most portions ranges between 70% to 75%, with some agencies raising the bar to 80% and even 90% in the most competitive one.

Most agencies and departments don’t reveal their specific cutoff scores. So, to be on the safe side, you should strive to score as high as possible on all the sections.

The following is an example for one agency in Georgia that decided to disclose their pass mark for each CritiCall module:
Test Name Pass Mark
 Keyboarding  35 WPM
 Data Entry MT*  3594 KPH
 Audio Data Entry MT**  1697 KPH
 Call Summarization 1  70%
 Call Summarization 2 MT*  70%
 Cross Referencing  70%
 Cross Referencing (Audio)  70%
 Character Comparison  70%
 Memory Recall  70%
 Memory Recall – Numeric (Audio)  70%
 Prioritization  70%
 Suburban-Rural Map Reading  70%
 Spelling  70%
 Sentence Clarity  70%
 Reading Comprehension  60%

How Is the CritiCall Test Graded?

Your CritiCall test score is graded using three metrics: Keystrokes-per Hour (KPH), Words-per-Minute (WPM), and percentage scores (%) of each section. These are accumulated into an overall score shown in percentages.


Five CritiCall Test Tips to Help You Prepare and Master the Exam

Use the following tips to get the most out of your prep time and increase your chances of passing the test.

  • Prepare for the test using tailored practice materials that simulate the actual testing experience. Don’t rely solely on prep books and the CritiCall study guide because they’re missing critical elements of the real exam, such as the time limits.
  • Focus on learning and improving the skills needed to pass the exam, as outlined in the section above. Don’t waste your prep efforts on the wrong topics or things that don’t matter on the real test.
  • On the actual exam, you’ll have very limited time to answer every question. So, focus on improving your time-management skills so you won’t crack under pressure and get as many correct answers as possible.
  • The CritiCall Dispatcher test uses a negative marking scheme during scoring. Unless you’re informed otherwise in the instructions for each section, you’ll be penalized if you skip any questions during the test.
  • Don’t practice your typing and data entry skills on a laptop. On the real test, you’ll use a regular keyboard. So, you should feel comfortable typing on it and especially using the numbers on the right, making things a lot easier.


What’s the Difference Between the CritiCall Tests and Other 911 Dispatcher Tests?

The CritiCall assessment is used as a major screening tool as part of the application process, but it’s not the only one. There are a few other popular 911 dispatcher tests or 911 operator tests throughout the United States and Canada, such as the Dispatcher Selection Tool (DST™).

Nevertheless, the CritiCall and the DST dispatcher skills test share several common sections, like the 911 dispatcher keyboarding test, listening test, data entry test, and more.

 

Watch the following video to see the most important things about the CritiCall in only 5 minutes.

Play Video preview image


CritiCall Test FAQs

How to pass the CritiCall test?

Knowing what question types appear on the test, how they look like, and how to solve them fast will increase your chances of passing the test. If you have no dispatching experience and you haven't taken the CritiCall beforehand, it will be harder for you to pass the test. That's why preparation is key on this exam and it will be your best chance of success.


How to practice for the CritiCall test?

The best way to prepare for the CritiCall and increase your success rate is by using practice tests that are as similar as possible to the real test. This will ensure you familiarize yourself with all the unique question types, know what to expect, and get used to working under pressure while improving your multitasking abilities.

Is there math on the CritiCall Test?

Yes, some agencies use a dedicated math portion to measure applicants' math skills. This section mainly includes four basic operations questions, percentages, decimals, and fractions. The question themselves won't be straightforward math problems, but rather as part of work scenarios that demand different calculations.


What to wear to the CritiCall test?

Wear a business casual outfit for your CritiCall test. For men – tall pants, button-down shirts, sweaters, leather shoes, leather belt, and a tie. For women – tall pants or conservative-length skirts, sweaters, twinsets, cardigans, knit shirts, or a professional dress.


Can you retake the CritiCall test if you fail it?

Every hiring department has its own retesting policy with no one-size-fits-all policy for the number of times candidates can take the CritiCall dispatcher test. However, if you fail the CritiCall, it will usually result in the termination of your application.


How long does it take to get your CritiCall test results?

It depends on every agency’s hiring schedule. Some hand the results immediately to candidates, while others send out the results only several weeks after all testing dates have been completed.


What does a 911 dispatcher need to know?

Every 911 dispatcher is expected to have a good grasp of basic skills such as math and spelling, as well as excellent map-reading skills and geography knowledge. Besides that, there are certain dispatcher skills, like attention to detail, data entry, multitasking, and the ability to give clear directions, that 911 dispatchers must hold to perform their duties efficiently (and they often use them at the same time).

How hard is it to be a 911 Dispatcher?

it is a hard, stressful, and often thankless job that requires you to work long, abnormal hours and holidays. Yet, it can be an incredibly rewarding career unlike any other. Being a dispatcher makes you the first, first responder.


What does an Emergency Dispatcher do?

Dispatchers are a vital part of law enforcement and emergency response. They are the ones in charge of getting the right information to the right people in order to help others. However, the job is not for everyone. It takes someone with the right skills to be a good dispatcher. Agencies utilize several types of software programs (like the CritiCall) to identify the best candidates for such an important job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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