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firefighter ability tests

Firefighter Tests

  • 18 tests
  • 259 questions
firefighter ability tests

To become a firefighter in the UK, you will need to pass a series of psychometric tests designed to assess your abilities and compatibility with a career in the fire service. This page aims to assist preparation by shedding light on the stages of the recruitment process.

What is the National Firefighter Ability (NFA) test?

The National Firefighter Ability tests are a series of assessments required to be completed by prospective candidates to UK Fire and Rescue Authorities.

The tests include a personality assessment, a numerical reasoning test, a verbal reasoning assessment, a situational judgement test, and a physical ability test.

All tests, excluding the latter physical assessment, are multiple-choice. Each test has been specifically crafted for the fire service to assess relevant abilities and attributes.

As in many other sectors, tailored psychometric tests provide an effective way of ensuring the best candidates advance in the recruitment process. The tests are used to assess your abilities and gauge your suitability for a career in the fire service.

Scoring highly in each round of testing is important, as competition for vacancies is strong. Given the nature and responsibility of the role, only the candidates with the most impressive skills will be successful.

The Format of the NFA Test

The results of five tests form your overall result in the NFA test:

  • The National Firefighter Questionnaire
  • The Working with Numbers test
  • The Understanding Information test
  • The Situational Awareness & Problem-Solving test
  • The Physical Ability test

Each individual test differs in format, length and structure, as explored in greater detail below and through the associated psychometric test links.

How the tests are administered will vary according to the individual station or authority. Some prefer to set the written tests for candidates to complete online at home, whilst others hold them at testing centres.

You will be told the particulars of the process for your individual situation, most likely soon after your initial application is lodged.

The physical ability test is obviously required to be taken in-person, likely at the premises of the authority or station to which you have applied. Ensure you will be able to travel to the required location on the given date.

National Firefighter Questionnaire (NFQ)

This specialised personality test explores your personal qualities and attributes (or PQAs) and usually forms part of your initial application to the relevant Fire and Rescue Authority. It aims to discover whether your personality traits align with those needed to become a successful firefighter.

The questions centre on the following seven qualities: working with others; confidence and resilience; commitment to excellence; commitment to diversity and integrity; openness to change; situational awareness and commitment to development.

Be aware that, at 127 questions, this test is lengthy. Ensure your concentration levels remain high so that your responses are consistent.

Personality tests can be daunting because of their subjectivity but, with preparation, you will feel confident in demonstrating how well matched you are for the occupation.

Working with Numbers Test

The NFA Working with Numbers test is a numerical reasoning assessment designed to determine whether an applicant has the mental arithmetic and basic mathematical skills needed to work as a firefighter.

This is an important aspect as crew members are required to interpret gauges and calculate hose volumes, often under severe pressure.

The test is multiple-choice and comprises a number of scenarios with accompanying numerical information. This information may be in the form of graphs, charts, plans or tables. There will be a total of 32 questions.

A calculator is not permitted, but rough working paper is allowed. The test has a duration of 45 minutes.

firefighter aptitude tests

Understanding Information Test

The NFA Understanding Information test is a specialised verbal reasoning test. As a firefighter you will need to rapidly understand and act on written information, so this exam explores your mental agility when it comes to interpreting text.

A selection of scenarios – and their accompanying written materials, such as an email, newsletter, safety sign or information leaflet – will be presented. You will be required to answer a series of multiple-choice questions on each text. This test has a duration of 35 minutes to answer 25 questions.

Be careful to answer using only the information provided in the scenarios. Also be wary of excess data that is only included to distract.

Situational Awareness and Problem-Solving Test

The NFA Situational Awareness and Problem-Solving test is a situational judgement test intended to assess your behaviour and reactions to certain scenarios and when exposed to different pressures.

Thirty scenarios will be presented, all assessing how well you act to ensure the safety of yourself and others. The test is multiple-choice, with candidates expected to select the option that most closely reflects the course of action they would take.

No prior knowledge is needed to complete the test. Answer as honestly as you can, taking time to consider your answer but not deliberating too much over each choice. You will have 35 minutes to complete the assessment.

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Firefighter Physical Ability Tests

Alongside the above written psychometric assessments, you will also be expected to undergo a series of physical ability tests. Six specific tasks are set to test physical capability and endurance. They involve the equipment you would use daily as a qualified firefighter.

The tests include:

  • A ladder climb – testing your confidence in ascending, descending and working on a ladder, handling equipment, and performing tasks.

  • A ladder lift test – assessing your upper and lower body strength and ability to lift efficiently and safely.

  • An equipment carry test – involving carrying pieces of equipment for varying durations and distances, as a test of your strength and stamina.

  • An equipment assembly test – an assessment of dexterity, focus and action under pressure through the timed assembly and disassembly of equipment.

  • A casualty evacuation test – testing your upper and lower body strength through the challenge of dragging a 55kg weight around a course, backwards.

  • A breathing apparatus crawl test – testing your confidence and ability to work in potentially claustrophobic spaces in full uniform. The test involves crawling through a course including enclosed spaces and times at which your vision will be obscured.

Five tips on how best to prepare for firefighter ability tests

1. Know what to expect from the tests and process

To avoid falling victim to any confusion regarding the process, be clear on the administration and order of the NFA tests in your particular circumstance.

Location can impact whether the tests are sat online or at an assessment centre, and whether the tests will be administered on the same day or across multiple days. Ensure you know what each test will comprise, so you are prepared to tackle the questions accurately and rapidly.

2. Familiarise yourself with the format of the questions

Together, the four written National Firefighter Ability tests include a challenging range of questions targeting different skills and characteristics. The format of psychometric test questions is often found to be unlike other exams candidates have sat, so it is sensible to become accustomed to answering the questions.

Practice questions for each of the psychometric test formats are available.

3. Practise in timed conditions

As the revision needed for the firefighting tests is so wide-ranging and intensive, it can be tempting to overlook the timings to take some of the pressure out of preparing. As all the tests – save the initial personality questionnaire – are to be completed within a set time, improving your pace is vital to achieving a good score.

Work out the slowest pace at which you will need work to complete each test, as it will be different.

4. Don’t underestimate the physical ability test

Working as a firefighter is physically demanding. Each station wants to see that their applicants have the strength and stamina required to do the job, so the physical tests set for candidates are tough.

To ensure you impress, dedicate considerable time to both strength and fitness training far in advance of your test. Make sure you can lift the required weight and are able to perform as strongly in the last of the six physical tasks as in the first.

5. Prepare equally for all tests

Although you might feel your numerical skills are strong whilst your written interpretation needs work, it is important to allocate sufficient time to preparation for each psychometric test. It is sensible to give focus to your weaknesses, but do not forget to also hone your strengths.

Psychometric tests are intended to be challenging, so ensure you feel confident in achieving good marks across the board. A poor mark in just one of the tests will have a significant detrimental impact upon your recruitment chances.


What makes firefighter tests hard?

The National Firefighter Ability tests are hard because they encompass a wide variety of skills, from mathematical ability, to interpretation of text and situational judgment. The fact they are timed adds an extra layer of challenge. With targeted preparation, you should be ready to pass the tests.

Do firefighters need good maths?

Yes, firefighters do need to have good skills in basic mathematics. Mathematical abilities are required to quickly interpret gauges and calculate hose volumes in action, and data interpretation skills are required for administrative tasks and reports. Due to the pressure of the job, strong mental maths is a great attribute.

How long are the firefighter tests?

The tests vary in length and time allotted. The Working with Numbers test lasts for 45 minutes and has 32 questions. For the Understanding Information test, you will be given 35 minutes for 25 questions. The Situational Awareness and Problem-Solving test will include 30 scenarios and must be completed within 35 minutes. The Physical Ability test consists of six demanding tasks. The PQA, as part of the initial application, is not timed but includes 127 questions.

What happens if you fail the firefighter exam?

If you fail the NFA tests, do not panic – after a period of three months you will be able to reapply and resit the exams. Although the relevant Fire and Rescue Authority will know you have previously applied, you will be judged solely on your most recent performance and not disadvantaged by your prior results.

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