Memorization vs. Learning and Why It Matters to a Firefighter Studying for a Promotional Exam

Since elementary school, students have been forced to memorize concepts and other things, but memorization is not the same as learning. As you begin your firefighter promotional exam prep, explore the difference in memory and learning and the importance of that distinction so you can pass your exam and get promoted.. 


Memorization is defined as, “the act or process of learning something so that you will remember it exactly.” 

Do you remember having to memorize the declaration of independence in eighth grade? Everyone could recite it no problem, but no one really knew what it said. Everyone was just repeating words in a certain order without taking the time to fully understand what it was they were even saying. You do this because it is the easiest way to go, memorization takes much less time than learning does and may seem like the best way to study because of that. However, when it comes time to take your firefighter promotional exam you are going to need to do more than just memorize the answers. You may be able to pass the test by just memorizing but you will not get the job unless you fully understand the information.        


Learning is defined as, “the activity of gaining knowledge.” 

Memory is a huge part of learning, but you need to do more than just memorize information to pass your firefighter promotional exam. Understanding a concept fully, and having learned it, you will be able to retrieve it from your memory so much easier when it comes time to take your firefighter promotional exam. This is because once you finally understand and have learned a concept or topic, your brain knows where to store that information, making the retrieval of the information that must faster and easier. Once you have learned one subject and move on to the next you are able to connect the new information with the stored information, making the understanding of the new information much more efficient. 

Why the Difference Matters

Knowing the difference between memorization and learning is critical if you want to pass your firefighter promotional exam. Even more important is being able to recognize when you are just memorizing the information you are studying and when you have truly learned it and understand the underlying concept. You do not want to waste your time studying just to realize you didn’t actually learn anything, you just temporarily memorized a bunch of information but don’t know how to apply it in the field. Learning takes a little more time, but if you want to pass your firefighter promotional exam and actually get promoted you have to learn and retain the information long-term. 

Let’s be honest, firefighters should study for promotional exams so they can learn the job they are attempting to promote to. Taking the easy path and just memorizing the information that will be on the test is okay to get promoted, but it doesn’t serve to improve yourself or your fire department for the future. Do the right thing and put in the hard work. Learn the job you are aiming to obtain, don’t just memorize the facts and figures. 

The Takeaway

If you comprehend and actually learn the information that is on the firefighter promotional exam, you are going to have a much easier time passing the exam and succeeding at your future career. In order to learn you need to have good study habits and make the firefighter promotional exam a priority in your life. You do not want to take any shortcuts when you are in the life-saving business.