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Victoria Police entrance exam: Literacy Skills tutorial

Hi. My name is Lee Kindler and I’m a literacy educator.

This video explains what’s required in the literacy test in the Victoria Police entrance examination and gives advice about how to answer the questions. The examples of literacy questions we’ll be looking at are referred to in the Candidate Information Booklet. The Candidate Information Booklet is available at

You’ll find this video more helpful if you read the questions beforehand.

This section of the exam measures your reading comprehension skills. It tests your ability to use a range of reading strategies to understand different types of texts. By texts we mean pieces of writing, diagrams or graphs.

In policing, literacy skills are important. You need to be able to understand, find information in, analyse, and think critically about different texts. You will be given six different texts to read and be required to answer 30 questions. You have 35 minutes to complete them.

You will answer the questions on a computer. Most of the questions will be multiple choice and you will need to click on the box next to the correct answer. Some questions will require a short response that you will need to type into a box.

Other questions will require you to tick a box to answer true or false or yes or no to statements or questions. There are different types of questions in the literacy test.

The questions may ask you to:

  • Find detail in the text.
  • Identify the main idea or purpose of a text.
  • Identify techniques that the writer has used.
  • Infer information that is not specifically stated in the text.
  • Identify the meaning of a word or phrase.

We are going to look at examples of each of the types of questions. We will be using the text called ‘Processed meats cause cancer’ which is in the sample questions section of the candidate information booklet. It’s a good idea to read the text before we look at the example questions.

When you read the text think about what type of text it is, the purpose of the text and who the text might be written for or the audience. This will help you develop an overall understanding of the text which will assist you in answering the questions.

A few examples of text types are - an opinion article, a newspaper report, an advertisement, building instructions and a book review. Some examples of the text purpose are - to inform, to persuade, to entertain, to instruct and to evaluate.

And the audience might be, for example, people of a specific age group, men or women, people with a particular interest, people from a specific place, or people who work in a specific profession.

The words that the writer chooses and the way that the text is presented will change depending on the text type, purpose, and the audience.

The text we are looking at called ‘Processed meat causes cancer’ is a newspaper report. The purpose of a newspaper report is to inform. The audience for this newspaper report is the general public who want to keep up with the news or people interested in health-related topics.

The first type of question we are going to look at asks you to find detail in the text. These types of questions ask you to think about information, opinions or ideas that are stated in the text. Some questions may ask you to say whether details are not stated in the text.

In this question, you are given four statements. You need look closely at the text and find whether each statement is true, false or not stated in the text.

For the first statement, the information can be found in the third paragraph where it says:

‘WHO experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.’

The statement is true so you need to click on ‘yes’. For the second statement, the article does not state whether the way that processed meat is cooked is a factor in how likely it is to cause cancer. So you need to click on ‘not stated’.

For the third statement, the first paragraph in the article says that red meat is likely to cause cancer. The statement that eating red meat definitely causes cancer is false. So you need to click on ‘no’.

The answer to the fourth statement can be found in the fifth paragraph which says that research has shown that about 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide can be attributed to diets high in processed meat. This number is over 30,000 so the statement is true. You need to click on ‘yes’

The next type of question we are going to look at asks you to find the main idea in the text or the purpose of the text. These types of questions ask you to think about the text as a whole. You may not find the answer written directly in the text. It will help you to think about the type of text that you have read. Is it a newspaper report, opinion article, advertisement or other type of text?

Consider the purpose of the text. Does the writer want to entertain, inform or persuade the reader? Think about who the text is written for. Is it written for people in a certain age group or for people who have particular interests? Read each sentence and decide whether it correctly describes the main idea or purpose.

Looking at the first sentence, the article quotes an expert who says that the risk of developing cancer is small. He also says that it increases with the amount of meat consumed. This matches with the information in the text, which shows us that answer A is probably right. It’s good to check the other answers to make sure.

Option B says that the results are inconclusive. This is false because the article explains that there is a conclusive connection between developing cancer and eating processed meat.

Option C says that a small amount of processed meat is safe. Again, this is false because this is not communicated in the article.

Option D says that eating red meat and processed meat is very likely to give you cancer. This is false because there is a small risk. It is not very likely. So we can confirm that the correct answer is A.

The next question asks you to identify techniques used by the writer. These types of questions may ask you to think about why the writer has presented information in a certain way or for what reason they have chosen to include certain features. Again, it’s helpful to think about the type of text you are reading and its purpose.

This text is a news report, and the purpose of the text is to inform the reader by presenting information from different sources. Quotes are used in news reports to show, word-for-word, what has been said or written. The question asks us to choose the option that is not a reason quotes were included in the report.

Looking at the possible answers - quotes are used in this news report to provide differing opinions and different facts– the report quotes experts from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and includes a quote from the Australian Meat Industry Council. This provides differing opinions and different facts. So option B is true.

Quotes in a news report make the article more authoritative because readers can see that information is being presented directly from the source. So option C is also true.

Quotes provide information straight from the source. So option D is true.

Looking at option A, in a news report the writer does not present their own opinion. Quotes are not used to back up the opinion of the writer, so this option is not a reason why quotes were included. So the correct answer is A because it is not a reason quotes were included.

This next type of question requires you to infer the answer. The answer won’t be explicitly stated in the text, so you’ll have to think about the content and work out the correct answer.

In this question you’ll need to think about the opinions the WHO experts and the Meat Industry Council used and on what point they disagree.

Looking at the possible answers - both the WHO experts and the Meat Industry Council state that red meat can be nutritious. They don’t disagree on this point so answer A is wrong.

Looking at answer B, the WHO says that red meat is likely to cause cancer but the Meat Industry Council say that there is no causal link. They disagree on this point. So B is the correct answer.

But let’s check the other answers. We don’t know if the Meat Industry Council think that processed meat can cause cancer. It isn’t stated in the text. We can’t say that the two groups disagree on this point. So answer C is wrong.

We also don’t know if the Meat Industry Council thinks that eating more processed meat increases the risk of cancer so again, we can’t say if the two groups disagree on this. So answer D is wrong. This confirms that answer B is correct.

Inference questions can be tricky so let’s look at another one. In this question, again you need to draw your own conclusions about the content in the text. You won’t find the answer directly in the text. Answer A is a fact, but it does not show the importance of the study. It’s incorrect.

We can rule out answer B for the same reason. It doesn’t demonstrate why this study is important.

Answer C establishes the importance of the study. A large number of people that eat processed meat are affected. This answer is correct.

Let’s check answer D. While this statement may be true, it does not show the importance of the study. It’s incorrect. This confirms that C is the correct answer.

The last type of question that we will cover today is one where you will be asked to find the meaning of a word or phrase. When you are answering these types of questions, it’s a good idea to find the word or phrase in the text and reread the paragraph or relook at the section that it is in. Words and phrases can have different meanings depending on how they are used so try to get a sense of how the word or phrase fits with the main idea of the paragraph.

If the word or phrase is in a sentence, it may help to replace the answer you think is correct with the word in the question. If it makes sense and has the same meaning, it is likely to be correct.  In this question, the phrase we are looking for is in the second paragraph.

The general idea of the paragraph is that the studies that were used to find links between processed meat and cancer were extensive.

Looking at option A, if we were to replace the phrase with the original, it would change the meaning. So, this is incorrect. The same goes for option B. Also, this doesn’t fit with the main idea of the paragraph.

‘Cultures that eat varying types of food has a similar meaning to ‘populations with diverse diets’. The phrase also fits with the main idea of the paragraph about the broad nature of the studies. So, option C is correct.

Option D would not fit with the main idea of the paragraph and has a different meaning. This confirms that the correct answer is C.

I hope this has helped you to understand some of the questions you will find in the literacy section of the Victorian Police entrance exam.

You can improve your literacy skills by reading a range of different types of texts, including those that you wouldn’t normally read. Spend time thinking about the issues or ideas you have read about and use a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words.

You can also read the chapter in Practise Now! Victoria Police Entrance Examination on literacy skills. It goes over the points we have been talking about. Read over the explanations and have a go at the practice questions.

Practise Now! is produced by ACER. It describes a range of the types of question you’re likely to find in the exam and provides detailed explanations of how correct answers may be reached. It’s available from ACER bookshop and commercial booksellers.

There are also practice tests on the Victoria Police Entrance Exam webpage where you will find literacy questions.

If you are having trouble with aspects of the literacy tasks, you may like to contact the Reading Writing Hotline. They can suggest organisations that might be able to assist you or resources you could use to help you overcome any problems you are having.

Good luck with your exam preparation.

Reviewed 15 June 2022