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Psychological Examination Information

In today's fire entry-level testing field, many departments are moving toward the direction of including psychological testing, not only during the last steps of the hiring process but during the initial testing phase. Some of these examinations are used to decrease the number of applicants taking the examination because of the cost involved in testing large numbers. When giving psychological tests as part of the written test, it will significantly reduce the number of applicants usually be a minimum of 50%. The number one cause of failure on these type of examinations is not knowing what information these psychological tests are trying to retrieve from the fire applicant. The questions used on psychological examinations are determined by identifying major personality traits and characteristics of a successful firefighter. Knowing what personality traits and characteristics are being sought will improve your chance of scoring well on these One fire applicant recently emailed us the following question:

One of the questions I am never sure how to answer on a psychological exam is whether a question should be answered "uncertain" or "not sure." There are questions that I have encountered during testing that I feel should be answered that way. My scores are not reflective of the individual I am and I was wondering if you have any insight into whether these questions could be making a difference in my score.

Answer: This is one of the most frequently asked questions from fire candidates taking psychological examinations. When you encounter a question that you aren't sure how to answer, we strongly urge you not to answer "uncertain" or "not sure." Doing this gives the impression that you are a fence-rider and not sure of decisions you make. In a psychological profile of a firefighter (on which many of these questions are based), they are looking for an individual who is very confident of the decisions they make.

In the coming months, we will be publishing articles covering the psychological testing process to help you increase your score on now increasingly difficult portion of the examination process. We hope this information gives you an idea of what the psychological testing process entails. If you found this information useful and would like additional information, visit our web site at to sign up for our Fireprep newsletter, which covers the complete entry-level testing process.

Brent Collins is currently Assistant Fire Chief, Cleveland Fire Department and President of Don McNea Fire School. Since 1950, Don McNea Fire School has prepared over 40,000 fire applicants with our entry level seminars and products. has over 250 pages of FREE information and career articles to help you reach your goal of becoming a firefighter. Visit his website for more information on test taking strategy and advice. Click here to send an email or call 1-800-989-FIRE.