Oral Board Exam Police Test Study Guide

How the Oral Board Exam is Scored!

Dec 18th, 2022
how the oral board exam is scored


One of the best ways to prepare for the police interview test is to understand how the oral board exam is scored. Here, we review the process that oral board panels go through before assigning you a score, or final result.

Of course, it’s worth emphasizing that different department agencies may do things in different ways. However, all agencies are effectively searching for the same personal and professional qualities that all officers should have.

As experienced officers, they know what qualities work, and which do not. You may score high on one level, such as communication, but not so well on other elements – such as your attitude and motivation to the role of a law enforcement officer.

Unlike scoring the police written exam, there is no one “right” answer. Instead, the answers you give are subjectively interpreted by each member of the oral board panel. It may be the case that one oral board panelist scores you higher than another panelist. What matters is that the general “direction” of scores is going in the right direction.

How Answers Are Scored

Before the police interview test, the oral board panel will be trained on how to accurately and effectively score applicants. Each panelist will be given a score or rank sheet and will be instructed on how best to score the applicant’s answers. As we discussed, there are often significant variations between different agencies.

For instance, some departments prefer the entire oral board panel to discuss and debate their own scores. Perhaps one panelist noticed something significant that the other panelists did not. In other department agencies, panelists do not share their scores but instead pass these scores onto a third-party to conduct the final evaluation of the candidate.

Typically, this involves combining scores and finding an average for each. There are 5 core criteria that are used for evaluating the quality of the candidate’s answer:

  • Oral communication skills
  • Personal motivation for the role
  • Understanding of the position
  • Interpersonal values
  • Critical thinking skills

Let’s review each of these criteria in turn.

Oral Communication Skills

Police officers must be effective communicators.

Communication is critical, not only for the oral board exam but also for the police written test, too. Whilst you may perform well on the written exam, you need to demonstrate quality oral communication skills in person.

You need to express thoughts in a clear, precise, and logical manner – moving from one point to the next with accuracy and relevance. Communication is, of course, a two-way street. You need to actively listen to the oral board panel and not dominate the conversation and misunderstand the nuance of the questions they are asking you.

Furthermore, you must demonstrate that you understand the meaning of police vocabulary that you may need to use in any given answer.

Personal Motivation for the Role

The best performing candidates in the police academy are those with the greatest level of enthusiasm for the position. During the oral board exam, the panel will be reviewing your attitude and personal motivation for the role.

More specifically, this means evaluating your understanding of your knowledge of the position. For example, do you intend to join the police force as a means of earning an income? If so, this won’t come across well. The oral board panel is searching for candidates who seek to serve the public first.

If you wish to become an officer for purely financial reasons, there is less incentive for you to step-up your game and become the best police officer for your agency. To score high, you need to demonstrate to officers that you have the right attitude and the burning motivation to succeed in law enforcement.

Understanding of the Position

Candidates that have not thought through the role of becoming a police officer will not be aware of the disadvantages. And yes, there are disadvantages. Do you know what they are? If not, that should raise alarm bells.

Police interviewers will score your understanding of what life as a law enforcement officer is like in the real world. After all, this is a very serious role that carries significant implications. The panel needs to ensure that you are fully aware of what the role involves and whether you are happy to pursue this head-on.

You need to demonstrate a firm understanding of what police officers do; the hazards they face daily and, perhaps most importantly, why you feel that confronting these hazards is something you actively wish to pursue? You cannot waffle through questions like this.

The panel has seen it all. Instead, you must apply effective communication skills to relay to the panel that you have a solid and clear understanding of the role and risks and why you feel you are suitable to take on this hefty responsibility.

Interpersonal Values

To further understand how the oral board exam is scored, we need to review what is known as interpersonal values.

Remember, working in law enforcement is more than anyone individual. It requires a collective effort and an ability to work well within a team. Candidate’s with clear interpersonal values are those that understand the different attitudes, values, and perspectives of other people not just in your agency but within the wider community, too.

The oral board panel will score you low if you come across as someone who shoots from the hip, who cannot be relied upon to work well in challenging circumstances, and who does not respect or value the way of work or life that other people have.

You must have the capacity to build successful relationships and to overcome challenges when you encounter them. You cannot be a disagreeable person who always wishes to “win the argument” against someone purely for the sake of it. Often silence is a more appropriate response in these circumstances.

Critical Thinking Skills

Throughout our analysis of how the oral board exam is scored, we have emphasized the need for clear and quality-driven answers. Critical thinking skills are the glue that ties all these factors together.

Let’s take one example. Many police interview questions discuss the use of deadly force, or when it should be used. If asked a specific question, you must think critically about the answer. You cannot think “off the cuff” about the answer and “hope for the best”. That won’t cut it.

Instead, you need to show the oral board panel that you have an intimate knowledge of the profession, of when deadly force should be used, and – even better – examples from recent history in which your line of thinking was put into action!

Critical thinking demonstrates your ability to think both deductively, inductively, and in a logically consistent and coherent manner. When tied to oral communication skills, the delivery makes sense and the listener is in no doubt that you know what you are talking about and that you have left no stone unturned.

This is what the oral board panel is searching for – and what they will score you highly on when faced with this kind of question. Of course, how the oral board exam is scored varies from agency to agency, but this gives you a solid idea of the ground they have in common.

How to Prepare for the Oral Board Exam

One of the best ways to prepare for the police interview test is to practice oral board questions – and lots of them.

The more questions you practice, the wider range of ground you cover. You need to come up with the most common police interview questions and aggressively put together detailed answers that focus on the facts that matter.

You cannot – and should not – “wing” the oral board test. It never works.

If you aren’t quite sure where to start, we’ve put together some free police interview questions for you to practice. If you find these helpful and would like access to our complete oral board database of questions and full-length sample answers – take a few moments to become a registered member of Police Test Study Guide.

Until next time, keep practicing! The more you do, the more refined your responses and the better you will score on the day of your police test!

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