7 Best Practices for Acing the Firefighter’s Promotional Written Exam


The written portion of your fire department’s promotional exam can be intimidating. But just like bailing out a window during self rescues, there are specific steps and a structured process that can make all the difference in your success. Follow these seven best practices for acing the firefighter’s promotional written exam.

Best Practice #7: Don’t Be Late

Don’t add tension to an already stressful situation by rushing to find a parking spot and the right room. Give yourself breathing room to get where you need to be on time, or ideally, with a few minutes to spare.

Best Practice #6: Come Prepared

Before you walk in the door, you should be completely prepared to sit down and write your test. Be very clear on what you need to bring with you, and what may not be allowed (like a cell phone). Again, the idea here is to keep stress to a minimum so you can focus on what you need to do — ace that test.

Best Practice #5: Follow All Instructions

Listen to everything the proctor tells you before, during, and after your fire department promotional written exam. This is basic, but it matters. Listening carefully will ensure you don’t make silly mistakes that could penalize you in the end. Competition for promoted positions in the fire service is fierce, and the difference between getting promoted or not could come down to one careless mistake. So don’t make them.

Best Practice #4: Skip Questions You Don’t Know and Come Back to Them

Spoiler — there will likely be a few questions you can’t answer. Don’t panic. Simply move on and come back to them later. Getting hung up on one question will eat into your time and it can throw your concentration. Moving through the test calmly and efficiently is a better strategy than agonizing over one question. Keep going, and come back to any tricky questions when you review your answers.

Best Practice #3: Don’t Leave Blank Answers

Yes, best practice number four is to skip questions you don’t know. But that’s a temporary strategy to keep you moving through the test. When you’ve gone through all of the questions, go back to the beginning and scan for those you skipped. If answers continue to elude you, take your best guess. Successful test-taking strategies are often as much about avoiding point loss as they are getting the most correct answers, and no answer means no points at all — guaranteed.

Best Practice #2: Check Your Work

This is an opportunity to check your answers and confirm that you answered every question. It’s also a chance to ensure that you remembered to include your name and required information (department, ID number, etc.). This is a critical step that shouldn’t be overlooked, so double check your work.

Best Practice #1: Keep track of time

Make a point of tracking time during your written promotional test. It can be easier said than done, but you can make it a habit by timing yourself on practice tests. A robust study guide with a timer function will give you a useful timeframe for test taking and can even help you improve efficiency. It’s important that you move through the test at a pace that gives you enough time to check your work and revisit challenging questions, but there’s no need to race through just to be the first one done.

Bonus Tip: Breathe

The fire department’s promotional exam is a big deal, and it’s normal to feel a little stressed. A deep breath or two before you dive into your test or whenever you feel stuck can be really calming. You may want to take it further and learn a breathing technique, like this one from the Navy Seals, to help you stay calm and focused.

But First — Study!

These best practices will help you on the big day, but there’s no workaround to the fact that preparing properly for a firefighter’s promotional written exam means putting in the work. The right study guide can go a long way in helping you cover all your bases for the written test, so sign up now to get started.