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Post Info TOPIC: Promotional Exam FAQ


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Promotional Exam FAQ

We have created the following post to answer some of the most common questions asked on this forum and in our emails over the years. While many of these questions do not apply to those who have been through the promotional exam wringer a few times, those who are new to the job or taking an exam for the first time may find this useful. The FAQ will be revised as necessary when new issues or questions arise.

What is Rising Star Promotions? Why should I listen to you?

Since 2006, Rising Star Promotions has helped thousands attain the rank of sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. We are known for our extensive question banks of some of the most challenging questions available, which we have released during every exam cycle since our founding. You can learn more about us at www.risingstarpromotion.com, and pre-order our questions for the 2022 Sergeant Exam, which will be released beginning in March.

When are promotional exams administered?

While it varies depending on when the preceding exam is exhausted or expires, it can take anywhere between 2-4 years. Note that COVID-19 led to an extension of active promotional exams by 1 additional year, which in turn increased the amount of time between exams. Also, keep in mind that budgeting and attrition numbers play into the process.

For active exams likely to run the entire 4 years duration, it can be reasonably inferred that a new exam will be administered approximately 6-8 months before its expiration.

What is a protest session?

You are able to leave the exam with a record of your answer choices. Sometime after the exam, you will have the opportunity to request to attend a protest session. While this used to be paper-based, it has recently been done at DCAS computer centers. On your scheduled date, you will report to the center, sit at a computer, and be able to view the entire test, your answers, and your raw score.

You are able to submit protests to questions if you think the proposed answer is wrong, or there is more than one answer, and provide justification to make your case (e.g., The correct answer should be B, because according to Patrol Guide 202-01, step 1 it says).

If upon review (which doesnt happen immediately) the question is thrown out, anyone who got the question wrong will be credited the point. Some exams have 1 or 2 throwouts, others have had over 10! Exams with a high number of throw-outs were likely not crafted properly.

However, to get your final score (with any additions) and list number, youll have to wait until establishment.

I dont want to wait that long. What are my options?

Over the years, talented members of this forum have offered to compile answer keys after the exam and create possible scores based on formulas and the likelihood of an answer choice being correct based on the number of people who got it right. While not scientific, some forum users have reported a surprisingly high level of accuracy (+/- a few points). Test takers also compare their answer sheets with one another after the exam to get an idea of what their score might be.

When is the list established?

It varies. Sometimes it can take several months, other times over a year (ex: 2013 Sergeant).

Are exams on paper, or on a computer?

Sergeant and Lieutenant exams are still currently paper-based and administered at city high schools. Given a large number of UMOS taking these exams and limited computer availability, it remains to be seen if this will change in the future.

Starting in 2017, DCAS began administering the Captain exam at their computer centers (which is possible given the much smaller number of test-takers). The positive side is that you get your raw score immediately and do not have to wait or play guessing games with colleagues to figure out how well you did.

For how long do promotional exams remain valid?

Legally, exams are valid for a minimum of one year, and a maximum of four years. In practice, however, they run the full 4 year period.

When does the clock start?

From the date of the first promotion.

How much time on the job do I need to take an exam?

Sergeant Exam - 3 years on the job by exam day.

Lieutenant  Exam - 1 day in rank as a sergeant by exam day.

Captain Exam - 1 day in rank as a lieutenant by exam day.

How much time in rank do I need to get promoted?

To Sergeant - 5 years on the job by promotion day.

To Lieutenant - 2 years as a sergeant by promotion day.

To Captain - 2 years as a lieutenant by promotion day.

I see people on this forum talking about vacancies a lot. What does that mean?

The job has an allotted headcount for every rank. Vacancies indicate how much below (or above) the job stands for a particular rank. Vacancies can be a good indication of when a promotion might be. But in the past, the job has been more than comfortable functioning well below the allotted headcount, so while vacancies can help form an educated guess, they are not a guarantee that a class is or isn't on the horizon (for example, from a promotion "prediction standpoint, they've been rendered almost meaningless during COVID).

Why do exams vary so much in difficulty?

Exam writers are given significant leeway in creating an exam. While intended to be fair and relevant to the rank, that is not always the case. Some past exams were crafted with trickery and gotcha moments in mind (ex: 2009 Sergeant, 2011 Lieutenant, and 2015 Lieutenant), while others have been fair and mostly down the middle. While one doesnt really know until exam day, you must prepare for the worst, particularly if being a top scorer is important to you. Unfortunately, the writers don't always have good intentions.

Both the first and last person on the list is called Sergeant, Lieutenant, or Captain. So why does it matter?

The better the score, the sooner you are promoted. This equals more money at a higher pay scale, more seniority than lower scorers (sometimes years!), and for sergeants and lieutenants, sooner eligibility for the next exam (there have been exams where the bottom of a list was not promoted in time to make the next exam). Worse, you risk dying on the list, meaning no promotion at all without taking another exam (ex: 2006 Lieutenant).

How can I get extra points?

Additional points are added to your raw score in a number of ways (look up past Notice of Examinations (NOE) here for additional info from prior exams):

-Seniority (time on the job for sergeant, and time in rank for lieutenant and captain)
-Department recognition
-Fitness Incentive Program (FIT)

What if I am promoted after the filing period closes for an exam for the next rank? Am I screwed?

No! DCAS will permit those who became eligible for an exam after filing closes to register for the exam.

Are these exams "curved" or "scaled"?

Well, the general answer to this is no, not since the passing score of 70% was established some years ago. However, the 2017 Sergeant and 2022/2023 exams saw raw scores increased by several points, which appears to have been done to reach a desired number of eligibles. This resulted in a larger-than-normal list. We do not have an answer as to how or why this occurred, or the methodology used. Therefore, we do not know if this will continue.

Who writes these exams?

Exams are written by UMOS selected by the job, and they work under the supervision of DCAS during the writing period. 

I have other questions. Can you answer them?

We'll do our best. Feel free to scour the forum for older posts that may answer your questions, or you can always e-mail us. Good luck!


Ed & Tony

Rising Star Promotions




Forum Owner/Lead Instructor

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