Prepare for Probation Graduate Diploma Situational Judgement and Verbal Reasoning Tests

Applying for a spot on the Probation Qualification Framework Programme? The application process to get on the scheme is just like any job application process, with several steps and assessments to conquer in order to get a place. Prepare for each step with the resources listed on this page.
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The Probation Qualification Framework Programme is the Probation Service’s graduate scheme. Throughout the 15 months of the PQF programme you will work for your Graduate Diploma in community justice. The Probation Service is now part of the National Offenders Management Service (NOMS), however recruitment for probation jobs lies with the programme or the individual probation trusts.

The PQF has several start dates a year, but the recruitment process is the same for each intake. The assessments included are:

PQF Application Form

The PQF application form is an important first step into the probation service recruitment process. The form asks you to answer several competency based questions in order for the recruitment team to decide whether to progress your application to the next stage. These questions are your opportunity to demonstrate your suitability to the probation service, so use them wisely. Plan your answers carefully, make sure you understand the skills they are looking for and how they fit into the job profile. Use your previous experiences to illustrate your answers. Also think about using the STAR method (situation, task, action, result) to ensure that you cover all the key points in your answers.

Online Situational Judgement Test

The first of two online testing stages asks you to complete an online situational judgement test. The role of this test is to look at how you respond to workplace situations. You are given a scenario and a set of optional responses to the situation described. Your task is to choose the most appropriate response from these options. There are no right and wrong answers in this test, the aim is to assess your fit with the values of the service. Ahead of taking your situational judgement test, take a look at the job description and values of the probation service, and take practice situational judgement tests to rehearse thinking about these scenarios as an employee of the service.

PQF Verbal Reasoning Test

The second online test is a verbal reasoning test. This test assesses how well you understand written information. In these tests you are usually given a passage of information and a series of questions or statements on what you have read. There are two types of question, the first where you need to assess whether a statement is true, false or you can’t say based on the information included in the text. The second are multiple choice tests when you need to choose the answer that proves the statement. The test is a timed test, with very tight time allocations per question. You usually have less than one minute per question. Taking practice verbal reasoning tests increases your reading speed, identifies tactics for choosing the correct answer and manage your time in the test better. Prepare with our online verbal reasoning test practice packs.

Probation Graduate Diploma Assessment Day

If you successfully pass the tests, the final stage is a half day assessment day. Probation Service assessment centres are held in a variety of locations across the country. At the assessment centre you can expect a range of activities. You will be told in advance what to prepare for, but here are some examples of PQF programme assessment centre exercises.

Written Exercise

In this exercise you are given a scenario to read through, and then asked to write a report on what you have read. Intended audiences for your report include an adviser who will need to implement your findings. The exercise has a time limit, so you need to ensure that you manage your time to complete the task. Brush up on your written exercise skills with our written exercises practice pack.

Group Exercise

For the group exercise you are split into a smaller group (around 6 people), and given a scenario to read and then discuss as a group. You are asked to give your views on how best to handle the situation described in the scenario, and to justify why you have given this option. You are evaluated throughout the exercise by a team of assessors. They are looking at how you work in the team, both at the contributions you make, and how well you listen to and use the information from other people. Gain tips for your group exercise with our group exercises pages.


The final exercise at your assessment centre is a competency based interview. In this interview, the interviewers ask questions about your work experience and for examples of when you have demonstrated certain skills in the course of your previous experience, be it work, voluntary, student, or university. Some of the skills they are looking for are ability to work with others, assertiveness, good judgement, report writing and communication skills. Ahead of the interview, review the person specification for the course. Also look at the Probation Qualification Framework and the skills it values. Think of examples in advance that you can use in the interview that demonstrate your skills at their best. Organise these examples with the STAR method. Once you have pulled all your interview preparation together, your final task is to rehearse your answers. Do this in interview conditions with a Skype based interview, and get a feel for what is good and where your interview technique needs more work.

In Summary

Competition for places on the Probation Graduate Diploma is tough. You need to have both a good experience background and the ability to impress at each assessment in order to get your place. This article has been through each stage of the recruitment process and we have set out the resources available to help you prepare for each one. We hope you find this useful, and good luck.

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