The second stage of the Firefighter selection process is the Firefighter tests. The tests themselves consist of a situational awareness test, problem solving test, working with numbers test and an understanding information assessment.

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The firefighter selection process involves a number of different written tests. These tests usually consist of multiple-choice questions, which are designed to assess a candidate’s ability and aptitude for becoming a competent firefighter. The tests themselves will normally be carried out at a local test centre or Fire Service establishment and will take approximately three hours to complete. You will receive full details about the tests prior to the test day.

The firefighter written tests are split into two different categories as follows:

1. Ability tests

- Working with numbers;
- Understanding information;
- Situational awareness and problem solving.

2. The National Firefighter Questionnaire

This questionnaire has been designed so as to provide information on your style and your behaviour. The Fire Service will use this information, along with the other results of your tests, to determine whether or not you are suitable to become a firefighter. I have found over the years that many people struggle with this part of the test. The questions often repeat themselves throughout the questionnaire, albeit in a slightly different manner. One of the most effective ways to understand this type of test is to fully learn the PQA’s. If you know them, then you will fully understand the style and behaviour that the Fire Service is looking for from successful applicants; more on this later.

Before we take a look at a number of different sample test questions, let us explore why the Fire Service are assessing you by using ability tests and a questionnaire. By understanding why they are assessing you in this manner will serve to help you pass the tests. If I was preparing for the firefighter written tests today, I would first of all ask myself the following two questions:
Q1. Why is the Fire Service assessing me in these areas?

Q2. What would they expect to see from successful candidates?

I will now write down my perceived answers to these questions, and I get the following responses:

A1. The Fire Service want to be sure that I am capable of working with numbers in a fast and competent manner, because this is what firefighters are required to do as part of their role. They must use calculations effectively, especially when using breathing apparatus and operating the pump on a fire engine. Whilst I don’t need to be a mathematics professor, I do need to be capable of working out simple arithmetic calculations in an accurate and speedy manner. Therefore, I will make sure that I practice plenty of simple numerical questions in the build up to the tests.

The Fire Service also wants to be sure that I can understand information that is relevant to the firefighters role. This will demonstrate to the assessors that I have the potential to pass the firefighter training course and that I also have the ability to complete any future professional development programmes during my career. During the ability testing I will be asked questions that determine my understanding and awareness of situations that I could be faced with whilst serving as a firefighter. Therefore, in order to successfully pass the tests, I will need to fully learn and understand the PQA’s that are relevant to the role. If I learn and understand these, I will be far better prepared than the majority of other applicants.

Finally, the Fire Service wants to be sure that I am aware of situations relevant to the firefighters role, and that I can apply a common sense attitude and a safe approach to those situations.

A2. The Fire Service would expect to see accurate calculations whilst I am working with numbers and that I can follow appropriate guidance that is provided during the tests. They would expect to see that I am capable of understanding job relevant information and answering questions correctly based around that information. They would also want to see me make common sense, safe decisions when presented with specific scenarios. Firefighters no longer take unnecessary risks during fires and operational incidents, and they will certainly not put themselves or other people in unnecessary danger.


Now that I have my two answers to the questions, I will set out a simple action plan that dictates exactly what I am going to do in order to put those answers right. In this particular case it will look something like this:

- I will embark on a structured development programme that will improve my ability to work with numbers. I will carry out a large number of sample test questions and I will obtain further testing booklets and resources to allow me to do that. If I need further assistance or development in this area, then I will seek the help of a qualified tutor.

- I will make sure that I fully understand the role of a firefighter so that I can respond to the questions based around ‘understanding information’. In order to achieve this I will read, learn and memorise the Personal Qualities and Attributes that are relevant to the firefighters role. By learning and understanding about the firefighters role, especially in relation to the PQAs, I will be able to respond to ‘situational awareness questions’ more effectively.

Even though the above process is a simple one, it is important that you carry it out as it will focus your mind on the areas that you need to work on and develop. Now lets move on to the different testing areas.

Ability tests

Within this guide I have provided you with a number of sample test questions to help you prepare for the ability tests. Use the questions provided as a practice aid only. Remember that these will not be the exact questions that you will be required to answer on the day.
Prior to the tests

- Preparation, preparation, preparation! In the weeks before the test, work hard to improve your skills in the testing areas. In addition to the tests contained within this guide there are numerous other testing resources available at Try out as many test questions as possible and make sure you learn from your mistakes.

- Get a good night’s sleep before the test day and don’t drink any alcohol or caffeine in the build up to the tests. It is important that you drink plenty or water in order to keep yourself hydrated.

- On the morning of the test, get up early and have a final run through a number of sample test questions, just to get your brain working.

- Eat a good healthy breakfast such as bran flakes and a chopped up banana. Don’t eat anything too heavy that will make you feel bloated or sluggish – remember, you want to be at your best.

- Whilst not essential, I recommend you wear a smart formal outfit for the testing day. The reason for this is simply because the majority of candidates will be casually dressed. It is better to stand out for the right reasons. A member of the testing staff might just be on the interview panel.

- Check the news for any potential traffic problems and leave in good time to arrive at the test centre with plenty of time to spare. Take a small bottle of water with you to help keep you hydrated.

On The Day

- Arrive in good time at the test location. Make sure you know where the test centre is.

- Ensure that you know exactly what you are required to do - do not be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure.

- Follow the instructions you are given exactly.

- During the tests, try to eliminate as many wrong answers as possible. For example, with numerical tests, a quick estimate may help you to discard several of the options without working out every alternative. 

- Work as quickly and accurately as you can. Both speed and accuracy are important, so do not spend too long on any one question. 

- Do not waste time on a difficult question. If you are stuck, leave it and move on, but make sure you leave a space on the answer sheet! 

- Don't worry if you do not finish all of the questions in the allocated time. If you do, go over your answers again to check for errors. 

- Keep your head down and concentrate on the task in hand. It is your job to do as best as you possibly can during the tests, so it is important that you concentrate.


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