Firefighter Situational Judgement Tests
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To become a firefighter, there are many steps that must be completed in the application process to ensure that you are a good fit for the role.
The aim of these is to get an objective view of an applicant’s skills, personality and behaviors – without any prior knowledge needed.
Situational judgement tests are usually based around a scenario, where the applicant is tasked with deciding on the most appropriate response.
You might have to rank the responses from most to least effective, choose the most and least effective, or simply pick the best option.
The method of answering will depend on the test publisher used, but they all follow the same basic structure.
What Is Being Assessed?
To be a successful firefighter, you need to make quick decisions – often with limited information and under pressure. These decisions can be the difference between a positive and negative outcome and can even be lifesaving.
For firefighters, training to make these decisions is not always simple and straightforward; it is not necessarily a skill that can be learned. This is why firefighter psychometric testing, and particularly the situational judgement test, is an important part of the application process.
Situational judgement tests require you to make the right call under pressure with limited information – creating a virtual situation that needs to be dealt with in the most appropriate and effective way.
In the firefighter situational judgement test, in particular, the scenarios are based on real-world problems and issues that might arise in the day-to-day operations in a fire department – from problems with colleagues to dealing with the public.
By asking these job-relevant questions, the recruiters can assess whether you have the right attitudes, strengths and behaviors to be a successful fit for the fire department.
The actual format of the firefighter situational judgement test you will take as part of your application will depend on the test publisher, but they all have the same basic layout – a scenario based on real-world fire department issues, with a multiple-choice answer.
First Question Type
The first type of question provides a scenario and several options. You will need to select the most appropriate response from those listed.
There is a fire alarm in a building, and this is your third call to the same location just this evening. On first assessment, there doesn’t seem to be any cause for the alarm to be sounding and no obvious fault with the system. You consider that this might be malicious, but it needs further investigation.
The residential building has been evacuated, but on searching the area, there is a person refusing to leave, stating that there isn’t a fire, it is cold outside and it is the middle of the night.
Select the most appropriate action from this list:
A) Tell the person that there is a fire this time so that they will evacuate
B) Agree with them that there is no fire so they might as well stay where they are
C) Firmly encourage them to leave the building for their safety
D) Report on the radio and wait for further instructions
The most important thing to do is to get the person evacuated – there is no conclusive evidence that there is no fire or other problem, so it would be unsafe to remain in the building. Therefore, option C) is the most appropriate answer.
Of course, with the number of calls to the same place, your whole team is likely to be as frustrated as the member of the public who is not complying, but safety comes first.
As much as the person may be correct about a lack of danger, leaving them in the building is irresponsible so B) would not be a great answer here.
Although it might work to get the person to leave, lying to the public is not the type of behavior that a fire department would want to encourage, so A) would not be appropriate.
If the person will not leave despite being told firmly, then D) would work, but waiting for instructions is not a great example of you taking the initiative.
Second Question Type
For the second type of question, you might be asked to rank the options from most to least effective.
Your team is in the station between calls and there is some ‘banter’ amongst your colleagues. Some of this involves sexist comments, and it appears that everyone is finding it funny.
What should you do about it?
Rank these responses in order, from most effective to least effective:
A) Make a formal report about the behavior to your immediate supervisor
B) Join in with the banter so you seem like part of the team
C) Tell the crew to stop being sexist because it isn’t funny
D) Take the main culprit aside and tell them that it is inappropriate
E) Inform the supervisor that there needs to be some more training about discrimination
In situational judgement tests, there are likely to be more than one satisfactory answer and ranking them is more about your personality and inherent attitude. There can be an obvious ‘best’ or ‘worst’ response – in this case, the least effective would be B) because it is not dealing with the situation at all.
Third Question Type
The last format that you might have is to select both the most and least effective options from a range of responses.
You are at a serious road collision and there are multiple vehicles and casualties involved. Medical staff and police are on scene and you are working on making a smoking vehicle safe when a member of the public approaches you about a family member trapped in a vehicle. They want you to cut the family member out because they are in serious pain and unable to get themselves clear of the vehicle.
Select the most appropriate and least appropriate responses from the options below:
A) Leave what you are doing immediately and help the trapped person
B) Ask for assistance on the radio from other crews
C) Tell the member of the public to go away as you are busy
D) Ask the member of the public to be patient as the situation is being dealt with in order of severity
This question offers a few options that could be considered most and least effective – your attitude is important here.
Answer B) is a valid option for the best response. Demonstrating that you are listening to the concerns of the public is important, although the incident commander should already be aware of the situation and should have assigned a crew to help.
Answer D) is also a good option. Explaining to the member of the public that their loved one is going to be helped soon demonstrates an understanding of the protocols used in dealing with major incidents.
Answer A), which involves leaving the job to which you have been assigned, would not be the best course of action. To the member of the public, their trapped loved one is the priority, but you need to continue working on what is considered the priority by the incident commander.
C) is not an appropriate response. Although you are dealing with a difficult situation, being rude to the public is not the type of behavior that a firefighter should display.
Remember that there are no right or wrong answers, just responses that are more or less effective than others.
Don’t spend too long on each question as these tests tend to be timed, so answering as many questions as possible within the time limit is important.
Situational judgement tests add time pressure to your decision-making so that you are forced to make a judgement quickly (like you would in a real-life firefighting situation).
What to Expect When Taking the Firefighter Situational Judgement Test
The firefighter situational judgement test is meant to be challenging, but not impossible. You can expect to be asked a few questions that relate to the general duties of a firefighter, but you do not need to have any particular knowledge or experience.
In some cases, the tests are administered online through a link that you will be sent by the recruiter. These tests are timed, with several questions that need to be answered.
The tests are usually around 30 minutes in length, with 20 or so questions. You can complete this at home in your own time.
You might be required to take the test on paper – in which case the same parameters will apply.
There may be an assessment center nearby. If so, you will be asked to complete one or more tests in a central location – full details will be supplied by the recruiter. The assessment center usually provides a range of computer-based tests, timed and laid out in the same way that you would complete them at home.
You do not need to bring anything with you, although you may be allowed to bring a pen and paper to make notes.
How Are Firefighter Situational Judgement Tests Scored?
As with other psychometric tests, situational judgement tests do not have an official pass/fail mark. Instead, the answers are compared to a baseline of the fire department’s requirements in terms of strengths, attitudes, skills and behaviors.
These are usually what are considered to be ‘soft skills’ – ones that can’t be taught.
Your score will be determined by how you answer, and there are no negative marks for ‘wrong’ answers – so to maximize your chance of success, you should aim to complete as many questions as you can in the allocated time.
Tips for Success
If you can find out who the test publisher is before taking the tests, you can find scenarios based on their format and structure.
If not, then practicing on generic situational judgement tests will give you more confidence in quickly reading and understanding the scenario, as well as choosing the most appropriate responses.
Learn What Behaviors Are Important
If you know what attitudes, strengths and behaviors are important as a firefighter, you will know what the situational judgement tests are looking for.
Your answers will demonstrate the way you deal with situations and what you think is important. If you can make this align with the requirements of the fire department, then you will score higher on the situational judgement test.
In the lead up to the situational judgement test, you must be well-rested, eat well and remain hydrated.
Whether you are taking the test in an assessment center, as part of a recruitment day or at home, you need to get into the right mindset so that you can perform at your best.
If you are at home, ensure that you have a quiet area with a steady, reliable internet connection so that you won’t be disturbed by family members or dropped Wi-Fi signal.
Firefighters often need to make life-or-death decisions quickly and confidently. Having good situational judgement skills can be lifesaving – and when under pressure, firefighters must demonstrate their abilities to make the best decisions with limited information.
Although the firefighter situational judgement test is only a part of the overall application process, success here will demonstrate that you have what it takes to act confidently and efficiently in making decisions. Practice is important.
The firefighter situational judgement test may be administered in the early stages of the application process, or further in to assess suitability. Either way, practice and familiarity with the structure, layout and types of answers that the recruiter is looking for will help you to be successful.