UK firefighters are highly respected members of the community and enjoy rewarding careers. Becoming a firefighter involves several steps, including cognitive assessments. Many fire depots use the same set of assessments which include three parts: numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, and situational awareness and problem-solving.
What Is the Hiring Process for UK National Firefighters?
The first steps of becoming a UK national firefighter are to fill out a pre-application checklist and an application form. The pre-application checklist is for your use to make sure you have all the required material and information for the application.
The application itself contains several sections including personal details and references.
The main section is called the PQA, or Assessment of Personal Qualities and Attributes. There are seven PQAs which this section of the application assesses. They include the following:
- Working with others
- Confidence and resilience
- Commitment to excellence
- Commitment to diversity and integrity
- Openness to change
- Situational awareness
- Commitment to development
This section of the application consists of 127 questions, each of which lists a statement that pertains to a particular PQA. To answer the question, indicate whether you agree with the statement using a scale of options from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”
After the application, candidates complete written psychometric tests. These are described in more detail below.
The next step is to complete physical ability tests. The physical test is made up of six parts, which candidates must pass to show that they can handle the physical demands of firefighting. The six tests assess candidates’ overall fitness, manual dexterity, and confidence. They include the following:
- Ladder lift test: requires you to lift a bar from the ground and place it on a piece of equipment above you
- Casualty evacuation test: requires you to walk backwards while dragging a weight through a course
- Equipment assembly test: measures your ability to assemble and disassemble firefighting equipment
- Equipment carry test: requires you to carry bulky equipment
- Ladder climb test: involves climbing ladders and performing tasks atop the ladder
- Breathing apparatus crawl test: involves crawling through a confined space in a full firefighting uniform, including an air tank
The final step of the process before hiring is the interview. Some sample interview questions are included in the next section.
Common Interview Questions
Typically, candidates interview with a panel of two to three people. The interview takes about an hour. Questions are based on the same personal attributes as the PQA part of the application. The interviewer may let you know which PQA the question corresponds to before you answer.
For example, the following questions determine if a candidate works with others:
- Describe a time when you modified your behaviour based on a colleague’s feedback
- Describe a time when you helped someone who was struggling with a task
These questions determine a candidate’s confidence and resilience:
- How would you relieve stress after dealing with an emergency such as a house fire?
- Describe a time when you made a mistake. How did you address it?
The following questions assess a candidate’s commitment to development:
- Give an example of how you helped a colleague improve their performance
- What’s something you have done to actively improve your performance?
What Is the UK’s National Firefighter Psychometric Test?
One of the steps toward becoming a UK national firefighter is to complete psychometric assessments. If you don’t pass these assessments, you will not move on to the next step of the application process. A particularly high score can help you stand out from other applicants.
There is no one standardised test, as each fire department may choose the test(s) they wish to administer. However, there are usually some similarities, and many departments use the following tests. Note that each test may have a slightly different name depending on the company that designed it. The overall group of assessments may be referred to as NFA tests, for National Firefighter Ability.
Verbal Reasoning/Understanding Information
This test consists of 25 questions, which you have 30 minutes to answer. The questions are multiple-choice, usually with four possible answers, and are based on showing your understanding of several written texts. The information in the texts usually deals with situations firefighters encounter on the job, such as dealing with a house fire or responding to an accident.
Numerical Reasoning/Working with Numbers
This is a test of 32 questions which you have 45 minutes to complete. The questions relate to basic math functions and understanding of numbers. They relate to firefighting scenarios, such as determining the length of hose required for a particular fire or the volume of a water tank. Calculators are not allowed but you can use a pencil and paper to perform calculations.
Situational Awareness and Problem Solving
In the SJT test, you have 35 minutes to answer 30 questions. The questions are multiple-choice and are based on how you would respond to various scenarios. Each of the questions has four options with one correct answer.
Some of the questions determine your ability to make difficult decisions, often while dealing with the stress of an emergency. Others are based on how you would solve a particular problem.
How to Prepare for the UK’s National Firefighter Psychometric Test?
One of the most important parts of preparing for the National Firefighter tests is to know what to expect and understand the format of the questions. Practice tests will help with this. There are online practice tests designed to cover each of the three main exam sections (verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and situational awareness/problem solving).
Some of the questions in the Situational Awareness and Problem Solving test relate to the personal qualities and attributes (PQAs) that the national firefighting service considers essential. Making sure you understand the PQAs will help with several steps of the hiring process, from filling out the application to testing to interviewing. Situational Judgment practice tests will also help with this test section, as they use similar kinds of questions. The scenarios may seem to not have a definitive right or wrong answer. This is intentional, as many real-life scenarios are not black-and-white. However, there is always an answer that would the best way to respond to the given situation.
Try to give yourself plenty of time before your test is scheduled to prepare. Taking practice tests several times, until you feel comfortable with the answers and your score, will improve your chances of success. You’ll feel more confident when you take the actual test, and you’ll know if there are any particular sections you need to work on.
Use the sample questions on the next tab to get started.
Because firefighting is a highly respected and fulfilling career, competition is stiff for open positions. Doing well on the National Firefighter Psychometric Test is crucial to moving forward in the hiring process. Through proper preparation, you’ll give yourself the best chances of scoring highly on the test.