Are agencies required to give the POST Entry-Level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery (Dispatcher Test)?
Commission Regulation 1957 mandates that “public safety dispatchers shall demonstrate Verbal, Reasoning, Memory, and Perceptual Abilities at levels necessary to perform the job.“ These abilities must be evaluated before hire to assure the presence of ability levels commensurate with the performance of dispatcher duties, as measured by the POST Entry-Level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery (POST Dispatcher Test) or alternative job-related tests of these abilities. Since scores on the POST Dispatcher Test are predictive of both training proficiency and job success, many law enforcement agencies and communication centers use the POST Dispatcher Test to measure the applicant’s aptitude for performing public safety dispatcher work.
What does the POST Dispatcher Test Measure?
The POST Dispatcher Test is designed to measure aptitude for performing public safety dispatcher work. The test consists of eleven (11) brief tests that measure a candidate’s:
- Verbal Ability (the ability to read and listen to information and identify facts and draw conclusions; and the ability to write clearly),
- Reasoning (the ability to apply general rules to specific problems to attain logical answers; and the ability to correctly follow rules to arrange things or actions in a certain order),
- Memory (the ability to store and retrieve facts, details, and other information), and
- Perceptual Ability (the ability to quickly and accurately compare letters and numbers presented orally and in written form; and the ability to shift back and forth between two or more sources of information, both written and orally imparted, in performing a task).
Each test is administered with its own set of instructions and is timed separately. The separately-timed tests range from 5 minutes to 15 minutes each. The entire test battery takes about 2½ to 3 hours, including a short break. Additional detailed information about the test battery is available in the POST Entry-Level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery: User’s Manual (pdf).
Is it possible to obtain a copy of the test for review?
For test security reasons, current test materials are not provided for review. Copies of the POST Dispatcher Test are only provided to agencies that use the test as part of their hiring process. Information about the test format along with sample questions is included in the POST Entry-Level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery Examinee Guide (pdf). The Examinee Guide is designed for and can be disseminated to applicants.
How do agencies get permission to use the test?
Agencies that would like to use the POST Dispatcher Test as part of their hiring process should complete and submit a Security Agreement. Once completed, contact POST at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional instructions.
Does POST charge a fee for the test?
POST does not charge a fee for the test. However, there are fees associated with expedited shipping of answer sheets. If your agency needs to order answer sheets for an upcoming examination, your request must be submitted to email@example.com at least 15 business days prior to your examination date.
Do agency personnel need to be trained to administer the test?
Yes, all Dispatcher proctors are required to complete the Dispatcher Selection Test Battery online proctor training course. The Dispatcher Selection Test Battery course covers general test security information and procedures specific to the ordering, storage, administration, mailing, and scoring of the test. Another option is to have CPS proctor the test for your agency. CPS charges for this service and needs at least one month’s notice to schedule. For more information on proctor services, contact CPS at firstname.lastname@example.org or (916) 471-3516.
All users of the Dispatcher Selection Test Battery must comply with this requirement. POST will only fill dispatcher test orders and provide scoring services for agencies that are in compliance with POST's online proctor training requirements.
Additional questions about the Online Proctor Training can be directed to email@example.com.
How do I order the test?
If your agency has a current Security Agreement on file, you may submit your test request to POST at firstname.lastname@example.org. All requests must be made at least 15 business days prior to your testing date. Test order requests received after 12:00 pm will be considered the following business day.
What advice should be given to applicants who are preparing to take the test?
Agencies can refer applicants to the POST Entry-Level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery Examinee Guide (pdf) for information on the test format and sample questions. Your agency may want to have some printed copies of the Examinee Guide available for applicants.
Can an applicant take the exam multiple times?
Yes, however, before an applicant can retest, the applicant must wait for a period of one month (30 calendar days) before taking the exam again. This applies even if the exam is taken through a different department/agency than the original exam.
How are test results processed?
All answer sheets are sent to POST for processing. Upon receipt, POST electronically scans the answer sheets and renders a score report which includes a breakdown of each applicant’s verbal, reasoning, memory, perceptual abilities and total T-scores. The score report is sent to the agency (either as a hard copy or electronically, depending on the agency’s preference) within 10 business days.
How should agencies interpret and use the test scores rendered by POST?
When POST electronically scans test answers, statistical calculations are performed to convert raw test scores (the number of items answered correctly) into “T-scores.” T-scores are standardized scores that place an individual applicant’s performance on the test into a distribution (bell-shaped curve) with a midpoint (average) of 50 and a standard deviation of 10. If an applicant’s score falls around 50, his/her performance is considered “average” when compared to other applicants who have taken the test. If an applicant’s score is 40 or below, his/her performance is considered “below average” when compared to other applicants who have taken the test. If an applicant’s score is 60 or above, his/her performance is considered “above average” when compared to other applicants who have taken the test.
POST has established neither a mandated nor recommended cut score for the exam. It is the responsibility of the user agency to set the cut score. POST has established, however, a recommended range of scores within which the cut score should be set. This range is from 48 to 57 based on total test score (Overall T score). POST research has repeatedly demonstrated that there is a linear relationship, across the entire range of scores, between the scores on the POST Test Battery and on the job. Therefore, the higher a department sets the cut score the higher the expected proficiency of those passing. Conversely, the lower the cut score the lower the expected performance of those passing.
As is always the case with test predictions, there will be false negatives and false positives. That is, there will be some individuals with low test scores for whom failure is predicted but who will succeed. And, there will be individuals with passing test scores for whom success is predicted but who will fail. In the long run, however, low scoring individuals will perform less well than better scoring individuals, and the higher the test score achieved the greater the probability that the individual will perform more capably on the job. Care should be exercised, however, when deciding how high to set a cut score. For while it is true that higher scores predict higher abilities, they also tend to increase adverse impact against some protected groups. Thus, considerations other than just predicted performance should play a role in deciding on a specific cut score (e.g., the number of vacancies to be filled, the ethnic make-up of the department, etc.). One important factor to consider when setting a cut score is the standard error of measurement for the test. No test is perfectly reliable; there is always some error in test scores. The standard error of measurement is an estimate of the magnitude of this error. For the POST test battery, the standard error is about 3 score units. This means that for a score of 50, for example, there is a 68 percent chance that the "true" score is somewhere between 47 (50-3=47) and 53 (50+3=53). Realizing that scores are not error free, one should be cautious when making distinctions between candidates with extremely close scores.
Given the diverse needs of California agencies, POST does not require all agencies to use the same passing score. Agencies are allowed to locally determine the passing score that best fits their hiring needs and standards. For additional information on setting the passing score, see the POST Entry-Level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery: User’s Manual (pdf).
How are test results reported to applicants?
As indicated in the POST Security Agreement, all agencies that use the POST Dispatcher Test are required to provide each applicant with a T-score breakdown that includes the individual applicant’s Verbal, Reasoning, Memory, Perceptual Abilities and total T-scores. The score breakdown must be provided to the applicant in writing on agency letterhead within 30 days of the test administration. POST does not provide T-scores to applicants.
How can test results be verified for applicants who tested at a different agency?
For security reasons, POST is unable to provide test results directly to applicants or other unauthorized persons. Authorized individuals (i.e., individuals listed on a current POST Entry-Level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery Security Agreement) from a POST user agency can contact POST’s Standards, Evaluation, and Research Bureau at (916) 227-4888 to verify test results reported by applicants.
What if I have additional questions?
Additional questions about the POST Entry-Level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery can be directed to email@example.com or the Test Order Information Line at (916) 227-4888.