Corrections Officer Test Preparation and Tips

Sep 10, 2019

A corrections officer keeps prisoners in line by enforcing rules and managing safety and security. Corrections officers must pass an exam which usually tests memory recall, situational reasoning, interpersonal skill, and reading comprehension.

Essential Information

Corrections officers are security professionals who oversee accused criminal offenders awaiting trial and convicted criminals sentenced to serve time. They work at courthouses and in jails, reformatories and state and federal prisons, where their primary duties are to maintain security, enforce rules and prevent assaults, disturbances and escapes. Getting into this field requires a high school diploma and academy training, as well as passing a qualifying exam.

Required Education A high school diploma and, in some cases, a college degree or a certain number of credits, along with on-the-job training at an academy
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* -7% (Correctional Officers)
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $44,330 (Correctional Officers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Test Basics for Correctional Officers

Most states require correctional officers pass a qualifying exam. There are modest differences between states, but exams are likely to include sections for memory and observation, situational reasoning, reading comprehension and verbal reasoning.

The memory and observation portion assesses a candidate's ability to observe and recall information. Test takers study images or verbal descriptions of a crime scene, prison scene or other events. After a short time, the test administrator removes the material and asks them to recall particular details.

The situational reasoning section evaluates a candidate's ability to analyze a given scenario and identify the appropriate regulation for it. Test takers read a set of facts or narrative account of a typical event that occurs in a correctional setting and determine which set of rules, regulations or directives apply.

Reading comprehension determines how well a candidate can extract information from a written passage. Test takers read a selection of text and answer a set of questions, the answers being embedded in the text. They do not need independent knowledge of the subject matter.

Verbal reasoning tests a candidate's ability to organize and present written material. Some questions will have test takers read a paragraph and then choose the best of several restatements of that paragraph. Other questions will consist of short paragraphs with their sentences out of order, which test takers must arrange in the correct order.

Less commonly, correctional officer exams may have sections that test numeracy and mathematical problem solving ability; knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and punctuation; comprehension of charts, graphs and codes.

Test Topics

The exam sections that test memory, reasoning and comprehension will draw their examples from material relevant to the work of correctional officers. Topics may touch on aspects of detention facility management, health care issues, crisis response, professional ethics, constitutional rights and trial procedures. Specific topics may include in-take and pat-down procedures, housekeeping plans, control centers, personality disorders, drug abuse, elderly and terminally ill inmates, food strikes, hostage situations, suicide, inmate rights, first and fourth amendment issues, due process, evidence discovery and sentencing guidelines.

The purpose of the qualifying exam is to determine if a potential candidate can perform their duties effectively, so corrections officers should complete each section as if they already had the job. The topics will focus on all the aspects of a corrections officer job. Academy and on-site training also takes place.

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