Part 4 - The Written Pre-Employment Examination
Deputy Bob Cooley
Many agencies large and small have some form of a pre-employment examination with questions that cover a variety of topics. I have taken many different types of pre-employment examinations and the questions differ from agency to agency. Some are based on Civil Service examinations others are made up from questions from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and still others are examinations that make the examinee think they are taking the SAT’s! It can be a confusing and nerve wracking experience when you go into an examination session not knowing what to expect.
First, if the agencies you’re applying to have examinations ask if they have sample questions or a study guide. If they don’t try to find out what the examination questions are based on. Many large agencies have a “Civil Service Test” and study guides can be purchased in any good bookstore, office supply store or the Internet. Spend the money and buy the study guide! The questions may or may not be identical to the ones in the study guide, but at least they will give you some idea of what might be included.
Second, if you have a study guide then by all means devote a sufficient amount of time in your daily schedule to go over it. Don’t try to cram for the examination at the last minute because more times than not you will only overload your brain and you’ll end up doing poorly on the exam. You must decide how much time to devote to studying and that I leave up to you. You know from your past educational experience how many hours it took for you to study to obtain the good grades in high school or college. If it worked for you then there is no reason for it not to work for you now.
Third, dress comfortably for the examination day in appropriate attire that reflects a good impression. I have seen applicants show up at examination sessions in torn jeans, unshaven (no that doesn’t apply to women), tank tops, flip flops and a variety of other attire which instantly sends the wrong message. I personally have proctored examination sessions and when I see someone come into the examination session dressed like they are going to clean out the garage then the first thing that pops into my head is “who is THIS person.” If you make a bad impression at the examination session it could very well spill over into the background investigation. Use good common sense in this situation it will pay off in the long run.
Fourth, bring at least one #2 lead pencil and one ballpoint pen (black ink) to the examination session. Most personnel departments will supply pens or pencils for the examination, but if it is an open session where there is a potential for a large turnout then by all means come prepared.
Fifth, be sure to get good nights sleep the night before the examination session. I know you will be excited, worried, nervous, tense or a combination of those and other feelings, but at least try. Don’t drink a lot of coffee, tea or caffeinated soda before the examination as this may very well have adverse effects on your ability to successfully complete the exam. You’ve heard the expression “Wired for sound,” well that’s a good way to illustrate what happens when you drink too much caffeine. You may also find yourself in a position of severe discomfort after the proctor announces, “Once the examination begins no one may leave the room for any reason.” I have seen this many times and I instantly know who has had too much caffeine to drink by how much they squirm in their seat!
Sixth, follow the instructions on the examination booklet or verbally from the proctor. Don’t leave unanswered questions; if you don’t immediately know the answer go to the next question then come back to the questions you haven ‘t finished. Unanswered questions will have a negative effect on your score no matter what. If you’re simply not sure or don’t know the answer it’s better to take a guess than to leave the answer blank. If you don’t understand the question then ask the proctor for an explanation to help you answer the question correctly. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help from the proctor that’s what they are there for in addition to keeping the examination session honest.
Seventh, keep your eyes on your own examination papers! I know you’ve heard that so many times from your high school teachers you probably want to scream “I know” if you and I were sitting face to face right now. You have to understand that cheating on an examination for pre-employment could disqualify you for any further consideration! Once that stigma is attached to you it may follow you to other agencies.