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Keep these valuable examination-taking rules in mind to help you do your best on the day of your promotional examination.

Rule 1:  Make Sure You Understand the Directions

During the examination, pay close attention to the directions.  Follow along as the directions are presented out loud.  If you are unsure about anything at all, ask questions.

Rule 2:  Read the Whole Question Carefully

Be sure you know what each question asks.  Be careful not to jump to conclusions or read more into a question than is there.  People often write or choose wrong answers because they don't focus directly on what the question is asking, or they don't pay attention to part of the question.  Some candidates may even assume that tests are designed to be tricky and, therefore, look for hidden meanings or otherwise read more into the question than warranted.  Keep in mind that the tests are designed to measure the knowledge, skills and abilities that are critical for effective performance of the job.

Rule 3:  Consider Your Answers Carefully

For the multiple choice questions, be sure that you understand and consider all of the possible answers presented to you.  Even if you are positive that you have found the correct answer before reading all of the choices, you should still continue to read the options.  Very often, although one answer might look correct, there is actually another one that is "more" correct.

Some questions may require you to choose more than one answer from a series of possible answers.  For example, a question may resent a situation and provide several possible ways that someone could respond.  You might be asked to identify the three or four answers that would be most likely to bring the situation to a satisfactory conclusion.

Rule 4:  Use Time Efficiently

The promotional examination is designed to give you enough time to pace yourself in such a way that you should not feel rushed.  Spend the last 5-10 minutes of the examination checking over it to see that all answer spaces have been filled in and you have responded to all of the questions.  If some questions remain unanswered, or if you are uncertain of some of your answers, carefully re-read and consider questions that you have marked as being very difficult to answer and make last minute "guesses" on questions you have having trouble answering.  In general, don't spend too much time early on in the examination on questions that you know the answer to or on questions that seem very difficult.  Follow Rule 7 for some useful tips that will help you use your time more efficiently.

Rule 5:  Do Not Look for Patterns

Examinations are not designed to have an equal number of As, Bs, Cs, etc., for the correct answer to multiple choice questions.  If you find that you choose one letter for your answer more often than other letters, do not start thinking that some of your answers must be wrong.

Rule 6:  Find Key Words in the Multiple Choice Questions

Circle any key words that give you clues to the correct answer, so that they stand out for you.  Some examples of key words include:

  • always
  • never
  • most likely
  • least likely
  • maximum
  • minimum
  • first
  • last

The following sample question demonstrates how key words can help:

 Which of these would a person most likely do in a car?

  A) Drive

  B) Sleep

  C) Walk

  D) Write a letter

Walk is obviously not correct because you cannot do it in a car, so you can cross it out.  You know that you can sleep and write a letter in a car, but the question asked which is most likely, and a person is less likely to do either of those things in a car.  Therefore, the best answer is Drive.

Rule 7:  Change Your Answers Carefully

Once you have marked a choice on the Answer Sheet, do not change the answer unless you have a good reason.  Studies have shown that people more often change from a right answer to a wrong one than from a wrong to a right one.  This happens because we tend to change answers under pressure at the last minute, and we are not thinking as clearly as when the answer was first chosen.

Try not to over analyze the questions or second-guess yourself.  There are no trick questions on the examination.  If you have applied yourself in studying, your first answer is your best answer.

Rule 8:  Take Action on Each Question

You will probably find yourself in one of the following five situations when looking at the multiple choice answers.  When you do, follow these tips to take action and increase your chances of choosing the right answer:

    A) You know the answer If you have little or no doubt about the answer, mark it on the Answer Sheet.  Spend no more time on the question.

    B) You are fairly sure about the answer, but want to think some more about it later Mark your answer on the Answer Sheet and make a note such as a big "?" in the examination booklet (not on the answer sheet) so it will be easier to find it later if you have time to review your answers.  If you do this with any questions, make sure you have enough time to come back to review the answer later.

    C) You know that certain answers are definitely wrong If you have decided that one or two answers are definitely not correct, eliminate those immediately by crossing them out in the examination booklet.  Then direct your full attention to the choices that are left.  Even if you then have to guess as to which one of the remaining options is correct, you will have a greater chance of being right if you have already eliminated those answer options you know to be definitely wrong.

    D) You think you can figure out the answer, but it will take you a lot of time Don't mark any answer; just make a visible mark in your examination booklet so you can find it when you are ready to come back to it.  If you do this with any questions, make sure you have enough time to come back to review the question later.

    E) You have no idea about the answer, so all you can do is guess Make a guess and mark it on the Answer Sheet.  Do not waste any more time on that question.  Focus instead on those that fell into Situation B or D above, since you have a better chance of getting these correct.  And who knows maybe you will have guessed correctly!  It cannot hurt you to guess.

Rule 9:  Be Clear, Neat and Accurate

The small "bubbles" on your Answer Sheet where you record your responses can be confusing to follow since they are close together.  If you put just one answer on the wrong line, chances are you will continue on the same way and accidentally respond incorrectly to many questions.

To make sure you mark the answer sheet properly, you will need to carefully check that your mark on the answer sheet corresponds to the appropriate question.  Simply look at the number of the question you are answering, and then at the number on the line of your answer sheet where you intend to mark your response.  If, for example, you are on question "30" and your answer is "B," make sure you are filling in "B" for question "30" on the answer sheet.

Rule 10:  Stay Calm and Do Not Give Up

Every examination will have some questions that you have no trouble with and others that are more difficult.  Do not let one difficult question throw you off; just get through it so you can go on to the others.

If you read a question once and do not understand it at all, take a deep breath and slowly read it again.  There is no reason to give up on trying to answer a question a little bit of work can result in a correct answer!  Read each word, one at a time, otherwise you may become more nervous and have a harder time figuring out the right answer.

If you still have time left when you have answered all the questions within a section, don't stop.  Review your work and make sure you have answered all the questions.  Also, look in your examination book and go back to the questions you marked as being harder to answer.

If you would like to review additional promotional exam prep packages, go to our Assessment Center Exam Prep pages at the links below:

Promotional Oral Interview Exam Prep

Fire Tactical Exam Prep

Subordinate Counseling Exam Prep

Lieutenant/Captain/Battalion/Deputy Chief In-Basket Exam Prep

Leaderless Group Exam Prep

Test-taking Strategies & Career Articles

Don McNea Fire School's Assessment Center Exam Preparation has been put together by Fire Chiefs who are nationally-recognized authors and who have been assessors for thousands of assessment center examinations.

As always, all of our Assessment Center Exam Prep products come with a no-risk guarantee.  If you are not completely satisfied, we will refund 100% of the product cost no questions asked.


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