Police Hiring Process: How to Become a Police Officer in 2024








Shir Enzer

Shir, Civil Service Assessments Expert at JobTestPrep.

Have a question? Contact me at: ask_the_team@jobtestprep.com

The following steps comprise the police hiring process. While their order might vary between states and
departments, they are basically the same across the U.S:

#1 Application

The first step is to fill out a long and tedious application packet. Prepare to get into all the nitty-gritty
details of your background, education, work experience, extracurricular activities, and lots more.

Now, watch out for this:

Some departments will ask you questions about your application form when performing the polygraph
exam. So, don’t lie or exaggerate when filling it out and try to stay consistent with your answers.

Additionally, make a copy of your application packet. Applications sometimes get lost in the bureaucracy, so it's a good idea to have another copy in case you need to re-send it.

#2 Police Written Exam

The police written test (also known as the law enforcement entrance exam) has two goals: to evaluate
your general knowledge and to judge your common sense. And, although there are many versions and
styles to this test, they all have the same intention.

The exam will assess you on these skills and proficiencies (open to see the full list):

• Reading Comprehension
• Vocabulary
• Spelling
• Grammar
• Math Reasoning
• Deductive Reasoning
• Inductive Reasoning
• Information Ordering
• Problem Sensitivity
• Spatial Orientation or Map Reading
• Visualization
• Memorization
• Selective Attention

*Note that not all these sections will appear in your exam, as the tests vary between agencies

Let’s review each of the most popular law enforcement entrance exams. Click on the test’s
name to learn more about it.

Test Topics You’ll be Tested on

  • Writing Ability: Clarity, Spelling, Vocabulary
  • Reading Ability: Reading Comprehension, Cloze test
  • Reasoning ability
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Basic Math
  • Language and Grammar
  • Reading Comprehension
FrontLine Test
  • Video-Based Human Relations and Judgment Test
  • Incident Observation and Report Writing Test
  • Reading Comprehension
MTA Police Exam

NCJOSI-2 Exam:

  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Flexibility of Closure
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Information Gathering
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Selective Attention
  • Spatial Orientation
  • Verbal Comprehension
  • Verbal Expression
  • Visualization
  • Situational Judgement Test (SJT)
  • Behavioral Attributes
  • Memorization
  • Written Comprehension
  • Written Expression
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Written Comprehension
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Information Ordering
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Written Expression
  • Work Styles Questionnaire (Personality Test)
  • Details
  • Spelling
  • Words Usage
  • Clarity and Grammar
  • Reading Comprehension


  • Problem Solving Ability
  • Reading Comprehension (or Verbal Comprehension)
  • Mathematics
  • Writing Ability


  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Flexibility of Closure
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Information Gathering
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Selective Attention
  • Spatial Orientation
  • Verbal Comprehension
  • Verbal Expression
  • Visualization
  • Situational Judgement Test (SJT)
  • Written Expression
  • Written Comprehension
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Information Ordering
  • Work Styles Questionnaire
  • Life Experience Survey
Nelson-Denny Reading Test 
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading Comprehension

Not sure which law enforcement entrance exam you’ll be taking? No worries.

We’ve got you covered with a complete and all-inclusive prep for all types of tests you may encounter.

Check it out on our dedicated police exam practice pageOr find more sample questions on the PELLET B Free Practice

#3 Police Oral Board Interview

Applicants consider this the most intimidating step of the police hiring process.
The oral board panel is made up of three to five people and heavily weighted on the law enforcement

These include training officers, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and sometimes even the chief.
And their job is to get inside your brain.

They want to figure out if you’re a reasonable person, see if you have common sense and if you can
think quickly on your feet.

To summarize, their main goal is to flush you out of the system (as harsh as it sounds).
Your job, on the other hand, is to show the board you’re a top candidate
that deserves to be a police officer.

Here are a few valuable tips to help you prep and pass the Oral Board:

  • Dress well: Cover tattoos and body piercings. Men - wear a suit and tie, get a haircut, shave,
    look professional. Ladies - wear a classy dress or a business suit and put your hair up.
  • Know the Mission Statement by heart: Make sure you know the agency’s Mission Statement
    inside and out before you enter this panel interview. It will immediately put you at the top of the
    candidate list.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions: But don't ask about the pay or the benefits. Ask about future
    promotion, requirements for other departments, training opportunities in the department, etc.
  • Master the interview scenario questions: These scenario-based questions don’t have right or
    wrong answers, but the panel members might try to trip you up like your answer is wrong.
  • Under no circumstances should you change your answer. It’s crucial to stick with and be
    confident in your answers, or else the panel might see you as indecisive or hesitant.

The following are some of the questions you’ll likely be asked during the police panel interview. Make
sure you come prepared with good answers and learn how to articulate them:

  • Why do you want to work for this department specifically?
  • Have you sent applications to other departments, and why?
  • What do you think separates you from the other applicants?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
  • Have you read the description of what you're applying for?

#4 Police Physical Test

There are strict physical requirements you need to meet to become a police officer. And they are
measured during the Police Fitness Test, also named the Physical Ability Test (PAT).

The PAT includes the following:

  • Push-ups
  • 300-Meter Run (not in all agencies)
  • Sit-ups
  • 1.5-Mile Run

The physical requirements differ between female and male police officer candidates. Check out New
York State’s minimum physical fitness norms to get a general idea of these requirements.

#5 Police Polygraph Test

All police applicants must go through a lie detector test – either via polygraph or CVSA, which measures
your voice.

The polygraph checks for physiological differences from you telling the truth, telling a little lie, and
telling a big lie.

The polygraph operator establishes that with three types of questions:

  1. Irrelevant questions – These are questions you’re not going to react to, such as: Is you name X?
    Do you live in Y?
  2. Control questions – Questions in which the police are expecting a little white lie, but not a
    disqualifying lie. So, with that little lie, they can measure your minor reactions.
  3. Real relevant questions – These have to do with whether you’ve been truthful in your hiring
    process. For example: did you disclose all your drug use? Have you ever used hard drugs? Have
    you ever done something else than what you mentioned in your application packet?

They’re looking at comparisons between these three questions types. So, they’re going to repeat that
series of questions two-three times, compare the results, and then the polygraph operator will
determine if you’re truthful or not.

Here are some other examples of common police polygraph questions:

  • Do you use alcohol on a regular basis?
  • Have you ever shoplifted or stole money or merchandise from an employer?
  • Did you commit a crime that has not been detected?
  • Have you concealed anything in your background that would affect your chances for this
  • Were you involved in a physical fight with another person?

As mentioned, some departments may ask you questions about your application form,
so you must stay aligned with the answers you gave there.

And one last tip:

Take a second before you answer a question but stay consistent with that throughout the polygraph.
This means you shouldn’t give quick answers to certain questions while taking your time with others,
because this will immediately raise a red flag.

#6 Police Psychological Exam

The police psych test causes a lot of fear and distress to applicants. But if you know what to expect from it,
you’ll be able to calm your nerves and pass it with no problem.

The test checks for psychological disturbances, concerns about aggressive behavior, and major
emotional and psychiatric issues.

There are two parts to the police psych test:

  • Written personality test: You’ll take between one to three police personality tests (overall
    about 400-600 questions). Every department may administer a different psych test, and many
    use external test providers for that, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory(MMPI).
  • Interview with a trained psychologist: After finishing the written tests, you’ll meet with a
    psychologist. They will ask you about your background, how you deal with problems, your
    emotional reactions, your relationships, what your expectations are for the job, etc.

Now here’s the thing about the test:

The personality test providers want you to think that there are no right or wrong answers, however, this
couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are some crucial things you should be aware of before taking the test. And you can definitely
prepare for it, no matter what they tell you.

Check our dedicated police psychological exam page to get more inside information, pro tips, and prep
for the test.

#7 Police Background Investigation

The police background check is a very thorough process that may take between six weeks to a year,
depending on how easy or complex your background check is.

How thorough exactly?

They will call friends, people who you know (sometimes even your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend), past
employers, teachers, and college professors. They will also check your driving record history, education
information you provided, and some agencies will even check your credit history.

There are some things that, if found on your background check, can disqualify you from being a police officer:

  • Felony convictions
  • Felony arrests without a conviction
  • Serious drug use
  • Domestic violence in your past
  • Excessive driving tickets
  • Large financial debts
  • Poor credit history
  • Dishonorable discharge from military service
  • Poor employment record
  • False or incomplete information given on the application form

However, not all these things mean that you will never pass a police background investigation.

Some can be healed with time. For example:

  • Bad credit
  • Not paying your bills
  • A minor arrest for drinking in public or underage (as long it’s not a pattern)

If you have one of those, you have to be patient and let time do its thing. Wait a few years before
applying and maintain a clean record until then.

And when asked about these minor issues, show responsibility, maturity, and own up to your mistakes.

#8 Police Medical Exam

The medical evaluation exam is quite thorough. Departments use it to ensure you’re in a good overall
health with no condition that may restrict you from conducting daily tasks as a police officer.

As the police training academy is tough, failing to be in a good overall physical condition may delay or
even cause dismissal from the academy.

The physician who runs the exam will check the following:

  • Your medical history (don’t lie as it will be checked during your background investigation)
  • Your vital signs – temperature, pulse, blood pressure, height, weight
  • Vision test
  • Hearing test
  • Blood and urine test
  • Muscular and skeletal tests
  • Treadmill and/or stress test

Here are some of the conditions that may disqualify you from being a police officer:

  • BMI of less than 18.5 or over 30
  • A vision of less than 20/30 in each eye (corrected and uncorrected)
  • Color blindness
  • Severe illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, and more
  • Major injuries that prevent you from using a full range of motions

#9 Police Drug Test

Getting a positive result on the police drug test is an immediate disqualifier in any department. If you’ve
come this far on the hiring process, you have to make sure this one won’t trip you up.

The drug testing is done using urine or hair samples. Drug traces in hair, as opposed to urine, may go even a few years back. So, keep in mind that in some
departments it’s not enough to be clean just for a few months.

#10 Interview With the Chief (Optional)

This is often the last of your series of interviews. In this interview, the chief or sheriff will want to get a
feel for whether you’ll be a good fit for the department.

As with the Oral Board interview, arrive at the interview in a suit, tie and polished shoes.

Some of the questions the chief or sheriff might ask you are:

  • Who is the best/worst boss you’ve ever had?
  • Why do you want to work for our department?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years?

Learn more about your upcoming police written exam using these dedicated prep pages. If you’re
unsure what type of written test you’ll be taking, go with the all-inclusive police exam practice.


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