Firefighter Exam For Dummies
The firefighter exam actually involves multiple tests and evaluations. The exams are part of a multi-tiered hiring process designed to identify the best of the best candidates — those whom fire departments deem ready and worthy to enroll in a fire academy and train to become firefighters.
Understanding the Firefighter Hiring Process
After filling out an initial application for a firefighting job, candidates vying for a position within a fire department can expect to take several qualifying exams. To be hired as a firefighter, you must pass all these tests, exams, and interviews. The following table outlines the types of exams and gives you a general overview of what to expect during each exam:
|Exam Type||What to Expect|
|Written Exam||An exam featuring multiple-choice questions in a variety of subject areas; it lasts at least 2.5 hours|
|Physical Ability Test||Typically a timed exam that assesses candidates’ physical fitness, including strength, endurance, and flexibility, to ensure that they’re physically capable to begin a fire training academy|
|Oral Interview||An interview with a hiring panel that may include fire department leaders, local government representatives, and local businesspeople|
|Medical Exam||A complete physical performed by a certified physician to check candidates for a variety of medical conditions and to ensure that they’re healthy enough to train to become firefighters|
|Psychological Evaluation||A personality questionnaire and/or an interview with a psychologist or psychiatrist to ensure that candidates can mentally handle the stress of firefighting|
Elements of the Written Firefighter Exam
The written firefighter exam is usually the first step in the firefighter hiring process, after filling out an application. Written firefighter exams test candidates in a variety of subject areas. The following table outlines the most common subject areas and the types of questions related to each subject area.
|Reading Comprehension||Passages and question sets that test your ability to understand and interpret what you read|
|Verbal Expression||Questions that test your grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills|
|Observation and Memory||Maps, diagrams, or passages that you have to study for a set amount of time; questions that must be answered from memory|
|Spatial Orientation||Questions that test your ability to visualize and navigate using maps, floor plans, and illustrations|
|Reasoning and Judgment||Questions that ask you to make decisions using good judgment and logical reasoning based on situations in scenarios or lists|
|Mathematics||High-school math, including algebra and geometry|
|Mechanical Aptitude||Questions about tools and simple machines|
Oral Interview Tips for Firefighter Candidates
Fear of speaking before a group of people is common, so many firefighter candidates stress about the oral interview stage of the firefighter hiring process. If you remember the following advice during the oral interview portion of the firefighter exam, however, you’ll have nothing to worry about:
Always, always, always arrive on time! In other words, get there 10 to 15 minutes early.
Be friendly and courteous. Offer a smile and a handshake at the start and the conclusion of the interview. Keep in mind that interviewers may be instructed to avoid showing any emotion toward you.
Sit up straight and maintain your focus during the interview. Avoid yawning or slouching in your chair.
Listen carefully to what the interviewers ask, and ask for clarification if you think you need it. In some interviews, however, the interviewer will only repeat the question. He or she may not be permitted to explain the question any further.
Think before you speak. Carefully consider what you want to say and organize your thoughts before you answer.
Be open and honest with your answers. When it comes to the oral interview, honesty is always the best policy.
Consider how each question or situation relates to your personal experiences. Personal stories and anecdotes about your own life can help make your responses more genuine and can help you relax during the interview.
After the interview, send thank-you notes to the interviewers.
Staying in Shape for the Firefighter Fitness Test
Firefighting is a physical job that requires strength, endurance, and flexibility, so a physical ability test or fitness test is part of the firefighter hiring process. To stay in shape for the physical test, use the following tips:
Make it routine. It’s easy for life to get in the way and ruin your fitness goals, so try to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule.
Don’t get bored. Repeatedly doing the same workout will quickly grow tiresome, so change it up. Instead of jogging around a track, play soccer or go for a bike ride.
Work out with a friend. Working out with a buddy is more fun. You can talk, laugh, and catch up while motivating each other to keep moving.
Eat healthy foods. Be sure to eat plenty of lean proteins and vitamin-rich fruits and veggies. These foods give you the energy you need to work out each day.
Drink plenty of water. When you work out, you lose a lot of water through sweat. In addition, water cleanses toxins from your body, so stay hydrated!
Get plenty of rest. You need rest to give your body time to repair itself. Doctors recommend seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Common Firefighting Acronyms and Abbreviations
There are some firefighting acronyms and abbreviations every potential firefighter should know. Firefighters have a unique way of speaking, from their alphabet (Foxtrot, India, Romeo, Echo — yep, that spells fire) to their numerous acronyms (groups of letters that stand in for words or phrases) and abbreviations (shortened versions of long words or phrases). The following are some acronyms and abbreviations that you may see on the written firefighter exam or hear during your interview:
CPR: Acronym for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, an emergency procedure during which a rescuer creates artificial circulation through chest compressions, which pump blood through the heart, and by breathing for the victim through artificial respiration.
Hazmat: Abbreviation for hazardous materials, toxic materials that pose a threat to humans or the environment.
PASS: Acronym for Pull — Aim — Squeeze — Sweep; PASS is an easy way to remember how to operate a fire extinguisher: Pull the pin. Aim the nozzle. Squeeze the handle. Sweep the extinguishing agent back and forth across the flames.
PAT: Acronym for physical ability test, a timed exam that assesses candidates’ physical fitness, including strength, endurance, and flexibility, to ensure that they’re physically capable to begin a fire training academy.
PPE: Acronym for personal protective equipment; also called bunker gear or turnout gear, PPE refers to the special clothing firefighters wear to protect themselves from smoke, heat, and flames.
SCBA: Acronym for self-contained breathing apparatus; also called an air pack, an SCBA is a device that supplies a firefighter with breathable air when he or she is in a toxic atmosphere.