Assessment Centers Explained & Why They Matter As You Prepare to Promote in the Fire Service

Assessment centers are becoming a more and more popular way of testing candidates looking to be promoted in the fire service especially in larger cities. Here’s what happens at an assessment center as you begin your firefighter promotional exam prep journey.. 

What Are They?

If you are taking your firefighter promotional exam at an assessment center, it is much more than just a multiple choice test. An assessment center, “is an exam designed to simulate situations common to the rank being tested.” Essentially testing at an assessment center mimics a day in the life of the officers rank within the fire service you are applying to. 

What Do They Test?

Traditional firefighter promotional exams consist of a written exam that is multiple choice, a fire-simulation, and oral interview. Assessment centers, however, take the fire-simulation to the next level. If you are testing to be promoted in the fire service through an assessment center it will not just test a general knowledge of skills, they test every skill you could possibly need to have to succeed in the officer position you are applying for through a number of real-life scenarios, simulations, and tactical exercises. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Fire suppression knowledge

  • Leadership

  • Incident command

  • Team management

  • Time management

  • Critical thinking

  • Scene management

  • Conflict resolution

  • Administrative knowledge 

  • General attitude

  • How you handle stress

  • Communication skills

  • Organization

Everything that you are tested on is done so by showing and/or telling how something is done. There is no room for error or guessing. You can’t go back and change your answers at a later time, you only get one shot to prove yourself. 

Why Assessment Centers?

One of the reasons assessment centers are becoming so popular is because there is no way to pass unless you know your stuff and are truly ready to be promoted. You either study and practice rigorously and succeed or you fail, there is no way to fake it. Assessment centers allow for promotion based solely on one's abilities.

When it comes to assessment center testing you will be physically showing the assessors and your superiors your skills in action, there is no making it up on the spot or room for error. In addition, you will not just need to be able to get through simulations, you will need to show them you are an effective communicator, leader, and so on while also completing the exercises correctly. With the written exam everything is on paper with no communication involved, but at an assessment center communication is a huge component. This means you will have to take your studies a step further and not just read your textbook and work on online practice tests to fully understand the firefighting skills you need to know. You will need to practice controlling a scene, communicating with a team effectively, and more. 

The Takeaway

An assessment center promotional evaluation in the fire service is so much more than just a written exam, it is a physical display of your skills. You will be judged on the spot with no chance to guess or use the process of elimination to help you pass. As assessment centers become more and more popular across the US be prepared to take at least part of your firefighter promotional exam at one.