911 Dispatcher Test Practice Guide [CritiCall, POST & More]

What Is the Dispatcher Test?

The dispatcher test is a selection procedure used by public safety agencies to screen candidates for the position of a 911 operator. Its goal is to hire people who have both the knowledge and ability to help someone in an emergency situation.

The Dispatcher exam usually consists of more than 10 test sections that evaluate different areas of aptitude. These areas include typing, listening, reading, setting priorities, speech recognition, memory, map reading, spatial orientation, and more.

Is the Dispatcher Test Hard?

The Dispatcher test is considered a hard exam since it simulates the challenging tasks of actual 911 dispatchers. Also, since most candidates take the exam without any prior dispatch experience, they're often overwhelmed by its unique sections, such as multitasking, call summarization, and more.

That being said, it's definitely possible to prepare for this test and succeed, even if you have zero experience. That's because you can learn and improve all the skills and abilities that are being evaluated on this test.

You'll find more info about the preparation options below.


What 911 Dispatcher Test You'll Likely Take

Most candidates for the many public safety dispatcher jobs in North America (911 operator, 911 call-taker, police dispatcher, emergency dispatcher, and more) take one of the following tests (click to jump to its section on this page):

 

CritiCall Test

The CritiCall test is the most popular 911 dispatcher exam in the United States and Canada. The exam simulates the day-to-day duties of 911 dispatchers and call-takers and evaluates the needed skills to succeed in the training and the actual job.

The CritiCall consists of multiple test sections, named "modules." Each agency chooses its modules from a pool of 25 sections, based on its needs and type of work.

The most common modules across agencies are typing, decision-making, data entry, call summarization, cross-referencing, and map reading.

Here's a CritiCall map reading sample question that resembles the actual exam's question types:

Free CritiCall Map Reading Sample Question

A man fainted at a grocery store on Lord Cir. A dispatcher ambulance is currently parked on the narrow road next to the medical center, between 29th St and King Cove.

What is the most direct route of the ambulance to reach the Lord Cir entrance of the grocery store?

A. Exit to 29th St and drive east. Take the second turn south to 15th Ave and turn left to Lord Cir.

B. Exit to King Cove St and drive east. Turn north and then turn east to 29th St. Follow the road south to 15 Ave and turn right to Lord Cir.

C. Exit to 29th St and drive east. Take the second turn south to 15th Ave and turn right to Lord Cir.

D. Exit to King Cove St and drive east. Turn right and then another time right to 30th St. Turn left to 11th Ave and follow the road until you reach the grocery store.

Answer:

The correct answer is (C).

Free CritiCall Map Reading Question Answer


To learn more about the test structure and access its full preparation pack, visit our CritiCall prep guide.

For additional CritiCall sample questions (with full answers), go to our Free CritiCall Practice Test.

 

POST Dispatcher Test

The POST Dispatcher test measures abilities that are both essential for the successful performance of dispatcher duties and necessary for candidates to possess before hiring. These abilities are divided into four areas: verbal, reasoning, memory, and perceptual abilities.

The test, which is mainly used by agencies in California, consists of 11 short exams, ranging from 5 minutes to 15 minutes per test. The test battery takes 2 to 3 hours to complete, including a short break.

Let's try a 'reasoning' sample question that resembles the actual test:

The following steps should be followed when approaching a crime scene. (These steps are not listed in the correct order.)

  1. Evaluate what kind of physical evidence may be present
  2. Capture the scene photographically
  3. Initiate a preliminary survey of the scene
  4. Prepare a narrative of the scene
  5. Conduct a detailed search of the scene
  6. Secure and protect the scene
  7. Record and collect evidence

Answer:

The correct answer is (C).

When approaching a crime scene, the first step is to secure and protect it (step 6). If the scene is not secured or protected, evidence may be moved or tampered with, which can strongly harm the investigation. Answers B and D can therefore be eliminated.

Step 7 instructs you to record and collect evidence. When investigating a crime scene, the location of evidence can be important, and therefore evidence should only be collected after the scene has been captured photographically (step 2), and after a detailed search of the scene has been conducted (step 5). We can therefore eliminate answer A, and conclude that C is the correct answer.

You may also have noticed:

A scene narrative can only be prepared (step 4) after the scene, and the evidence has been closely examined. This must therefore be one of the last steps.

The word “preliminary” in step 3 indicates to us that this is one of the first steps. Taking a preliminary survey should come before evaluating what kind of physical evidence may be present (step 1).


Visit our POST Dispatcher test prep page for more sample questions with answers and to access the complete prep pack for this exam.

 

Police Communications Technician Exam

The Police Communications Technician Exam, also known as the NYPD 911 Operator Exam, is 85-questions long and takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete. It assesses your abilities in 7 sub-areas, which are important for performing the duties of a 911 operator/radio dispatcher.

Read the RULE carefully and answer the question.

RULE:

A correctional officer whose life is not being threatened may not shoot a violent inmate with a rifle or handgun unless it is a .22 caliber rimfire using rubber, sand, or rock-salt ammunition.

Which of the following is in violation of the RULE?

A. Officer Jerry Thomson shot a violent inmate, who was beating another inmate, with a .22 caliber rimfire rifle, using .22 rock-salt ammunition.

B. Officer John Adams shot a violent inmate who threatened his life with a shotgun, using rock0salt ammunition.

C. Officer James Kelly shot a violent inmate with a .22 caliber rimfire rifle, using .22 sand ammunition.

D. Officer Kim Buckley shot a violent inmate who was not threatening his life with a .22 caliber rimfire handgun, using .22 Short ammunition.

Answer:

The correct answer is (D).

"A correctional officer whose life is not being threatened may not shoot a violent inmate with a rifle or handgun unless […]" – Buckley shot a violent inmate with a handgun while not under life threat."“[…] unless it is a .22 caliber rimfire using rubber, sand, or rock-salt ammunition.” – Buckley's handgun is a .22 caliber rimfire, but he used .22 Short ammunition, which does not comply with the RULE.

In answer (A), just as in (D), Jerry's life was not threatened. However, he used the correct ammunition.

In answer (B), Officer Adams's life was threatened. Since the RULE only addresses shootings when the officer's life is not threatened, no violation occurred.

Notice that answer (C) does not mention whether the officer's life was threatened; either way, there was no violation of the RULE:

If Officer Kelly's life was threatened, then there could be no violation of the RULE, just as in answer (B).
If Officer Kelly's life was not threatened, no violation of the RULE had occurred, since the correct ammunition was used.


For additional sample questions and practice tips, and to access the complete prep pack for this exam, visit our NYPD 911 Operator test guide.

 

National Dispatcher Selection Test (NDST Exam)

The National Dispatcher Selection Test (NDST) is used to evaluate the candidate's abilities in handling emergency calls, prioritization, decision-making, and teamwork. The exam takes about 85 minutes to complete and consists of between 83 to 113 questions.

It includes five sections designed to measure different aspects of dispatchers' performance 

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Listening
  • Problem-solving
  • Prioritizing
  • Multitasking


What If I Don't Know What Test Is Used By My Agency?

If you don't know what test is used by the agency you're applying to, we encourage you to contact your potential employer. Ask them for a detailed description of the selection process, including the pre-employment tests and other test administration info.

By getting this information beforehand, you'll know exactly what test to prepare for, and increase your chances of passing it.

 

What Topics to Expect on the Most Common Dispatcher Tests?

Several test sections are mutual to all 911 dispatcher tests in the U.S. and Canada. Here's a partial list of them - the full list is located on each exam page on our site.

Typing

To work as a public safety dispatcher, you have to possess a typing speed of at least 35 words per minute (WPM). On some tests, applicants are given one or two typed sentences and asked to type them accurately within 45 seconds or 60 seconds respectively.

In addition to these timed typing tests, you may be also asked to type a portion of text from memory in a certain amount of time.

There is also an audio typing test you might encounter. It works in the same way, except that instead of typing on the computer keyboard, you listen to an audio recording and type everything you hear.

Data Entry

The Data Entry section of the test is used to assess the candidate's dexterity and speed in handling data. Usually, it takes 10-30 minutes and the entries might include the caller’s name, the location of the incident, and the type and severity of the emergency.

Memory Recall

When testing your memory and recall abilities, the examiners want to see if you're capable of remembering details in crisis situations. This section of some tests may include a story with several parts or a set of instructions that you have to follow correctly.

Multitasking

During the multitasking section of a 911 operator exam, you'll be asked to perform several tasks simultaneously. You might have to answer multiple calls, type and listen at the same time and understand what's being said without missing any information.

Spelling

In addition to typing speed, spelling is also tested during the selection process. Some tests may include a list of basic spelling errors you have to find and correct in a given time.

Some tests might also require entering information into a database or query system by providing exact or partial matches for certain keywords.

Spatial Orientation / Map Reading

Another useful skill for 911 operators is the ability to read a map and figure out where an incident takes place.

On some tests, you may be given a large, detailed map of your area or state with several red dots that represent calls. To pass this section of the test, you have to find all the call locations and type them correctly on a computer keyboard or verbally into a phone.

Learning how to become proficient at reading large-scale maps can help you improve your score in this specific section of the dispatcher exam.

Prioritizing

Public safety dispatchers have to make critical decisions about where they are going to send emergency units and how they're going to organize their teams and resources.

Some tests may include a series of incidents, each with several steps or solutions you should select from. You'll be expected to prioritize the most important tasks and follow proper communication protocols.

Reading Comprehension / Written Comprehension

It's very likely that one or more reading comprehension tests will be administered during your selection process. These written tests are designed to measure how well you understand what you read and determine if you can make quick decisions based on the information provided to you.

Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension tests can be administered in several ways, but the most popular format is to listen to a recording or a call that represents an actual emergency situation. As you listen, you'll have to answer questions and type your answers into the computer.

Deductive Reasoning

Dispatcher deductive reasoning tests assess how quickly you can make sound judgments based on the information provided to you. The questions may require you to follow a series of steps and answer them in the correct order.

Character Comparison

Character Comparison questions are used as another important tool to assess your decision-making skills. You'll be shown several pairs of characters and have to figure out which of the elements in each pair does not match.

How to Prepare for the 911 Dispatcher Test?

The best way to study for the Dispatcher test is by practicing the same question types you'll face on the real test together with the same tight time limits. This will ensure you know how to work fast while making as few mistakes as possible.

JobTestPrep has created accurate preparation packs to help you practice for almost any Dispatcher exam in the country.

Visit the dedicated pages on our site to access the prep packs:


About the Author of This Page:

 

author
Arbel is JobTestPrep's Dispatcher Test specialist. He has over 15 years' experience working as a psychometric test instructor and has led JobTestPrep's efforts to provide thousands of Dispatcher test-takers with the most accurate online prep possible since 2017. You can contact him at

Read more about Arbel's courses.

 

 

CritiCall, NDST, P.O.S.T, and other trademarks are the property of their respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are affiliated with JobTestPrep or this website.
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