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FRS Candidate Preparation

Candidate preparation and advice

What are ability tests and why does the fire service use them?

If you are considering or have started an application to become a firefighter with a Fire & Rescue Service, you will probably be asked to complete a selection of online ability tests as part of the application process.

Ability tests, also known as aptitude tests or reasoning tests, are standardised assessments used to measure certain cognitive abilities. For example, verbal reasoning tests are designed to measure a candidate’s ability to work with written and spoken information, whereas numerical reasoning tests are designed to measure a candidate’s ability to work with quantitative and mathematical information.

Cognitive ability is important because it underpins a firefighter’s capacity to learn, quickly solve problems, and make effective decisions. When several ability tests are used together, they collectively provide a good measure of overall general cognitive ability.

What are cognitive abilities?

Cognitive abilities are the ways that your brain remembers, reasons, holds attention, solves problems, thinks, reads and learns. In the workplace, cognitive skills help you interpret data, remember team goals, pay attention during an important meeting and more. These skills help you recall previous information that may relate to your organization’s goals and help you make important connections between old and new information so you work more effectively.

We can define cognitive abilities or cognitive skills as a set of aptitudes, attitudes, processes and faculties of our mind that allow us to perceive, attend, process, select, interpret, analyze and respond to everything and everyone around us and to be able to adapt ourselves adequately to our environment and to the different contexts and situations that are presented to us at any given moment and which require a reaction, either by action or by inhibition of behavior, on our part.

Research clearly shows that ability tests rank among the strongest predictors of performance in firefighting roles (Henderson, 2010). As a result, Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) utilise ability testing in their employee selection processes, ensuring that short-listed applicants have the requisite capabilities for the role. Although ability tests are very useful predictors of performance in firefighting roles, they are only a single piece of the puzzle, and firefighter performance is influenced by a wide range of different traits and abilities.

Why do Fire & Rescue Services use them?

The Fire & Rescue Service, like most organisations, use a range of assessments and tests to assess applicants’ skill levels and their suitability to fit the role they are applying for, in this case firefighter. They allow them to fairly select the best applicants from the large number who apply each time the role is advertised. Whilst online tests are used early in the recruitment process, they are always followed by further selection stages, such as medicals, fitness tests and interviews, before final decisions are made.

The FRS Ability Tests used because they are designed to be fair to all applicants, regardless of ethnicity, gender or age, they are set at the academic level of ability relevant to the role and are in the context of a firefighter. This makes them very fair, valid to the role and relevant. It puts them among the strongest predictors of performance in the workplace.

They are administered online via the internet which makes them easily accessible and available 24/7 to suit your lifestyle.

Reading the tips and advice given on this site and completing the example/practice tests, will help you familiarise yourself with the test format tests and gain a preview of the test content before you go on to complete the live tests as part of your application.

Tips and advice for candidates taking the FRS ability tests

The FRS wants you to perform well on your ability tests, and thus want to ensure that you are fully prepared for your assessment. Here are a few tips to help maximise the probability of showing your true potential during the ability test stage of the FRS recruitment process.

1. Familiarise yourself with the format: Fear of the unknown is a major cause of test anxiety, particularly if candidates have no idea what to expect. On this page, we provide some example tests which outline the exact layout and format of the live assessments, putting your mind at ease and giving you the opportunity to practice beforehand.

2. Make sure your tech is up to date: We strongly advise making sure that your chosen device has a stable internet connection, an up to date internet browser, and that your operating system has been updated. This will minimise the probability of unexpected errors with your device, giving you a smoother and more reliable testing experience.

3. Reasonable adjustments: Employers are obligated to provide reasonable adjustments to accommodate candidates with disabilities, including dyslexia. If you feel that this applies to you, ensure that you contact your chosen FRS and formally request any necessary adjustments, including extra-time on the ability tests.

4. Don’t try to cheat: Naturally, in the long-run you will only be cheating yourself by attempting to cheat on the FRS ability tests. The FRS reserves the right to use “verification tests”, and may require successful candidates to complete short versions of the ability tests in-person, verifying the original score and catching out any potential cheaters.

5. Complete the tests somewhere quiet: The tests can be completed anywhere with a stable internet connection, but to avoid distractions and interruptions we recommend completing the tests somewhere private. After finding somewhere quiet and distraction free, we also recommend turning off your phone, further reducing the probability of interruptions.

6. Use a calculator and rough paper: The FRS numerical reasoning test permits the use of a calculator and rough paper, and we strongly advise having these to hand before starting the assessment. Although ultimately you may not even need to use them, having easy access to them can help put your mind at ease, and will give you more options for calculations.

7. Complete the assessments well before the deadline: Although it may be tempting to wait until the last minute, this is a risky strategy. If you do encounter technical problems, little can be done to remedy the situation if you start your assessment an hour before the deadline. Instead, complete the tests well ahead of time and avoid the stress.

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