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How to prepare for a police promotion oral board

Updated December 20, 2018

A police officer's job is challenging, and a supervisor's job can be even more challenging. Officers are typically only promoted after competitive testing. The promotional exam includes a written section that tests an officer's ability to think analytically and use deductive reasoning. It also includes an oral examination before a three-member police board. The oral test measures knowledge, skills, integrity and abilities required for leadership as well as verbal skills and personal appearance. Officers prepare for the police promotion orals by knowing how the oral exam works---including what factors and knowledge are rated---and preparing for the questions.

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  1. Polish your image. The police board will watch you from the moment you walk into the examination room to see if you look like someone who could lead fellow officers. Look closely at officers who were promoted at your station during the last exams and compare your look with theirs. Cut your hair, cover your tattoo, wear a clean, starched uniform and carry yourself with pride.

  2. Review police rules and procedures. You are likely to be asked situational procedure, requiring a step-by-step answer straight out of police training manuals. Consider taking a review course if you find it difficult to organise your materials. Look for courses on the internet or ask officers who were previously promoted for recommendations. Some review courses use questions used on previous oral exams. Be aware, however, that your city and your board of questioners dictate the type of questions asked.

  3. Practice oral delivery. While the police board will note the completeness of your answers to their questions, they will also judge the manner in which you respond. Practice looking people in the eye when talking to them, speaking moderately and clearly in good English, using in complete sentences. Avoid fidgeting, slumping or looking out the window. Watching yourself in the mirror is good practice.

  4. Prepare a shortlist of your good qualities; sometimes promotion boards ask candidates to list their best attributes. Put together an honest list and speak with modesty and candour. Practice what you would say about your worst traits, too; choose qualities that could also be considered positive attributes, like compulsive honesty.

  5. Keep in mind the factors on which the police board rates you. According to Dr. Larry F. Jetmore, former police academy lecturer and SWAT team commander, the board grades you from 40 to 100 in each of the following categories: appearance, alertness and self-confidence, interest and attitude, problem-solving, responsibility and maturity, working relationships and job knowledge. Identify your weak points and practice hard on the days before the exam.

  6. Warning

    It is not fair, but female candidates may be judged more harshly on appearance than male candidates. Avoid short skirts, low necklines, gaudy jewellery and excessive make-up.

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About the Author

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.

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