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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for shopping guide for best police exam prep books

Becoming a police officer is serious business. There is perhaps no other job that is so dangerous to the individual and so beneficial to society, yet the worker is subjected to relentless public criticism. It takes an incredibly resilient and dedicated person to be a police officer. The first step in achieving that goal is passing the police officer exam. The best way to do that is to prepare with a police exam prep book.

But what essentials does a good police exam prep book need to have? What exactly do you have to know for the test, and what is the best way to study?

The following shopping guide will outline all of this and more. By the time you finish, you’ll know exactly what to look for when shopping for the best police exam prep book.

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The police exam is designed to weed out ordinary candidates because the individuals who make it through need to be extremely resilient and dedicated.

Becoming a police officer

The road to becoming a police officer is long and hard. It’s designed to weed out people who don’t possess the constitution needed for such a demanding position. However, an individual who makes it through the process and can handle the pressures will have a rewarding career. Besides knowing that your purpose is to protect and to serve, you will receive a good salary, benefits that other jobs can't match, and job security.

Why you need a prep book

The police entrance exam comprises many sections. Potential candidates will need to complete a written exam as well as take part in an oral interview. There is a medical and a psychological check as well as a background review and drug screening. Additionally, applicants must take a physical agility test.

While it’s impossible to study for the background checks, character assessment, and drug-screening portions of the exam process, a prep book can help you better understand the physical requirements needed for the job. When it comes to refreshing yourself on the cognitive requirements, however, a prep book is invaluable. In fact, using a prep book could make the difference between receiving a passing and failing grade.

Since applicants are limited to just two written exams in each 12-month period, if you're not fully prepared, it could drastically delay or completely derail your entire process.

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Many of the people who meet all the requirements, pass the tests, and complete the training still end up leaving the force early because the psychological impact of the job is more than most people can endure.

Police prep book essentials

A good prep book is clear and easy to understand. It will not only prepare you for the written part of the police exam – which is much like the SAT – but it will also provide you with a thorough understanding of the entire process from requirements to expectations. Additionally, the best prep books provide practice tests, so you can be sure you’re ready for the real exam.

The following is a list of the essential sections included in a good police exam prep book. Each topic in this list may not have its own separate section, but all of them should be covered in some way.

Overview: Think of this part of the book as the outline. It provides a very broad picture of the world of law enforcement. It tells you what to expect in the coming weeks and months, provide a large-scale strategy, and set you off on a plan of action. It also shows you how it all fits together and why. Another way to think of this section is like the picture on a jigsaw puzzle box: it lets you know exactly what you’re getting into.

Diagnostic: The diagnostic section is a pretest. It exposes your strengths and weaknesses. This section is crucial to the process because it shows you exactly where you need to focus your energies. It also reveals the areas you don't have to worry about.

Grammar and spelling: This is where the tough stuff begins. The grammar and spelling section serves as a comprehensive refresher course on everything you learned in English class throughout school. It reminds you of how to be an effective communicator through the written word.

Reading comprehension: Many of us struggle with reading comprehension. Your mind drifts off, you lose track of vital details, and you walk away with only a vague understanding (at best) of the passage you just read. This section helps you become an ace at storing and recalling details. Basically, it trains you to pay attention.

Mathematics: If you were thinking you could avoid math by becoming a police officer, you were wrong. But don't worry. There won't be too many equations, and everything is rooted in practical applications. The section devoted to mathematics guides you through the essentials up to very basic geometry, such as area calculations.

Recall: Police work demands incredible recall skills. Whether you need to remember specifics at the scene of an accident or you have to quickly reference details from a report you read earlier that day, your memory skills have to be impeccable. This section helps you develop ways to increase the accuracy of your memory.

Police situations: This section of your police exam prep book walks you through situations you might encounter while working in law enforcement. With regard to the written exam, it might not be as essential as the reading, writing, and mathematics sections, but it gives you a clear idea of what to expect on the job.

Strategies: From good study practices to test-taking strategies, this section provides all the hacks. If there are proven techniques for achieving success, this is where you will find them.

Practice tests: Everything that came before was only to prepare you for this moment. This is the part of the book in which you find out if you really paid attention to all the previous sections. Ideally, your book offers more than one exam so you can get nice and comfortable with the test-taking process.

Career opportunities: Not everyone who has a career in law enforcement ends up working on the streets. This section is a great addition because it shows you the options you'll have once you pass the test. In other words, it helps with visualization.

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Did you know?
Although many people strive to be police officers, very few actually make it through the process. Roughly 35% of the candidates pass the test, but only 10% are eventually hired.

Police exam prep book prices

Of all the many considerations you need to take into account when purchasing a police exam prep book, thankfully, cost is not one of them. Most books are comfortably priced between $10 and $15.


The reason many people do not pass the police exam isn't always because they didn't study enough — it can be because they don’t know how to take a test. The following list of ten tips can help you become a better test taker.

  • Sleep. On test eve, sleeping is more important than cramming. Sleeping is actually what gets the information to stick. In short, sleeping improves memory.

  • Study. No, you can't skip this part. If you don’t know the material, your chances of passing are greatly diminished.

  • Walk. Before you take the test, do something to get your blood flowing. Nothing strenuous, just a good 15- to 20-minute walk will help improve your mental acuity.

  • Arrive early. Besides reducing stress, arriving early allows you to become acclimated to your environment and ask any last-minute questions that may be plaguing you.

  • Follow the directions. How many trivia questions did you miss because you named the song title instead of the band? Follow all directions carefully.

  • Remain positive. Defeat first happens in the mind. Stay focused, and don't let a few tough questions shake your confidence.

  • Think. Break the questions into digestible parts, look for clues in the wording, and think it through. Sometimes the answer is actually in the question.

  • Eliminate. If you aren't sure what the correct answer is, eliminating what's wrong could narrow your options enough to let you figure out the correct response.

  • Double-check. Even if you're confident that you've answered everything correctly, before finishing up, take a second look to make sure you didn't misread something or make a clerical error.

  • Relax. Relaxation is a proven method for achieving elevated test scores. Focus, breathe deeply, and let go of the stress. You’ve got this!
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Depending on your city and state, it can take more than two years to progress from passing the police exam to becoming a full-fledged officer.


Q. How much do I have to know about criminology and police work to pass the police exam?

A. The cognitive ability exams are designed so someone without any knowledge or specific training can score as well as individuals with an extensive background in law enforcement. There are other parts during the hiring process when having knowledge, experience, and comprehension of the criminal justice system will be helpful.

Q. Are there any general requirements I'll need to meet before taking the test?

A. Although every police department has slightly different hiring criteria, and more and more departments are elevating their standards, the following are some of the most basic requirements everyone must meet: potential candidates must be a U.S. citizen, be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, have a valid driver's license, have normal or correctable vision and hearing, have no felony convictions, and have no domestic violence convictions.

Q. What is a passing grade?

A. These exams can have anywhere from 100 to 200 questions. In order for a candidate to pass the written exam, he or she must answer a minimum of 70% of the questions correctly. However, passing the test does not mean you’ll be hired. The higher your score, the better your chances. Only the top 10% of candidates are considered.

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