Preparing for the Written

After you submit your completed application package, you are ready to begin to prepare for the written examination. There are a number of promotional manuals on the market. Arco, Payton, and Davis publishing companies have manuals for sergeant, lieutenant and captain promotional exams. I am not advocating any particular one. Check the internet, or go to your local bookstore if you wish to obtain one.

You'll find that the questions in these manuals are normally written in a different format than what you may have been accustomed to while taking your college exams; therefore, you should become familiar with this style.

The written examination is the most important phase of the testing process, because if you fail this exam, there is no tomorrow. So, I urge you to study hard and prepare yourself accordingly. If you feel you are ready for this exam, review some more, and continue to do so until the day before the exam. Take as many practice tests as possible so you become familiar with these types of exams and the way they are written. This will help eliminate any surprises on the day of the exam.

If at all possible, include your family when you begin to study. For example, your spouse, significant other, a child, or a friend can read you the questions from the manual and you can give them the answers while sitting outside watering the front lawn, or while sitting together in the backyard. This is a nice way to bring them into the promotional process. Remember, they are under just as much stress as you, so try to keep them involved as much as possible. Your family should understand why promoting is very important to you, and how they will be affected when you are promoted. Your goal is to get them on board so that your goal is equally important to those you live with.

There will be other times, while doing research on such things as case law or reviewing the regulations and general orders of your department, where you will need a quiet area such as a library or your home office, if you have one. If you explain this to your spouse or significant other ahead of time, I'm sure they will understand that the sacrifices you are making today will be very beneficial to the family in the future, after you obtain your promotion.

The night before the exam, relax. Have dinner with your family. Eat a light meal, and do not drink any alcoholic beverages, because doing so may inhibit your sleep. And go to bed early! If you live near the ocean, take a walk along the beach and, again, relax. Do not try to cram for the exam because this will only confuse you. If you don't know the material by now, another 15, 20, 60 minutes or even an "all nighter" is not going to help. So go to bed knowing that you have done all that you could do and be confident that you will do your best tomorrow.

"If a man does his best, what else is there?"
--General George S. Patton

On the morning of the exam, get up early, take a shower, get dressed, eat a good breakfast, and leave with plenty of time to spare so that when you arrive at the testing location, you will be relaxed and not rushed or harried. You will feel a little knot in your stomach; don't panic because the knot is a good thing, as it helps to keep you on your toes and give a better performance.

There are a wide variety of exams that are used for the written examination process. Some exams will test your knowledge, while others may test your abilities. Some come directly from the state, while others may be designed by your personnel department. Many tests are based on a few basic types of questions, which may include:

  1. Writing an Essay
  2. Sentence completion
  3. Verbal analogy
  4. Number series
  5. Configuration series
  6. Hypothetical situations

When the day of the written exam arrives:

  • Sit away from a window and do not sit next to a friend, as this may prove to be distractive.
  • Do not take stimulants, such as "No-Doz" or excessive caffeine, as they may cause a loss of alertness or a mental "crash."
  • Read the directions of the exam completely. It is very important that you follow these directions, because failure to do so may cause you to be disqualified or fail the exam; various studies have demonstrated that oftentimes a poor test taker has a tendency to misread the directions and jump to conclusions.
  • Know ahead of time if points are deducted for unanswered questions. If they are considered wrong answers, be sure to answer all of them, even if you have to guess.
  • Be aware of your time schedule; don't stay on one question for a long period of time. If you are not sure of an answer, move on and if you have time at the end of your exam, return to the question and any others that may have caused you a problem.
  • Always work the easy questions first, and then return to the difficult questions; this is also true for the essay questions.
  • Remain confident and positive; just because you don't know one or two answers is not the end of the world. These exams are developed to push your knowledge. You are not expected to obtain 100%!
  • If you complete your exam early, don't rush out of the facility. Instead, use this time to review your questionable answers.
  • DO NOT READ INTO THE QUESTIONS. Answer the question the way it is written. All too often we analyze way too much and soon lose the intent of the original question.
  • Know how to properly answer the exam questions. Do you circle the answer or the letter, or do you fill in the blank?
  • Pay attention to important terms when reading the question, such as "most," "not," "best," "opposite," "may," or "shall."
  • Use sound reasoning techniques. Think through the questions but, again, don't over analyze!

Good luck! You're on the right track.