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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Police Assessment Tests: SJTs and Watson-Glaser

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In my blog all about the various assessment tests used in policing and promotion, I gave some overall definitions, pointers on preparation and summarised the various psychometric and other assessment centre tests in use. In this follow-up blog, I will explain more about Situational Judgement Tests and the Watson-Glaser critical thinking test, including examples and signposting to where you can practice.

“An average person with average talents and ambition and average education can outstrip the most brilliant genius in our society if that person has clear, focused goals.” – Mary Kay Ash


Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs)

SJT police

Situational Judgement Tests (SJT) are employed in various occupational contexts, both in and outside the police service. These assessment tests are considered a particularly effective measure of managerial and leadership capabilities. Academic research shows that SJTs are effective tools for use in both assessment and developmental settings. But what is an SJT?

Definition: A Situational Judgement Test (SJT) presents candidates with realistic workplace situations and various options to respond. It assesses your ability to choose the most appropriate action in these hypothetical scenarios. 

Different work-related problems or critical situations are presented with a range of possible actions suggested as a potential response. You must choose between alternative options, using professional judgement to identify the most effective course of action to take in the situation. Responses are scored from most effective to the least effective; your goal is to ensure you are choosing the best response in relation to the behaviours being assessed!

Most SJTs used by forces are written exercises as part of an assessment centre, though online tests and assessment are becoming increasingly popular. Here are some free practice SJTs compiled by the leading experts on assessment tests.

Note that assessment scenarios in SJTs (and other tests) are designed to test specific policing and leadership competencies of the CVF, but the scenarios used in your force may not be specifically police related. For example, you may find yourself as a retail manager dealing with situations (e.g. customer complaints, staffing dilemmas, workload prioritisation) which test the same competencies. Don’t let this distract you!


Watson-Glaser & Critical Thinking Tests

Police assessment

Several forces use the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) for police promotion processes, particularly for Inspecting ranks. But what is a critical thinking test?

Definition: Critical thinking is about being able to evaluate a range of information and evaluate it, to draw logical inferences and conclusions.

The Watson Glaser aptitude test is the most popular critical thinking assessment test. The Watson Glaser test very closely aligns to decision-making in the police; you’ll soon see why. It assesses your ability to assess a situation, understand and review multiple perspectives, while recognising the facts from opinions and assumptions. Critical thinking is used throughout problem-solving and decision-making:

Defining the problem

Selecting the relevant information to solve the problem

Recognising assumptions, be they overtly written down or implied

Creating hypotheses and choosing the most appropriate solutions

Reaching valid conclusions and judging the validity of inferences

“Well, tests ain’t fair. Those that study have an unfair advantage. It’s always been that way.” – Allen Dare Pearce

The WGCTA measures candidates’ cognitive abilities across a range of skills:

Critical thinking

Analysing and interpreting arguments

Making deductions and draw conclusions

Assessing the strength of an argument

Recognising and understanding assumptions

A key part of the assessment test will be your ability to determine factual information from opinions and assumptions, something police leaders often need to decipher in daily decision-making. There is also a time limit on the test, which is partly to assess your ability to deal with pressure. It is important for leaders performing more strategic roles, to be able to make solid arguments from information; often under pressure and while operating ‘in the grey’!

The Watson-Glaser critical reasoning test measures a variety of critical thinking skills, using short and long paragraphs of text. Your job is to analyse the text and show that you understood it. The test is divided into five sections, detailed as follows:

1. Inference assessment: In this section, you need to draw conclusions from a  passage of information which will contain a series of facts. A subsequent list of possible inferences (conclusions one could draw) will follow, and candidates will be asked to rate if they are true, false, possibly true, possibly false or whether there is not enough information to say in the statement. 

2. Recognising assumptions: Here you must identify whether assumptions are justifiable from the information presented. For example, in the statement, “Only those with high earnings can afford to holiday abroad”, it is assumed that holidays abroad cost more than other holidays. It tests your ability to avoid taking for granted things that may not be true.

3. Making deductions: This section tests your ability to review information and determine whether the conclusions presented are justified. You will be provided with a passage of information and a list of deductions made based solely on that passage. You will then need to decide whether the conclusions presented are supported by the information in the statement. For example, you may be told, “All Inspectors must make uncomfortable decisions at some point”, then decide from this whether the conclusion can be drawn that “All officers must make uncomfortable decisions every day”. In this example the conclusion does not follow, because the statement says nothing about officers beyond the rank of Inspector nor the frequency of uncomfortable decisions.

4. Interpretating Information: This section measures your ability to understand weighting of different arguments based on a particular issue presented. You will be provided a with a passage of information then a list of possible conclusions. You must decide if the conclusions follow based solely on the presented information.

5. Evaluation of arguments: Here you must evaluate the strength of a given argument. You will be presented with a debatable scenario, for example “Should the police attend all incidents within 20 minutes?”, then a list of arguments for or against. You will then need to assess the strength of each argument, according to relevance, importance and how well it addresses the question.

The following video is useful, giving further insights into this type of assessment test:

It’s all well and good reading about the theory of these tests, though the best route for success on such assessment tests is familiarisation through practice. Here’s a resource with sample questions and further information to boost your skills and confidence ahead of the real thing. Practice is the best way to ensure you achieve a high score on the day.

Although the Watson Glaser is most popular among the critical thinking tests, SHL tests are another brand sometimes used. Here’s an explainer for the SHL assessment test:


If you face any of these tests as part of a promotion selection process now or in future, I hope you find this blog informative, and I wish you the best of luck. Watch out for further blogs on assessment tests, giving more detail on each test you may face to further help you on your way to promotion.

For more support on your UK police promotion journey in the meantime, here’s more free blog content, regular YouTube videos plus the in-depth Rank Success digital toolkits which covers the role at Level 2 of the CVF, providing example evidence, including all stages of the promotion process and much, much more! You can also use code POLICEHOUR20 at checkout, to save 20% on any Rank Success digital promotion toolkits or bundles.

Kind Regards, Steve

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Police Assessment Tests: SJTs and Watson-Glaser 3
Steve Cooper
Steve Cooper writes expert promotion content to support the development of UK police officers.

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