Firefighter Competency Testing

Unlike the physical tests and interviews, many candidates are not familiar with psychometric testing and may be nervous about completing this part of a hiring process. The following information provides an overview of the BL Associates Corporate Psychologists Inc. firefighter competency testing process and what a candidate can expect to experience during a testing session. This testing may be done in person or online.

Score Transfer Program

BL Associates Corporate Psychologists Inc. now allow score transfers between departments. Candidates who have completed the BL Associates testing process with a fire department may request to apply their previously obtained psychometric testing results to an upcoming competition. The results must meet certain eligibility criteria as outlined below and the department to which the scores will be applied must be enrolled in the score transfer program.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Scores to be applied must have been obtained within the 12 months immediately prior to the date of the upcoming competition;
  • Scores must be above the minimum threshold set by the receiving department;
  • The upcoming competition needs to be held at least 14 calendar days after the previous competition in order for scores to be able to be transferred from the previous competition;
  • Scores will not become available until one full calendar week after an online test and 10 business days after an in-person test;
  • Eligibility inquiries should be sent through as soon as possible following an exam. Requests must be received at least three business days prior to a competition in order to be processed.

Please note that most departments require registration and exam sign up two weeks prior to exam date, therefore candidates will still likely need to sign up for a competition that is within four weeks of a previous competition. They may then cancel the exam if their scores turn out to be eligible for transfer.

If candidates are not sure their results meet the eligibility criteria, they should contact BL Associates by email at nstinton@blassociates.ca.

Departments who are currently enrolled in the score transfer program include*:

  • Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service;
  • Coquitlam Fire/Rescue Services;
  • Fort St. John Fire Department;
  • Fredericton Fire Department;
  • Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue;
  • Langley City Fire Rescue;
  • Nanaimo Fire Rescue;
  • Oak Bay Fire Department;
  • Port Moody Fire Rescue;
  • Prince George Fire Rescue;
  • Richmond Fire-Rescue; and
  • Surrey Fire Service.

*Please note: if the department to which you are applying is not on the above list, contact BL Associates by email at nstinton@blassociates.ca to find out if it is enrolled in the program.

Test Administration – In-person

Testing takes place over 3.5 hours. Most candidates are able to complete the questionnaires in about 3 hours but, as not all questionnaires are timed, some candidates take longer to complete the questionnaires than others. When candidates arrive at the testing location, they are checked in by representatives of the municipality to which they have applied. (Candidates should contact the municipality directly if they have questions about the documentation to be presented at check-in.) Candidates are tested in groups of up to 150 people. Candidates are encouraged to arrive early to ensure they have enough time to find parking and to check in.

All the materials candidates will need to complete the testing is provided during the administration.

Depending on the municipality for which candidates are being tested, they will complete 5-to-6 separate questionnaires. The demands placed on firefighters are not the same from department to department and this fact is reflected in the questionnaires completed by candidates for any given administration.

At the beginning of a testing session but before responding to the actual questionnaires, candidates are required to read and sign a form that gives consent for BL Associates Corporate Psychologists Inc. to submit their personal information and test results to the municipality to which they have applied.

The problem-solving questionnaires are administered earlier in the session, followed by the more lengthy questionnaires focused on character and interests. The problem-solving questionnaires have time limits for completion ranging from 5 to 25 minutes each. The questionnaires focused on character and interests are not timed but can be completed in 30 to 40 minutes each.

There are no scheduled breaks during a testing session.  However, once the problem-solving questionnaires have been completed and the character-interest questionnaires have been started, candidates are free to leave the room and return. During such breaks, candidates must leave all test materials at their testing station/seat. There is no restriction on the amount of time a candidate may be absent from during such a break but all questionnaires must be completed and returned to the administrators within the time frame set for the session.

Test Administration – Online

The test battery is the same as with the in-person administration, however, the exam is completed online and is proctored remotely by a proctor organization.

Candidates will be emailed information about the exam and how to schedule the exam usually around 10 days prior to the test date. In order to take the exam online, candidates must have access to stable internet and have a working webcam and microphone. Candidates will create an account with the proctor company and will schedule their exam at their preferred time on a designated date of the department’s choosing.

At the start of the exam, candidates will be connected with a proctor via videoconference who will establish their identity and confirm that the test environment conditions have been met (such as no-one else being present in the room and no resources being used). The exam will then commence and must be completed within 3.5 hours. Most candidates complete the online exam in about 2.5 hours.

At the beginning of a testing session but before responding to the actual questionnaires, candidates are required to read and sign a form that gives consent for BL Associates Corporate Psychologists Inc. to submit their personal information and test results to the municipality to which they have applied.

The problem-solving questionnaires are administered earlier in the session, followed by the more lengthy questionnaires focused on character and interests. The problem-solving questionnaires have time limits for completion ranging from 5 to 25 minutes each. The questionnaires focused on character and interests are not timed but can be completed in 30 to 40 minutes each.

There are no scheduled breaks during a testing session. However, after the first 60 minutes have passed, candidates are free to leave the room and return. There is no restriction on the amount of time a candidate may be absent from during such a break but the exam must be completed within the 3.5 hours.

Obtaining Results

After candidates have completed psychometric testing for a fire department, their responses are processed and scores are generated for each candidate on each of the 13 firefighter competencies.

Based on the results, the municipality decides which candidates will proceed to the next stage of the hiring process and notifies candidates of their status going forward. Once notified by a municipality of their status, candidates may contact BL Associates Corporate Psychologists Inc. to schedule a feedback session to discuss their individual test results. These conversations focus ONLY on candidates’ test scores and will NOT touch on other aspects of the hiring process – such as interviews, physical testing, ride along, etc.

How to Prepare for the Testing Session

The best way to prepare for a firefighter competency testing session is to have a good sleep the two nights prior and to come to the testing session well rested! The problem-solving questionnaires, in particular, are susceptible to fatigue effects because of the time limits and it is important that candidates be fresh and alert to perform at their best.   Moreover, the testing takes place over a 3.5 hour period and candidates need to focus their attention for the entire time.  The level of energy required to maintain concentration for the session is equivalent to that needed for a full day at work.

Once candidates know their testing date and time, they should plan their day to optimize their performance during testing time. For example, a substantial, healthy meal (i.e., containing protein and complex carbohydrates) within two hours of the start of the session in order to maintain their blood-sugar levels. Physical exercise the morning of the session will boost blood flow and increase oxygen flow to the brain. Also, candidates are encouraged to keep their day before the testing as stress free as possible.

Preparing for Specific Questionnaires

The BL Associates Corporate Psychologists Inc. firefighter competency testing process was developed to provide municipalities with a method of screening candidates that does not unfairly advantage candidates who have prior knowledge of firefighting or experience as a firefighter over those who do not.  Instead, it is focused on the skills, abilities, and other characteristics candidates need to bring to job in order to become proficient and perform effectively. Where other approaches will test candidates for their knowledge of firefighting techniques, our approach tests candidates for their ability to learn what they need to know to fight fires effectively. Other approaches will evaluate candidates based on the length of time they have spent as a firefighter, whereas our process evaluates candidates on the extent to which they possess the characteristics needed to execute firefighting tasks effectively. The specific qualities measured through our process are the competencies listed above.

Character & Interest: we encourage candidates prepare to write the character and interest questionnaires by (a) reflecting on their personal qualities and (b) resolving to portray their personal qualities honestly and accurately. When asked a question like, “I would like to belong to a book club,” candidates are encouraged to reflect on how they feel about joining a book club and respond in line with how they genuinely feel. Some candidates will answer questions like this based on how they think firefighters would answer instead of how they, themselves, feel. Answering on the basis of how one thinks a firefighter would answer is a bad strategy and candidates who use it tend to receive lower scores than candidates who respond in accord with how they really feel.

Intellect: Study and review can help candidates to prepare for the problem-solving questionnaires. These questionnaires measure thinking skills that can be improved through effort and practice.

Verbal: ability to read, write, understand spoken messages, and speak fluently. The best way to build verbal skills is to read.

This site simulates actual testing conditions. On the site, set length to “open”, level to “35-40,” and timer to “5:00”. To practice, follow this link: http://www.thatquiz.org/tq-D-z0/vocabulary/English/

Mathematical: ability to perform mathematical computations.  The best way to build math skills is to do lots of computations that require different kinds of operations (i.e.: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). The sites below must be customized by selecting all of the arithmetic operators (+, -, /, x) and experimenting with the other options to generate a broad domain of question types.  To simulate actual testing conditions, set length to “open”, level to “100”, and time to “100:00”.

The preceding links are provided as a courtesy to assist with candidates’ preparation for verbal and mathematical questions.  We are not responsible for the content of the sites linked to and does not provide additional assistance with the materials presented on the sites; nor do we respond to questions about them. Other methods of preparation can also be helpful.

We have not identified any free on-line practice materials that we are willing to recommend for practice of the two following competencies.

  • Reasoning: ability to think logically in order to arrive at sound conclusions.  A good way to build reasoning skills is consistently to apply formal logic to problems without allowing attitudes and feelings to affect the conclusions.  If searching the web, look for practice materials labelled “symbolic reasoning,” “abstract reasoning,” and “syllogisms”.
  • Mechanical:  ability to understand mechanical systems and how they work.  A good way to build mechanical understanding is to study the mechanics of gears and pulleys together with a review of the mechanical principles of force and motion.