How to Pass the 911 Dispatcher (Criticall) Test? – A Complete Prep Guide with Practice Questions & Answers
Last Updated on May 23, 2022
Are you interested in going into the fields of emergency response, law enforcement, or criminal justice? If so, becoming a 911 dispatcher is the perfect job whether you are hoping to gain experience in working with the public in this way or if you plan to work in dispatching as your career.
You may have been surprised to discover that there is a test that you have to take and pass to be qualified for the job! Like many other careers, employers across the U.S. and Canada require this test as part of the final steps you’ll need to take to be qualified for hire. The same goes for UK NHS, for example.
Have no fear, however, if you’re worried about preparing for the Criticall Test. This article will cover what it is, how to prepare for it, and a lot of other important details that you won’t want to miss out on.
What is the Criticall Test?
The Criticall Test is a fast-paced test that assesses a person’s competence to perform a 911 dispatcher job correctly. Unlike many other standardized tests you may have taken throughout your academic career, this test focuses more on actual abilities and the application of your knowledge than general questions or accuracy.
It is this way because there is no specific degree or training program needed to be a 911 dispatcher. Therefore, it is a skills-based assessment rather than a specific trade or field knowledge exam.
Because being a 911 dispatcher is a position where you will undoubtedly encounter extremely stressful experiences, it is crucial that employers know you can handle these types of situations. While it obviously isn’t the same environment that you will be in at an actual job, taking this test gives you the opportunity to see what a few hours on the job might look like.
The test can also be a learning experience for you to know whether or not this job will be a good fit. In total, it will take no more than three hours to complete all sections of the test. Most people take the entire time to complete the test because it has many sections that are time-limited to how long it should actually take you to finish the task or questions.
What are the sections of the test?
One of the more challenging aspects of the Criticall test is knowing which modules will be on the test. In total, there are 23 modules that you may or may not be tested on. However, you still have to study all of them because the place where you take the test will most likely not let you know ahead of time what ones will be on there.
In most cases, the law enforcement department that you will be working with will have specific modules that they request or that they feel are most applicable to their workplace. On average, there could be 12 to 15 different modules on the actual test. Below are some examples of modules that you may encounter on the test:
Here, your ability to make decisions quickly will be tested. It’s unique because it requires you to speak into a microphone to answer the questions. An emergency situation will be presented to you and you will have to respond with what service you believe needs to be sent. Visual cues are provided to help you choose the right service.
For this section, it’s important that you practice thinking about what you’re going to answer before you say it to avoid blurting out the wrong answer. Decision-making also appears on other parts of the test, so it’s something you’ll have to know how to do very well. This skill is also something you will use regularly on the job, so it carries a heavy weight within the test as well.
2. Data Entry
Like many jobs, knowing how to correctly input data as a 911 dispatcher is crucial. If information is entered wrong, it could result in severe consequences. In this section, you’ll be given an emergency situation and will have to decipher the most important information out of it.
Similar to forms you fill out online, the forms require you to enter basic situational and demographic information. However, this section isn’t as simple as it seems. Scenarios will either be presented as a phone call (audio) or written out as passages. It’s your job to decipher them as quickly as possible and get the data in before the next one pops up.
You’ll be utilizing skills for multiple modules here too. An example of the data entry platform is pictured below:
For more examples of what graphics or questions might look like, visit the Job Test Prep website.
Many jobs require you to take an online typing test to assess your accuracy and speed, otherwise known as words per minute. Because you will be working in an emergency situation, it’s important to be able to type quickly and efficiently — all the while being able to multi-task and use your decision-making skills. This module is one you will use consistently throughout the test, so it’s important to study it and know it well.
4. Call Summarization
This section is fairly straightforward on what you’ll be expected to do. Like the other modules/sections, you will be presented with an emergency scenario and be required to verbally give a summary of what happened. Your data entry skills will also be tested here, as you’ll have to enter the important details from your summary into a form similar to the one pictured previously.
5. Memory Recall
Having a strong memory recall is extremely important as a 911 dispatcher; it’s a strength that you’ll have to have in other aspects of your life as well. Without having a strong memory, you may miss important details of an emergency situation that could be extremely detrimental to the person on the phone.
On the test, you will have to demonstrate that you are capable of memorizing many complex things at one time. You’ll input it in various ways and the information will be presented to you either visually or through audio. This is another skill that you’ll have to use throughout almost every module and question on the test.
6. Map Reading
Another useful life skill you’ll use as a 911 dispatcher is being able to read a map. As a dispatcher, you will have to ask people for their location and enter that information for the officers to be able to reach them in a timely manner. The questions on the test will have you take this skill a step further, however.
You will be required to look at a map and determine the quickest and best way to go from point “a” to point “b” while identifying landmarks along the way. Unlike many of the other questions, these will be formatted in a multiple-choice style where you will have to pick from answers A, B, C, or D.
Learning to adapt to this type of question style will be important while still focusing on other aspects of what you’re being asked to do, as multitasking plays a large role in this module.
Don’t get nervous when you see that spelling and grammar are going to be on the test. The spelling section of the test is going to be very similar to what you may have seen when you were in grade school, except it can be in an audio or a regular question format.
Being able to switch between the two is important, as you’ll never know which one could be coming up next. Being able to spell correctly and use appropriate grammar is perhaps one of the most important skills you’ll have to have or learn to have as a dispatcher.
Many other people depend on the information that you enter into the database, most of which will be highly-sensitive emergency cases. Therefore it’s vital that you are able to communicate effectively and that people can understand what you’re writing or saying.
Similar to the data entry module, you have to read through or listen to a scenario and then correctly enter it into a large data table. The tables could be large or small depending on what scenario you’re given.
You’ll be expected to do this in a very short amount of time, so being familiar with the structure of the table is important. Another example of how this might look on the test can be found below:
This example comes from the Job Test PrepPack. For only $99, you can have an entire three months to prepare with questions just like this one. Click here to access it now at the best price!
9. Character Checking Test
Being able to decipher between lists of codes, phrases, and other material that may look similar is extremely important when becoming a dispatcher. You may have to deal with things like license plate numbers, which can often become easy to mix up when they are put into a chart or list.
This module focuses on your ability to pick out the small differences between data and report those differences. The most challenging part of this section of the test is that you will sometimes be required to do other things or listen to a recording of an emergency situation while you’re sorting through the extremely similar data.
Therefore, its important to utilize the skills you’ve practiced in other modules to be successful in this one.
Like many other professions that deal with emergency services, being able to prioritize one situation over another when it comes to urgency is a critical skill to learn. Many times, you may have to simply use your best judgment to determine who needs help quicker than other people. Although this can be a subjective skill, this module will focus more on the objective facts that you will be given during a real emergency call. You’ll be expected to rank the calls in order of importance and severity.
11. Reading Comprehension
You may have taken other standardized tests that assess your ability to read a passage and pick out important details for it. In many aspects of your job as a dispatcher, you will have to read sometimes very brief or very lengthy materials and retain what it says. This module will require you to do this and more throughout the different sections of the test.
12. Sentence Clarity
Similar to the spelling and grammar test, this module focuses on your ability to utilize basic writing skills. You’ll have to work through a series of sentences or paragraphs and figure out which one is conveyed the best. Think — which one makes the most sense and explains the message the best. This will also be something that you will have to incorporate into your study skills to be able to interpret and understand the questions correctly.
Last but not least, one of the more challenging sections on the test for many is the math module. Don’t panic, however. You won’t be required to do any high-level algebra or trigonometry for this test. Because the purpose of the Criticall test is application-based, the problems you’ll be solving have to do with things you will see on the job.
How should I study?
Finding the right study resource will make a world of difference when you’re beginning the process of learning the material on the Criticall test.
You’ll want something that allows you to find sample questions, take practice tests, and explains the material in a way that’s clear and concise. Job Test Prep, an online test prep resource, has all these things and more to help you prepare to take the Criticall test.
They feature study material on all 23 modules. The website is also reasonable with its pricing and offers several different packages:
- “Basic Package”: access to the Criticall test prep for one week
- “Basic License”: access to the Criticall test prep for one month
- “Premium License”: access to prep materials for 90% of common standardized tests, including the Criticall test
Each option provides a customized opportunity to increase your chances of being hired by the organization you are taking the test for by 73%!
1. Do Practice Tests
Taking practice tests can help you learn what types of questions may be on the test. It also allows you to practice in an environment similar to the one that you’ll be in for the test. On Job Test Prep, you can try out a short practice test for free before you purchase the real study package. It takes less than 10 minutes, so it’s a quick exposure to what some of the tasks might be like on the real test. Click here to access it.
2. Become Familiar with Sample Questions
Like some of the examples featured above, becoming familiar with how questions are worded and structured is one of the best ways to prepare for the Criticall test. Because the questions you’ll have to answer are very specific to the job you may be doing, it’s helpful to know what to expect in this area. Here are a few tips when working through study questions:
- Be sure to read the question completely before answering.
- Look through each question option before picking your final answer.
- Use context clues throughout the instructions to help you pick your strategy for answering the question.
- If there are any graphs or passages you have to analyze, look at them immediately after reading the directions rather than skipping straight to the answers.
Important habits to develop to succeed at this test
In addition to studying hard, developing good habits while studying and test-taking is an important part of helping you succeed and perform to the best of your ability. Here are the top three skills that will be of help to you when preparing for the Criticall test:
Being able to concentrate – sometimes very intensely – on something for a significant period of time is something that will help you while studying.
Specific to the Criticall test, many of the subsections are extremely fast-paced which means that there is little room to ruminate or pause to think about what you have to do.
You’ll be expected to think quickly, which requires you to have a high level of focus.
2. Work well under pressure
While all standardized tests are stressful, the Criticall test has a unique type of stress behind it.
Practicing this at home is easy; try putting yourself in mildly stressful situations around the house and doing them as quickly as possible.
3. Ability to switch from one task to the other easily
Multitasking is a huge part of the Criticall test and becoming a 911 dispatcher. Being able to receive input visually and through audio is crucial to scoring well on the test.
Listening to intense music or a podcast and working through some practice questions is a great way to brush up on your multitasking skills for this test.
Now that you’ve got a basic idea of what’s going to be on the Criticall test, head over to Job Test Prep to sign up and get the high-quality test prep materials you’ll need to succeed. For a reasonable price, you can stand out among your peers when it comes to taking this test!
Written by Bailee Boggess McCoy
Bailee, MSW, is a freelance writer and editor. She specializes in career, social work, tech, B2B, marketing, and medical, health, and wellness content. She has experience as a job coach, DEI consultant for companies, community-project manager, and clinical researcher. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Georgetown College in 2018, and studied neurolinguistics and developmental psychology at the University of Oxford. She earned her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Kentucky in 2021. Her scientific research has been presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Associated Disorders.