4 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Firefighter Promotion Study Session With Retrieval Practice

Retrieval practice is one of the best ways to study for your firefighter promotional exam. Make sure you are incorporating some sort of retrieval practice into your firefighter promotional exam prep by incorporating the following tips and tricks. 

What is Retrieval Practice?

Retrieval practice is, the “strategy of recalling facts, concepts, or events from memory in order to enhance learning.” Instead of just reading information and putting information into your brain you are doing the opposite, you are taking information out of your brain. It has been shown that “retrieval practice is especially effective at increasing longer-term retention” of information in comparison to other study methods. An increase in long term memory is exactly what you need as you need to remember this important information not only to pass your promotional exam, but also to be successful in your new position if you get promoted in the fire service. 

How to Make the Most Out of Retrieval Practice

  1. Don’t Review Before You Start

To make the most out of a retrieval practice study session, do not review any of your notes first or look back at them as you go. Not reviewing before you begin your retrieval practice will let you know if you truly know the information from your memory. If you review first you may just remember what you saw when you reviewed prior but not truly have the information stored in your long-term memory. If you do not review prior, you are truly pulling from your long term memory and will get a more accurate understanding of what you know and what you don’t. 

  1. Make it Challenging

Similar to what was stated above, if you want to spend less time studying, you need to make your retrieval practices challenging for yourself. The harder the information is to get out of your brain, the more likely it is to have the information stick with you longer. So don’t just quiz yourself after reading a page in your textbook, because you may know the answer to the questions but that information is not likely stored information yet. That information is just sitting around in your short term memory because you just read it, you don’t truly know it. Go back a couple chapters and quiz yourself on that material you learned the week(s) before. Or try doing an online practice test that will cover a wide variety of information not just material from one chapter. 

  1. Don’t Ditch the Stuff You Know

Once you think you have mastered a topic or set of questions don’t just eliminate them from your studies. Keep going back to older material, less frequently, just to be sure the information has stuck with you. The more you review and practice the material the longer you will retain the information. In addition, don’t skip over something because you “think” you know it. Make sure you know it and even if you do know it keep coming back and reviewing the information through retrieval practice. 

Retrieval Practice Study Methods

  • Practice tests

  • Flashcards

  • Teaching/explaining what you learned to others

  • Summarize what you read/learned (without looking) outloud or in writing

The Takeaway

Retrieval practices can be one of the best study methods to use as you study for your firefighter promotional exam if you do it wisely. Don’t waste any of your time studying by making your retrieval practice too easy on yourself and giving yourself a false sense of what you know and what you still need to work on. Challenge yourself during your study sessions and you will be one step closer to acing your firefighter promotional exam.