Polygraph Exam Process

Hi everyone,

This may have been answered on this blog already, but I couldn’t really seem to find an answer. I’m just curious how the process for the polygraph works. I understand the polygraph is based off your SF-86, but does the examiner go over the questions to be asked beforehand with you? I’m just thinking, what if a candidate has a question on a particular exam question or needs to explain something related to a particular question - can that be done in the middle of the exam?

For the record, I’m early in my application to one of the agencies and nowhere near taking the polygraph (assuming I make it that far), but the polygraph is what I’m most nervous about throughout the application process (again, assuming I make it that far).

Any insights would be much appreciated - thank you!

I suppose it depends on the agency, but for the one I’m taking soon there is a pre-Test where they go through the questions, the test where they do the same but “plugged in”, and then an after-Test where they go through my responses with a rather fine toothed comb.

This is what the agency’s official video on polygraph tells me. And some extra details I’ve gleamed through forum posts. But each agency is different. I’d say google a little harder. There’s an incredible amount of information out there on the polygraph.

As @Waffles correctly notes, all of the questions that will be asked during the “in-test” phase (the part when you’re hooked up to the polygraph instrument and the operator asks a series of questions) will be reviewed with you during the “pre-test” phase. It’s worth noting that the pre-test phase involves the operator lying to you about the purpose for some of the questions asked and administering a “stimulation test” (or “stim test”) during which you’ll be asked to choose a number and then deny having chosen it, and the operator will attempt to convince you that the polygraph was able to detect your “lie.”

Any questions one has about any of the questions to be asked should be cleared up during the pre-test phase. The operator is likely to become annoyed (and suspicious) if you start asking questions about the meaning of any of the in-test questions while you’re actually hooked up for the in-test phase.

I would assume every question asked is “on test.” period. Like a job interview when they tell you to relax? Yeah, don’t relax. Be honest and consistent in all answers and you will still be frustrated in your overall experience. Had 4 and about due for a new batch in a year ish.

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