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Criminal Justice DSST
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Free Criminal Justice DSST Study Guide

Name of Exam: Criminal Justice DSST

Number of Questions: Around 90 (varies)

Time Limit: 120 Minutes

ACE Recommended Passing Score: 400

Cost: $80 + Sitting Fee (Usually no more than $20) at your testing site. Military can take DSSTs for free with Tuition Assistance. Check with your Educational Officer!

Difficulty 1-5 : 3
(One being the easiest, and five being the hardest)

Exam Description:

The Criminal Justice DSST covers the same information that a college student would normally learn in a single semester of Criminal Justice. An understanding of Criminal Behavior, the (US) court system, corrections and prison demographics as well as the Police and the Criminal Justice System are all expected to be understood for a successful pass.

Personal Thoughts:

This is one of the easier DSST exams, and should be taken in conjunction with the Introduction to Law Enforcement if at all possible. The overlap between the two is significant, so following one soon after the other maximizes the chances of retaining the material you need to pass.

Obviously those with a Law Enforcement background would do well to take this exam, but anyone can pull off a successful pass with a bit of dedicated study. The material itself isn't hard, but there is some memorization required for past court cases, as well as required knowledge on prison populations and citizen's rights.

My two recommended study resources for the Criminal Justice DSST are the Criminal Justice Cliffs Notes, and Instant Cert Online. Study those two resources, and you'll be as close to a pass as I'm ever willing to guarantee.

Exam breakdown:

Make sure you check out the Official Fact Sheet for this exam.

The Criminal Justice DSST is broken down as follows:

25% Criminal Justice System
20% Police
20% Court System
20% Corrections
15% Criminal Behavior

Areas of Study

I'm going to list some specific topics that you'll need to study. Snazzlefrag's also shared his outstanding downloadable Criminal Justice study notes. After that, I'll list some resources that covers the main areas listed above.

Alright, here we go. Though there are different versions of the Criminal Justice DSST, you'll most likely see some of the following on your exam:

  • Privatized Prisons
  • "Founders" of the system
  • habeas corpus
  • status offenses
  • Does Parole Work?
  • Parens patriae
  • UCR
  • Inmate vs Guard Ratio in most prisons?
  • NCVS
  • Appeals Courts
  • Rehabilitation
  • Due Process
  • The Amendments that deal with Law Enforcement
  • Patrols = Deterrent?
  • Broken Window Theory
  • State Police
  • Police Dept History
  • Types of Prisons
  • Magna Carta
  • Incapacitation

This is not a comprehensive list of topics! I highly recommend (as always) signing up for InstantCert and running through their entire flashcard series as well as seeing the Specific Feedback section for this exam. They've had years to accumulate their information, and it shows.

Criminal Justice System
(25% of the Criminal Justice DSST)

What is the Criminal Justice System? - You've already read the entire Cliffs Notes for Criminal Justice right? If not.. Get started!

Criminal Justice on Wikipedia - Actually a good read here too. Pay attention to the histories of the modern police, as well as the section on the Courts and Corrections.

Historic Cases of the US Supreme Court - You may or may not get asked about specific court cases. Here's a list of some of the more famous Supreme Court cases. Check the InstantCert Specific Feedback thread for more specific cases that have come up.

Due Process - The Cliff's Notes covers Due Process, but this article goes into more depth over common law and due process in the US..

Magna Carta - Included because it's what most of our common law and Constitution was based on, and because it's a very interesting article.

Amendments to the Constitution - Know the Amendments that relate to Criminal Justice, such as Search and Seizure (4th), Trial by Jury (7th), etc.. Be able to match them up if asked "Which Amendment protects your right to a speedy trial?"

(20% of the Criminal Justice DSST)

The Nature of Police Work - Oh look, Cliffs Notes has an entire section on Police too! Of course you already knew that, having read the entire thing like I recommended earlier.

Police Entry on Wikipedia - Served as a reinforcement to what you've already read on Cliffs Notes. Pay attention to the things listed on the DSST Fact Sheet for Criminal Justice - History, Roles and Functions, Issues and Trends, and Occupational Characteristics.

Court System
(20% of the Criminal Justice DSST)

Court Systems on Cliffs Notes - You knew I was going to include this, right? Re-read all of the sections down to Sentencing.

Different types of US Courts: - Have a good understanding of what each court's jurisdiction is, as well as the type of cases it is responsible for.

Federal vs State Courts - A good comparison chart for the differences between the two.

Juvenile Courts - Included only for completeness. It's listed on the fact sheet, so it's here as well. I'd know the ages at which the minor can be tried as an adult in most states..

Latin in the Legal System - A good list of Latin terms used in today's courts.

(20% of the Criminal Justice DSST)

Cliffs Notes on Prisons - It never gets old does it? See why this is such a great resource? You've already read the entire thing by now... right?.

Capitol Punishment - I'd know the moral arguments for and against, as well as it's historical uses.

Prisons from Wikipedia - All kinds of good information here. Most of which you've already seen in Cliffs Notes, but it does go into more detail in some areas.

Deterrence - Quick and easy, just know what it means for the Criminal Justice DSST.

Juveniles and Crime - As with all of these, read the entire section and all of the subtopics to the left.

Rehabilitation - Ditto with the above. Just know what it is, and what the final goal is meant to be.

Criminal Behavior
(15% of the Criminal Justice DSST)

Crime - You'll need to know this entire section. Look to the left and read all of the subtopics such as the different types of crime, Part I offenses, etc. Read it all! This, along with the Juvenile section we noted above, pretty much covers this section of the Criminal Justice DSST.

Criminology - Some follow up research on the Theories of Crime.

Crime - Wikipedia - Such an interesting bit of reading, and very informative.

Recommended bargain-priced study resources

Always check your library first! You may be able to find some of these for free. You don't have to buy the officially recommended resources all the time. If you're the type of person that prefers to study from a textbook source however, then please see below.

DSST Criminology (Criminal Justice) (DANTES series) (Dantes Series : No 11) - As mentioned before, in my humble opinion based on everything I've read, the combination of the free Cliffs Notes and InstantCert are probably all you'll need. However, if you just want a book, here it is. I have no experience with how good this particular resource is, so if you do end up using it, please leave me some feedback on whether it served your needs.

Criminal Justice - The DSST recommended textbook, that will take your breath away on price. Even the used copies are going for quite a bit of money. For those who are more pressed for time then ready cash.

InstantCert Academy Criminal Justice Specific Exam Feedback - Tons of good information on the exam here. Be sure to check out the Criminal Justice Flashcards as well as the Intro to Law Enforcement Flashcards as well. Know them both and you'll cover much of the information on the Criminal Justice DSST.

If you don't know what InstantCert is, then click here for the scoop as well as a discount code: **InstantCert Academy**

You'll find an InstantCert link for every exam here if that gives you an idea of the amount of information they have available. It's an outstanding resource.

Closing Thoughts

As mentioned above, I'd know the Cliffs Notes backwards and forwards and then hit the InstantCert Specific Feedback thread for Criminal Justice. After that, go through the flashcards for both Criminal Justice and Intro to Law Enforcement. With that study regimen, the Criminal Justice DSST shouldn't give you too much of a problem.

Best of luck!

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