Police Ability Test

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Police Ability Test

Read below to learn about what the California police physical ability test and the WSTB ( Work Sample Test Battery ) is like and how to best prepare for them. These standards were compiled according to local departmental standards and the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards Training ( POST ), a statewide group that establishes the baseline requirements for applicants to become police officers.

Woman runs during sunset

Standard Physical Ability Test Overview

The physical ability test is used to measure aspiring police officers’ physical strengths and capabilities. In addition, local agencies in the state often have their own requirements as part of their job application process. The test, while varying across departments, generally has five sections targeting specific strengths. These are: 


  • Cardiovascular endurance
    • Often administered as a timed 1.5 mile run, this portion of the test measures your aerobic capacity. 


  • Muscular strength
    • This portion of the test will typically be a count of the push ups you can do, and therefore, your upper body strength. Other tests might include a body drag test, in which you’ll be required to move a weighted 165-lb mannequin in a given time. 


  • Muscular endurance 
    • To get a sense of your abdominal muscular endurance, you’ll likely be told to do as many sit ups as you can in a given time (usually in a minute).


  • Agility
    • The agility section of the test can range from dragging a weighted dummy within a given time to completing an entire obstacle course. With the obstacle courses, though, they are generally designed to incorporate other sections of the test as well. Other tests may include a wall agility route, during which you will run and jump over walls as directions change, in order to check your response time in high-intensity activities.


  • Grip test
    • A hand strength test will allow your proctors to see if you are capable of firing a weapon from either hand or only your dominant ( requirements vary by department ). Some departments will use a dynamometer; whereas others, will use a training safe handgun, to administer this portion of the test. 


This article provides a set of general plans and sections for the police agility test, but they can differ significantly. For example, the San Francisco Police Department has certain weight and height guidelines for prospective officers to meet. While not all departments have these requirements directly implemented, keep in mind that they could factor into the other requirements you must fulfill ( ie. different weights will affect expected running speed ). Beyond the height and weight standards at the SFPD, their test also measures hand strength ( with a dynamometer ), core strength (as many sit ups as possible in a minute ), upper body strength ( as many push ups as possible in a minute), and agility ( running and climbing over a wall ). There are 0-8 points possible in each of the four sections mentioned and you must get over 20 points, with at least 1 point in each section. Expected results and a detailed scoring breakdown are found on the table at this site.


Meanwhile, the Newport Beach Police Department has five parts: an obstacle course (to be completed in less than 2:03 minutes), a weapon simulation (use a handgun 5 times/hand), vehicle push (push a police vehicle in less than 10 seconds), body drag (move a 165 lb mannequin 45 feet in less than 15 seconds), and a run (run 515 yards in less than 1:52 minutes).


Other government organizations may also require physical ability tests. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) requires 24 push ups in 1 minute, 31 sit ups in 1 minute, a 300 meter run in 70 seconds, and a 1.5 mile run in 13 min and 35 seconds or less.

WSTB Physical Agility Test

Some police departments like the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety and the San José Police Department administer the WSTB (Work Sample Test Battery), which consists of a 9-yard obstacle course, a 32-foot body drag of 165 lbs, a 6-foot chain link fence climb, a 6-foot solid wall climb, and a 500-yard sprint, as well as a 1.5-mile run. If you’re interested in taking one in Northern California, the tests are hosted by South Bay Regional Academy and you can sign up here at this link.

Meanwhile, the Newport Beach Police Department has five parts: an obstacle course ( to be completed in less than 2:03 minutes ), a weapon simulation ( use a handgun 5 times/hand ), vehicle push (push a police vehicle in less than 10 seconds), body drag ( move a 165 lb mannequin 45 feet in less than 15 seconds ), and a run ( run 515 yards in less than 1:52 minutes ).

How to prepare

According to POST, officers do not need to take the California police physical ability test to become certified in California, POST requires taking a physical conditioning program at the end of a mandatory academy training. To pass this examination, their training recommendations are as follows:


  • Aerobic training
    • 3-5 days/week, 20-60 min/day
    • Example exercises include running, hiking, jogging, biking or swimming


  • Muscular strengthening 
    • 2-3 days/week, 8-10 exercises targeting core and upper body muscles (8-20 reps) 
    • Example exercises include sit-ups, crunches, push-ups, and planks.


  • Flexibility 
    • 2-3 days/week (ideally 5-7 days/week), 8-12 minutes/day, 15-30 seconds, 2-4 reps 
    • Example exercises include yoga, lunges, other dynamic and static stretches


When training, remember to know your limits and always do warm-up and cool-down exercises. Never overexert yourself as this increases your chances of long term muscle or joint injury. Beyond just training for your test, make sure to follow some nutrition tips to keep your body healthy: 


  • Prior to a workout and after, consume healthy carbohydrates that are easy to digest so you can fuel up and replenish your energy.


  • Stay hydrated before, during, and after your workout. Maintaining a sufficient level of fluids will ensure that your body is able to function as efficiently as possible.


  • Consume electrolytes after a workout. Replenish lost salts through sports drinks to reduce the risk of cramps and dehydration, and help your body recuperate from high-intensity exercise faster.


  • Limit your intake of processed foods high in saturated fats or sodium, as these make it harder for your heart to pump the blood you need to get oxygen throughout your body and increases the risk of heart problems.


  • Although your portion sizes will be unique to you and your body’s needs, keep your diet balanced. That means fruits, vegetables, meat, healthy grains, etc.


  • To promote muscle development, make sure to eat foods high in protein, such as meat and legumes.


Source: the American Heart Association 


Before your test, get a good night’s sleep, stay hydrated, and eat solid meals to keep your energy up! Bring some food and water, and stay focused and calm during your exam.


Please keep in mind that each city’s police physical ability test is different, so make sure to check with your local department for specific requirements.