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How to Prepare for the CritiCall: 5 Pro Tips to Pass the Test

The CritiCall is a challenging test that simulates the daily tasks and life-and-death decisions that 911 dispatchers go through.

It consists of around 10 test sections, each focusing on core dispatcher skills that are crucial for being a successful dispatcher.

This page will show you how to prepare for the CritiCall with unique and useful tips so that you enhance your chances of passing the test:

Netflix and Type

911 dispatchers must be able to accurately type what they hear over the 911 call while having lots of noise and distractions around them.

The CritiCall test has at least two sections (Data Entry and Call Summarization) in which you’ll need to listen to recordings of 911 calls, take notes, and type what’s being said. Additionally, you’ll need to respond to emergency messages that pop up on the screen.

This means that to successfully pass these sections, your multitasking skills must be strong.

The ‘Netflix and Type’ is an effective method to improve your data entry skills as well as your ability to type accurately with many distractions around.

Turn on Netflix (or any of your favorite streaming services), grab your laptop (preferably with an external keyboard), and start typing what you hear over the show.

You can listen to an audiobook instead of a TV show, but the latter simulates natural conversations between people as opposed to audiobook recordings that are carried by a single person.

While typing, you want many things going on around you – family members or friends talking in the background, kids playing around you, etc. This will resemble (to some extent) the loud environment of a dispatch department and improve your ability to type while staying attentive to what’s happening in your surroundings.

Practice Your Typing Skills Using a Physical Keyboard

All departments and agencies use computers with physical keyboards. This means that on the CritiCall test, you’ll also be using an actual keyboard and want to be as comfortable as possible with it.

That’s why you should practice with a desktop keyboard with a Num Pad and not your laptop.

(Although you can connect a keyboard to your laptop if you don’t have a PC at home).

If possible, call your hiring department and try to find out what specific keyboard they’re using. This way, you’ll be able to get the same one for practicing purposes.

For example, several departments use Mac computers with keyboards with different layouts and keys than regular PCs.

Get more tips for the CritiCall typing section on our Dispatcher typing test guide.

Memorize the Decision-Making Rules in Advance

The CritiCall decision-making questions evaluate your ability to quickly and accurately indicate which type of agency (Police, Fire, Emergency Medical Service, or Utility company) should be dispatched to a scene.

This is a crucial skill that any 911 dispatcher must master, and that’s why these questions appear in many modules of the test, such as Data-Entry, Call Summarization, Cross-Referencing, and more.

Here’s an example of a scenario from the test:

CritiCall Decision Making Sample Question

When choosing which emergency service to send, you must rely on the pre-determined decision-making rules provided by the CritiCall test provider (Biddle). Biddle also mentions that you shouldn’t rely on any prior knowledge about either your hiring agency or any other public safety agency.

Some agencies may modify these rules, but generally, they’re similar. Here’s an overview of these rules taken from the official guide:


Police Department should be dispatched when someone is attempting or threatening
to physically harm another person, has physically harmed another person, or when a person causes or is in the process of causing harm to another person’s property.


Fire Department should be dispatched when there are the immediate signs of a fire in progress (such as flames or smoke), when a fire alarm is sounded, or when a person who is trapped or confined needs to be rescued or released.


Emergency Medical Service should be dispatched when there is an emergency medical condition requiring intervention by medically trained personnel.


Public Utility should be dispatched when there is a problem associated with
malfunctioning or broken public water systems, electric power systems (including, but not limited to, electrical power lines, streetlights, and traffic signals), natural gas systems used for home heating, or blocked sewer drainpipes.


The better you know these rules before taking the CritiCall, the better you’ll perform on the decision-making parts of the test (you have only 15 seconds to answer each decision-making question).

So, make sure you read and learn these four rules before the exam.

Get Used to Reading License Plates of Different States

As a 911 dispatcher, you’ll need to enter license plate numbers dozens of times throughout every shift. That’s why the CritiCall test evaluates your ability to enter these numbers quickly and accurately.

Since every state has a different license plate number design and format (see image below) and you can’t tell for sure which one will appear on your exam, it’s better to get acquainted with most of them.

License Plates Examples

See the full list of license plate numbers by state on this page.

Prepare With Realistic Practice Tests

The CritiCall includes unique test sections that can’t be found on “regular” pre-employment tests.

That’s because these test sections are designed to resemble the challenging tasks of 911 dispatchers and 911 call takers.

Knowing what to expect on the test beforehand and practicing answering similar question types will increase your chances of passing the test. That’s because you’ll get used to the unique format and structure of the questions and practice the same dispatcher skills needed to pass the exam.

The most comprehensive and accurate CritiCall practice available in 2024 is JobTestPrep’s CritiCall preparation.

It includes the largest number of practice tests (more than 100) simulating the 14 most common CritiCall sections, ensuring you’ll know exactly what’s coming in every section.

Get 100+ accurate CritiCall practice tests to help you pass the assessment.

Additional Valuable Resources

To get more information and practice tips for the CritiCall, make sure you visit these pages on our site:

Free CritiCall practice test with 49 questions
CritiCall Map Reading Practice Guide
In-depth Overview of the Hardest CritiCall Question Types
Review of the Best CritiCall Test Prep Options
CritiCall Test Results Guide
CritiCall Typing Test Prep Guide