Martin Eggeling
Mar 24, 2016 · 5 min read

How To Be A Firefighter

Over the years I have watched many people miss out on great job opportunities simply because they can’t pass the damn entrance exam. They spend so much time taking Fire Science classes, being an Explorer, going on ride alongs, and learning all about firefighting; yet they can’t pas a basic firefighter entrance exam. Now, I will be the first to admit that some of these exams can be tough, especially if it has been a while since you have taken a standardized test.

You need to take the test serious. Consider it the gatekeeper. You are really just testing to see if you get the chance to move onto the next stage. Nothing else matters until you get passed the test. Your resume doesn’t mean jack, nobody cares how in shape you are, your daddy who is the Chief can’t do a thing for you unless you pass the test first. Also, realize that most departments only test every two years, some test every four or more. So you fail the test you might be waiting many YEARS just to test with that department again.

I “failed” the very first test I ever took. While most firefighter entrance exams will require a score of 70% or 80% just to pass, many won’t even let you move on in the process unless you score a 90% or better. When you have 5,000–10,000 people or more taking one test, it becomes incredibly competitive and the only way to narrow it down is to only take the top scores.

Now back to my first test. I didn’t really study at all. I figured I’d just take it “to see what it was like.” I still had a year left in the military and figured even if I passed I couldn’t take the job yet. What I didn’t know is that many big departments run multiple academies from one list. This particular department ended up running four academies and hired almost 200 people!!! Lesson learned, ALWAYS take each test serious. I ended up scoring a 94.7% and was thrilled when I got my letter…..until at the bottom I saw where it said that while 70% was passing, only those with a score of 95% or higher would move on to the next stage. I missed out by one damn question, and I know which one it was. ONE QUESTION. Don’t be that guy. It is a crappy feeling.

Study your ass off for each test. The majority of fire entrance exams will not let you use a calculator. When was the last time you have done math without a calculator? It had been at least 10 years when I took my first test and I could barely remember how to do long division, let alone fractions and percentages. The basic math portion of the test kicked my ass, stressed me out, and really slowed me down to the point that I really had to rush to finish the other sections. Think about it, nobody does math by hand. Even when you were in school, once you learned how you moved on to using a calculator. I literally could not remember how to do percentages and basically had to reteach myself fractions while taking the test. You need to take the time to brush up on basic math — adding, subtracting both whole numbers and fractions, multiplying, dividing, figuring percentages, etc. There are plenty of books and online resources out there for you to brush up on your math skills.

Math without a calculator seems to trip up a lot of people, but there are many different parts to a entrance exam that can get you. Many tests will have a study guide that you can buy. BUY IT! DON’T GET CHEAP. On some tests, every single question comes from the study guide. You literally have to memorize the whole thing. Even if the questions don’t come directly out of the study guide, many times the questions are so similar that if you actually bought the study guide and studied it (what a concept) you will just breeze through the test.

Before you even sign up for your first test, you should pick of several of the commercially available Firefighter Exam study guides. These are made by several different companies and you can find them at pretty much every bookstore and library so you have no excuse. They cover a wide range of topics that are usually on firefighter tests. Topics such as reading comprehension, spatial orientation, grammar, writing, tool recognition, and problem solving. Go through each section, study them, and do the practice tests. It will be well worth your time and will really pay off. It will help you relearn how to take a test again. Most of us haven’t taken a standardized test like this since we left high school and we need to relearn many things.

This post is not meant to scare you. These tests are not rocket science although some can be very, very challenging. If you are planning on becoming a firefighter at some point, then you have a entrance exam coming. The sooner you start studying and getting up to speed on your basic firefighter exam material, the better and less stressed you will be come test time. You can control this part of the testing cycle and can be as prepared or underprepared as you want. Don’t waste your opportunity because you watched TV or played XBOX instead of studying.

The whole purpose of this post is to document all the tips, tricks, knowledge, facts, etc that myself and many other firefighters have learned over the years when it comes to getting hired. Becoming a firefighter is a very challenging process that many highly qualified candidates are constantly failing at. Getting hired isn’t usually as easy at it sounds. There is a whole lot more to it than just taking a test, doing a physical, and going to your oral board interview. Each year I meet a lot of great candidates that don’t get hired just because they didn’t really understand the hiring process and all the things you should be doing to get hired.

We just finished a large recruitment with my fire department where we are going to hire over 40 recruits in just one academy! We’ve have a steady stream of candidates coming to the station for advice and to do mock oral boards. The sad thing is, they all SUCKED. While many where highly qualified, they had no clue what to do in the oral board, didn’t know what to wear, didn’t even know how to go about coming to a fire station for help.

Instead of rehashing the same advice and training over and over with new guys wanting to get on the job, I decided I’ll just start posting everything I’ve learned about getting hired, and everything others have taught me when I was testing, and all the things I’ve seen since. A lot of guys I work with have volunteered to share their knowledge and experiences too.

Each department is different when it comes to testing but for the most part the process is fairly similar. There is so much more you should be doing when it comes to getting hired than just taking a test. Hopefully this blog will help shed some light on the process as well as the fire department culture to help the next group of great guys and gals get hired.

This article is provided by Contact Ricky Rescue Fire Academy for more advice and help to take your fire career up a notch by becoming a Florida Fire Officer.

Martin Eggeling

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