Police SEARCH Assessment Centre Online Preparation for Police Constables – 2021

employment test interview

The College of Policing is the professional organization for police and support staff in England and Wales. Part of its recruiting process for police constables is the SEARCH Assessment Centre. The purpose of SEARCH is to determine whether candidates have the personality traits and cognitive abilities they need to succeed at the job.

The assessment centre consists of four exercises, as described below. Candidates must also demonstrate their written communication skills, either as part of the assessment centre or separately.

It’s important to note that, in 2018, some UK police forces began piloting a new programme called the Day One Assessment Centre. The Day One centre covers similar topics to the SEARCH centre but involves different technology such as tablets and virtual reality. Before you begin preparing, be sure to confirm which assessment centre you will need to complete.


What Is the Police SEARCH Assessment Centre?

The assessment centre process takes about five hours, including a short break between exercises. You will need to bring proof of your identity. This proof can be a full 10-year passport or two other forms of identification, such as a driving license and birth certificate. When you arrive, you’ll have an opportunity to ask any questions you have about the assessment.

Keep in mind that your behaviour during the entire day, including breaks, reflects your suitability for police duty. It’s essential to be polite and professional. When instructions are given, listen, and follow them carefully.

The four exercises you will complete during the assessment centre are the interview, numerical and verbal ability tests, and a set of interactive exercises.



There are four questions you will answer during the interview. You have five minutes to answer each question, so the interview lasts a total of 20 minutes. The interviewer will monitor the time and ensure that you don’t go over five minutes for any one question.

The first two questions relate to your traits and values and whether they would be a suitable fit for police work. The other two questions are about specific scenarios you may have encountered in the past.

All of the questions relate to core competencies, which include the following. Each competency is followed by an example question.

  • Serving the public: for example, describe a time when you had to work with members of the public
  • Service delivery: how would you manage if you had to complete several different tasks with the same due date?
  • Openness to change: describe a time when your organization changed a policy or procedure. How did you adjust to the change?
  • Decision making: how would you respond if a direct supervisor asked you to do something that contradicted standard procedures?
  • Working with others: have you ever found a particular person challenging to work with? How did you react?
  • Professionalism: if a colleague was misbehaving at work, how would you respond?

Your ability to communicate clearly is as important as the information in your answers.


Numerical Ability Test

The numerical ability test contains 21 multiple-choice questions and lasts 23 minutes. It covers essential mathematic functions such as addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, percentages, and averages. Some questions measure your ability to interpret numerical information from a graph or table. You will select your answer from a maximum of four options.

You can use a calculator, which the testing centre will provide.  Using your own calculator is not allowed.

You will complete the numerical and verbal ability tests in a room with the other candidates in your group. Each test is scored based on a scale from A to D, with As assigned to the highest-performing applicants.


Verbal Ability Test

For the verbal ability test, you have 30 minutes to answer 28 multiple-choice and true-or-false questions. There are two sections.

The first section requires you to read a passage and respond to statements about it. You must indicate whether each statement is true, false, or if it is not possible to say based on the information in the text. This section assesses your attention to detail and your ability to think logically.

The second section measures reading comprehension. You will read passages and then answer multiple-choice questions about them, typically with four options each.


Interactive Exercises

There are four interactive roleplay exercises that last 10 minutes each. For each exercise, you have five minutes to prepare and five minutes for the activity.

During the preparation phase, you will review written information about the exercise. The preparation phase is not scored, so you can use the time in the way you feel is most effective. You are allowed to take notes and refer to them during the exercise.

During the activity phase, you will roleplay as a Customer Services Officer. You will interact with an actor playing a role and respond to their questions or statements. There is a trained assessor in the room who will typically take notes.

The roleplay scenarios pertain to the fictional Westshire shopping centre. For example, the actor may portray a shop owner who wishes to discuss an incident that occurred in their shop.


Written Communication

Each police force may decide how they want to assess writing skills, either by administering written exercises or by requiring certification in written English.

The force you apply with may ask you to complete two written exercises, which take 30 minutes each. For the first exercise, you will fill out an incident report form based on several typed documents. The second exercise also requires you to fill out an incident report form, but you will use information from a video of a witness interview. The video is seven minutes long, and you may take notes while watching it.

Some candidates complete the writing exercises at the same time as the assessment centre, while others complete them on a different date. Some police forces require candidates to pass the written exercises before attending the SEARCH assessment centre.

Alternately, a police force may ask you to provide proof of qualification in English. Each force can decide what level of qualification they require. The minimum is Functional Skills Level 2 English.


How to Prepare for the Police SEARCH Assessment Centre?

It’s normal to feel quite nervous about completing your assessment centre. Fortunately, careful preparation can help you feel confident and increase your odds of success.

Understanding the required competencies, such as decision making and professionalism, will help with every stage of the assessment centre. Study these competencies and keep them in mind, particularly during the interview and interactive exercises.

The best way to prepare for the numerical and verbal ability tests is to practice. The same is true for the written exercises. Online practice tests are an effective way to get comfortable with the question formats and to identify any weak areas you want to work on. There are high-quality practice tests available that focus on numerical and verbal ability and writing skills.

When taking a practice test, try to mimic the actual conditions of the assessment centre. For example, take a test with a time limit or set a timer, since the real tests are timed. Look for tests that follow the same format as the actual questions.

To prepare for the interview and roleplays, enlist a friend or family member to act them out with you. You may feel silly acting out scenarios at home, but doing so will help you feel comfortable during the actual assessment. Take your time when answering and ask for feedback on your communication skills.

Not everyone will pass the SEARCH assessment centre. In 2017, for example, only 71.9% of test-takers passed. Since 2013, a higher number of candidates have taken the test, with lower percentages passing. These numbers are why it’s so important to give yourself the opportunity to prepare.

If you do not pass, the good news is that you can usually retake the assessment centre after six months. This time will allow you to work on any skills or competencies you struggled with.

Once you pass the SEARCH assessment centre, you will be one step closer to a dynamic and rewarding new career.