Test-Taking Strategy for Information Ordering

Nov. 13, 2006
The secret to answering questions based on information ordering is to be rigid in your thinking.

Questions based on information ordering, measure your ability to apply rules to a situation for the purpose of putting the information in the best or most appropriate sequence.

The secret of success in answering questions based on information ordering is to be extremely rigid in your thinking. These questions are based on the premises that:

  1. There is only one correct order of things or sequence of steps.
  2. Every step must be followed in its proper order.
  3. No step may be skipped or omitted.


  1. Put in order only as much information as you need to answer the questions.
  2. Examine alternatives only as far as the point where you find it to be definitely wrong.
  3. If you are not sure which item should be placed first in the list, determine which item is last.
  4. Go by what you do know for sure.

One example would be the rules for entering a person's name on a report form. The form may indicate that one should begin by entering the person's last name, then the person's first name, then middle initial. Given these rules, it would be an error to start with the person's first name. It would also be an error to write out the person's middle name, since the rule calls for only the middle initial.

Another example would be a procedure that tells you to inspect a building by checking the cellar first, then the floors above one by one beginning with the first floor, then the fire escape, and finally the sprinklers if there are any. Given this statement of the procedure, it would be an error to do the easy thing by inspecting the cellar and then using the cellar exit to the back yard to inspect the fire escape before going up to check the first floor. It would also be an error to inspect the sprinklers at the same time as you are inspecting each floor. Although a procedure may seem silly to you, there may be technical reasons which justify the procedure. Stick to the procedure given in the question.

Standard procedures are used to ensure that nothing is overlooked due to lack of systematic approach. On a fire scene standard procedures also help a superior to keep track of where Firefighters are at any given moment. At least on an exam, it is an error to modify a procedure. Sometimes a test maker will create a false choice which would be a change in the procedure but seems to make a lot of sense. Do not fall for this kind of false answer! Strictly adhere to procedures.

Questions on procedures can be difficult when the procedures list exceptions or include "if's." For example, a procedure may require firefighters to turn off all hydrants when they are not being used by the fire department, except when certain hydrants have been equipped with spray attachments and are being used by children playing on the street in the summertime. Another example might be a procedure that says a firefighter should break a window if smoke is building up inside a building; if there is no build-up of smoke, this procedure would not call for breaking a window. Hence, it is important to take note of any "if's" in procedures and to be aware of any exceptions to procedures which are stated on the exam itself. When determining what order the information presented to you should be placed, try to look for key words in each choice that would lead to the next step in the process. The key for information ordering is that when put together, the answers present themselves in a paragraph form that correctly states each step.

BRENT COLLINS runs the Don McNea Fire School, learn more at: www.fireprep.com or call: 1-800-989-FIRE.

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