The 5 Best Ways to Prepare for Fire Service Vehicle Operator Promotion Test


You’ve made the big decision to take your fire department’s apparatus driver/operator promotion test. Congrats! Now, the only thing standing between you and that shiny new badge is hard work — a lot of it. It takes focus and discipline to earn a promotion, and becoming a fire engineer or operator is a big responsibility. You need to be sure you have the knowledge to do the job right. That begins with your study habits, so start as you mean to go on with the five best ways to prepare for your fire service vehicle operator promotion test.

Know the Books, Manuals, and Policies Inside & Out

Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility for the promotional exam and submitted an application, if required, step two is getting your hands on the reading requirements for your department’s test. Study materials for fire apparatus driver test should include:

  • Apparatus manuals
  • Equipment manuals
  • Department policies
  • Books
  • Math formulas
  • Data sheets

Your department may throw a few more materials your way, and you need to know what you’ll need to know. Make sure you have all of the required material. Then you can brush up on study strategies for success and what to avoid, and then make a plan to get started. Spoiler - a study tool like FiredUp will help you learn everything you need to know with a proven technique for success.

Math, Math, and More Math

Practice your math extensively and thoroughly. Practice all the different pumping formulas over and over. Try doing field calculations timed so you’re under a little pressure. Make sure you have all the formulas memorized and that you have good practice questions with the correct answers so you know you’re practicing properly. And most importantly, make sure you’re clear on how your department expects you to determine the format of numbers in your answers. Yes, I’m talking about rounding and truncating — here’s a fun video if you need a reminder about the difference.

Hands-On Time with the Fire Apparatus

Being comfortable the day of your test is a huge advantage. Whether it’s for the written or practical test, there’s no substitute for familiarity with the apparatus on which you’ll be tested. And you can’t fake it, so work an overtime shift at a station with an aerial apparatus or brush truck if you need to. Bump up to drive as often as you can — it’ll pay off to take the time to learn the mechanics. Get out your phone to take videos or photos so you can review them later.

Physical Fitness

There isn’t usually a physical fitness component of a promotion test, but you don’t want a noticeable lack of fitness to be an issue. A fire apparatus driver/operator test can be physically demanding, so don’t put yourself in a position where you’re huffing and puffing so much that you can’t focus on your practical test. If you don’t already work out regularly, it’s time to start. And if lifting weights isn’t your thing — or gyms are closed in your area right now anyway because of the coronavirus — start hiking or biking. Be clear, some fire department driver/operator practical tests require you to wear full turnouts and PPE. Be ready physically so your mind is clear to do the thinking you’ll need to do well.

Study Group and Study Tools

Forming a solid and reliable study group may be the single biggest factor that leads to your success on a promotion test. You don’t need a crowd — just two or three like-minded people. Use your group to help ensure you get through all the study material and to test you on what you know. Divide up the work between the group members to lighten your load. Lean on each other and push each other to do the best you can. 

The same is true of your study materials. Whether you’re using online study tools or an old written formula sheet passed down for generations of firefighters, study materials are key to your success. Combined, your study group and study tools will make the process of promotion testing much easier for you.

Bonus Tip — Mindset

The right mindset is a big part of successfully preparing for your driver/operator test. You have to believe that you can and will learn the job of an operator. Don’t let limiting beliefs or doubt creep into your mind and destroy what you’re working so hard to accomplish. Tell yourself that you’re learning how to do a job, not just trying to pass a test. The test is just a hurdle to the job itself, and changing your perspective will help you better prepare for that new position.