How to Join the Police: Find out what’s involved from Applications to Psychometric Tests and Interviews

Are you interested in a job with one of the UK’s police forces? Due to changes in Police funding, recruitment has been low, so it is crucial that you take your opportunity when it becomes available. This section sets out the recruitment processes from the College of Policing and some additional resources to help you prepare for your assessments. Quick links:

Choose a Police Career

Click on the position you are interested in:

Police Officer AssessmentPCSO Aptitude TestSpecial Constable Assessment Police Fast Track Tests Preparation

How to Apply: College of Policing or your local force recruitment?

Once you have decided which position you are interested in, you need to choose where to apply. Check if your chosen force uses the College of Policing recruitment process (widely used) or their own process. This should be featured on the force’s website. The process consists of an application form, an assessment centre, such as the SEARCH® assessment centre and background checks (vetting).

Police Application Form

The Police application form is your first formal step in the process. The application form includes, among other things, competency-based questions, where you will be asked to provide examples of different situations in your life in which you have demonstrated the required competencies. These competencies are based on the Policing Professional Framework (PPF). The personal qualities your police service are looking for in you are:

Decision makingProfessionalismPublic service
Working with others Leadership:
openness to change
service delivery

Prepare personal examples for each competency. These competencies are assessed throughout the activities in the recruitment process.

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

Another type of test you might encounter prior to the assessment centre is the Situational Judgment Test. These tests gauge your response to situations that might come up in your capacities as a Police Officer, Special Constable or Police Community Support Officer.

To get the best preparation ahead of your Situational Judgement Test, click here for more information and practice.

The Police Assessment Centre

After completing a successful application and tests if necessary, you will be invited to an assessment centre. This is a half day session involving a range of activities that vary depending on the position.

Police assessment centres activities can include:

  • Interview - a competency-based interview with four questions, lasting a total of 20 minutes.
  • Interactive exercises - four short role plays, based on a case study, with five minutes to prepare each one, and five minutes to deliver it.
  • Situational judgment test - this is an indicator of how you react to situations which come up on the job. 
  • Written exercises write two short letters based on a case study, with 20 minutes allocated to each one.
  • Numerical ability test - examines your ability to make of numerical information and answer questions on said information. Our tailored Police-specific numerical ability pack features numerical ability tests in the format seen in the assessment centre, as well as numerical drills and video tutorials.
  • Verbal ability test - examines your ability to make sense of a situation when you are given specific written information about it. The test is in two-parts, one section featuring true/false/cannot say questions and the other multiple choice questions. In the meantime, you can prepare with our general verbal reasoning pack features both true/false/cannot say tests and multiple choice tests.

Other Police Tests

In addition to the College of Policing tests, there are two other main tests covered on the JobTestPrep website:

Standard Entrance Test (SET)

The Standard Entrance Test (SET) is a series of tests that all applicants to Police Scotland need to sit. The test contains three elements:

  • Numerical reasoning test
  • Verbal reasoning test
  • Numerical test

Police Initial Recruitment Test (PIRT)

The Police Initial Recruitment Test (PIRT) is a series of tests used by a few Police forces in England and Wales in their recruitment processes for Special Constables. The PIRT contains four tests:

  • Numerical - solving numerical problems accurately
  • Literacy - spelling words and constructing sentences correctly
  • Logical thinking - reason logically when given information
  • Observation - observe scenes and recall details

Police Forces around the UK

As an alternative to the College of Policing, some of the larger forces throughout the UK have developed their own recruitment processes. They are detailed below.

Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police covers all of London’s boroughs, and is the largest police force in the UK. They carry out a number of different recruitment processes, including the Metropolitan Police Officer Graduate Entry Programme. This is a three-year programme designed to bring university graduates into the Metropolitan Police and train them up to be the Police leaders of the future.

The recruitment processes follow the College of Policing national recruitment process for all categories of recruitment other than experienced hires.

The Metropolitan Police pages include recruitment at the following routes:

Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI)

On the following linked page we guide you through the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recruitment process for police officers. This recruitment process is unique to Northern Ireland police. In this page we discuss the PSNI aptitude test, including the PSNI verbal reasoning test provided by Kenexa, and the PSNI interview.

For non-Police applicants to the PSNI, we have a case study detailing the aptitude tests you can expect as an ICT Officer applicant to the the Information and Communications Services Branch.

Police Scotland

Police Scotland run their own recruitment process for new policemen. The process is different to that of the College of Policing. The process includes the Standard Entrance Test (SET), a suite of three tests - numerical reasoning test, verbal test and information handling test; as well as a lengthy application form and the Police Scotland interview.

Here on JobTestPrep, we have several pages setting out the recruitment process for Police Scotland Police Officers and for Police Scotland Special Constables.

In Summary

The Police recruitment process is an extremely challenging one - competition is high and demanding, while the number of open positions are unpredictable. Therefore, when recruitment opens - you need to be on top of your game to best your competition,

This article has highlighted the different challenges you will face throughout the recruitment process. Let us help you perform the best of your abilities and increase your chances to become a Police Officer, Special Constable or Police Community Support Officer with our tailored Police Numerical Ability Test Practice Pack and our professional packs to practice situational judgement, verbal reasoning and your interview skills. We hope you find this information helpful and wish you the best of luck.

Have any experience applying to the Police? Tell us about  it in the comments sections below or feel free to contact us with further questions at

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