Prison Officer Online Assessment : How to Pass in 2023

The Prison Officer Online Assessment is a crucial step in the selection process for individuals aspiring to become prison officers in the UK. The Prison Officer Online Assessment includes numerical, SJT, and gamified behavioural tests. A failure at this stage will result in you having to wait 6 more months before you may reapply, so ensure that you are fully prepared before taking the test.

This comprehensive guide will provide essential information about the assessment, its components, and tips to help you succeed.

Let's dive in!

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Prison Officer Online Assessment - What to Expect?

The Prison Officer Online Assessment is the first stage of the recruiting process to become a prison officer at the HMPPS. The test contains 2 substages:

Stage One

  • Situational Judgement Test: You'll be presented with scenarios that prison officers might encounter. Choose the most and least effective actions from a range of options to demonstrate the desired behaviours. You have 20 minutes to answer 16 questions.

  • Numerical Test: Assessing your ability to perform simple mathematical calculations required in prison work. This part consists of 20 questions and takes up to 15 minutes to complete.

After completing both parts of stage one, you'll receive feedback on your performance and be invited to proceed to stage two.

Stage Two

  • From 1 July 2019, this new stage was added to the online tests for becoming a prison officer. In addition to assessing basic numeracy skills, this new stage evaluates your personality, strengths, and preferences.
  • Stage two typically takes 30-50 minutes to complete, with no time limit, allowing you to go at your own pace. Stage 2 includes game-based tests (like Arctic Shor tests), which measure your natural strengths and preferences, including resilience and emotional stability.

  • The test can be taken on mobile, tablet, or computer; no gaming experience is required. Simply follow the instructions and respond naturally to the scenarios.

Once you finish the full test, you'll receive a feedback report via email. If you've passed stage two, you'll be invited to the next stage of the recruitment process, which is the Assessment & Recruitment Centre (ARC/VAC).

Prison Officer Online Assessment Sample Questions

Stage One Sample Questions

SJT Questions:

You are assigned to a cell block where you notice that one of the inmates seems agitated and is behaving aggressively towards other inmates. 

What would you do in this situation?





View Explanation

The correct answer is C) Approach the aggressive inmate calmly and try to de-escalate the situation through communication. As a prison officer, it is essential to prioritize the safety of all inmates and maintain a secure environment. By calmly engaging in communication, you can attempt to defuse the aggression and address the underlying issues.

Numerical Questions:

The total cost of an electric bill is $318.00. If a 6% tax, which is added to the cost of the electricity, is included in the $318.00, how much did the electricity cost before tax?





View Explanation

The bill was for $318, including a 6% tax. Notice that 6% is added to the net cost - that is, the tax is not 6% of 318, but 318 is 106% of the electricity cost. This means 318 is (106/100) = 1.06 times the net electricity cost.

In order to isolate electricity, we will divide each side by 1.06.

That means that:

Electricity × 1.06 = 318
318 ÷ 1.06 =
(318 ÷ 106) × 100 =
3 × 100 =


💡 Solving tip
Before trying to solve the question, it may be helpful to first look at the answer choices. Notice that according to answer A the price without tax ($337.08) is higher than the price with tax ($318). Since this cannot be, answer A can be eliminated.

According to answer B, the price without tax ($19.02) is almost $300 less than the price with tax ($318). We know that 6% of 19.02 cannot be anywhere near 298.92, and we can therefore eliminate answer B.

The remaining answer choices are very close, $298.92 and $300. Instead of dividing 318/1.06, we can multiply one of these two answer choices by 1.06 and see if we get 318.
We will check 300, as it is a much more comfortable number to work with.

300 × 1.06
= (3 × 100) × (106 ÷ 100)
=3 × 106
=3 × 100 + 3 × 6
= 300 + 18 =

300 is, therefore, the correct answer. Notice that if we had first multiplied 298.92×1.06, we would have gotten 316.8552. We could have then eliminated answer D and concluded answer C was the correct answer without checking it.

Stage Two Sample Questions

The Security Door Game

In this game, you will encounter a code lock where you need to stop the rotating area on the highlighted number to form the passcode. The game consists of 20 rounds; you can exit at any point to move on to the next game. The catch is that the rotation speed changes in each round, and any mistake resets the lock. The measured traits include reaction time and focus. To prepare for this task, it is important to practice and enhance your attention, quick reaction time, and adaptability to new patterns.


The Balloon Game

In the game, you will encounter a balloon that can be pumped for money. You can choose to collect your earnings and move on to the next balloon at any time. The goal is to maximise your earnings. However, there's a risk—the balloon can burst, causing you to lose the money not collected. The game consists of 45 rounds and assesses traits like pattern recognition, risk-taking ability, motivation by reward, and drive. To excel, it's important to learn the patterns and recognise them during the game.

Prison Officer Assessment & Recruitment Centre (ARC/VAC)

According to the official information, the recruitment process includes 8 stages, and the ARC/VAC is the most challenging of them.

The Prison Officer Assessment & Recruitment Centre can be virtual (VAC) or face-to-face (ARC), depending on the specific candidate and position. The Assessment & Recruitment Centre includes 5 stages:

  • Medical Assessment: The purpose of the medical tests is to assess your general health and determine whether you physically fit the role of Prison Officer. The test includes Eye sight test, Hearing test, Fitness test, etc.
  • Numerical Test:  During the online numerical test, the question format will be similar to what you have already experienced in the Online Assessment. You will have 10 minutes to answer 10 questions. The questions will cover basic mathematical functions such as counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It's important to note that you can use a calculator during the test and as a prison officer to assist you with your daily tasks.
  • Written Test: During the assessment, you will have 40 minutes to complete 2 exercises. If attending a face-to-face ARC, write your answers by hand, while in a virtual ARC, use the keyboard to type. Your written responses will be evaluated based on behaviours like communication, influencing, managing quality service, and making effective decisions. Additionally, your ability to write grammatically correct sentences and summarise information from different sources will also be assessed.
  • Role Plays Test: The role plays in the assessment simulates challenging scenarios that prison officers may encounter. Your responses should be based on the information provided before and during the role plays. Your responses will be evaluated against behaviours such as communicating and influencing, managing a quality service, making effective decisions, and demonstrating care.
  • Interview: While no specific preparation is necessary for the assessment, it can be beneficial to think about your reasons for wanting to become a prison officer and reflect on your strengths before attending the ARC. 

Other Prison Officer Tests

Looking for another Prison Officer Test which is not on the list? Let us know, and our experts will help you out! 


If you do not pass the tests the first time, you must wait 6 months before applying for any prison officer role. If you do decide to reapply after this time, you will need to start a new application and sit both stage 1 and stage 2 of the online tests again.

The Prison Officer Online Assessment and the Prison Officer Assessment Centre are different stages in the selection process for becoming a prison officer. The online assessment is completed remotely and evaluates basic skills and behaviors, while the assessment centre is an in-person event that assesses a broader range of competencies through various activities and exercises.