AFP Sworn Officers OCAT Ability Test and Assessment Centre Preparation

Are you applying for a position as a Federal Agent or ACT Policing role? The two positions have the same recruitment process, which is both competitive and difficult. The process includes a physical test as well interviews and tests, and can take up to six months to complete. In this article we will take you through the process and the resources available to help you improve your application.
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The Federal Police Development Program is the recruitment program for ACT Police and Federal Agent base recruits. These two areas make up part of the sworn roles with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the other part being Protective Service Officers who have their own recruitment process. ACT Police provide police services to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), including initially working as community police officers. Federal Agents prevent and detect crimes against Commonwealth law. Movement between the two areas of the AFP is possible throughout your career. This article will take you through the annual recruitment process for the Federal Police Development Program gateway by gateway. Lateral applicants will find some sections of this article useful.

The recruitment process is as follows:

The AFP have five core capabilities that every role holder must have. You are expected to use the application process at each stage to demonstrate your skills against these competencies.
The core values of integrity, commitment, excellence, accountability, fairness and trust are also important throughout the application process.

AFP Application Form

The first stage of the process is to submit your application to become a police officer. The most important section of the application is your selection criteria statement, in which you must demonstrate your knowledge, skills, qualifications and personal attributes, and how these address the core capabilities and core values of the AFP.

Your application form will be considered alongside the results of your employment suitability questionnaire and the online cognitive ability test (OCAT). It is important that you take advantage of the opportunity to tell the AFP why you are a suitable candidate to join them.

AFP Online Employment Suitability Questionnaire

After you have submitted your application form, the next step is to complete an AFP employment suitability questionnaire. This questionnaire assesses your fit against the AFP employment character guidelines. This includes your legal history with the police, for example any speeding or parking tickets you may have received.

OCAT Ability Test

The online test is the third part of the opening stage of your application. This test, the Online Cognitive Ability Test, or OCAT, is specially designed for the AFP. Your abilities to gather, retain, process and apply information will be tested over 50 questions and 20 minutes. Your test score will combine with your application form when considering whether to put you through to the next round, so it is vital you get a good score.

In the OCAT you will face logical problems through numbers, words and shapes, including math problems, verbal syllogisms, spatial reasoning and abstract reasoning (in short, everything). The three main points elements are:

  • Numerical reasoning is your ability to understand information in a number format, and use it to answer a question, or prove a point. The information is given to you in a graph or table.
  • Verbal reasoning is how you understand, analyse and interpret the information given to you in a passage, and use this information to come to a conclusion. In many verbal reasoning tests, you are asked to evaluate the information as true, false, or cannot say.
  • Abstract reasoning is how you draw assumptions and conclusions from pictorial information. This information can be provided in the form of symbols or matrices. In these tests you are shown a sequence of pictures, in which you have to identify the logical pattern, and identify the next picture in the sequence.

Practising ahead of time will help you improve your technique in order to improve your result when you come to take the actual test. JobTestPrep have created special Onetest training packages which can help you develop your techniques for answering the three different types of question contained in the test. For more information, see the JobTestPrep website.

Physical Competency Assessment

Applicants for the Federal Police Development Program must pass a PCA in order to gain a place on the scheme. The PCA tests possible recruits for a base level of fitness required in the service. The AFP website has more information about what the personal fitness standards are for the role. They recommend you start training early in order to be able to pass the test when you come to sit it.

Federal Police Development Program Assessment Centre

The whole day assessment centre is designed to assess your suitability against a set of criteria for joining the AFP. There is a range of activities at the assessment centre, each testing different skills. The AFP use the assessment centre to look for evidence of your experience against the selection criteria of: self-management, communication, teamwork, leadership, integrity, and diversity awareness. The activities at the assessment centre will all be based on realistic scenarios.

Assessments include:


The interview is your opportunity to impress the recruiters face to face. Your interviewers are two sworn officers and one non sworn employee. They will be assessing you against a set of selection criteria. They want evidence that you have put thought into your choice of career, and that you have researched the AFP and the particular area you want to work in. Interview question topics will include your capabilities, integrity, interests and personal history. Some time will have passed between your original application, so don’t forget to review what you have written there before your assessment day. Another element of preparation for the interview is to practice your overall interview technique, preferably in some sort of practice interview. JobTestPrep can help you gain the interview practice you need with our Skype based interviews, which not only provide a mock interview, but also feedback so you know what to improve on the next time.

Group Discussion

In this exercise, as in the rest of the day, the assessors will be observing how you work in a team setting. In a group discussion, the group is given a scenario and a task, usually to come to a solution or set of conclusions. During the discussion, you are observed for your team working skills, including the quality of your contributions, how you work with others, including how you respond to people who are taking over the group, or others who are not contributing enough. Getting the balance right in a group exercise is difficult, and you will want to think about your strategy ahead of time. JobTestPrep’s website contains a group exercise package to help you with your planning.

Supervised OCAT

You will sit another OCAT test at the assessment centre. This time it will be supervised. The aim of this test is to verify the results you got in the test you sat at the start of the recruitment process. You need to aim to get a similar, preferably higher score in this test than the last one. It will be some time since you last sat the test, so don’t forget to brush up your skills with JobTestPrep’s Onetest practice pack.

Literacy Assessment

The literacy assessment will test your reading and writing skills. The test will be based on a scenario you may face as a sworn officer with the APF. Whilst you can’t prepare for the exact test on the day, check out JobTestPrep’s written exercises pages to brush up your skills.

Any time after the assessment centre you can be offered a spot at the academy, subject to you passing the medical test, psychological assessment, and security check. The psychological assessment includes some questions on a form, and a face to face interview with a psychologist to determine your psychological readiness to join the AFP.

In Summary

The process for applying as a Federal Agent or ACT Police officer with the AFP is very competitive. Only 10% of applicants even make is as far as the assessment centre. As a result is it important that you do your best in the early stages of the application in particular to give yourself a chance of getting a coveted place. This article has taken you through the stages of the recruitment process. We hope that you have found this article useful, and good luck!

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