Last month, the College of Policing quietly published more detailed results from the 2022 Sergeant Promotion Exam (aka NPPF Step 2). I’ve summarised and charted the key highlights for you in this blog. This include key stats on pass rates by police force, sex, ethnicity, and religion.

I’ve previously provided interest-pieces on results from both the 2021 Sergeant Exam and 2021 Inspector Exam. The relevance of the 2022 trends for diversity, sex and ethnicity remains constant; particularly as newly qualified Sergeants take their result from the exam in March and head on to the next, tougher steps. I use the available data produced by the College of Policing. I hope you find it interesting. Before we dive into the details, I also compiled this quick 2 minute summary video…

2022 Sergeant Legal Exam: Overall Pass Rates

Sergeant NPPF Step 2 exam 2022 grades
Sergeant NPPF Step 2

“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” – Bobby Unser

Officers put massive effort into preparing for the Step 2 legal exam to achieve the 55% pass mark. Although it’s called ‘Step 2’ of the four-step National Police Promotion Framework (NPPF), in reality it’s the first real hurdle. In fact, over 5,500 police officers attempt it each year on average. For the 2022 exam, 5,795 constables put their leadership aspirations into action. Nearly 3,000 (51% ) then surmounted this hurdle.

If you are one of the successful ones, congratulations; though be warned, Step 3 of the promotion process is where the competition really heats up! So much so, in my podcast interviews with Simon Foy QPM, he identifies Sergeant being the biggest step up in the ranks an officer can take. Here’s some insights into what lies ahead for you after becoming qualified for promotion.

You’ll see I compare in the graphics above the 2022 results with a reminder of what last year looked like. The drop in overall pass marks is notable, including of the high-flyers scoring over 75%. Was the exam this year tougher? Did officers have less time to study? Either way, the drop was particularly noticeable in the Met Police as I show next.

For context, the 50% overall pass rate is slightly lower than last two year’s relative highs. Both this and the volume of newly qualified officers being added to the promotion pool appear to be returning to pre-pandemic levels…

Sergeant Exam results by year

If unsuccessful this time, I’m sure sting of disappointment was palpable. But fear not; hopefully you took a growth mindset to help you succeed next time, considering this a learning opportunity in ‘failing to better yourself‘. Your continuous professional development should also continue to support you in becoming a more rounded police leader.

For the nearly 4,500 officers who passed, the hard work ‘merely’ earned you a ticket to ‘the room with a queue’, where the real competition begins…

Solid examples Sergeant promotion
Solid examples of what works for Sergeants

Promotion Exam Results by Force Still Vary Wildly

2022 Sergeant Exam results by force

reported for the 2021 Sergeant Exam a range of pass rates, from just under 50% in Humberside to over 80% in Norfolk police. The variation got wilder in 2022, whereby now sitting on top of the pile is Lincolnshire Police (the only force this time with over 80% of its officers passing), Dorset, Dyfed Powys, and West Mercia. It’s interesting to note the consistency, whereby three of these forces were also among the top pass rates last year. Not far behind them were Thames Valley Police and Cumbria.

The Met Police at 38% propped up the other end of the table; that’s significantly fewer than the 49% of police constables achieving the pass mark in 2021. Cleveland Police again scored relatively lower, while West Mids, Essex, Hampshire, and Humberside also all below the 50% mark.

With a range of over 40% between the top and bottom forces, it begs the question: Are they supporting their police promotion candidates differently?

Regardless of the differences, that’s another nearly 3,000 officers added to the qualified pool of promotion candidates. There’s more when you also consider those achieving the Police Scotland leadership qualification and passing the PSNI exam. This means the competition will be heating up for the year ahead, often with five aspiring officers going for every available Sergeant post. It’s at this point where many choose to do some smart, hard work and grab themselves an unfair advantage.

“Tests ain’t fair. Those that study have an unfair advantage. It’s always been that way.” – Allan Dare Pearce

Diversity of Sergeant Promotion Success

The College publish some useful information on pass rates for selected protected characteristics. This can be useful for identifying potential positive action and targeted support for next time, ensuring greater equality and inclusion in police leadership. Here I demonstrate the key comparisons between the sexes, then new for this year an expanded look at ethnicity and religious belief.

Sex: Women slightly outscored men on the exam. Those choosing ‘Other or Not Stated’ were marginally above the male participants. This continues a consistent trend of women outscoring men on their academic achievement and aspiration. However, how that translates into promotion does not always compute.

Females account for 1 in 3 England, Wales and BTP police officers. However, this reduces to 1 in 4 by the rank of Sergeant. This year, 32% of the candidates indicating their sex were female, which is a step in the right direction for representation. But it would still take decades to reach parity at this rate. For those seeking support, I compiled a dedicated, epic free blog series on Women in Police Leadership. It covers a range of challenges, development areas, strengths, and solutions I hope you find helpful.

Women vs men officer exam rates

Ethnic Group: New this year, the College published more granular ethnicity comparisons from their candidate data. I summarise and present this for you in the chart below. Again, minority ethnic groups fall behind their ‘White’ counterparts, continuing the trend from previous years across both the Sergeant and Inspector’s exam. This is particularly accentuated in the ‘Black’ and ‘Asian’ categories, again highlighting a potential need for additional support.

Minority ethnic Sergeant exam pass rate

Again however, the ‘White’ category hides white minority ethnic groups, such as Eastern European and others who may choose this category. Consequently, there may be similar challenges and opportunities for support continuing to slip under the radar, for example with those for who English is a second language.

The situation is clearly not improving at this critical hurdle to the leadership positions, despite the higher aspirations apparent among minority ethnic groups. Given this, it’s incumbent on the College, police forces, the Federation and other police support organisations aware of their members’ challenges, to rectify the situation before we will see any tangible improvements representation among the leadership ranks. Ultimately, this goal derives from our 200-year-old Peelian tenet of diversity and inclusion for UK policing: The police are the public and the public are the police.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein (or whoever you want to attribute this disputed quote to!)

Religion/Belief: Also new this year, the College shared comparisons by religion and belief, expanding slightly their equality monitoring. As I summarise for you below, those with religions in general tended to fare less well than those choosing ‘No Religion’ or ‘Prefer Not to Say’. This is particularly the case for minority religions again. Though Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Sikhs together represented just 3% of the exam candidate cohort, with Muslims another 4%, the numbers are sufficient to identify a common trend of apparent disadvantage in this step of the promotion process.

Sergeant legal exam by religion

It would also be helpful for the College to publish other demographics in line with the Public Sector Equality Duty. For example, use of ‘Disability’ demographics might help prompt support and workplace adjustments beneficial for neurodiverse officers, as happens in other parts of the promotion process. 

Whatever someone’s protected characteristics or other, non-protected demographics: Those who have a springboard, who benefit from bespoke promotion support, frequently report feeling more confident and knowledgeable about the process. This in turn ensures they are better equipped to achieve success.

“There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either in, or you’re out. There’s no such thing as in-between.” – Pat Riley

For further reading on diversity and support through the promotion process and understanding of all protected characteristics, see my in-depth blog series on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in Police Leadership.

As ever, I wish you every success in your career. If you’re just embarking on the journey, take a look at my free ‘Journey to Success’ guide for an outline of your promotion journey ahead, and I look forward to supporting you with the competitive steps of the process when you reach that stage!

Kind Regards, Steve

Sergeant promotion toolkit

If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend or download my Police Promotion Masterclass, or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videoseGuidesa podcast, plus free blog content both here and via my Police Hour guest articles.