4 Ineffective Study Techniques Preventing You From Passing Your Firefighter Promotional Exam

Studying is a skill and just like any other skill it takes time and practice to master it. When you begin working on your firefighter promotional exam prep save yourself some time and energy by avoiding these study techniques from day one. 

  1. Studying for Long Stretches of Time

When getting back into the studying game it may seem best to just spend as much time as possible studying, thinking you will learn the most that way. Studying for hours on end however is a horrible idea for a couple reasons. For one, you will burn yourself out if you study for hours and hours a day and spend every free second studying for your firefighter promotional exam. Second, your brain is going to have a harder time storing all of this information you are consuming. Your brain needs time to rest and compartmentalize all of the information it is taking in while you study. Sure if you quiz yourself at the end of a five hour study session you may get some answers right, but that is because the information is being stored in your short term memory but not ending up in long term memory. So you may know the answer tonight but likely not the next day without continuous review. Most people end up studying in this crammed way when they wait until the last minute to start studying and have no other choice. Then there is not enough time for review and you are left with a headache and a failed promotional exam grade. 

Solution: Start studying as soon as you sign up to take the firefighter promotional exam so you are not forced to cram. Keep your study sessions short and sweet. Studying early and often allows you enough time for lots of review, increasing the chances of long term storage and passing your promotional exam. 

  1. Studying the Same Thing for a Long Time (blocked practice and mass practice)

Another study no-no many people fall into is studying the same subject matter for long stretches of time. It makes sense to want to master the material before moving on to something new, but that actually is not the case. If you stick to studying one subject, which is how most people have been taught to learn, you are missing out on valuable brain processes. When you study multiple subjects at once your brain is able to create connections between all of the subjects allowing you to remember and recall the information easier, a process called interleaving. So when you study the same subject over and over until you master it you are missing out on valuable connections. 

Solution: Mix up your study sessions and review sessions. Make connections as you go between topics that don’t necessarily go together. Do the same for your review sessions, intermix your flashcards with more than one subject matter. 

  1. Just Reading Notes

If you want to pass your firefighter promotional exam you need to actively learn, reading notes is not that. Reading or skimming your notes does very little for your brain and memory. I am sure you have had the experience of rereading the same paragraph of a book more than once because the information is just not going in your brain. That is because reading is passive, if you want to remember the information you need to actually interact with it and use it, not just look at it. Rereading your notes can also give you a false sense of security. You may recognize the words you see and assume you have mastered the material, but when those words are no longer your own and in the form of a question you may not understand it as well as you thought. 

Solution: Turn your notes into a quiz. Make questions at the end of it, make flashcards out of it, read the notes aloud, explain them to someone else and so on. It is also nice to have notes to look back on for clarification of information or to find answers to any questions you may have as you study. The act of taking notes is also quite beneficial though, so don’t skip that part even if you never look at said notes again. Also if you have no other way of studying, rereading your notes is better than nothing. 

  1. Memorizing

Memorizing will likely get you a passing score on your firefighter promotional exam, but it will likely not get you more than that. If you memorize the material just long enough to pass your promotional exam you likely won’t pass the other portions of the assessment process. If by some miracle you do and get promoted, you will struggle. The reason you are learning this information is so you can succeed at your new job at your new rank. You are doing yourself and everyone you work with a disservice trying to skate by and get promoted without truly understanding and knowing the information required of you. 

Solution: Truly learn the material. Study for as long as you need to learn it all. There are so many resources out there to help you study and learn so use them. Find a mentor to ask questions. Use online practice tests to quiz yourself. Get your books and get to it. 

The Takeaway

Studying can be challenging and it can be time consuming trying to figure out what study methods work best for you. To make things a bit easier, avoid doing these things right off the bat. If you put the time in you can ace your firefighter promotional exam in no time.