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A Police Situational Judgment Test (SJT) is a common part of the selection process for law enforcement positions. It’s designed to assess your ability to handle situations that you are likely to encounter on the job. The test presents various scenarios that a police officer might face and asks you to choose the best response from a set of options. The aim is to evaluate your judgment, problem-solving skills, interpersonal effectiveness, and adherence to law enforcement principles.

What is the Police Situational Judgement Test?

Situational Judgement Tests (SJT) are pre-employment assessments designed to evaluate a candidate’s situational judgement in real-life scenarios. Applicants interested in entering into law enforcement must pass an SJT that includes specific situations police officers may encounter, such as high-stress or potentially harmful situations.

How Are Candidates Assessed?

Police candidates may encounter an SJT in either a written or verbal format. Some police pre-employment assessment stages require candidates to take a ‘video exam’ that includes short clips of real-life scenarios. Candidates are expected to reply verbally with the best decision on how to proceed. Alternatively, candidates may also encounter an SJT in written form, which includes word problems with multiple choice answers and a ranking of answers from ‘best’ to ‘worst’ regarding a specific situation. All questions are designed to test decision-making and problem-solving skills, as well as instincts and reaction-time.

Types of Questions

Depending on the exam, candidates can expect a range of situational judgement-based questions that include:

  • Appropriate Response: Candidates are presented with a hypothetical scenario and must choose the correct response for the best outcome.
  • Ranking: Candidates must rank answers for a scenario from ‘most appropriate’ to ‘least appropriate.’
  • Response Selection: Candidates must choose both the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ responses to a scenario.
  • Verbal Response: If the SJT given includes a video portion, candidates must respond in real-time, in their own words, the best way of handling a given situation.

Examples of Questions

Here are some hypothetical situations a Police SJT candidate may encounter on the test, including both police-specific and general workplace scenarios:

  • Appropriate Response: The following scenario provides four answers a candidate must choose from, and why that response is the most appropriate.

A coworker leaves work early, and you don’t recall them telling their superior. What do you do?

  1. Say nothing. It’s none of your business.
  2. Immediately tell the manager.
  3. Confront them with your suspicions.
  4. Speak to your coworker later to clarify.

  • Ranking: The following includes a scenario and four responses which candidates are expected to rank from ‘most appropriate’ to ‘least appropriate’ and the rationale behind their ranking.

You overhear an employee accusing a person of shoplifting. How do you respond?

  1. Ignore it: Least Appropriate. This response does not resolve the issue, and is in direct conflict with a police officer’s duties.
  2. Speak with both the employee and customer: Appropriate. This response deals with the issue, but does not include the best possible outcome, as it invites the opportunity for falsehoods and bias.
  3. Ask to see the security footage to verify the claim: Most Appropriate. This response addresses the issue without purporting false accusations. It allows for the facts to be presented, and the issue to be resolved.
  4. Arrest them on the spot: Counterproductive. This response is not appropriate, as it makes unnecessary assumptions with no basis of fact, and could lead to more issues rather than resolving the original.
  • Response Selection: The following scenario includes four potential responses from which candidates must choose both the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ answers based on their outcomes.

You witness someone attempting to remove a bike lock with bolt cutters. What do you do?

  1. Confront them: This response would be considered the ‘best,’ as it handles the situation efficiently and prevents misunderstandings.
  2. Call for back up: This response is appropriate, but not the best.
  3. Arrest them on the spot: While ignoring the problem is not an appropriate response, this response jumps to conclusions and causes the potential for greater issues, therefore this would be considered the ‘worst.’
  4. Ignore it: This response is inappropriate but not the worst.
  • Verbal Response: If candidates are shown a video of a scenario, they are expected to respond verbally with no pre-prepared answers. The following includes a hypothetical description of a video, and a potential response.
  1. Video: While on the job you are approached by someone who is visibly upset and angry. Their words are vulgar and inflammatory. How do you respond? Response: “The language you’re using is unacceptable, and I ask you to please stop or you will be detained.”

This response is ideal. It addresses the issue firmly and calmly, seeks to correct the inappropriate behavior, and also provides the person with a warning should they continue.

What a Police SJT is Looking for from Candidates

Situational Judgement Tests – police or otherwise- are ultimately designed to assess a candidate’s problem-solving skills as well as their decision-making skills. A Police SJT is also used to determine a candidate’s compatibility with the role: as answers dictate how they would react in real-life; candidates must respond with the best answers that proves they can keep a level head in stressful situations. Candidates who can choose the best answers as quickly as possible are more likely to make the right decisions based on their instincts when they arise on the job. Applicants are expected to display excellent leadership, competency, communication, and reasoning skills in their responses.

How Can Candidates Prepare for a Police SJT?

When preparing for the Police Situational Judgement Test, it is important to keep in mind that candidates are not expected to choose responses based on memorization of answers. As the test is timed, applicants are also not given much time to second-guess their responses: this is to simulate the split-second decisions police officers sometimes must make.

Therefore, it is imperative that candidates study for the Police SJT to familiarize themselves with the types of questions and scenarios that they may encounter on the test to cut down on the time it takes them to answer. Candidates who study for the Police SJT are more likely to answer efficiently and correctly in the given timeframe, which will increase their chances of entering law enforcement.