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Resources for firefighters who are studying for the written exam

The firefighter’s written exam covers everything from a math skills review to a personality assessment



By Heather McKnight, FireRescue1 Contributor

If you’re interested in starting a career as a firefighter, you’ll need to take the written exam. With the considerable amount of study material available, choosing your resources can be a task in and of itself. This comprehensive guide will send you in the right direction. You can also download our preparation checklist to use as a reference later.

Firefighter Written exam Test overview

To become a firefighter, one must pass the entry-level written test developed by the Firefighter Candidate Testing Center of the department they’re testing for.

This exam is administered to check the aptitude of each candidate regarding their recall accuracy, cognitive skills and speed of completion. The test is custom and designed to give a practical exhibition of your ability to think critically and process information.

The minimum experience required to become a firefighter is a high school education. Even if your education level surpasses the basic requirements, preparation for the test is strongly encouraged. Each state or municipality has their own recruiting process. The firefighter written exams are similar across the country but not uniform. Be sure to check with each department you’re interested in applying for.

What the firefighter written exam is like

To pass the firefighter written test, you’ll need to get a sense of the exam. The test contains 100-150 questions in multiple-choice and true/false format that cover a broad range of skills including:

  • Mathematical reasoning
  • Mechanical reasoning
  • Reading comprehension
  • Spatial orientation
  • Situational judgment
  • Observation and memory
  • Personality

The test takes 2-2.5 hours to complete. Time allotted to complete the test will vary from department to department. The written test is made up of two parts. You must pass part one before part two is scored. Part one tests mathematics and reading comprehension, part two tests characteristics of your personality, related to your job to determine indications of success as a firefighter.

Below is a collection of resources that can be utilized to prepare prospective candidates for success in passing the firefighter written exam.

Online practice exams

Firefighter written exam free online test-
The resources on this website are customizable – so you can create a test to fit your specific study needs. Study section options are emergency medical care, fire science basics, mathematics and on the job care.

The Premier Fire Exam Study Group
This website requires paid membership. Here you will find a helpful community to support the candidate in each step of the application and test preparation process. Membership includes:

  • Test-taking strategies and tips
  • Practice exams and quizzes
  • Tips for the physical ability test and
  • Guidelines for the oral board interview

Physical resources: Books and flashcards

Norman Hall’s Firefighter Exam Preparation Book
This book provides a complete review of topics commonly tested on the written exam. Features of this book include practice exams, answer keys, memory aids focused on the recall test, self-scoring tables, insights into this career path, and a comprehensive look at the final interview.

Norman Hall’s Firefighter Exam Preparation Flashcards
The 300 card-set is a picture-based training system. The set allows you to check your knowledge and quiz yourself at your own pace. This study aid covers mathematics, mechanical aptitude, and situational judgment.

Apps and study guides

Firefighter 1 and 2 Exam Guide on the Pocket Prep App
This app allows the user to study anywhere, anytime. Every answer is broken down to easily identify what portion of memory might be lacking and needing work. You can create custom exams that allow you to choose what you study. Your results come with detailed infographics to help visualize your progress and target your weak subjects.

Where a future firefighter can apply for the written exam

Once a candidate is ready to take the written exam, they should check with the department in which they are hoping to test with regarding testing dates.

Some departments test quarterly, while other departments test only once every two years. A passing grade on the exam is a score of 80% or above on the written exam and a pass/fail on the physical abilities test. If the candidate does not pass the first portion of the exam, the second will not be scored and the candidate will have to wait two years to apply for testing again.

This article, originally published Sept. 28, 2017, has been updated.

About the Author

Heather McKnight is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.

Download a checklist to help keep you on track as you prepare for your firefighter written test: