In most criminal justice agencies, one of the most basic components of any promotional process is the promotional exam. Striking fear in the hearts of many criminal justice career professionals, the promotional test is usually the first step in the expanded promotional process.
Passing the test usually guarantees an opportunity to participate in the assessment process, which often includes an oral interview, presentation and written in-basket exercises. Learn how to pass the promotional test to secure your ticket to the "big dance".
Study Early, Study Often
The first key to promotional exam success is to become familiar with the material as early as possible. Depending on the department, agencies typically give their tests either every year or every other year. A couple of months before the test, a bibliography is usually provided so candidates have an opportunity to learn what is expected of them on the exam.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking you can't begin studying before the bibliography is released, though. While the questions will necessarily change from year to year, the material covered will probably not differ significantly. If you can get a hold of a previous year's bibliography, you'll be one step ahead.
Whatever you do, don't wait until the last minute to study for the test. Promotional exams tend to cover a wide range of material, which means a lot of reading for just a few questions.
Trying to cram all that information into a couple of days worth of studying won't help. In fact, it may hurt your chances. Numerous studies, including some conducted by the University of California - San Diego and Harvard Medical School, indicate cramming for a test deprives students of much needed sleep and can cause them to confuse facts, which in turn can lead to poor performance on tests.
Read, Read, and Read Again
No matter what study tactics you employ, there is no getting around the fact that you're going to have to read the material. This is where starting early will really benefit you. Begin by reading the material straight through. Break it up into sections or chapters, whether it's your agency's policy manual or state law.
Set goals, perhaps to read a chapter a night or several chapters each week leading up to the test. Because most tests are multiple choice, reading the material will ensure that when it comes time to take the test, you will have seen the correct answer before and be in a better position to identify it.
After you've read through the material one time, take a second look. This time, make note cards of what you think will be important facts or things to remember. By taking the extra step to write down the information, you'll essentially be reading it twice more, putting yourself in a better position to recall key points when you need to.
Devise Practice Questions
There's no way to know exactly what questions will be on your promotion test. You can, however, create as many practice questions as possible to make sure you have a solid grasp of the material.
Use the notecards you made after your second read through and come up with practice questions and answers to help prep you for test day.
Use Study Groups
Not everything works for everybody, but studying in groups can often help cement your grasp of the exam material. Reading the material is one thing. Talking about it is something else entirely. By studying in a group you will be ale to both ask and answer questions, which means you will not only have read the information, but you will hear it, also, planting it firmly in your mind.
Exercise the Body, Exercise the Mind
It's well known that exercise reduces stress. It may not be as well known that it may also sharpen the mind. According to reports from ABC news and US News and World Report, at least one school in Naperville, Illinois is seeing a significant jump in test scores by placing an emphasis on physical fitness.
Getting good exercise on the day of your promotional test can help wake up your body and get your mind refreshed and ready for the challenge to come.
Feed Your Body and Your Brain
Your body needs fuel to work well. So does your brain. Give yourself and your mind the energy you need to tackle your test. On test day, perhaps the single most important thing you can do is give yourself a good, well-balanced breakfast.
Taking the Test
Believe it or not, there is a formula to developing test questions. In each multiple choice question, there are likely going to be two answer choices, called distractors, that you should be able to eliminate right away. This will usually leave you with two answer choices that could be correct.
If you've studied diligently, you should have no problem choosing the best answer out of the two. What's important to note is that, when taking a multiple-choice test, you want to choose the answer that is best; both remaining choices may be correct to some extent. Your task will be to choose the answer that best fits the question asked.
Read the question fully. Make sure you understand exactly what is being asked. Next, read the answer choices carefully. Eliminate the two distractor choices, and choose the best remaining answer.
Due Diligence Pays Dividends
Successful promotional exam preparation requires a great deal of time and effort. In the long run, though, the work you put in will pay off in a big way. Passing the promotional exam will put you in a position to advance, promote and achieve even greater success in your criminology career.