4 Tips to Acing The Written Component of the Firefighter Promotional Exam

Assessment centers are adding a writing component more and more often as part of the firefighter promotion process and if you want to be an officer in the fire service you have to pass it. Writing can be tough, especially in a job that requires very little at the start. 

What is the Writing Component?

As an officer in the fire service you will be required to do a decent amount of paperwork, whether that is reports to the chief, or memos to the entire department. Due to this new responsibility that is given to you once promoted, your superiors want to be sure you are capable of writing well. The written component of the firefighter promotional exam could be a number of things, writing some sort of staff report, a disciplinary report/reprimand, a proposal, or even an essay on leadership or fire service topics. The department wants to be sure you can spell, have correct grammar, can format the specific type of document correctly, and so on. 

How to Succeed

  1. Spelling and Grammar

The first thing anyone scoring a writing assessment is looking for is correct spelling and grammar. If your spelling and grammar is all over the place then it takes the attention away from the content of whatever it is you are writing and will be impossible for your superiors to ignore. You need to make sure your spelling and grammar are up to par. One way to improve your spelling and grammar is by writing in a word document or google docs or some writing program that tells you where your errors are. If your spelling and grammar aren’t the best you are going to need the computer's assistance to tell you what you did incorrectly and how to correct it. You can also ask someone to look at your writing if you know they have perfect writing themself, otherwise I’d stick with the computer as you first get started. Now you may be asking what you should write about, well anything. Make up a story and write about it, bonus, write about things in the fire service or write about what you are learning as you are studying for your promotional exam. Just get words out in full and complete sentences so you can practice your spelling and grammar. 

  1. Handwriting

A lot of writing done in offices today is done electronically through email and word documents, but some things are still done the old fashioned way of pen to paper so it is important your handwriting is legible. This may seem silly, but you can’t be graded on your writing if it isn’t legible. You will also waste a lot of people's time in your department if you are writing memos that they can’t read and have to track you down to have you interpret your writing. So after you have mastered your spelling and grammar, it is time to get off the computer and put pen to paper to make sure your handwriting is good to go before you sit down and take your written assessment. 

  1. Formatting

Another crucial component to passing the written fire service assessment is to make sure whatever you are writing is formatted correctly. Can you format a traditional five paragraph essay, an office memo, a proposal, a reprimand? You will need to know what format to use given the type of writing assignment you are given for the assessment.  This one may be a bit harder to “study” for but is where your colleagues above you will come in handy. Ask them what was on their written assessment, and make note of some of the office documents you have received from them and the format they are in. When you are practicing your writing, try writing a few essays to help you get used to the essay format. You can also practice writing memos and so on to help improve spelling, grammar, and formatting. 

  1. Professional

The final component you will be graded on in your written assessment is professionalism. You need to make sure the tone of whatever it is you are writing is appropriate and professional. Yes all of the other above things are important but if you have perfect spelling, grammar, and formatting and your writing is unprofessional you are not going to pass this portion of your firefighter assessment. There will never be a time in your professional career where you will need to write a document that is not professional so make sure you fully understand what that looks like before you sit down for your written assessment. 

The Takeaway

A major portion of an officer's job is spent writing a variety of documents that get read by many people throughout the department and beyond. If you want to get promoted you must be able to write and write well. Do not think this component of the firefighter promotional exam will be a breeze and not practice for it or you will not pass.