Many people who want to protect and serve know that the application and testing process can be grueling, with involved background checks, mental and physical examinations and a final police test. Though multiple-choice tests are more common, these are sometimes paired with essay questions. By taking your time, demonstrating your communication skills and common sense and showing off your knowledge, these essays can become a tool that helps to get you hired.

Time Management

One of the most important things that any police officer must know is how to prioritize his time, and each police candidate is being judged on his ability to manage time during the essay. Often, the allotted time to finish might not seem like enough. The important thing is to relax, focus and answer the question fully. Writing out a brief outline before you begin can help to ensure that you don't miss anything that you meant to say. Be sure to stick to this outline and keep an eye on the clock to finish in time.


One thing that police examiners are not looking for is flowery, superfluous language. Instead, to-the-point writing that is concise and easily understandable to the reader is the best way to go. Try to think of this as a police report: It needs to be very clear and logical and easily understood by both victims and superior officers. Thus, while writing the essay, try to use as few words as possible while still adequately relaying your point.

Grammar and Mechanics

While it may at first seem as though the mechanics of writing and aspects such as grammar and spelling are unimportant to police work, this is an easy place to score points with whoever is grading your exam. Somebody who is well spoken and knows how to write properly will seem more intelligent in the eyes of the grader, whereas somebody who consistently misspells words or doesn't complete sentences will seem sloppy. So, while it may be impossible to fully relearn proper writing mechanics and grammar before taking your police test, it is helpful to read well-written essays online to see what kinds of conventions are expected and to brush up on essay-writing skills. Writing tips and sample essays can be found on many college websites, such as Dartmouth College's writing materials page or's sample college essays with critiques. (See Resources 1 and 2.) Also, during the test, be sure to read through your essay if you have time, allowing you to correct obvious typos or errors that you may have made.

Knowledge and Judgment

Thoroughness, conciseness and grammar mean nothing if you don't have the knowledge and sensitivity to be a police officer. Departments are looking for empathetic, hard-working individuals who will uphold police values in a way that pragmatically makes sense. Be sure to go over all study materials and topics before testing day and try not to overthink the essay question. Just use common sense, include specific information from training and answer the question with sensitivity and empathy for all hypothetical parties involved and you should nail this part of your police test.

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