Can You Ace This FBI Entrance Exam?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: South_agency/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a venerable place in the history of U.S. law enforcement. It also fascinates Hollywood: from the fairly realistic "Silence of the Lambs" to the paranormal (and sometimes paranoid) craziness of "The X-Files," screenwriters have loved to write about the workings of the Bureau -- or what they *imagine* to be its workings. The truth is, a number of films and TV shows wildly miss the mark in terms of realism. 

But maybe you think that you've avoided buying into the fallacies. Maybe you feel that you know what it'd take to get into the FBI, to train at the famous Academy at Quantico, and to do the real work that follows. If so, we've got a quiz for you!

Okay, we can't give you a background check, an in-person interview, or a physical-fitness exam like the Bureau would. But we will throw you some logic questions like you might find on the FBI's computerized exam, and some ethical dilemmas to solve. We'll also ask a few personality questions, to gauge whether you've got the right character to work for the FBI. All in all, we're going to put you through a mental wringer -- just like the FBI's exam would do. Can you get the coveted 29-or-more right? Find out now!


Do you need a background in police work to be an FBI agent?

A college degree is virtually a requirement. However, law enforcement work is not. Bear in mind, though, that an applicant should be in good physical shape, as police officers are required to be.

Which of these languages would it NOT be beneficial to speak?

The FBI values agents who are fluent in foreign languages. Any of these languages would look good on a resume.

After a hard day at work, which of these would you most like to do?

Obviously, the FBI is looking for the "three-mile run" person. Exercise would be considered the healthiest way to deal with stress. Sleep is healthy, but "go straight to bed" looks a little too passive.

Under which of these conditions is it OK to enter a residence without a search warrant?

There are several exceptions to the need for a search warrant. One of them is that evidence is in "plain view." So what's to keep an agent from entering a building warrantless, finding drugs or guns, and later claiming those things were in plain view when they weren't? We'll have to trust to the integrity of the FBI on that one!

What prompted the passage of the Patriot Act?

The Patriot Act lowered standards for the acquisition of search or surveillance warrants, and made it easier for federal agents to obtain government, medical, legal and even library records on citizens under investigation. Sometimes controversial in civil-rights terms, the Patriot Act is a tool that has been useful to FBI agents in their work.

What federal department oversees the FBI?

The FBI is a part of the Justice Department. So are other federal law-enforcement agencies, like Customs and and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Is it accurate to call the FBI a national police force?

This is a common misconception that some people have about the FBI. However, the FBI has a different focus than a police force, and in fact, rarely arrests people -- which is one of the most common duties of a police officer.

Which of these would an FBI agent be most likely to do?

Protection of high-ranking officials and their families is usually the work of the Secret Service. Of the other three crimes, only the child-abduction case is a crime in which a local jurisdiction would call for federal help.

Which of these skills is the FBI willing to teach an agent with no prior expertise?

This answer is just common sense. Many applicants with otherwise solid educational backgrounds and valuable experience -- like finance, law, or foreign-language fluency -- have never fired a gun before. The Bureau commonly teaches gun use and safety to agents.

Which of these backgrounds is NOT terribly relevant to FBI work?

You knew this, right? While the FBI looks for diversity of experience in its corps of agents, a theater background is unlikely to impress a recruiter.

What would an agent-in-training do on the "Yellow Brick Road"?

The Yellow Brick Road is a grueling endurance course on which trainees prepare to pass their physical-fitness tests. Of course, in the days of "tough mudding," it doesn't seem as daunting to us civilians!

Which of these is the best response to this statement: "If a co-worker is falling behind at work, I speak to him or her before going to a superior."

The FBI is looking for people who work well in a team environment, not teacher's pets. The best response here is to indicate that you'd try to resolve the situation before going to the boss. However, "neither agree nor disagree" probably wouldn't hurt much -- it allows for some wiggle room in how you'd handle the situation. The only "red flag" answer here would be "disagree."

Which of these is unimpeachable evidence of guilt or innocence?

No form of evidence is completely reliable. An agent always has to consider the possibility of human error or corruption in the way material is handled and examined.

A bat and a ball, purchased together, cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

This logic question is a classic, and people usually only guess one of two answers -- ten cents, which is wrong, or five cents, which is correct. Five cents plus one dollar more than that -- $1.05 -- is $1.10. The "intuitive" answer here is actually wrong!

How many miles must you run as part of your physical assessment?

This probably doesn't seem very far, at least, if you're in good shape. Bear in mind, you'll have time to increase your physical endurance while at the Academy. You just need a baseline level before entering Quantico.

Under what circumstances do the Miranda rights come into play?

Miranda rights are the ones read at time of arrest, famously beginning, "You have the right to remain silent." Bear in mind, though, that FBI agents don't usually arrest suspects, except under urgent circumstances. That duty usually falls to local police officers.

To decide which son should inherit his land, a rancher challenges his two sons to have a race to a distant town -- but the son with the slowest horse will win! Can the sons resolve this problem without stretching the race out indefinitely?

The answer is in how the challenge is worded. It's not the "second son to arrive," it's the son with the "slowest horse." They should switch horses and race as fast as they can to the destination.

Does a crime have to be interstate in nature before the FBI is called in to help?

This is another misperception about the Bureau. A small jurisdiction may call on the FBI for investigative aid whenever a crime is serious - a bank robbery, a homicide -- and the local agencies just don't have the resources they need.

You are on your way to work when you see a dog hit by a car. There's an important meeting at work today, but the dog is badly injured. How might you best deal with the situation?

The second option is almost certainly the best way to deal with a situation that is, no matter what, difficult. Calling 911 might cost you some time, but your boss should understand that these were extraordinary circumstances, and not to stop at all would be heartless.

Which of these is protected under the Fourth Amendment?

If you think being an agent is all about car chases and guns, think again! Understanding the Fourth Amendment is crucial to investigative work -- it's the basis for whether evidence will be found admissible in court or thrown out.

A rare-coin dealer has been secretly selling Roman coins with the image of Julius Caesar and the date "67 BC" on them. How do you deal with this situation?

A coin from before the time of Christ would not have the letters "B.C." on it. Nobody knew yet that Jesus Christ was going to be born.

A lie detector is more formally known as a _______.

A polygraph and the results it provides will be part of your job as an agent. However, you will not be administering polygraph examinations unless you are also a licensed examiner; there are professional standards upheld by the American Polygraph Association.

Can the FBI make you take a lie-detector test before accepting you to the Academy?

A polygraph is part of the background check. It's important for the Bureau to know that they are hiring someone with a clean criminal background, no drug habit, and no connection to terrorist organizations.

A fellow agent is going through a rough divorce, and her job performance reflects that. In fact, it's starting to hurt the whole team's effectiveness. What is your best course of action?

As with many of the exam's judgment questions, this one has no perfect solution. A team discussion might get uncomfortable. But it's the one that best balances a team ethic with responsibility to the Bureau.

Which of these "agree/disagree" statements is unlikely to be part of your personality assessment?

The FBI is not allowed to discriminate based on religious affiliation. The Bureau is likely to learn your religious background as part of the application process -- but they won't ask a loaded question like this on your personality assessment.

If you are assigned to a "legat," where are you going to work?

The FBI's "legal attaches," or "legats" for short, provide aid and training for foreign law-enforcement agencies and combat terrorism. They work closely with the American embassies in those nations.

A colleague has been coming to work smelling like marijuana. When you ask him about it, he sheepishly says his new girlfriend smokes it, despite his disapproval. What do you do next?

While some of us might be tempted by option #2, the Bureau has a strict policy on drugs. They'll want to see that you take this potential issue directly to a supervisor for follow-up.

How long, according to the law, can interrogations last?

The courts have set no limit on interrogation time. To avoid long hours in an interview room, a wise suspect will simply claim his or her right not to talk to the police. Sticking to this principle will bring the interview to an early end.

You're questioning a person who prefaces answers with "I think it was ..." or "I sort of remember that ...". What does this suggest to you?

Most people, when lying, will hedge in case they get caught; it's a good tipoff to the agents questioning them. Bear in mind, though, that experienced liars know not to do this, and pathological liars usually won't because they believe, on some level, in the rightness of what they're saying.

Financial misdeeds are called ______ crimes.

Financial crimes are called "white collar" crimes. Untangling these money trails is a useful skill for an agent, which is why a background in finance looks good on an application.

Is there such a thing as "blue collar" crime?

The term "white collar crime" underscores a bit of imbalance in society -- that is, a lot more media attention and police investigation is focused on crimes like armed robbery, carjacking, drug-dealing, etc., which are more likely to be crimes of the poor. As an FBI agent, you are expected to remember that crime is crime, no matter who's committing it, what neighborhood they live in, and what class ring they wear.

What does the RICO act deal with?

The full name is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It was passed in the early 1970s, mostly to deal with the Mafia. Of course, organized crime is a much wider ethnic and cultural phenomenon than just Italian-American organizations on the East Coast.

At the Academy, where would you and fellow trainees go through practice scenarios like a hostage rescue or a bank robbery?

"Hogan's Alley" is a realistic "town" where agents practice responding to emergent situations. Live actors play criminals and bystanders, and agent trainees use paintball guns, so that no one gets hurt.

What do the "rules of engagement" apply to?

The term comes from the military idea of "engaging" with the enemy. But in civilian law enforcement, an "enemy" is often a US citizen with more civil rights than an enemy combatant, so the decision on whether to use potentially lethal force is considerably more complicated. That's why formal "rules of engagement" are important.

What is the maximum age to apply to the FBI?

The FBI cuts off admission to the Academy at 37 years old. This isn't because it considers people older than that to be unfit. It's because the FBI has a mandatory retirement age of 57, and considers less than 20 years of service to be less than a full career. In other words, training agents is a research-intensive process, and the Bureau doesn't want to do it for short-timers.

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