Interleaving Explained and How It Can Help You Pass Your Firefighter Promotional Exam 


Preparing for a fire department promotion test  is a big deal. One way to maximize your firefighter promotional exam prep time is to find out what study methods work best for you, such as interleaving. Keep reading to find out what interleaving is, and see if it may benefit you. 

What is Interleaving?

Interleaving is the act of studying different topics sporadically as opposed to the more traditional blocking method of studying similar topics grouped together. 

With blocking, you would want to fully comprehend a topic before moving onto the next and you likely will not come back to said topic. If you are interleaving, you will learn related skills and topics together to help you better grasp all concepts as a whole. 

To start, pick several topics that are related in some way and spread them out throughout your determined study time. Cycle back and forth through each topic in your allotted study time. For example, if you are working on learning hazardous materials, incorporate structural fire fighting strategies and tactics, and even some fire department leadership material in one study session. Figure out how they all link together and get your brain working. The most important thing is to not learn one thing and then never come back to it. You need to constantly be going back and looking at previous material to help you better understand and incorporate the new material. 

Benefits of Interleaving

Interleaving improves memory. When you use interleaving to study and learn you are constantly going back and retrieving information from your brain’s memory. This retrieval process is inevitable, just review. You are much less likely to forget what you have learned. With interleaving you don’t just study something once, feel like you have retained it, then move on, resulting in you forgetting everything you learned early on in your exam prep. This is because everything you have learned works together as a whole. You will go back and forth between topics, making it harder to forget things you had studied at an earlier time, making your time spent studying much more effective and efficient. Revisiting previous topics of study through the interleave technique will save you from a last minute cram session when you sit down to do your study guides the days before your exam and realize you forgot all of the early material. You are going back and remembering things you already learned and solidifying its place in your long term memory which will help you recall the information come test day. 

Interleaving also reduces one’s likelihood to lose focus and daydream while studying. This is because you are always learning something new and making connections with what you previously learned to what you are working on in the present. There is no time for your brain to wonder when you are constantly moving around while you study and making those brain connections. 

When to Switch?

Here is one of the things that makes interleaving tricky, there is no set amount of time you should study before you switch topics. Once you have grasped a good portion of what you are studying it is time to switch. When you switch don’t just dump all the information you just studied, instead try to link the various topics together as you go. This will help you better understand everything you are studying, and will make your new job a lot easier once you start because you will fully understand how everything you learned is connected and works together in real life. There is no fixed amount of time you should spend on each subject before switching, just do what feels right to you as you go along. If you feel yourself getting bored, and spacing out, it may be time to switch.

Ways to Test Progress

Take online practice tests after interleaving and see if you do better than you did after a regular study session using traditional blocking. Testing as you go is a great way to see if interleaving is the study method for you. Not every study method is for everyone so if you don’t do as well as you hoped, don’t give up, this study method just may not be best suited for you, but there are so many other methods out there to try. It is not a waste of time to try various methods, you are still learning as you are working out what method works for you which is the main goal of it all. 

The Takeaway

Everyone is different and you must mold your study techniques to fit yourself. There may be a learning curve associated with interleaving, so give it some time before you call it quits because the benefits will outweigh the early struggles. Give it a try and see if it helps you retain information as you begin studying for your upcoming firefighter promotional exam.