Police Officer Selection Process

Being a police officer is both a challenging and rewarding role. Our selection process is designed to identify people who demonstrate that they have the potential to become fully effective in the role - simply, to be the best officers they are capable of being.

We strongly recommend that you can comfortably meet the National Fitness Assessment Standard before you submit your application as your fitness level will be assessed as part of our selection process. If you don't pass you will have to wait a further six months before re-applying, so make sure you're ready before you start the selection process.

Selection Process

The selection process is a combination of elements that enable us to assess your overall suitability and is broken down into the following stages:

Application Form

To comply with the requirements under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into effect on 25th May 2018 we have reviewed how we collect your personal data. 

This means that from 25 May 2018 you must submit the new national application form which you can do by downloading it from the 'How To Apply' section.  You must complete all sections of the form and disclose all material information.

Before you start you need to check that you meet the minimum essential criteria as detailed in the 'Eligibility' section.

The questions on the application form ask you to provide answers about the following:

What drives and motivates you to want to become a police officer; What are your expectations about the type of duties that police officers undertake; What impact do you think being a police officer will have on your social/domestic life; What preparation have you done before applying; What experience and skills do you have that will help you to be an effective police officer.

So it's important that you think carefully about your answers. It is likely that you will need to undertake some research in order to help you answer the job related questions on the application form, so you will need to be prepared to spend time doing some research to ensure you are able to complete your application form to a good standard.

The responses you provide to each question will be assessed so make sure your application is fully completed, well presented, clear and concise. You should not use abbreviations or text language. The application must be all your own work. Be honest and you should expect to be asked questions on any of the answers you provide later in the selection process.

If you pass the application paper-sift stage you will be invited to sit the Standard Entrance Test.  You are required to pass this test before being invited to attend for an interview.

Standard Entrance Test (SET)

The test is made up of three papers and there are three different versions of the test.  The test covers: language, numbers and information handling. Use of a calculator is permitted when completing the numbers paper.

You must pass all three test papers to proceed to the next stage.

You will be afforded automatic re-sits should you fail the SET subject to the maximum of three attempts in total. 

To help you get ready we've created sample test papers for you to practice with. To find them scroll down to the bottom of this page where there is a list of PDF documents which you can download. 

Candidates with Specific Learning Difficulties  

We are committed to making our selection process and facilities as accessible as possible for all applicants and employees.

If you have or think you have a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia you can contact recruitment on 01355 566350 for guidance on how we can help you. 

If you would like to know more about dyslexia visit Dyslexia Scotwest at www.dyslexiasw.com or Dyslexia Scotland at https://www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/

Initial Interview

If you pass the SET you will be invited to an interview with two members of the local recruiting team or a recruitment member and divisional officer. Preparation and research is really important as we expect you to have an appreciation of what the role of a probationary police officer involves.

The force website is a really useful research tool that is accessible to everyone.  This includes information about our values and purpose, our local policing Divisions as well as key information about our priorities and what we are focusing on in terms of local and national initiatives.  You can also widen your research by visiting local police stations and/or talking to probationers and other serving officers.

This is the first opportunity for us to find out more about you.  Being prepared is really important as we'll ask you questions relating to each of the behavioural competencies below.  The questions are designed to let you tell us about your own experiences, skills and aptitudes:

  • Effective communication
  • Personal effectiveness
  • Team work
  • Respect for diversity
  • Personal awareness
  • Service delivery
  • Job knowledge 

In addition we will seek to ensure that you have an awareness of our code of ethics. A copy is available to download in the What we are looking for section


The public is entitled to expect that Police Scotland will only recruit people who demonstrate the highest standards of professional conduct, honesty and integrity.

In order to ascertain suitability a wide range of police systems will be checked. Convictions, warnings or other adverse information will not in every case prevent appointment.

Completion of the vetting form is no longer required at the application stage.

You will be required to complete the Vetting Form when you pass the Assessment Centre stage of our assessment process.. The relevant forms will be issued to you by the recruitment team at the time.  Your completed vetting form and all vetting decisions are managed by the Police Scotland Vetting Unit.

The Vetting Unit will also want to know whether any of your close family or associates are involved in criminal activity and they will therefore search for any criminal convictions or cautions recorded against them. You must advise them that these enquiries will be made.

You should be aware that ALL vetting decisions are made at the latter stages of the recruitment process. 

Financial Status

Will you be able to manage your financial affairs on a probationer officer's basic salary?

Police officers are in a privileged position with regard to access to information and could be considered potentially vulnerable to corruption. Applicants to the police service should therefore not be under pressure from un-discharged debts or liabilities and should be able to manage loans and debts sensibly.

Police regulations also state that a member of a police force shall not wilfully refuse or neglect to discharge a lawful debt. Therefore the financial information provided by applicants on their Vetting Form will therefore be checked to determine and verify their financial position.


Tattoos are not necessarily a bar to appointment. However, some tattoos could potentially offend members of the public or colleagues, or could bring discredit to the police service. It depends on their size, nature and location, and sometimes on the extent.

If you have tattoos, you must describe their nature, words, extent, size and location.

Tattoos, regardless of language or symbolic format, whether visible of otherwise are not acceptable if they:

  • Are on the face (subject to religious or medical reasons)
  • Undermine the dignity and authority of the office of constable;
  • Could cause offence to members of the public or colleagues and/or invite provocation;
  • Indicate unacceptable attitudes towards any individual or section of the community
  • Indicate alignment with a particular group which could give offence to members of the public or colleagues;
  • Are considered inflammatory, rude, lewd, crude, racist, sexist, sectarian, homophobic, violent or intimidating.

Business Interests

Unless the Chief Constable decides otherwise, applicants will not normally be eligible for appointment as a police officer if they have other business interests. Therefore, to comply with regulations, applicants must complete the business interest section of the application and vetting forms and an assessment as to whether any business interest can initially be continued with on appointment will be made during the selection process.

However, the Chief Constable may decide to allow the business interest, if it is considered compatible with being a member of Police Scotland.

Assessment Centre

During the one day assessment centre you will take part in three practical exercises and a further interview designed to assess the skills and attributes required for the role of police constable. The competencies assessed are:

Practical exercises:

  • Effective communication
  • Personal effectiveness
  • Team working
  • Respect for diversity
  • Personal awareness
  • Problem solving


  • Effective communication
    Personal effectiveness
    Job knowledge
    Personal awareness
    Partnership working

Fitness Assessment

Being a police officer is both physically and mentally challenging. The national fitness assessment will require you to undertake a Multi Stage Fitness Test (MSFT) in accordance with the standards outlined in the relevant Police Scotland National Fitness Standard document at the bottom of this page. The assessment measures cardiovascular fitness.

This means the ability of your heart and lungs to provide sufficient oxygen to the working muscles to allow them to sustain a rhythmical activity involving large muscle groups (i.e. running, cycling, swimming) for an extended period of time.

All candidates must reach level 5.4 to achieve a pass.

To help you with your preparation and for training purposes, you may find the attached MSFT training video and downloads of use. You should measure out a level, 15-metre long training space in order to utilise these downloads fully.

  1. Bleep Test - Intro
  2. Bleep Test - Get Ready
  3. The Bleep Test

NB The Bleep tests are in MP3 format and require an MP3 supported player (e.g Windows Media Player or Winamp)

Bleep Test Video

The fitness test will take place after you have successfully completed the assessment centre stage. Only after you have passed this stage can you move forward to the next part of the recruiting process which will be the medical. If you fail the initial fitness assessment you will need to wait six months before you can reapply.

Depending on timescales, you may be required to undertake a further fitness test prior to being appointed to ensure your fitness level continues to meet our standard. For further information and to assist with your preparation please download the fitness guidance at the bottom of this page.


The Scottish Executive has set guidelines regarding pre-employment medical criteria. The medical is one of the final stages of the selection process. Applicants will be issued with a provisional offer of appointment prior to attending for their medical with a suitably qualified doctor.

If you have a disability which may require the force to provide you with any form of reasonable adjustment at any stage of the process then you should advise us accordingly so that provision can be made to support your needs.

There are guidelines available that lay out the mandatory national eyesight standards that all applicants are required to meet. If you are uncertain about your eyesight standard, it is recommended that you visit an optician to ascertain whether or not you meet the requisite standard. A copy of the mandatory national eyesight standard guidelines can be downloaded from the list of pdf files at the bottom of this page.

You MUST NOT submit or provide any information relating to your eyesight standard or any other medical condition prior to attending for the medical appointment will be towars the end of the selection process.

Whilst it is appreciated that you may have some concerns, it is worthy of note that recruiting staff are not qualified to make any judgement or comment relating to an applicant's confidential health status.

To avoid unnecessary disappointment it is therefore incumbent on you to ascertain as far as is reasonably possible that you are medically fit for the role prior to submitting an application.

For your information the BMI (Body Mass Index) should be between 18-30, however this will not be assessed until the medical stage.

If you are not passed fit by the Force Medical Advisor, you may ultimately have your provisional offer of appointment deferred or even withdrawn.

However wherever possible the force will give full consideration to the identification of reasonable adjustments.

Substance Misuse Testing

You will be subject to a substance misuse test as part of the recruitment process prior to appointment. We reserve the right to undertake this test at any stage of the process. Please be aware that an element of random spontaneous substance misuse testing will be introduced to the selection process from 1st January 2017.

Final Fitness Assessment

Your fitness may require to be tested again prior to appointment and therefore it is incumbent on you to maintain your fitness levels in preparation for your appointment as a police constable.

The assessment will again be based on the Scottish National Fitness Standard and will be the multi stage fitness test.

Failure to pass the final fitness test will result in an automatic rejection without exception.

You will be required to satisfy the National fitness standard during your two year probation if recruited into Police Scotland. Failure to meet the fitness standard during your probation will normally result in you being discharged from the service.

Final Stages

The provisional offer of appointment is subject to the following final formal stages of the selection process being fully satisfied:

During the one day assessment centre you will take part in three practical exercises and a further interview designed to assess the skills and attributes required for the role of police constable. The competencies assessed are:

Practical exercises:

•Effective communication
•Personal effectiveness
•Team working
•Respect for diversity
•Personal awareness
•Problem solving

The entire selection process is designed to be challenging. The length of time to complete the process will vary according to ongoing demand levels and the applicant's personal circumstances. You will, however, be notified regarding your progress as you complete various stages of the process.

You are responsible for notifying us of any change that may affect your application immediately. This could include a change to any of your personal details such as change of address, getting married or changing jobs.

Should you become subject of a report to the Procurator Fiscal or should you be convicted of any offence, failure to disclose this information to the Recruiting Department at the time could have a detrimental effect on your application.

You may find it useful to download a copy of the STAR Guidance which will assist you prepare for the competency based assessment elements of our selection process.

Please Note:contact page Police Scotland is not affiliated with any organisation that claims to train people for recruiting into Police Scotland. If you have any queries regarding the recruitment process please direct these to our recruiting team via the .


Related Documents

PDF files on this page require a PDF reader, such as the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (download).

If you would like this information in an alternative format or language - please phone us on 101 to discuss your needs.