What Is the Corrections Officer Exam

The Corrections Officer Exam is a standardized test that certifies corrections officers. Corrections officers include personnel who work directly with offenders. Those who take the corrections officer certification exam include corrections officers, custodial officers, security officers, corporals, and sergeants. In their line of work, corrections officers may be responsible for managing offenders and controlling offenders’ movement to ensure offenders are safely secured. Corrections officers also may need to maintain the safety and health of offenders, ensuring that they have proper sanitation. Corrections officers will be communicating directly with offenders and need to know how to communicate with them appropriately. They must also know how to use and maintain their equipment, as well as understand the laws and ethics defining their job description.


Obtaining certification by taking the corrections officer certification exam is one way to demonstrate your competence on the job to prospective employers. In order to take the exam, you must have earned either your high school diploma or GED. You also must have completed at least one year of on the job experience, and received an either satisfactory or better review by your supervisor.

The corrections officer certification exam is offered through the American Correctional Association, which is a professional association of corrections officers and other, similar professions. The cost of the exam is $175. If you are a member of the American Correctional Association, you can take the corrections officer certification exam at a discounted rate of $140. If you fail the exam and must take the exam a second time, the fee is only $55 for the second exam, or $44 if you are a member of the American Correctional Association.

Military personnel on active duty may be able to have Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) pay for a portion of the exam fee or the exam fee in its entirety. Similarly, civilians may be able to have a portion or the entirety of their exam fees paid by a government agency. Check with your employer to see what your options are for reducing or eliminating the corrections officer certification exam’s cost to you.

You can register for the corrections officer certification exam through the American Correctional Association’s website. The exam is offered in various cities in the United States throughout the year. Check the exam schedule on the American Correctional Association’s website for times and locations near you. You must register to take the exam at least one month in advance of the exam date, so be sure to check the schedule several months before you actually wish to take the exam, allowing yourself enough time to secure the date and location of your choice.

There are two hundred questions on the corrections officer certification exam. Whether you pass or fail the exam is based on the percentage of questions you answer correctly. You must answer 75%, or one hundred and fifty questions, correctly in order to pass the exam. If you answer 90%, or one hundred and eighty questions, correctly, you will be designated as having earned honors on the exam.

The corrections officer exam is only offered in a paper-based format. Because the exam is not offered on a computer, you will not receive your scores immediately. Your score will be mailed to you. If you pass the exam, you will also receive a congratulatory letter, a supervisor notification form, a sample press release, a pin, and a certification when you receive your pass score on the exam.

Passing the corrections officer certification exam is only the first step towards maintaining your certification as a corrections officer. Every three years, you must complete forty continuing education credits in order to renew your certification. These credits must help you build your career by expounding on information tested on the corrections officer certification exam, not merely repeating the same set of knowledge.

Taking the Corrections Officer Exam

Taking the Corrections Officer ExamThe day you take the corrections officer certification exam, the more prepared you are, the better you will do on the exam. Preparing for the exam does not only include studying the material you will be tested on, but also includes knowing what to expect when you arrive at your test center and being sure that your mind and body are in the proper state to concentrate, recall information, and apply concepts to new situations.

You will need to bring certain items to your test location, and you will need to be sure to leave other items at home that are forbidden during the exam. You will need to have a current piece of identification with a photograph in order to be issued your exam. You will also need to bring your examination number, which is listed on the letter you received authorizing you to take the exam. The penalties for neglecting to bring these items are steep; you will be listed as a no-show for the exam and you will be denied your chance to take the test that day, necessitating a rescheduling of your exam.

You will need to provide your own pencils to use during the exam. Make sure the lead in your pencils is number two lead. Also be sure to bring more than one pencil in case your pencil breaks, and that you have an eraser or erasers that work on the top of your pencils in case you decide you need to change some of your answers.

The proctor of the exam will announce how much time has passed and how much time is remaining at specified intervals; however, if you wish to keep a closer watch on the time yourself, you may wish to bring or wear a watch in order to maintain your pacing on the exam.

Electronic devices are forbidden in the exam room. These include calculators, cellular phones, laptops, pagers, music players, beepers, or any other devices that can be used to communicate with other people or that have the capacity to make noise and disturb other examinees. Any books or other reference materials are also forbidden from the exam room in order to ensure that no one has the opportunity to cheat on the exam.

Exam rules and regulations are strictly enforced. Be sure you are familiar with all exam regulations so as not to accidentally disqualify yourself. The penalties for disqualification are not worth the risk. For example, if you do not abide by the regulations for taking the corrections officer certification exam, you will not receive a score for your exam, you will not be reimbursed for the fee you paid to take the exam, and your disqualification may be reported to the Commission on Correctional Certification. This is certainly not something you want on your record as a corrections officer. Furthermore, in some cases of disqualification you may not be allowed to retake the exam another time. This means that you will have no means of ever obtaining certification as a corrections officer through the American Correctional Association.
Several behaviors could cause incidents that could disqualify you from the corrections officer certification exam. If you discuss the exam with any other participants, you could be accused of giving or receiving help, which is considered cheating. To negate any chance of being accused of cheating, do not discuss the content of the exam whatsoever with anyone else. This includes your fellow test takers as well as those outside of the testing site. Material on the exam is confidential, and you could face penalties if you break this confidentiality.

You also cannot remove any exam materials from the testing room. These materials include any part of the test booklet, your answer sheet, or any scratch paper. You will be required to turn in all of these things before you can leave the exam room.

Renewing Your Certification After Passing the Corrections Officer Exam

Once you pass your corrections officer certification exam with a score of 75% or more correct, you will be a certified corrections officer. Certification is beneficial for your career because it demonstrates your commitment to performing your job well and continuing to learn updated knowledge in order to enhance your job performance. Because part of being certified is ensuring that you remain abreast of changes and updates in your field, you need to renew your corrections officer certification every three years.

In order to renew your certification, you must submit the renewal form within one month of the date your certification is set to expire. You also must pay a renewal fee. This fee is $100. Members of the American Correctional Association can renew their certification for a discounted fee of $80.

You also must earn at least forty continuing education contact hours every three years in order to renew your certification. Document all continuing education experiences well, as you may need documentation to back up your claim of earning continuing education contact hours. Some continuing education programs will have formal documents for you to use, and others you may need to document yourself.

Continuing education contact hours encompass many things you could do to enhance your career. However, the things you learn during continuing education programs must go above and beyond the content of the corrections officer certification exam; you may not be given credit for contact hours that only repeat exam material, since the point of continuing education is to learn new things and expand your knowledge of the corrections field.

Continuing education contact hours usually fall within six categories. You should aim to earn your contact areas in several of these categories, and you will need to have some contact hours in at least two of these categories in order to renew your certification. Some of the categories involve seeking out new knowledge from others, and other categories involve sharing knowledge you have with others.

If you write an article or series of articles about working as a corrections officer and your writing is published, this can count for some of your continuing education contact hours. Similarly, if you give a presentation or seminar about your work as a corrections officer, this too would count towards your continuing education contact hours. Attending presentations given by others also counts toward earning contact hours.

Any courses you take or trainings that you participate in that relate to any aspect of working as a corrections officer will count as continuing education contact hours. If you are unsure as to whether a particular course will satisfy your contact hours requirements, there are several clues you can use to decide if it will indeed help you earn contact hours. Many courses designed to help you earn contact hours have paperwork to document your participation. Others will be listed as approved by the American Correctional Association or other credentialing agencies. Also check who is offering the course and some courses may not be advertised as continuing education courses, but if they are taught by someone who is well known in the corrections field or offered through a well known corrections education organization, they will likely count as continuing education contact hours.

Attending conferences or study groups is another way to earn continuing education contact hours. Staff training that goes above and beyond what is required for your job counts, too. So do any other similar activities that enable you to gain further knowledge in your field as a corrections officer.

You should pace yourself over the three year period as you earn your continuing education contact hours. Do not put them off until the last year, as you may not have enough time to complete all forty in time to renew your certification. When you plan ahead, you can be sure that you are earning contact hours through experiences that personally interest you.

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