The path to becoming a police officer is riddled with hurdles, from the extensive background investigations to the challenges of the police academy. It doesn't stop on graduation day, though. In order to make the leap from the classroom to the patrol car, you're going to have to take—and pass—a police officer certification exam. If you want to make it to field training, you need to know how to study for the state exam.
Study the Police Officer Curriculum
Before you go scouring the internet for state police exam study guides, remember this: there is no substitution for actually reading and comprehending the curriculum. True, the police exam is long and there's a lot of material to cover, but the questions on the test aren't going to come from your training officers' lectures.
Test questions are going to come straight from the books. The most important thing you can do to be ready for test day is to become familiar with the curriculum by reading ahead of your daily lessons.
While you're reading, take good notes. Your training curriculum will most likely contain a list of training objectives at the beginning of each chapter or module. Think of those objectives as declarations by the State Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) or equivalent, telling you exactly they want you to learn.
As you're reading the chapter, write down the relevant portions of the text that correspond with those objectives. This will help break the material down into more digestible chunks, which will make it easier to review key information.
Review Your Notes
As you get closer to test day, review your notes. Doing so will jog your memory and bring old information to the forefront, helping it to stay fresh in your mind.
It will also help you recall aspects of training you may not have fully grasped, and remind you to give certain areas or chapters a second look.
Take Certification Practice Exams
Regardless of your state, the chances are high that there are plenty of places where you can find practice test questions, either online or in bookstores. Your academy may even offer them as part of the exam review.
Be careful here. Far too many police recruits rely on practice exams as the primary means of prepping for any exam, much less one so important as a state certification test.
Realize that practice exams are but one tool in your toolbox and, while valuable, can also be dangerous. These are not actual state exam questions, only made-up questions designed to test your ability to recall the objectives.
The best use of practice exams is to narrow your focus by identifying where you're knowledge is weakest. Studying is far more efficient when you know what it is you don't know.
Read and Review Again
With the help of practice tests, you can identify which chapters or sections you don't recall as well as others. When you've identified those areas, go back and reread those chapters, and take notes again while you do. Then, review those notes.
Rest Before the Test
It's easier said than done, but if you don't do anything else the night before the test, be sure to get plenty of sleep. This may be the most important test of your life, and you'll need your faculties firing on all cylinders to be successful.
That won't happen if you're sleep-deprived. Relax, wind down and rest your brain. You're going to have a big day ahead of you.
Remember, there is no substitute for reading your training material. No one can force the knowledge you need into your head. If you follow these tips, though, you'll put yourself on better footing for the exam and be as ready as ever for the big day.