Preparing Promotional Testing

Ascend Leadership does not conduct candidate preparation classes or tutoring. We conduct a very detailed Orientation on how the process will work several weeks before the process is conducted at each department we test for, and we provide a Candidate Resource webpage with some of the below information, and specific information on their process. Not all test providers do their exercises the same way as Ascend Leadership. Ascend Leadership’s tend to be more in the context that you will need to use the information, and are more dynamic than many other providers.

  1. Don’t wait to start preparing! If this promotion is something you want, you need to be studying and getting ready.
  2. Most promotional processes consist of a traditional written test and several practical exercises. Try to find out as early as possible what your process will consist of.
  3. Preparing for the Written Test:

a. Some departments will provide station copies of the selected textbooks for you to study from. You should consider getting your own books for your own notes and highlighting.

b. Look discerningly at the content of the text books and write your own questions, or even better, get with other candidates and share questions, quiz each other.

c. There are several providers of workbooks or practice written tests. Some are specific to textbooks, and several even offer web or CD based questions. The practice tests can be excellent tools to improve your skills and confidence. Shop around and find a provider that has questions developed for the textbooks selected by your department.

4. Preparing for the Assessment Exercises and Rapid Decision Segment

a. PRACTICE – like most things, you can’t just read about something, you have to practice. You can’t be a proficient musician by only reading how to play the instrument or doing online training, you have to actually pick it up and play it. Do practice tactical and interpersonal scenarios.

b. For the Tactical: Review actual incidents and practice:

1) Not all test providers do their exercises the same way. Ours are very dynamic and interactive with role players for your crew and/or other company officers. In others, you may be expected to only use a radio for you directions and communications and have static photos or printed visuals. Plan to verbalize your thoughts to the raters and utilize your agency’s proper procedures. Since the raters are most often from different departments, you may want to very briefly explain local procedures as the exercise progresses in case the raters were not fully briefed (such as the 2nd due engine having the responsibility for supplying water to the first due engine in your department, or that the 3rd due engine is assigned to be a Rapid Intervention Team, or other local practices.)

2) Practice scenarios!! If the test provider has been used locally, find out how they conduct their exercises. At your orientation ask:

i. If you can ask questions to the facilitator or raters

ii. If you can visual progress (knock down, steam, etc.) during the scenario

iii. If you can or should verbalize your thoughts in addition to verbalizing the radio traffic

iv. Will the exercise by dynamic (conditions change) and will you be verbalizing what you do or will this be paper/pencil responses.

v. How do you practice? Ask the officers you respect how to handle various scenes and ask them to practice with you. Check out Practice Scenarios: Practice Scenarios for the Fire Service 1st edition by Frank Viscuso and online “Fire Simulator Lab” from (subscription with online Assessment Center preparation)

i. HINT: Again, this varies by the test provider, but the scoring on this event will probably include your communication, decision making and leadership skills in addition to your technical knowledge.

vii. For Conflict/Problem resolution events, know the department’s procedures and review the textbook’s information. Remember you very well may be rated on your knowledge of policy, not just your interpersonal skills and abilities for this type of event. There also is a Fire Engineering video series that is an excellent study tool entitled The Right Seat – Company Officer Development Beyond the Textbook. It has a series of situations that the officer must resolve. After each, a group of officers from around the country give input on how they would handle each situation. This video series was developed by this company, and was designed to help candidates to prepare for testing. Available from Fire Engineering as of The Fire Engineering Streaming Video Library or DVDs from Ascend Leadership. If we are the test provider, the scenarios on the videos will not be used in your testing, but are a strong study tool for testing by any provider for any fire departments. Email or call us for more information.

viii. Other events: During the orientation, ask how the exercises will be conducted. Do you see a video then answer in writing, or multiple choice, or is it a video that you verbalize your actions to a rating panel, or is it a role play? And there can be combinations.

c. Fire Engineering articles about Assessment Centers: (requires Fie Engineering subscription for access)

i. Fire Service Assessment Centers: Beyond the Books by Anthony Kastros

ii. Promotional Assessment Center Preparation by Freddie Fernandez and David Johns

  1. How interested are you in being promoted?

Being promoted in the fire service is a challenging and rewarding accomplishment. This chart shows how a small investment in your training can go a long way towards improving your current salary and your future pension. You can pay off your investment in the first month.

Let us share a couple recommendations that will help you.

  1. The best fire service text (or e-book) on how to prepare is Anthony Kastos’ Mastering the Fire Service Assessment Center.  (also available on Amazon© and other online booksellers)
    This is an excellent tool to help you prepare for the process – and for the job.
  2. There are several “test prep” class providers, are not associated to Ascend Leadership.

a. Fire Assessment Center Prep offers online training, classes and 1:1 tutoring,  305-772-0595. (We know of several departments that the firefighters got together to set up a local class with FACP, splitting the cost among them).

b. F.I.R.E., Anthony Kastros’ group at

c. Emergency Services Management Group, email to  or phone: 954 914-4210 for 1:1 and small group tutoring.