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How to Ace Your Job Application

First, some general recommendations; applicable to all portions of the test:

• Arrive early, and well rested. If necessary, and at all possible, drive down the night before.

• If your test invitation doesn’t include driving directions, look them up yourself.

• Allow enough travel time to accommodate traffic congestion, or other delays.

• Double-check your test invitation and make absolutely certain you are bringing the required documentation to the test. Things you might be asked to bring include:

  • A copy of the test invitation
  • A photo ID
  • Your EMT certifcation or Paramedic License

• Be Prepared.

After the application process, the single largest deterrent to making “the list” seems to be the written examination. Not because prospective firefighters can’t pass written tests, but because they often prepare for the wrong kinds of tests.

In California, at least, entry-level tests (for any job) cannot contain questions that would require the candidate to have previous job experience. This means is one of two things:

1. The test doesn’t have any firefighting specific questions, or

2. Any firefighting questions have the answers provided within the context of the test.

What this means to you, the applicant, is that unlike all of your academy tests which were based upon information provided to you (often receptively) by an instructor, entry-level tests are based upon information that is gleaned from the test. In a nutshell, to pass the written test, you must possess a significant level of reading comprehension; and you must be able to apply critical thinking skills. Depending on the test, you may also have to demonstrate basic math skills; answer questions based upon an oral passage, read maps and charts, or demonstrate that you understand the fundamentals of how things work (mechanical aptitude).

Sadly, this is another area that Fire Academies often do not address well. There aren’t going to be any IFSTA questions on the test; and the fact that you can recite the entire NFPA 1001 standard, define RECEO, or regurgitate every known fact about static-kern mantle-rope, is of zero benefit. In fact, many times the correct answer in an entry-level test is WRONG – based upon information learned in the academy. This is especially true when taking a test with an oral passage. The test is validating your ability to remember what you just heard; not what you learned last year.

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