Multiple-choice questions on math are ubiquitous throughout the police written test. Many candidates struggle with the math test. After all, who likes math?
That said, math is an important skill to conquer. Take a few steps back and think about how the best problem solvers are good at math. That’s because math is about working things out – about training the mental gym in your mind to create solutions to numerical and abstract problems.
The better you perform at math, the more it informs police department assessment teams that you are the real deal. If you demonstrate analytical and problem-solving skills in math, this is a transferrable skill that you can apply to the many investigational duties that come with being a law enforcement officer.
Candidates must therefore consider math as a valuable subject to study. Consider math as something to improve your critical thinking skills; the skills necessary to work effectively in your future career. This will also help motivate your study in the weeks and months to come because you will not consider math as something boring, irrelevant, and exhausting. Instead, you’ll think about math as interesting, relevant, and challenging.
And it’s precisely this kind of challenge that candidates must overcome to develop these extremely important skills.
Math questions are multiple choice questions.
You will be presented with four possible answers and must select the one correct answer. Note that, of these four answers, typically two are more obviously false and two are closer to the true answer. Therefore, when you are working out problems, try to dismiss the obviously false answers. You may need to work through the problem a little to achieve this, but it’s a must-do strategy to increase the probability of selecting the correct answer.
Second, work through problems in a step-by-step manner.
It’s easy to skip steps and to perform mental arithmetic in our minds. However, during an exam, this is not so easy. The pressure from the exam and the time limits involved mean we can overlook simple steps. And overlooking something simple can divert you to an obviously incorrect answer. That’s why it’s necessary to take your time (but not too much time, of course), and to structure the steps needed to answer the problem.
For example, if the question is worded as follows:
Two-fifths of police officers at New York Police Department are female. If there are 36,000 police officers, how many officers are male?
Step One: If two-fifths (2/5) of the department are female, then three-fifths (3/5) are male.
Step Two: First, then, we need to learn how many constitute one-fifth, then multiply that value by 3.
Step Three: 36,000 / 5 = 7,200
Step Four: This means there are 14,400 female police officers and 21,600 male officers.
Note how we incrementally work through the problem in small steps. This adds structure to your problem-solving ability and immunizes you against the risk of error, even if the step seems simple. The alternative approach is to conduct multiple steps at the same time, increasing the probability of generating an error.
Third, candidates should avoid information that is not relevant to the question. Many examiners do this to test if candidates can identify the information needed versus the information they need to ignore. Many candidates who have not taken many police exam questions will be tempted to use all the information presented in the question. However, you must discern the details you need from the intentional distractions that the examiners have put in the question. It is very tempting to try and use all details in a question, but you must avoid this temptation.
Fourth, never guess. During an exam, adrenaline levels can rise. In this kind of stress-induced situation, it is tempting to look at a question and reflexively say, “there’s not a chance I know how to answer this question!”. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that we have all had that experience at one time. You must avoid this kind of negative thinking. If you believe you cannot answer a question, you are doomed. There is no way back. But if you really think about the problem and even marginally work through part of the problem, it means you can eliminate some of the four possible answers. This increases the probability of choosing the correct answer even if you have no idea. And in math exams, you probably know more than you think you do. This is about shifting your mentality from one of defeatism to one that says you do have the capacity to, at the very least, attempt the problem.
Fifth, time yourself. We have touched upon this a few times over the course of this police test study guide. There is no point spending more time than you need to on any one problem. It achieves nothing. Let’s say that you spend three times more time on one question. You really believe you are on the cusp of working it out and so give it the extra time. That now means you have less time to answer all other math questions. In other words, for the time you spent getting one answer correct, you may have wasted time to get three more answers correct down the line. Time is limited and you must apportion that time correctly.
In summary, then, here are some of the take-home messages you need to know to how to answer math MCQs on the police test:
And, of course, the only way to answer police math questions correctly is to study for the police test in the coming weeks and months. Always focus on your weaknesses more than your strengths, however tempting it may be to do the precise reverse. That way, you can identify where you went wrong to prevent the same kind of mistake from occurring in the future.
Eventually, with time and enough effort, you will plug all gaps in your knowledge and ace the police exam and make it through to the police academy.
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