3 Tips to Help You Pass the Math Portion of the Firefighter Promotional Exam

If you want to promote in the fire service you usually have to pass a written exam and that test usually includes math. You need to be sure your firefighter promotional exam prep includes math practice, not just reading the books. Math isn’t always easy for firefighters, so check out these tips to help you get dialed in for your exam.

1. Know What To Expect

The most important way to prepare for the math portion of your fire service promotion test is to know what will be on the test. It will vary depending on where you are testing and what rank you are testing for, but it is important to take the time to figure out what you need to know specifically. I am talking about what formulas you are expected to know. Does your department round or truncate answers to math problems? Talk to your coworkers in the rank you are testing into to get some insight. Look to some fire equipment operator instructors to pass on some knowledge. 

You will likely need to be able to do:

  • Word problems

Example: A firefighter determines that 350 feet of hose is needed to reach a particular building. If the hoses are 60 feet in length, what is the minimum number of lengths of hose needed?

  • Fractions/Decimals

Example: What is the decimal equivalent of 6/15? 1) .25 2) .30 3) .35 4) .40

  • Algebra

Example: 3x + 7 =10 Solve for x

  • Geometry

Example: What is the square footage of a building that is 330' X 143'?

  • Percentages

Example: An adult victim has one-quarter (1/4) of his back burned, all of his arm burned, and half (1/2) of his head burned. Using the burn chart below, determine what percent (total) of the victim is burned. 

Entire Back: 20%

Entire Front: 20% 

Entire Head: 15% 

Entire Arm: 15% 

What percent of the victim is burned?

The good news, it is almost always all multiple choice test questions. 

2. Practice

Remember practice makes perfect, so once you have found out what types of math problems and fire hydraulic equations will be on your specific exam, it is time to practice. The math questions are not always super challenging, but they are probably something you learned a long time ago and have forgotten since. Look for online resources to help you study, or borrow your kids math book to freshen up (this is not a joke). 

If come test day you are struggling with the math portion of the firefighter promotional written exam, try to look at the problem from a real world perspective. Imagine you are at the scene of an emergency incident and your captain or crew member is asking you the question to help put it in perspective. 

3. Know the Equations

As with any math test, there are equations that you will need to memorize and put to use on your exam. What equations you need to know depends on what rank you are testing for. You will also need to know what some of those funky math symbols you haven’t seen in ten years mean, like the square root sign or the pi symbol. Make a list of concepts, equations, and symbols to help you study for the exam. When you sit down to start the exam you can write them out so you have them to look at when needed. 

The Takeaway

Yes, there will be a math portion to your firefighter promotional exam, but don’t let that crush your confidence. Put the time in to go over some of the rusty old math skills you have so you do not do poorly on that section, do not count on recalling any of it in the moment without any preparation.