The Feynman Study Technique Explained & Why it May Help You As You Study For the Firefighter Promotional Exam

Have you ever had a doctor or teacher explain something to you in a way you just couldn’t understand? I am pretty sure we have all been there. If so, try exploring the Feynman Technique of studying as you begin your firefighter promotional exam prep because it can help you turn complex concepts into simple ones for optimal retention. 

Who is Feynman? 

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist, professor, and remembered for his ability to explain the most complex concepts in the simplest ways that anyone can understand. Sounds perfect for a firefighter!

The Technique Explained

1. Study

Spend time studying the concept you are working on. There is no set amount of time needed for this study technique. It is probably beneficial to spend more time on complex firefighting theories and concepts. Just be sure you save at least thirty minutes to an hour at the end of every study session to complete the next few steps of the Feynman Technique. 

2. Review

In very simple terms, write out, or tell someone what it is you just learned. Don’t overcomplicate it. If you need to, pretend you are teaching a young child what you just learned. This can be harder than it sounds.

This is beneficial in more ways than one. If you choose to write down the information you are studying, you are creating an instant study guide for yourself that you can study from in the future. And as awkward as it may feel to study out loud, or teach someone what you are learning, studying out loud is a great way to boost information retention. This is where using a spouse/partner or a study group can come in to be very beneficial when studying for a fire department promotion test. You could even use the crew at your fire station as a crowd to explain concepts to.

3. Figure Out What You Don’t Know

As you are writing about what you learned or explaining it to someone on your study team, it will become obvious what concepts you still need to work on and which ones are clear to you. While you are explaining, it will automatically become apparent what information you need to spend more time working on and what concepts you have mastered. If you cannot explain it easily and clearly then there is more understanding needed in that area of information. Pay attention to where you pause in your writing or speaking and to areas that cause you to look back at your notes or books. These are areas you need to go back and spend more time on. 

4. Go Back

Once you have figured out the areas you still need help with, go back and start studying those problem areas again. Then you will repeat this process until you have a full grasp of the concept you are learning. If you are really stuck on something try to break it down and make it as simple as possible to understand. If you have a study team, maybe someone else on your team will have a full grasp of the topic you are working on so be sure to ask for help if you still need it. Once you have mastered explaining your study material to someone else or writing it down without any hesitation, you will know you have the material down. It will be pretty obvious when this happens. 

The Takeaway

Breaking your study material down into simpler terms will help you better understand the material, and succeed at passing your firefighter promotional exam. Just remember to give yourself enough time during your study session for steps 2 through 4 and any review you may need to do. I am sure you will find yourself explaining lots of information to other firefighters studying for the promotion test if you follow this method!