Police officers across the UK enjoy rewarding careers and the opportunity to make a difference in their community. Not everyone has a suitable personality and the cognitive abilities needed to succeed at the job. If you are honest, responsible, physically fit, and enjoy interacting with members of the public, you might be a good candidate for police work.
UK Police Hiring Process
The hiring process varies slightly between the countries in the UK and the specific police forces in each country. However, there are some steps you can expect to encounter regardless of the nation in which you apply. These steps include:
- Minimum requirements: you need to be 18 or over and a citizen of the UK or a European Union nation. You also need to have lived in the UK for the past three years.
- Application: covers basic information, background, and a basic assessment of competency. Apply here.
- Assessment centre including psychometric testing. (see below for detailed information)
- Interview: see below for typical interview questions.
- Drug test and/or polygraph.
- Background review.
- Medical examination including eyesight test.
- Fitness assessment: consists of two parts, dynamic strength and endurance.
- Selection and training.
You can expect typical job interview questions as well as questions that relate specifically to police work. For example:
- What qualities do you believe police officers should possess?
- Have you experienced an emergency? How did you react?
- Describe a time when you helped a distressed person or someone in need of support.
- Describe a time when you provided excellent service to someone.
- What would you do if a colleague acted in a way that contradicted the team or organisation’s values?
What Is the UK Police Forces Psychometric Test?
Each country within the UK has its own regional police force. There are different recruiting processes, including psychometric tests, in each country.
In England, police officers are part of either the College of Policing or the Metropolitan Police.
College of Policing
The College of Policing was established in 2012. It includes people who work for the police service in both England and Wales. There are four different job varieties within the College.
- Police Officer/Constable: to apply for one of these positions, you will need to complete the Police SEARCH Assessment Centre. This assessment includes an interview, numerical and verbal ability tests, and interactive exercises. In addition to the SEARCH assessment, you will need to demonstrate your writing abilities by completing two written exercises.
- Fast Track: candidates following the Fast Track programme must complete the National Assessment Centre. This assessment includes seven exercises: oral briefing, performance management exercise, written exercise, partnership meeting, presentation, interview, and cognitive ability test. The sections on the cognitive ability test are verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and inductive reasoning.
- Police Community Support Officers (PCSO): the PCSO assessment centre includes an interview, interactive exercises, and written exercises. For the written exercises, you will write proposal documents about issues relating to police work. The exercises include templates to help you structure your writing.
- Special Constables: this position consists of volunteers who perform similar duties to police constables. The assessment process includes a written exercise, interview, and situational judgment test.
The Metropolitan Police (the Met) performs law enforcement duties for all of London. It is the largest police force in the United Kingdom. There are three types of positions within the Met: police officers, police community support officers (PCSO), and special constables. Each position has the same assessment process.
In 2018, the Met began using a new form of assessment centre. The new format focuses more on personal values such as emotional awareness, collaboration, integrity, and transparency.
To work with the Met, you will complete two stages of testing. The first is Initial Assessments. This stage includes personality questionnaires, a situational judgement test, and the London Factor Assessment (LFA). The LFA requires you to respond to statements about police work within London.
The second step is the assessment centre. For this process, you will complete an interview, numerical and verbal ability tests, and interactive role-plays.
As in England, positions in Wales police forces fall under three categories: police officers, PCSOs, and special constables.
Both North Wales and South Wales typically utilise the College of Policing Assessment Centre that is used in England. Some forces follow their own unique recruitment processes.
You may also need to take an oral assessment called the Welsh Test, which measures your ability to speak Welsh. To pass the test, you must be able to introduce yourself, answer a question, and repeat a sentence in Welsh. You don’t need to be fluent, but your skills should be at level 2 on the Welsh Language Skills Matrix. Level 2 skills include understanding basic conversation and instructions.
The law enforcement agency in Northern Ireland is the PSNI (Police Services of Northern Ireland). The PSNI includes both police officers and non-officers. For either department, you will take the Initial Selection Test (IST) during the hiring process.
The IST is provided by testing and recruitment company Deloitte. It includes two sections:
- Situational judgement Test: this section measures your ability to make appropriate decisions at work. You will read passages about work-related scenarios, with several response options provided for each. You will then select which response is the most effective and which is the least effective.
- Verbal reasoning: this section assesses how well you can understand written information. You will read a short text and answer questions about it. The question format is typically true or false. For some items, you may indicate that there was not enough information in the text to determine the answer.
Unlike other UK police assessments which you complete in person, you can take the IST online at home. You will receive an emailed link to take the test. You will need to complete an Applicant Agreement, which confirms that you will take the test without assistance. You must also agree not to share any information about the test with others.
The process of becoming a police officer in Scotland includes taking the Standard Entrance Test (SET). The SET consists of three papers or sections.
- Language: this paper includes topics like grammar, spelling, and reading comprehension. You might select the best word to fill in a blank in a sentence. Or, you might need to put words in order to form the most logical sentence. Other questions require you to read a short passage and answer questions about it.
- Numbers: questions pertain to simple math functions. These functions include addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You may use a calculator.
- Information handling: questions require you to view information such as a graph or table and interpret it correctly.
You will take the SET separately from the one-day assessment centre. The centre includes an interview and three practical exercises. These tasks assess traits such as teamwork, leadership, and respect for diversity.
How to Prepare for the UK Police Psychometric Test?
For any police force assessments, proper preparation is crucial to your success. The first step is to confirm the assessment you will need to take based on your country, police service, and the type of position you wish to apply for. This will help you prepare as efficiently as possible.
Next, look for online practice tests that correspond to the test you will need to take. There are practice tests available to help you get ready for most of the assessments described in this article. You can also look for tests that cover the same topics as your actual test, such as reading comprehension or writing skills.
Understanding the core competencies police forces look for can help with exams and other parts of the application process. Do some research to determine what your particular force considers essential. For example, the Metropolitan police look for the following competencies:
- Emotionally aware
- Taking ownership
- Working collaboratively
- Deliver, support and inspire
- Analyse critically
- Innovative and open-minded
There are currently fewer police officers in England and Wales than there have been at any time since the early 1980s. Due to changes in funding, police forces all over the UK have not been able to hire as many applicants. Each year, approximately 65,000 people apply to become police officers in the UK, and only 7,000 are hired.
What this means to you is that competition is extremely fierce for open positions. If you wish to pursue a career in law enforcement, it is crucial to achieve a high score on any exams you take during the hiring process.
If you take the time to prepare carefully for your assessment, you’ll greatly increase the likelihood of achieving a high score. You will be on your way to an exciting new career with a UK police force. Best of luck!