Are you applying for a position in the civil service or law enforcement? If you are, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to take a Polygraph examination.

The Polygraph is known by a range of other names: the Psych Test, Truth Verification Test (TVT), Lie Detector Test, or Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA).

Regardless of the title, you’re going to face an extremely challenging test. And passing could mean entry to a promising career.

However, the test is not 100% accurate, and honest people often fail the Polygraph. It’s not enough to simply tell the truth.

We’ve ALL told a little white lie. We’ve all argued with a family member. And ALL of us – at some time – have done SOMETHING bad.

This is why the list of polygraph test questions can be so difficult to answer. They’re designed to polarize your responses – to make you stumble and falter and provide additional, irrelevant information. And these behaviors will cause you to fail.

So, we’re here to help honest people pass The Polygraph Test. We’re going to help you learn how to tackle the very challenging lie detector questions, with the most comprehensive and focused preparation course you can do.

Here are our Top 10 Tips For Passing Your Psych Test.

#1: Be Prepared

We often get asked: “What is the polygraph test?”

And while every agency slightly varies their presentation of the test, there is a range of consistencies you should expect.

You might have seen polygraph machines in the movies. They look like complex devices, sprouting probes and wires, with needles that scribble on charts, and hundreds of bewildering dials.

Chances are, however, this is not how your polygraph machine is going to look:

Modern polygraph machines more commonly look like USB hubs attached to laptop computers:

And while a needle is unlikely to scribble away frantically on a roll of paper, you will be fitted with a range of probes and monitors.

Similar to the devices you see in Hollywood movies, you’ll have the following monitors attached to you:

  • Wires attached to your fingers to test perspiration and temperature
  • Straps around your chest to gauge your breathing and heart rate
  • The familiar blood pressure cuff around your arm

You may also have a clip microphone attached to your shirt and probes attached to your head. 

It’s very intimidating – it’s designed that way. The polygraph test is purposely fashioned to force honesty.

#2: Be Honest

The questions you’ll be asked during the polygraph examination are based on the application form you completed at the beginning of the application process. 

And, while there are answers that could disqualify you from consideration for the role, the law enforcement industry has to be based on honesty. Completing your application form honestly, therefore, is absolutely imperative. 

And remaining consistent with the information you provided in your application is your next step toward passing the polygraph questions. 

If the answers you give during the polygraph test differ from the information you surrendered on your application, you’ll be interrogated further, and you’re likely to fail. 

So, keep a copy of your application and learn it by heart.

#3: How can a machine tell if I’m lying?

It can’t. There’s no such thing as an “honesty machine.” But the various devices attached to your body can read the physiological changes that occur when you’re questioned under pressure. 

The machine looks for the spikes and peaks that take place when we experience internal conflict.

Our bodies can give off signals that suggest that we’re lying; even if we’re not: 

  • Fidgeting 
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Sweating 
  • Stumbling over words, etc. 

And there are less visible signals such as changes in blood pressure, breathing- and heart rate, and an increase in body temperature. 

The Polygraph detects these physiological changes and – in conjunction with the list of polygraph questions – the examiner can build a scientific judgment on the honesty of your responses. 

However, as we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the polygraph test is controversial. It’s not 100% accurate. 

And honest people fail all the time. 

Preparation, therefore, is your first line of defense.

#4: Know the composition of the test

The Polygraph examination is made up of three principal sections:
The Pre-Test
The Actual Test
The Post-Test

Lots of people fail the test because they neglect the significance of the Pre- and Post-Tests. 

The Pre-Test begins the very moment you enter the examination room. It involves a selection of seemingly irrelevant questions while you’re being hooked up to the polygraph machine. 

These questions ARE part of the test. And you should consider the entirety of the time you spend in the interrogation room a valid part of the test. 

Many people let their guards down when the examiner tells them that the test is over or yet to begin. It isn’t. 

The examiner will tell you when the Actual Test is going to begin, and they’ll indicate to you when it has ended. But as long as you have monitors attached to your body, you should consider the test to be in operation.

#5: The Polygraph Test Questions

We can’t tell you what your polygraph test questions are going to be. But we can provide a reasonably comprehensive summary of the types of questions you’re likely to be asked. 

Our course guidebook provides a much more comprehensive list of the types of questions you’re likely to be asked.

They’ll ask you about:

  • Your history of theft, including shoplifting and petty theft from your employer
  • Involvement in drug trafficking, drug dealing, and organized crime of all sorts
  • Your use of alcohol and illegal drugs
  • Your use of medication, including steroids
  • The integrity of the information you’ve provided in your application and during the test
  • Your criminal record and/or arrests (usually excluding minor traffic offenses)
  • Involvement in crime that has not been, thus far, detected. 
  • The withholding of information or evidence that might affect your suitability for the role. 
  • Your involvement in physical fights, including excessive force toward another person or partner. 
  • The payment or acceptance of bribes

#6: Recognize the types of questions in the lie detector test

There are three main types of questions you’ll experience during your polygraph or lie detector test:

Relevant questions 

Relevant questions deal with genuine issues of concern. Relevant questions cross-examine the information you provided on your application form and dig into anything that may incriminate. 

Example questions could be:

  • Before applying to this agency, have you ever done anything wrong in your life?
  • Have you ever physically harmed another person during a domestic dispute?
  • Are you withholding information that might disqualify you from a role in law enforcement?
  • Have you ever paid or accepted a bribe?

Irrelevant questions  

The polygraph examiner uses irrelevant questions to establish a baseline. They’re simple statements of fact. These questions don’t directly relate to the job or to the information you provided in your application. 

Examples of irrelevant questions are things like:

  • Is today Friday?
  • Are you standing?
  • Are you alive?

Irrelevant questions help differentiate the physiological differences between deliberately evocative issues from blank statements of fact. 

These questions help the examiner establish a baseline, neutral response, and can appear at any stage of the polygraph test (although they’re more likely to appear during the pre-test.)

Control Questions (or Probable Lie Control Questions

These questions force us to lie. It shows the examiner your physiological response to lying so that they can compare it with your reactions to relevant questions later on.

The examiner may even ask you to lie if they suspect that you’ve told the truth so that they can see the readings on the screen.

Examples of Probable Lie Control questions could be:

  • Did you ever tell a lie during the first twenty years of your life?
  • Have you ever borrowed something and failed to return it?
  • Have you EVER stolen anything?

We explore how to respond to all of these questions in our complete polygraph handbook.

#7: Control Your Breath

Most of us know that breath control (i.e., slowing down the breath rate) has a positive effect on our overall sense of calm. Long, slow, deep inhalations and exhalations are commonly used in meditative practices to lower the heart rate. 

Deep breathing techniques, therefore, will help to maintain a consistent heart rate and keep your blood pressure from rising throughout the Actual Test. 

And there’s a special technique you might employ during the pre-test to help you maintain the appearance of calm throughout the rest of the examination. 

We cover the range of breathing techniques that can help you from falsely failing the polygraph test. You’re going to be nervous while in the interrogation room, and this, alone, can cause a false-positive result. 

Learn how to remain in control of your breathing in the PrepTerminal “Ace The Psych Test” training manual.

#8: Understand your body language

Your examiner uses the readings on the polygraph machine, often in conjunction with the CVSA monitor, to gauge your responses to questioning. However, they’re also trained to recognize the give-away physical indications that suggest a person is lying. 

Sit as still as possible throughout the entirety of the test. Make eye contact when appropriate and do not fidget. 

Although body language isn’t monitored by the machines, the examiner will take your body language into account when determining whether you’re telling the truth.

#9: Remain Serious

The examiner may adopt a specific tone during your test. They may come across as friendly and helpful – trivializing the importance of the test – or they may adopt a cold and professional nature.

Either way, you should aim to remain impassive, serious, and professional. 

Don’t snub friendliness, but don’t encourage it. And don’t allow aggressive questioning tactics to rile you. 

The examiner will ask “Closed questions.” These are questions that require a simple “yes” or “no.” 

An example of a closed question is:

  • Are you standing?
  • Is that your final answer?
  • Have you finished your homework?

A closed question, in the context of the polygraph test, can be challenging to answer, however – especially when a binary “yes” or “no” feels too simplistic: 

Have you ever done anything bad?

This is a particularly tricky closed question to answer because – at some stage – we’ve all done SOMETHING bad. 

But was it significant enough to incriminate you now? 

We’ve all stolen a cookie from the jar when we were kids. We’ve all told a white lie to a friend to save them from embarrassment. 

Our training program will teach you how to answer these difficult questions. You’ll develop a technique that helps you respond to challenging moral issues.

#10: Beware the Post-Test

The examiner will let you know when the Actual Test is over, and they might encourage you to relax now that the hard bit has finished. 

Don’t relax. 

As long as you’re wired up, the test is still running. 

The examiner will use the Post-Test period to prize additional information out of you. They might go back to some of your answers and challenge them. 

Stay consistent and stick with your original answers. 

We explore how you can respond to this very situation in our complete polygraph handbook. 

So, there you have it: our Top 10 Tips for Passing the Polygraph Test. 

Our course is a complete polygraph handbook, helping you develop techniques for responding, convincing, and delivering consistency during your test. 

We’ll help ensure that you’re best prepared to pass your polygraph test. 

Good luck!

Polygraph Test For Civil Service & Law Enforcement

Last updated 10/2020

When applying for a vast range of civil service and law enforcement positions, a polygraph test is administered as part of the screening process. Learn about this test and how to pass it below.

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