3 Techniques to Avoid When You Study for Your Fire Promotion Exam – And What to Do Instead


Any studying is good studying, right? Not necessarily! If you’re preparing for your fire department’s promotional exam, there are study methods you should actually avoid. Turns out, some methods amount to a big waste of time, with minimal retention and no real value come test day. These three study techniques may be familiar, but there’s a better way. As you make a study plan, keep in mind that these three techniques are the worst way to study for your fire promotion exam. Here’s why – and what to do instead.

Studying For Hours on End

The idea isn’t how long you study – it’s how you actually use your study time. And while it may feel like you’re making progress if you spend hours cramming, or you devote those four days off to hitting the books, it doesn’t work that way. This kind of hours-on-end studying is more accurately described as pseudo-work – long hours with little focus. It’s mentally draining and wildly inefficient.

Try this instead: Maximize focus by minimizing time. Instead of spending three hours straight staring at your study materials, break the same amount of work into three one-hour study sessions throughout the day. You’ll have time to relax and re-charge, so you can really focus on what you’re doing come study time.

Using the Massed Practice Approach

Massed practice describes the study of a single subject for a prolonged period, during which you repeat phrases or ideas over and over to memorize them. We all do that – right? It’s called studying. Actually, it’s not – all you’re doing is reading your notes or study materials again and again in the hopes that something will sink in. But to properly retain the information you need to know, you have to actively engage in the material. Active engagement is the process of drawing meaning from text – making connections, forming examples, and really regulating your own learning. Try these steps for active engagement:

  • Break your study materials up by topic, and use tests and quizzes to hone and build your knowledge. Practice tests, like those here at FiredUp, are one of the top two learning strategies, because the act of bringing information to mind strengthens knowledge and boosts your ability to retrieve it again in the future.
  • Test your understanding by explaining the information out loud as though you were the teacher.
  • Create examples that relate to your personal experiences for better retention.

Highlighting/Underlining and Reviewing

Highlighting and underlining? That’s firefighter studying 101! Ever borrow a book from a buddy? It’s all marked up with sticky notes and five different colors of highlighter. Here’s the thing – highlighting important text may help slightly if it’s done well, but most of us tend to get highlighter-happy and lose sight of the details that are important to highlight. At worst, highlighting text hinders our ability to draw inferences from our notes – the kind of inferences that lead to retention. It doesn’t take any effort to color in a few words on a page, and that’s really all you’re doing. You’re better off with flash cards or, better yet, smart testing software that will keep you challenged and focused.

The Takeaway

If you’re panicking slightly because we just blew holes in your study strategy for an upcoming fire promotion test, relax. Knowing what to avoid (endless hours of cramming and highlighting) helps you zero in what to do to maximize your chances for success (short, focused sessions, practice tests). You can do this, and our software can help! Sign up for free now.