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Eight Things You Must Know About the National Police Officer Selection Test

Lieutenant Paul Patti

The following is an excerpt from Paul Patti’s book Deadly Mistakes Police Applicants Make.

The National Police Officer Selection Test (called POST or NPOST) is gaining popularity around the nation as an entry-level written test to gauge mental skills, basic intelligence and education level in police applicants.

The states of Iowa, Utah and Wyoming have mandated the use of the NPOST entry-level written test for their police officer applicants. Also, the following state police chief associations have been recommending the National POST to agencies in their states: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

If you are a potential NPOST test taker, you should study multiple choice questions in the following 8 categories:

1. Reading Comprehension – your ability to understand and retain what you read from a variety of sources such as police reports, witness statements, court documents, etc. You of course should be a high school graduate, and should be reading on between a 10 – 12th grade level, depending on the police agency. Some even require higher reading levels. Check the study guides below if you feel you need extensive help in this area.

2. Vocabulary – Mastery of a vocabulary level that will likely bring success in law enforcement. Don’t forget – you are interacting with with everyone from high school dropouts to attorneys and judges, so a mastery of vocabulary at every level is an important trait. There are between 300 – 1000 common words in law enforcement that you should know the meaning of and be able to use properly in a sentence.

3. Memory – the ability to look at photos, sketches and maps and after a few minutes correctly answer some basic questions about the material. Many texts recommend mnemonics – relating what you read to something in your life making it easier for you to remember. For instance, if you read the name Steve Grogan you might use the memory trick “Grocer” when you saw Steve again, and your brain would translate Steve Grocer into Steve Grogan once it heard this hint.

4. Situational Judgment and Reasoning – given a set of circumstances and conflicting needs and requirements, have the ability to correctly judge a reasonable solution to a problem or set of problems.

Recommended Reading

5. Directional Orientation – given a map with compass directions clearly marked, you should be able to identify streets and locations and follow a route from one location to another using compass directions and simple instructions.

6. Report Writing and Grammar – the ability to write clear and concise sentences and paragraphs using simple correct grammar.

7. Spelling – the ability to recognize and correct common spelling errors in words used most often in law enforcement.

8. Mathematics – The ability to use math to solve problems and daily tasks you will find in law enforcement – the basics of addition, subtraction, division, multiplication and geometry. If you are a minority applicant, be aware of the following important information regarding the NPOST: On April 3rd, 2006, the US Department of Justice sued the city of Virginia Beach, VA, claiming that the use of the Mathematics portion of the POST with a passing score of 70% had an adverse impact against African American and Hispanic Police Officer applicants.

How to Study

Some people believe that the NPOST measures basic intelligence and that it is difficult to prepare for because so many topics are covered, involving so much material. However, it is possible to brush up on the topics you feel you may be weak in, such as mathematics or spelling. Just remember that the POST is definitely a very tough series of exams – AND YOU NEED TO PREPARE! Below are some POST-oriented textbooks we have recommended to our clients to study, so we know they work, and you can also find practice POST exams online at

Additional Reference Material

Police Exam Preparation Book, by Norman Hall

Master the Police Officer Exam, 17th edition, by Steinberg

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