Exam Preparation Tips
The following suggestions are based on interviews with employees who often score well when taking examinations. We have also incorporated information from Personnel Services Section publications and from other state departments. These are only suggestions. If you have developed successful strategies on your own, you should continue using what works for you.
The first step in preparing for any examination is to review and become familiar with the duties, functions, and responsibilities of the classification for which you are to test. Some of the ways you can do this are:
- Review the examination announcement/bulletin for key words and phrases. These will most likely be found in the "position description" and "examination scope" sections
- Review the class specifications to identify the "typical tasks" performed on the job (https://www.jobs.ca.gov/Public/Tools/ClassSalarySearch.aspx)
- Review the Task and KSA statements from the most recent job analysis (contact the Exam Unit)
- Research the office and/or department; read laws, policies, reports, manuals, news accounts, etc.
After completing the above, review your resume and other background material (training certificates, etc.) and identify examples of how your experience relates to the classification. This may also provide a means of identifying those areas where you may want to conduct additional research prior to your exam date.
For additional tips on beating exam anxiety, click here.
On the day of the exam:
Dress accordingly (layers are best) and wear a watch.
Allow plenty of time to arrive and park prior to the exam time.
Maintain a positive mental attitude; try to keep calm, cool, and collected.
During the Written Exam:
- Read carefully, work quickly, and follow instructions. Do not assume you know what is wanted, read each question carefully.
- Pace yourself; if you are having trouble answering a question, skip to the next question.
- There is no penalty for guessing; remember, your first impression is usually correct.
- If you finish early, go back and review your answers; make sure all questions are answered.
Qualifications Appraisal Interview (oral interview)
- Review your resume and/or STD. 678 beforehand
- Think about your personal or special characteristics (e.g. ability to meet deadlines)
- Practice asking and answering questions with a tape recorder to help polish your responses
- Present yourself with confidence and enthusiasm
- Speak in a clear and audible voice
- When describing your experience, use the pronoun "I"
- Avoid using terms like "just" and "only" as they minimize your skills and experience
- Support your statements with examples to show you know what you are talking about
- Remember: the panel cannot read your application or resume; "sell" yourself well
Training & Experience (T&E)
T&Es are typically questionnaires consisting of a series of statements representing tasks and/or qualities important for successful job performance. Candidates are asked to rate themselves on the experience, training, and/or education they will bring to the job. Making judgments about your own skill or experience level can be a difficult task; so too can accurately recalling in detail the accomplishments you have achieved in your career. Here are some suggestions to help increase the accuracy of your ratings:
- Review your resume and update if necessary
- Review your past performance appraisals
- Review your education transcripts
- Make a list of the training and/or certifications you have completed
- Read the questions and response options carefully
- Be honest and truthful; don't diminish or exaggerate your accomplishments
Your ratings are subject to evaluation and verification based on applications and other relevant documents submitted for admittance to the exam. Additionally, your stated level of experience and demonstrated capability as reflected in your ratings may be verified and/or discussed later in a hiring interview.
Public Safety Examinations
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) is responsible for establishing the minimum selection and training standards for law enforcement across the state. For those individuals looking to prepare for either the Communications Operator (Dispatcher) examination or the State Park Peace Officer Cadet examination, the Exams Unit recommends reviewing the Entry-Level Test Battery FAQs section of the POST website, which includes preparation guides for both the Dispatcher and Law Enforcement tests. Additional information can also be found on our "State Park Careers" page.