Key to Success: Achieving Desirable Difficulty As You Study For Your Firefighter Promotion

Have you ever heard the phrase, 'this is too easy'? Well, when you are working on your firefighter promotional exam prep if you start to feel that way then it is time to change your study method. For best long term memory you want desirable difficulty in order to pass your firefighter promotional exam. 

What is Desirable Difficulty?

Desirable difficulties is a learning theory made popular by Dr. Robert Bjork. Desirable difficulty is the idea that, “students need tasks that challenge them to the right degree in order to learn best.” So in order to get the most out of the information you are studying for your firefighter promotional exam, you need to study at a level that is difficult for yourself, but not so difficult you want to give up on it all together. 

How Desirable Difficulty Works

Desirable difficulty may sound like a nightmare to a lot of people, but in the end achieving desirable difficulty while you study is the key to success on your firefighter promotional exam. It is said that, “introducing certain difficulties into the learning process can greatly improve long-term retention of the learned material.” This means that achieving desirable difficulty will help retain the information you are studying for a longer period of time, which is exactly what you need to do to pass your firefighter promotional exam and get promoted in the fire service. 

The goal of desirable difficulty is actually forgetting and making mistakes so you have to go back and relearn. Using the below study methods to implement desirable difficulty allows you to  determine what material you need to focus on as you study, so there are no surprises come test day. Making your studies harder for yourself may make you more frustrated and you may make more mistakes but the long term benefits outweigh the short term obstacles.

How to Implement Desirable Difficulty

When you are studying alone with no guidance it can be challenging to make things harder for yourself but there are methods out there to help you do just that. One of the best study methods to achieve desirable difficulty is online practice tests. They allow you to quiz yourself to see what you need to focus on and what you have forgotten in your studying up to that point. It also reduces the amount of work you have to do because the questions are generated and scored for you. 

Another simple way to implement desirable difficulty in your studies sessions, is to switch up your study location. Changing your study location eliminates environmental cues that may be contributing to your recall making studying the material a bit more challenging for yourself. 

Flashcards are another great way to achieve desirable difficulty. They allow you to quiz yourself as you go to help you figure out what material you need to focus on as you continue studying your firefighter promotional exam materials.  

The Takeaway

Nobody wants to make things harder for themselves, this, however, is the key to your success on the firefighter promotional exam. Achieving the perfect amount of desirable difficulty while you are studying will allow you to ace your exam, get promoted, and succeed in your new fire fighting rank. Just remember, you do not want to make it so challenging for yourself that it causes you to become stressed out and give up on reaching your goals.