Police SEARCH Assessment Centre Preparation for Officers/ Constables

Are you applying as a Police Officer with a UK force? The major part of this recruitment process is the SEARCH assessment centre which  tests not only your physical fitness, but your academic and practical fitness for the demands of a police officer as well. This article will take you through the College of Policing recruitment process for Police Officers.
Police Numerical Ability Test Practice

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Police Officers are the backbone of each police force. They are the people who work to reduce crime and fear of crime in local areas, and promote public confidence in the police. The recruitment process for Police Officers reflects this important role, as it challenges not only your physical fitness, but also your people skills and reasoning ability. In this article we will discuss the police application form, assessment centre activities, and the resources we offer to best help you with your application and assessment centre.

The College of Policing recruitment process contains three stages:

  1. Application Form
  2. Assessment centre, including a numerical and verbal ability test
  3. Background checks

Some forces may include extra stages in their application process, such as a second interview, or a Situational Judgment Test.

The College of Policing have set out the competencies based on the Police Professional Framework (PPF) that each Police Officer must possess in order to best execute their duty. You are tested against these competencies and should strive to continuously display them at each stage of the recruitment process. 

  • Effective communication - you communicate clearly, and adapt your style to the needs of the audience.
  • Community and customer focus - you see the customers’ point of view and are able to build a good relationship with the community.
  • Personal responsibility - you take responsibility for your own actions.
  • Resilience - you respond logically and decisively to difficult situations while remaining calm and confident.
  • Problem solving - you gather information from a variety of sources in order to understand the situation. You verify this information before deciding the state of affairs. You identify the risks and best course of action.
  • Respect for race and diversity - you treat all people with respect regardless of their background, status, circumstances or appearance.
  • Team working - you work well in a team and build relationships with other members of the team.

The best way to answer competency questions like these, is to organise your answer using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Response).

The application form asks for your background information, including education and work experience. The form also includes competency questions looking for your skills against the competencies listed above. The application form is assessed against the entrance requirements to the police and scored accordingly. It is vital that you fill in the application form properly, answering each question fully and clearly and telling the recruiters what they want to hear, or your application will not be passed through to the next stage. When answering competency questions, give examples of where you have used this skill in your recent past.

Police SEARCH® Assessment Centre

The College of Policing's Police SEARCH® Police Officer assessment centre is a half-day event containing assessments testing your people skills, academic ability, and most importantly, the competencies listed above. Each competency is tested several times at the assessment centre so make sure you have ready to use examples at your fingertips.

In addition, it is important to mention that a candidate's application form is reviewed with an emphasis on proper spelling and grammar.

The activities at the assessment centre can take place in any order, and include the following:

In the interactive and written exercises, you play the part of a newly appointed Customer Services Officer at a retail and leisure complex called The Westshire® Centre (fictional). You are given the details of the role you are playing ahead of the assessment centre. The information in the welcome pack will help you prepare for the exercises. Read up more on how to handle case studies on the JobTestPrep website.

Numerical Ability Test

In this test you will be given numerical information, such as graphs and tables, and asked several questions on each piece of information. You are given 23 minutes to answer 21 questions. You are being assessed on your ability to use numbers rationally, identify logical relationships between numbers, and how you draw conclusions from them. The calculations you will need to make to answer questions include: the four basic calculations, averages, percentages, ratios and interpreting numbers on a graph. You are allowed to use a calculator in these tests, which is provided in the centre and can present its own challenges. 

The format of the test might be unfamiliar to you, and ask questions in a way you haven't come across before. Taking practice tests ahead of the assessment day will get you more familiarised with the test you will sit on the day, enabling you to answer questions quicker and more accurately.

JobTestPrep's tailored Police Numerical Ability Test Practice pack will help you with numerical reasoning practice and video tutorials, along with four complete Police SEARCH®-style numerical ability tests.

Verbal Ability Test

This test evaluates your ability to make sense of a situation when you are given specific written information about it. You are given 30 minutes to answer 28 questions. The test is in two parts. Part A gives you a number of conclusions based on the information in the passage presented, and you have to assess whether each one is true, false, or impossible to say based on the information given. In the second part, you are asked to choose which of four given statements is the best answer given the information provided. Practising for the test ahead of the assessment centre can benefit you in a number of ways, including increasing your confidence, sharpening your skills so that you can identify the correct answer quicker, and improving your score. 

We are currently working to develop a Police-specific verbal ability test. In the meantime, we would like to offer you our general verbal reasoning pack, which features both true/false/cannot say tests and multiple choice tests.

Interactive Exercises

You are given four role play exercises, each 10 minutes long. Each exercise is split into two parts - 5 minutes for preparation, and 5 minutes for the actual activity. During the preparation stage, you need to study the materials given to you, and prepare notes for the activity stage. After five minutes, you will play the role set out for you. You are assessed on this section of the exercise only.

The four exercises are all based on the Westshire® Centre case study, and involve:

  • Discussing an incident that happened at the centre with a customer.
  • Discussing an incident in a shop with a shop owner in the centre.
  • Meeting with two employees in the centre.

For these exercises, you will have to play a role similar to the role you can expect to have as a Police Officer, but you will have the added challenge that the role you play is within the frame of mind of the case study. It is crucial not to forget that each role play tests you on one or more of the Police Officer competencies. JobTestPrep can help you prepare with our role play tips and guidance pages.

Written Exercises

There are two written exercise at each assessment centre, each 20 minutes long. You are given a briefing and a proposal document template to write a response to the briefing. The written exercises are based on the case study of the Westshire® Centre. The first exercise is to write a proposal document about issues at the centre. The second exercise is to write a proposal document about an incident that happened at the centre. The recruiters are looking for specific responses in these written tests, so be careful to read the instructions carefully on the day. You can prepare your written exercise skills with JobTestPrep’s written exercises pages. 


The interview is a competency-based structured interview. You are asked four questions with five minutes allocated to answering each one. The entire interview is 20 minutes long. The interviewers are looking for you to tell them how you have dealt with specific situations in the past, while using the required competencies. Don’t forget to review the competencies above, and prepare examples for each competency.
Answers to competency questions like this are best structured around the STAR method. You can learn more about how to answer this style of questions with JobTestPrep’s STAR method pages.

The best way to prepare for an interview is to practice your answers in advance. You could do this in front of the mirror, or with a friend, but by far the best practice is a mock interview which will provide feedback and suggestions for improving your interview technique in your next interview. JobTestPrep’s Skype based interviews can help you get just that.

Police Officer Interview Questions

You are asked one question on each of the following four competencies. When preparing for the interview, prepare examples that can fit a range of questions on each competency.

  • Service delivery
  • Serving the public
  • Professionalism
  • Working with others

An example interview question testing your professionalism is:

"Please give me a specific example of a task, project or responsibility you have undertaken that you are particularly proud of."

An example working with others question could be:

"Please provide an example of where you have worked as part of a team to achieve a difficult task."

Fitness Test

Police Officers need to have good physical fitness levels in order to carry out their day to day job. Applicants are tested on two key fitness requirements:
  • Dynamic strength - push/pull test, in which the candidate is asked to perform a simulated bench press action and a seated rowing action. The candidate must be able to  push 34 Kg and pull 35 Kg to pass. on Dyno machine.
  • Endurance - a ‘bleep test’, in which the candidate runs continuously between two lines, in time with recorded beeps. You will need to reach a minimum of four shuttles at level 5 to pass.
The College of Policing advise you start getting fit even before you apply, to ensure that you achieve the required level of fitness.

Medical Tests

Part of the responsibility and requirements of a Police Officer is to be in good physical condition and health, to endure the demands of the job. Applicants are tested on the following conditions:
  • BMI strength - push/pull test, in which the candidate is asked to perform a simulated bench press action and a seated rowing action. The candidate must be able to push 34 Kg and pull 35 Kg to pass.on Dyno machine.
  • Lung function and blood pressure.
  • Colour vision - colour blindness might be an eliminating factor, based on the specific role and police force.
  • Hearing - are not automatically disqualified. Candidates below ideal hearing level are reviewed by in-house ear, nose and throat specialists.
  • Eyesight - a successful recruit needs to meet the following standard without glasses or lenses: 6/36.

In Summary

Police Officer applicants face a testing application process before the offer of a training place. The College of Policing Police Officer recruitment process will test not only your physical fitness but your abilities against a set of competencies, examined through role plays, written exercises, interviews and verbal and numerical tests.

In order to ensure that you are a candidate who succeeds all the way, it is important that you practice each exercise. This article has highlighted the resources available from JobTestPrep for each stage of the recruitment process. We hope you find it useful, and good luck.

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