NPPF Legal Exam…….a few words of advice.

Every year thousands of police officers make the decision to seek promotion and undertake the not so snappily titled National Police Promotion Framework Legal Exam or NPPF to it’s friends. With dwindling numbers of officers, to succeed in getting your stripes or pips (Bath Stars to give them their Sunday name) is harder and more competitive than ever before.

Step 2 of the NPPF process for both Sergeants and Inspectors is the legal exam. This means 150 multiple choice questions drawn from a syllabus found in the four volumes of the Blackstone’s Police Manuals; Crime, Evidence and Procedure, Road Policing and  General Police Duties. This is a vast amount of detailed material. It is perhaps not surprising that large number of officers fail the exams meaning dashed hopes and the unfortunate prospect of waiting months to resit.

We recently asked the College of Policing what the pass rates were for the National Police Promotion Framework Legal Exam over the last three years and the results are surprising

NPPF Legal Exam – Sergeants Examination

  • March 2015               4497 Candidates         Pass Rate 41%
  • March 2016               3858 Candidates         Pass Rate 36%
  • March 2017               4275 Candidates         Pass Rate 38%

NPPF Legal Exam – Inspectors Examination

  • March 2014             1620 Candidates           Pass Rate 43%
  • March 2015              1805 Candidates          Pass Rate 52%
  • March 2016            1551 Candidates.          Pass Rate  40%


It is clear that as more than half those taking the National Police Promotion Framework Legal Exam fail, the more you can do to maximise your chances the more likely you are to pass. A sensible first step is to familiarise yourself with the rules and syllabus. This document is updated annually and the 2018 version can be found at here – National Police Promotion Framework (NPPF) Step Two Legal Rules & Syllabus

National Police Promotion Framework Legal Exam – format

This document gives you vital information about the format of the exam and what happens on the day. You will face 150 multiple choice questions and have to achieve a pass mark of 65%. Although you will never know which ones,10 of the questions are not scored as they are ‘validation questions’ being tested for future exams. This means that to get 65% of the remaining 140 you must get 91 questions correct. As you will no doubt have already calculated you will only have just over a minute per question so there is little time to think deeply.

Multiple choice questions were invented by the American military in the 1950s. The advantage to those conducting exams is that they are a cost effective (cheap) way of testing candidates. The tests are easy to mark and correct answers clear. The disadvantages are significant. Their design means they are mainly a test of memory rather than understanding or reasoning. You could be the world’s leading expert on a particular subject but if you cannot recall one specific piece of information then you will get the question wrong.

The syllabus is large – the four Blackstone’s manuals extend to more than 1,000 pages. There must be hundreds of individual offences covered. The College of Policing were recently heavily criticised for including arcane topics such as the Trial of Lunatics Act 1883. However the position is, and remains, if something is in the syllabus then it could feature on the paper. The impact of the size of the task means that you will need to carefully plan and allow time for your revision. Both the Sergeants and Inspectors exams take place annually in March and October so you need to begin many months before this

National Police Promotion Framework Legal Exam – preparation

It is probably optimistic to think you can juggle a busy career and a social life at the same time as studying, so major changes might be needed.

During these months of preparation some help is out there in the form of practice questions which you normally have to pay for. These can assist, particularly as the exam approaches. No-one can replicate the exam questions for obvious reason. The Sancus version focuses on ‘quickfire’ questions which help test your memory, however there are other providers who offer full mock exams.

It is also essential to carefully prepare for the day itself. The exam is run to strict conditions as outlined in the syllabus and rules document.

Whilst some of the steps you need to take are obvious they are worth setting out here. You need a good nights sleep before the day of the exam. Prepare for this by adjusting your work, social and family life accordingly. Finishing work late the night before then going clubbing isn’t a good idea.

Make sure you are familiar with the venue and how to get there. With over 5,000 people sitting the exam at various locations it is unfortunately true that someone will get this wrong and arrive late. If you do, you are likely to be refused admission. You will also need your warrant card to prove who you are.

Be prepared to turn off any of the various electronic devices we all  now carry. Not only are they a risk to the validity of the exam but if alarms and ringtones go off you won’t be popular with the people sitting near you.

National Police Promotion Framework Legal Exam – how we can help

Having perhaps focussed in this article on the negatives we should finish by saying that thousands of people will pass and go on to achieve promotion so good luck!

If you do feel you need a bit of extra help the Sancus quickfire questions cost only £8 and are an excellent memory test and suitable for both the Sergeants and Inspectors exams.


NPPF Legal exams – 70 Quick-Fire Questions