With the help of industry experts, we have put together the most comprehensive downloadable guide to passing the Police Scotland selection process available. From initial application to online tests, assessment centre to interview, we’ve covered every single base in this online resource. If you want to become a Scottish Police Officer, there’s no better resource.

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Police Scotland: The Selection Process

With so few places available, competition for a job with Police Scotland is incredibly fierce. Naturally, the police are highly selective about who they allow into the service, and for this reason the selection process itself is very tough to pass. Only the most elite of candidates will be able to pass all of the tests, and make it through to employment.

When applying to become a Scottish Police Officer, you’ll need to complete the following tests:

  • An online application form
  • A standard entrance test, involving numbers, language and information handling
  • An initial interview
  • An assessment centre (including a second interview)
  • A fitness assessment

If you think this sounds tough, then you are right! Luckily, our guide covers every single of the above areas, in high levels of detail.


Core Competencies

  • Respect for Diversity. As a scottish police officer, it’s hugely important that you have respect for diversity. You certainly cannot work within the police service without this. This essentially involves considering and showing respect for the opinions, circumstances, and feelings of colleagues and members of the public, no matter their race, religion, position, background, circumstances, status, or appearance. It is essential that you can take an unbiased and fair-minded approach to dealing with every single member of the public, and that you can understand and respect the needs of people from different backgrounds. Remember that the police are there to serve every single law-abiding citizen, and not just people from select backgrounds, and therefore it’s vital that you have a good understanding of every person’s needs and beliefs.
  • Job Knowledge. Naturally, job knowledge is another essential competency. As in any line of work, it’s extremely important for police employees to have a full and capable understanding of their role, what it involves, and what their key responsibilities and duties are. Obviously, this is something that will become much more apparent when you start working for the police, but you are still expected to have a
    basic knowledge when applying. Prior to application, you’ll need to research into topics such as your local force’s priorities, what training they offer, and the type of work that they do. You should expect to be asked questions based around these subjects during the interview.
  • Service Delivery. Service delivery is all about focusing on the needs of the customer – which in this case is the general public. In a nutshell, service delivery means providing the public with the best possible care and service. Essentially, you need to be able to do your job to the highest standards and remember that safeguarding the public is your number one priority. In doing this, you will need to deal with complaints, learn how to reassure distressed individuals, and develop good relationships with community members of the area in which you are policing.

To find out about the other Police Scotland core competencies, check out our fantastic guide!

The Police Scotland Standard Entrance Test

Following the submission of your application form, provided you are successful, you’ll be invited to take part in what is known as the Standard Entrance Test (SET). You’ll take the SET at an assessment centre, in a location to be disclosed by Police Scotland.

The SET is a 3-paper examination, which tests you on the following areas:

• Language;
• Numbers;
• Information Handling.

Now, let’s look at each of these sections in a bit more detail.

SET Language

The language element of the SET will test you on areas such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, understanding of sentence structure and tenses.

There are four sections in total to the language test

Section 1. Section 1 is a fairly simple grammar-based section. It is worth 12 marks in total and will contain questions based on spelling, tenses, verbs, conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns, comparatives and superlatives, and vocabulary.

Section 2. Section 2 will test your reading comprehension ability and understanding of grammar. You’ll be provided with a passage,
and then be required to pick 12 words out of a total of 17, to fill in gaps in the passage. Again, this section is worth 12 marks in total.

Section 3. Section 3 is pretty tricky. In this section you’ll be given four jumbled-up sentences and will need to work out the correct order of the words. These sentences are deliberately difficult, and
therefore it’s important to stay calm and focused, and don’t panic if you find them confusing initially.

Section 4. Section 4 is a direct test of your reading comprehension. You will be given 2 passages, with 6 questions following each passage. The questions will be based on what you’ve read. So, you need to pay close attention to all of the facts contained in the passage, and answer based on this.

SET Numbers

The next part of the SET test is a mathematical assessment. This is possibly the area where the highest number of candidates fall down. If you aren’t familiar with maths or haven’t practiced, then
you will really struggle with this part of the test. With this in mind, you need to revise thoroughly beforehand. You will be allowed to use a calculator for this assessment, and there are 20 questions
in total.

The structure of the numbers paper is as follows:

• The first 8 questions will require you to perform simple calculations, such as adding, subtracting and multiplying.

• The next 12 questions will contain a mixture of ratio questions, working out time questions, adding/subtracting money, calculating speed, distance and time, and percentages. When taking this paper, a basic thing to remember is to always
include symbols in your answers. For example, if the question asks you to add together two amounts of money, and you miss off the £ sign from your answer then you will not get the mark. This is
the same for factors such as %, am/pm and weight.

SET Information Handling

The final part of the SET is the Information Handling assessment. Along with the numbers paper, this is the part of the assessment that candidates tend to find the most tricky, and many people will fall down when it comes to this.

There are lots of reasons for why this test is so hard. Foremost among these, is that the style of test is something that most people won’t be used to. You’ll be given lots of tables and charts, and will need to answer questions based on the information within these. Fear not though. While the test is really difficult, you can practice for it, and that’s where we are here to help!

The information handling test runs on a six-monthly rotation. This means that every 6 months, Police Scotland swap the test out for a new one. They have 3 tests in rotation at the moment, with all of the tests differing in difficulty and style. This is deliberate. Although Police Scotland want you to prepare, they also want to see how well you can deal with unexpected information.

There are two different types of question in this assessment, observation questions and calculation questions. Typical observation questions will look like this:

• On what are the most people likely to drive to the supermarket?

• Between what times were the most crimes committed?

• What is the most likely crime for people between the ages of 30-40 to commit?

Typical calculation questions will look like this:

• On average, how many armed robberies were committed per day, in the month of June?

• How many more people that stole cars were over the age of 40, than under the age of 40?

• Calculate the number of people who committed benefit fraud in the month of April, as a percentage of all the crimes committed during the year.

Police scotland Assessment Centre

If you pass the SET, you’ll be given an initial interview. Following this, it’s time to take an assessment centre. Your assessment centre will consist of the following exercises:

-3 group exercises

-1 competency-based interview

Below we’ve laid out some information on these tasks:

Group Exercises

During the assessment centre you will be asked to take 3 practical exercises. All of the exercises will be group-based tasks, which place an emphasis on teamwork and co-ordination, as well as your understanding of the core competencies.Group activities may also range from the cerebral (using the group to think) to the physical (and this could be anything from the less strenuous building a tower from spaghetti, to the more testing issue of swinging from ropes). Group activities are usually included in an assessment centre to test how you perform within a group situation – how you decided on your place within the group and how you interact with others. Today it is accepted that mechanical skills and knowledge are not enough by themselves; they are only part of the story. Very few people work in isolation and the ability to work with others, motivate and tap into their idea streams are key. This is especially important in the police, where your ability to work with others could have a direct impact on issues such as crime rate, and the welfare of members of the public.

In essence, group activities are designed to test how you react in people-focused situations, and put you under some form of pressure. We can all be on our best behaviour while the world is ordered and things are going well, but very often we revert to work under pressure. It is when we are under pressure that we see how short a person’s temper really is, or how they handle discord in the group. It’s very important that police officers can maintain a calm and composed outlook, and stay in control of their emotions.

Assessment Centre Interview

The assessment centre interview will be competency based. Similarly to the initial interview, you will need to answer a series of questions, but these questions will be focused around the following competencies:

• Effective communication;
• Personal effectiveness;
• Job knowledge;
• Personal awareness;
• Leadership;
• Partnership working.

You are likely to be asked at least one question based on each of the competencies, and it also would not be unusual for the interviewers to ask one or two motivational style questions on top of this. Just like before, when you answer these questions, you will need to use the STAR method in order to do so.

Below we have provided you with a sample question and responses, from one of the above core competencies!

Q. Tell us about a time when you have used your communication skills to resolve a difficult problem.

Sample Response 

“In my previous role, I worked as a team leader at a catering company. The company had a great reputation, and are well-known nationally. Our company would be paid to organise the catering for parties and events, with different events being given to different teams within the organisation. As one of the team leaders, my role was to oversee the management of any projects that my team was given. This included making sure that the budget was kept to, motivating staff to perform at their best, and giving my team instructions on how we should allocate our resources. In order to help me manage the team, I had assigned a sub-team leader, named Michelle. Michelle would essentially act as my deputy, and would be given responsibility for taking key decisions.

On the day in question, we were preparing for an event in Wolverhampton. The event in question was a big birthday party. I sent my team to the
venue to help start setting up, whilst I met with the person who was running the event, just to cross-check on key elements such as time, and food allergy requirements. When I arrived at the venue, I found that two members of the team were engaged in a furious debate. One of them was Michelle. Voices were being raised and things were getting extremely heated. This was attracting the attention of the venue staff, who looked extremely unimpressed by the situation.

I quickly stepped across, and asked Michelle and the other team member to calm down and come with me outside, so that we could resolve this. I then calmly and professionally asked them to explain what the issue was. Michelle explained to me that the team member in question was refusing to obey her instructions. She had asked him to lay out a series of fish pasties across the table on the right-hand side, but he had refused. Upon hearing this, the team member furiously interrupted. He said that we shouldn’t be serving fish pasties, because some attendees would be allergic to fish. He referred to Michelle in extremely demeaning terms. Having spoken with the event manager, I was fully aware of all allergy requirements – and none of the attendees were allergic to fish.

After listening to the complaints, I first addressed the team member. I explained to him that the way he had spoken to Michelle was completely
unacceptable, and that even if she had made a mistake, then this would not be okay. I then explained to him that he was in fact wrong, and there were no attendees who were allergic to fish. To back this up, I showed him the event listing, which contained the details of all known allergies.
Once the team member saw this, he acknowledged that he had made a mistake, and apologised profusely to Michelle. He begged me not to fire
him. Michelle immediately accepted his apology, and informed him that mistakes happen, and that the important thing is to move forward and
resolve this. I was happy with this, and authorised the team member to get back to work.”

Sample Competency Questions

Now, let’s look at some sample competency questions. For the purpose of this page, we’ve provided you with 2 sample questions and a brief description of how to answer each one. Within our guide you will find many more questions just like these, plus full and in-depth responses!

Q1. Can you give me an example of a time when you have utilised your job knowledge, to resolve a difficult situation?

Job knowledge is a really important part of working as a scottish police officer, and is one of the listed core competencies. The better you understand the core requirements of your role, and how they fit into Police Scotland’s wider objectives, the better you will be able to act as an exemplary representative of the police service. Police Scotland don’t just want a candidate who goes through the motions with their job, they are looking for someone who is enthusiastic and committed, who has made a conscious effort to understand every single element of the role. When answering this question, think about the following:

  • What was the situation? What needed to be resolved?
  • What have been the consequences if you had not intervened?
  • What did you say/do? How did you utilise your job knowledge?
  • What was the end result of this?

Q2. Can you give me an example of a time when you have worked with a colleague, to help improve their performance?

This question is asking you to demonstrate the core competency of teamwork. It’s important that police officers can work constructively together, to achieve organisational goals. Part of being a good co-worker is helping your colleagues when possible, to improve their own methods, and become more valuable members of the police service. When answering this question, think about the following:

  • What was the situation? Did you approach your colleague, or did they approach you?
  • What steps did you take to help them improve?
  • Did you need to overcome any obstacles, or change your initial plan?
  • How did your colleague respond to your help?
  • What was the outcome?

Sample Motivations and Values Questions

Now, let’s look at some sample motivational and values questions. For the purpose of this page, we’ve provided you with 2 sample questions and a brief description of how to answer each one. Within our guide you will find many more questions just like these, plus full and in-depth responses!

Q1. Tell us about why you want to become a police officer.

This is an incredibly common opening question, and it would be a huge surprise if you didn’t hear this during your interview. The best response here, is to be honest! Think about the reasons for why you want to become a scottish police officer. What has motivated you to apply? What is it about the police service that inspires you? Take a look at the goals and aims of Police Scotland on their website. Do you share these goals?

Q2. Tell me about yourself and what qualities you believe you have, that will be relevant to the role of a police officer.

This is another very common question. Remember, the purpose of this interview is to help Police Scotland find out more about who you are, and why you would be a great police officer. So, it’s not unusual for them to just ask you this outright!

Once again, your best response is to be honest in this situation. Think about what makes you a good fit for the role? What are your best qualities? How would they be of use to Police Scotland?

A word of caution when answering this, read the question! It’s pretty easy here to go off on a tangent and reel off a big list of qualities that actually have nothing to do with the police service. Remember, you need to keep it relevant, and link your qualities back to what the police are looking for.



  • An in-depth explanation on each of the core competencies;
  • What you need to say in order to demonstrate that you have these competencies;
  • Sample police interview scoring criteria.
  • Which competencies can be used in combination with each other;
  • Why the competencies are important to Police Scotland, and how.

2. HOw to answer competency based questions

  • An extensive overview of how to demonstrate every single competency;
  • How to avoid making critical interview mistakes;
  • The importance of structuring your responses concisely and logically;
  • Sample questions and how to answer them successfully.


  • Crucial information on both interview stages;
  • Competency questions which cover every single element;
  • How to structure your responses in order to maximise your potential;
  • How to focus on your individual success in order to achieve the desired results.
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