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Understanding Situational Judgement Tests

This is the last of a six-part series of Police Promotion articles, 'b' the best you can be, provided by bselectedpolice.com.

Understanding Situational Judgement Tests

Date - 24th September 2017
By - Ben Ewart and Neil James
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In this series directors Ben Ewart and Neil James take you through their pattern of promotion success, covering Situational Judgement Tests (SJT’s.

Over the series we have covered the different assessment types, the key elements of a high scoring answer, the importance of delivery and in-tray exercises. All of the articles in this series can be found at www.bselectedpolice.com or www.policeoracle.com

Why Are They Used?

SJTs are a very cost effective and convenient way to select the potential strong performers from a large group of candidates.

Organisations or employers will therefore be more likely to use them if they have a high volume of candidates applying for a role, position or rank and need to fairly reduce numbers to a more manageable level, alongside other assessment exercises.

The tests try to create as realistic a situation as possible for the employer to test how the candidate will respond to the ‘real’ demands of the job that can be then used to help predict actual performance in role.

General Information

SJTs present you with a range of different situations that you may experience in the job or rank for which you are applying and ask you to make a decision on how you would act if presented with that scenario.

For each situation, a number of possible actions are suggested (usually around four or five but this can vary). You are required to choose between these possible options and judge which is the most effective course of action to take, and therefore which action you would actually take if faced with this situation.

The answers for SJTs are always multiple-choice, so you cannot chose an option that is not already given. Wherever possible, the situations try to reflect real-life aspects of the job.

Situational Judgement Tests can be presented in a variety of different ways and have different ways for you to respond to the situations presented. They can be:

  • paper-based
  • computer-based
  • text only
  • video clips to present the situation, with written response options animation and computer-generated avatars to enact the situation, with written response options.

Example Question & Types of Response

So, let’s look at a possible situation that you could be faced with and the possible ways in which you may be asked to respond.

You are a sergeant within a new team. You have just overheard an officer in your team on the phone telling a member of the public that they are over-reacting and they needed to 'get some serious help'. You are not sure what the call was about but the call has now finished and you have a chance to speak to the officer.

Most and least effective option

The situation is presented with four or five possible responses and you are asked to indicate which is ‘most’ and which is ‘least’ effective in your judgement.

  Most effective Least effctive 
Tell the officer you have no option but to recommend their dismissal    
Tell the officer you will work with them to improve their performance over three months    
Tell the officer to do it again     
Ignore the officer's behaviour and hope they won't repeat their mistakes on another occasion     

 

Rated responses option

Here the situation is presented with the possible responses and you are asked to rate each response for effectiveness, in your judgement.

There are four boxes for each response that give a level of effectiveness, whereas choosing the last box means that you actually believe the action to have a negative or counterproductive effect. In this type of question you will usually be able to rate each action independently of the other actions presented.

  Negative effect  inefficient Slightly effective  Effective  Very effective
Tell the officer you have no option but to recommend their dismissal          
Tell the officer you will work with them to improve their performance over three months          
Tell the officer to do it again           
Ignore the officer's behaviour and hope they won't repeat their mistakes on another occasion           

 

In theory, you could rate them all as effective or all as counter-productive. However, you should bear in mind that the way that the questions are designed it is unlikely that this would be a ‘correct’ response, i.e. one that closely matched the ‘expert’ opinions on which the test is based. It is more likely that there will be one action that is very effective and the others will be less effective or counterproductive.

Ranked responses option

The situation is presented with the possible responses and you are asked to place the responses in rank order as to how effective or appropriate they are. Here you will only be able to allocate each number once. So only one response can be ranked ‘1’, only one response ‘2’, only one ranked ‘3’ and only one ranked as ‘4’.

The numbers may be given explanatory labels e.g. 1 = most appropriate, 4 = least appropriate. OR 1 = most effective, 2 = next most effective, etc. Or they may be left simply as numbers for you to allocate the rank order.

  1 2 3 4 5
Tell the officer you have no option but to recommend their dismissal          
Tell the officer you will work with them to improve their performance over three months          
Tell the officer to do it again           
Ignore the officer's behaviour and hope they won't repeat their mistakes on another occasion           

 

Likely to perform option

This is a variation on ‘most effective’ and ‘least effective’. You are given the possible actions or responses and asked to say which you are ‘most likely to do’ given the situation with which you have been presented and which you would be ‘least likely to do’.

  Most likely to do  Least likely to do 
Tell the officer you have no option but to recommend their dismissal    
Tell the officers you will work with them to improve their performance over three months    
Tell the officer to do it again     
Ignore the officer's behaviour and hope they won't repeat their mistakes on another occasion     

 

Being asked which one you are most likely to perform or to do will probably start you thinking about your past behaviour.

This is what the designers of this particular answer type are interested in. They are seeking to identify your personality traits, past behaviour and default ways of working more than they want to know about your ability to evaluate the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ answer from a group of possible answers. Your ability to select the ‘most effective’ answer is probably based more on your intellect rather than on your personality.

In reality, how you are likely to perform and behave in a job will be a result of both intellect and personality. Test designers and employers are hoping to evaluate both these elements when getting you complete a situational judgement test.

Are They Timed?

Almost all SJTs do not have a time limit. Although there is no time ‘limit’ as such, publishers of SJTs will often have guidelines for the typical length of time people take to complete.

How Can I Perform Better?

It’s important to note that no particular training or knowledge is required to take this type of test.

When completing the test, look closely at the detail of both the situation, the possible answers, what you are being asked to comment on and also whether you are being asked for your judgment or information about your most likely response.

It is essential you read each scenario and each possible response thoroughly before beginning to rate or rank the responses.

Bear in mind that you can only choose from the available options and are being asked to evaluate the ‘best’ or ‘worst’ of these not any other possible options. When being asked to rank those options, they may all be weak or they may all be quite strong but your job is to put them in some relative order.

You are expected to use only the information provided in the question; do not make assumptions about the situation, even if it is similar to one that you have come across yourself in the past.

Critically, most (all) officers will have been given information with regard to the competency framework being used (CVF, PPF, MPS or local variations). You must keep these in mind as you take the test, as it will certainly help you. By identifying the competency or competencies that the question is addressing you can more easily get into the correct ‘mindset’ to judge the options effectively.

If you haven’t been given this information then make your best guess as to the competencies that are typical of the role for which you are applying.

I’ve completed the test… what’s next?

Once you have completed the test your answers are automatically scored by computer, and your result given to the potential employer.

Once marked, the number of answers that you rate or rank ‘correctly’ in the test can be compared to the results of a group of previous test-taker (the ‘norm’ group).

Employers may use this information as a straightforward pass-fail hurdle to reach the next stage of the assessment process (depending on the numbers required for the next stage in the process).

Can I Practice?

Practicing can help with your confidence in taking the tests and also helps remove some of the fear of the unknown. You can purchase a full SJT on our website: http://bit.ly/2hCDxaK The test will give you experience of taking a SJT under “exam” conditions as well as providing a report that contains discussion points that you may consider to help with your development. 

This information and more is available for FREE on our online Learning Zone at http://www.bselectedpolice.com

Check out our new Police Promotion Success Online Learning Programme. The most comprehensive assessment and selection online blended learning available. For more in-depth police promotion support on this exercise and all assessment stages, including interview and presentation, visit www.bselectedpolice.com or contact us on 0161 327 2126. Our expert team provide assessment coaching to police officer UK-wide preparing for promotion.

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