Judgment and Reasoning for Firefighter Exam Study Guide (page 5)
This article will familiarize you with questions on the firefighter exam that test your judgment and reasoning ability. It shows you a systematic approach to answering these questions, using sample questions as examples.
Firefighters have to be able to make sound judgments under pressure: Lives can and do depend on it. Firefighters who react without thinking endanger themselves, their fellow firefighters, and the people they are trying to protect. Judgment and reasoning questions on a firefighter exam are designed to measure your ability to use reason in firefighting situations. Judgment and reasoning questions ask you to play the game "What if?" If you were a firefighter in a given situation, what would you do? The fire department wants to know whether, given a certain set of job-related conditions, you can think on your feet, follow directions, take orders from superiors, and interact with the public. To arrive at the correct answer to this kind of question, you have to analyze a situation and use good judgment and common sense to arrive at a course of action.
What Judgment and Reasoning Questions Are Like
Judgment and reasoning questions may be based on any number of different situations and are presented in varying formats. The following are examples of various kinds of judgment and reasoning questions as they may appear on the test.
- Firefighting operations. After a fire is extinguished, the water in the hose lines must be removed before the hose lines are repacked onto the fire truck. The best place to remove this water is.…
- Firehouse routines. Each shift, on arriving at the firehouse, performs a thorough inspection of the tools and equipment. Which of the following best expresses the reason for this procedure?
- Public relations. A man enters the firehouse and tells you he has locked his keys in the car with the ignition running. His puppy is in the car, and it is a very hot day. Which of the following should you do?
- Interpersonal skills. Your superior officer has asked you to give a car a summons for parking in a fire zone at a local shopping mall. When you get to the car, you recognize that it belongs to your neighbor. The best course of action for you to take is to.…
There may also be questions that test your ability to follow directions. You might, for instance, be given a list of procedures to follow in ventilating the roof of a fire building. You would then be given a situation in which a roof needs to be ventilated and be asked which step is the next one you should take, according to the procedure you read.
A Systematic Approach to Judgment Questions
To answer judgment and reasoning questions, use decision-making techniques to help you think through the best course of action. Use a systematic approach:
- Read the question more than once. Be sure you understand what is being asked. Look for and underline key words such as all, always, every, never, except, and not.
- Read all the answer choices. Eliminate answers intelligently. Use common sense to rule out the choices that cannot possibly be correct. Try to use the information from the question to select the correct answer. When faced with two or more answers that seem correct, try to select the one that is always correct rather than the one that is only sometimes correct. Look for answers that are opposite; there is a good chance that one of these is correct.
- Make a decision. After careful consideration, select the best possible choice.
- Reread the question. Make absolutely certain that the answer you have chosen satisfies all conditions of the question.
Watch for Tricky Wording
Use caution! There is more than one way to ask the same question, and the correct answer may depend on the way the question is worded. You might be asked to choose the best possible answer, but, on the other hand, you might instead be asked which choice is NOT correct or what would NOT be the best course of action. Each of these questions is based on the same situation, but choosing the correct answer depends on a careful reading of the way the question is worded:
- While you are on your way to work, you see a gasoline truck with fluid apparently leaking from the rear tank. You suspect that the leak is gasoline but are not certain.Which of the following actions is the most appropriate for you to take?
- While you are on your way to work, you see a gasoline truck with fluid apparently leaking from the rear tank. You suspect that the leak is gasoline but are not certain. You would be correct in doing all of the following EXCEPT.…
- While you are on your way to work, you see a gasoline truck with fluid apparently leaking from the rear tank. You suspect that the leak is gasoline but are not certain.Which of the following would NOT be the best course of action for you to take?
In the first version of this question, you are simply being asked to choose the best course of action. In the other two versions, however, you must choose the least appropriate action. In these cases, three out of four answer choices are likely to be actions that would be more or less appropriate, whereas another—the correct answer—will be an inappropriate, perhaps dangerous or careless, thing you might do.
Example: How to Use the Systematic Approach
This first sample question is followed by a step-by-step analysis that shows you how to use common sense and a systematic problem-solving approach to select the best possible answer. You might want to try working out the answer yourself before you read the explanation that follows.
- While on your way to work, you see flames shooting out a second-floor window of a six-story apartment building. What should you do?
- Immediately evacuate the building.
- Proceed to work and report the fire as soon as you get there.
- Ignore the fire because you are not yet on duty.
- Report the fire at the nearest phone and then try to evacuate the building.
Here's how to use the systematic approach to answer the question.
- Read the question carefully. What is the question asking? Stated simply, the question is asking, "What would you do if you saw a building on fire?"
- Read all the answer choices. Read and evaluate each answer choice, eliminating choices that are clearly wrong.
- "Immediately evacuate the building." Common sense tells you that getting the people out of a burning building is a good course of action. Your reaction may save the lives of the people inside the building. This sounds like a possible answer.
- "Proceed to work and report the fire as soon as you get there. "It is never a good idea to delay reporting a fire. There may be people who need help. Obviously this is not a good option, so eliminate it.
- "Ignore the fire because you are not yet on duty." A building fire should never be ignored. The fact that you are not on duty is irrelevant: As a firefighter, on or off duty, you are sworn to protect the public. Discard this option as well.
- "Report the fire at the nearest phone and then try to evacuate the building." Reporting the fire would bring help from other firefighters, as well as equipment for rescuing the occupants. After that, evacuating the building will save lives, due to your quick response and sure knowledge. This appears to be a very good choice.
- Make a decision. You eliminated options b and c. Now you should review choices a and d. They are very similar to each other, but choice d is the better answer because you are getting the proper help and equipment to the scene of the fire as well as trying to remove the residents from the building on fire. It is therefore the most correct answer.
- Reread the question. Once you have made a decision, review the question to make sure the answer you have chosen meets the conditions set out in the situation. Sure enough, choice d represents the best course of action for an off-duty firefighter who sees a building fire.
You will get more practice in using this kind of systematic approach as you read the sections that follow on the types of situations and questions you might encounter in a judgment and reasoning section of the firefighter exam.
Questions on Firefighting Operations
The most frequently asked questions require candidates to place themselves in the position of a firefighter at the scene of a fire or emergency. In answering a question of this type, you must consider a firefighter's priorities: saving lives, preserving property, and extinguishing the fire. In any emergency situation, the safety of responders and civilians is the first priority. All operations are conducted under the Incident Command System, which ensures a chain of command in which response is structured and measured.
Keep these priorities in mind as you try to answer these sample questions on firefighting operations.
- A fire company responds to a report of a multi-vehicle accident. When they arrive on the scene, they see that one car is turned upside-down with at least two civilians trapped inside. The other car seems to have less damage; however, it is leaking what appears to be gasoline. What should they do?
- Set up a hose line as a protection for rescue personnel and trapped civilians.
- Immediately remove the trapped civilians from their car.
- Disregard the gasoline, since nothing is currently on fire.
- Call for a tow truck.
Good judgment and common sense should enable you to eliminate choice c.You should also reject choice d, since it does not address the urgency of the situation. Choice b may be appealing at first; however, you should consider the whole situation. A gasoline leak always raises the possibility of a fire or an explosion, which could injure not only the people trapped in the car but also you and your fellow firefighters. The safety of all concerned should be your first priority. Keeping this principle in mind, you should eliminate choice b and pick a instead. Setting up a standby hose line, charged with water and ready to go, will protect the responders and the trapped civilians.
Now try another question, this one based on more routine operations. Remember, safety is still a firefighter's first concern.
- Firefighters must do inspections of any buildings, hospitals, factories, and schools in their area. They check the premises for any violations of fire safety regulations. All of the following should be checked for violations EXCEPT the
- automatic sprinkler system.
- electrical wires and outlets.
- fire extinguishers.
- food safety measures.
The first thing you should notice when you read the question is that word EXCEPT. It tells you to look for something that the firefighters will not check for violations as the answer.
The correct answer is choice d. The firefighters would check all of the other choices when they do an inspection, keeping in mind that people's safety can depend on the proper functioning of sprinkler systems, electrical wires and outlets, and fire extinguishers.
Questions on Firehouse Routine
If equipment that is used in fighting fires does not work properly, lives may be lost. Thus, firefighters have to check and maintain their equipment and apparatus, usually at the firehouse at the beginning of each shift. Some questions on the firefighter exam may ask questions about the routine of examining and maintaining equipment.
Even though the operations described in these questions are routine, the firefighter's priorities of life, property, and extinguishment, as well as safety and authority, are still paramount. For this reason, firefighters follow specific procedures in maintaining equipment and always replace damaged equipment or bring it to the attention of superior officers. Keeping that in mind, try to answer the following sample questions.
- At the beginning of each shift, the power saw must be filled with gasoline and tested to make sure it works properly. The best reason for this requirement is that it
- gives the firefighters something to do every day.
- makes the firefighters' job easier than if they waited until the tank was empty.
- ensures that the power saw is ready for maximum use if needed at a fire.
- ensures that the power saw is always ready for inspection by the fire chief.
You can eliminate choices a and b because they do not give good common sense reasons for this procedure. And while it is true that the chief may order an inspection of equipment at any time, choice d is not the best reason, either. That leaves choice c as the best answer. If a tool is not ready to be used on arrival at the scene of an emergency, people's lives may be at risk.
Try your hand at another question based on routine procedures.
- When a fire truck is leaving or returning to the firehouse, firefighters are required to stand on the street, one on the sidewalk and one inside the station. Which of the following is the most important reason for following this procedure?
- to let the neighbors know that the firefighters are leaving so that the neighbors will watch the station while they are gone
- to let pedestrians and automobiles know the truck is moving and to guide the truck's driver
- to test the truck's lights and sirens before leaving the station to make sure they work efficiently
- to give the firefighters time to get dressed and to show the neighborhood how their tax money is being used
You can eliminate choices a and d pretty quickly, because they do not use good judgment or common sense. Choice c looks a little better, but common sense should tell you that the moment the truck is leaving for a fire is not a good time to run an equipment check; anyway, the lights and siren shouldn't have to be checked every time the truck leaves or enters.
Choice b is the best answer. For their safety and the safety of others, firefighters stand outside in the street and on the sidewalk to warn motorists and pedestrians that the truck is in motion. The firefighter standing inside the firehouse helps to guide the truck's driver as the truck backs into the station.
Public Relations Questions
Another part of exercising good judgment and common sense involves dealing with the public. Firefighters hold a position of public trust and must act in a manner consistent with such a position. People must feel they can call on firefighters for help. Children should be able to look up to firefighters as role models and protectors. Although firefighters cannot be expected to know and do everything, they can be and are expected to treat civilians with respect at all times. Keep these ideas in mind as you try some sample questions.
- A neighborhood woman enters the firehouse and asks Firefighter Ross to cut down a tree in her yard because it is too close to the utility lines. She claims that this is a fire hazard and that, therefore, he should handle it. He should
- get the ax and chop down the tree.
- tell her to call her utility company so that they can handle the problem properly.
- refuse her request but tell her his brother will do it for $50.00.
- tell her to stop bothering the fire department unless there is a fire.
Good judgment and common sense, not to mention common courtesy, should lead you to eliminate choices c and d as inappropriate responses. The problem-solving approach should help you to reason that choice a is not appropriate. If you chop down a tree near utility lines, the tree or the lines may cause injury to yourself or others. Because this choice does not show concern for safety, it can also be eliminated.
The best possible answer is, thus, choice b. A firefighter must always be polite and courteous to the public. An explanation of why the utility company is best suited to help her allows the citizen to understand your actions. Though it would be unsafe for you to do as the citizen asks, you have still taken responsibility for the request and helped in the best way possible.
Using what you know about firefighters' priorities and concern for the public, try another question:
- A company arrives at the scene of a house fire with a response time of approximately five minutes. The owner of the house, however, begins to yell that his house and possessions are burning and that it has been half an hour since he called the fire department. The best response for a firefighter to give would be to
- tell the man to get control of himself; he is getting hysterical.
- explain that the response time was only five minutes and assure the man that the company will do the best they can to save his house and possessions.
- ignore the man and begin working on putting out the fire.
- tell the man he should not have been so careless in the first place, so the fire company would not have to be there putting out this fire.
The best answer is choice b. You need to explain to the citizen the procedures for receiving and responding to a call, as well as reassuring him that you want to prevent as much damage as possible. Your explanation will help the man understand that you are really doing all you can to help him, so that he may feel better and respect the job you are doing. Choices a, c, and d are not acceptable answers because they do not treat the citizen with respect. A firefighter must always be courteous and polite to the public, especially in a crisis situation when people may react inappropriately because of the stress they are under.
Questions on Interpersonal Relations
The firefighters in a station house work as a dedicated team, entrusting their lives to one another. They also operate within a hierarchical structure. In this structure, they treat their superiors with the utmost respect, valuing their experience and knowledge. Judgment and reasoning questions that deal with interpersonal relations stress respect for authority, dedication to all firefighters, and responsibility for one's actions.
- While replacing the hose on the fire engine toward the end of her shift, Firefighter Evans drops the nozzle and thinks it may be damaged. She should
- do nothing because she knows the nozzle is expensive to replace.
- report the damage to her superior officer so he or she can get a new one.
- choose not to worry about it since her shift is almost over.
- try to blame it on someone else so she will not get in trouble.
Keeping safety and the well-being of other firefighters in mind should enable you to eliminate choices a, c, and d immediately. Firefighters should never allow damaged equipment to be used, because injury can result. Firefighters must also be honest, responsible, and concerned for the safety of their fellow firefighters. Choice b is the only choice that shows these characteristics.
- A firefighter enters an apartment to search for victims. While she is in the apartment, the fire spreads and blocks the stairs. The apartment is on the fifth floor and has no fire escape. What should the firefighter do?
- She should call for other firefighters to assist her.
- She should jump from the window and hope she lands on something soft.
- She should take the stairs one flight up to the next floor.
- She should wait for the fire to die down, so she can use the stairs.
Choice a is the best answer. All firefighters work as a team. Each firefighter who goes into a fire building knows that he or she can count on the other members to come to his or her aid. Choice b does not use good judgment. Choice c is not possible because the question clearly states that the stairs are blocked by the fire. Choice d is not an intelligent choice and also shows lack of teamwork.
Questions on Following Procedures
A good firefighter has the ability to follow directions. Firefighters must follow detailed written procedures or verbal orders for everything from operating at building fires to equipment maintenance. Some firefighter exams include another kind of judgment question, one that tests your ability to follow a set of written procedures or orders to the letter.
In this kind of question, the examiners provide you with a set of directions for completing a firehouse assignment or operating at a fire scene. The directions might, for instance, provide step-by-step instructions for loading hoses on the apparatus or specify the uses and location of tools.
The list of procedures is then followed by one or more questions that ask you something about the order of the steps in the list. The answers to these questions rely less on your judgment, as in the previous types, than on your ability to read and understand the procedures. So it is important to read the procedure carefully. There may be certain conditions that have to be met before you would take a particular step; if they are not met, you would have to skip that step and go to the next. Key words to look for in this type of question are:
- "What would you do next?" In this case, you have to find the answer that is the next step in the procedure.
- "What did you do before…?"In this case, you have to find the last step completed immediately before the step you are on now in the list of procedures.
The most important thing to remember in answering this kind of question is not to make assumptions. Instead, follow the procedure and apply the information in the procedure to the question. You will see how this process works as you go through the sample questions that follow.
Questions 10–12 refer to the following procedure.
Firefighters must often move injured or unconscious victims to get them out of danger and to a location where they can receive proper medical attention. As a firefighter, you should carry out the following steps in the order listed to properly move a victim.
- Check to make sure there is no immediate danger to you or the victim.
- Provide support for the victim's neck and spine.
- Avoid bending or twisting the victim's body.
- If at all possible, and if there is no danger to the firefighter or the victim, remain in place until additional assistance can arrive.
- Lift the victim to a sitting position, using your knees, not your back.
- If you are alone, drag the victim to safety, keeping the victim's body straight while protecting the victim's head and back.
- If there are two people, use a two-handed seat carry.
- Firefighter Ali is searching an apartment that is smoky but apparently not on fire. He finds an unconscious woman on the floor in the kitchen. He has supported the woman's neck and spine. What should he do next?
- Drag the woman to safety, keeping her body straight.
- Avoid bending or twisting the woman's body.
- Lift the woman to a sitting position, using his knees, not his back.
- Use a two-handed seat carry to remove the woman from the apartment.
The key word in the question is next. Reviewing the procedure, you should see that the next step after supporting the woman's neck and spine is to keep the woman's body from bending or twisting, choice b. The other choices do not immediately follow supporting the neck and spine.
Use the same process to arrive at the answer to another question based on the same procedure.
- A company responds to an apartment fire. Firefighter Mendoza is alone when she finds a man unconscious on the floor. Seeing that the fire is under control, she supports the man's neck and spine and then lifts him to a sitting position without twisting his body. She determines that it is unsafe to remain in the room. What should she do next?
- Use a two-handed seat carry.
- Check to make sure there is no immediate danger to her or the victim.
- Provide support for the man's neck and spine.
- Drag the man, keeping his body straight.
The correct choice is d. The procedure tells you that when you are alone, you should drag the victim to safety, keeping the body straight. The two-handed seat carry (choice a) is used when there are two rescuers. The other two choices are steps that she has already accomplished, according to the situation described in the question.
- A fellow firefighter has injured his ankle while climbing the stairs in a house fire. As there is no immediate danger, Firefighter Moe calls another firefighter to help him. How would they remove the injured firefighter?
- Use a two-handed seat carry to remove the firefighter from the house.
- Avoid bending or twisting the firefighter's body.
- Provide support for the firefighter's neck and spine.
- Lift the firefighter to a sitting position and drag him to safety.
The correct answer is a because the procedure states that, when there are two people, you should use a two-handed seat carry. The other choices are steps in the procedure that are unnecessary in the given situation.
Now try your hand at another set of questions based on a different procedure.
Questions 13–15 refer to the following procedure.
Firefighters inspect buildings for any violations of the fire safety laws. There are specific steps used when conducting an inspection. They are listed below.
- Locate the building manager and inform him or her that you are here to inspect the premises.
- Inspect the exits. Make sure that all doors are working properly and are not locked or blocked. Make sure that exit signs are posted above each door.
- Check the public hallway. Ensure that it is free from accumulations of rubbish.
- Fire extinguishers should be fully charged and properly placed.
- Test the fire escape. It should be sturdy and in good repair.
- Check the automatic sprinkler systems.
- Check for the storage of flammable materials.
- Visually examine the premises for improper wiring.
- On arriving at a building to inspect, Firefighter Fox informs the building manager that she is here for the annual fire safety inspection. What should she do next?
- Make sure there is no trash blocking the public hallway.
- Check for the storage of flammable materials.
- Check the doors to ensure that they work properly.
- Make sure the fire escape is sturdy and in good repair.
Read the question, and then return to the building inspection procedure. The question states that she has met with the building manager and asks what she will do next. The key word is next. According to the question, she has accomplished step 1. Step 2 is to inspect the exits, so choice c is the answer.
- The inspection of a building is almost complete. What is the last thing a firefighter should do before leaving the premises?
- Look at the wiring.
- Check the automatic sprinkler systems.
- Ensure that the fire extinguishers are fully charged.
- Tell the building manager that he is here to inspect the premises.
This time you have been asked what the last step in the inspection is. The key word is last. The last step given in the procedure is to visually examine the premises for improper wiring. Thus, the answer is choice a.
- In a building inspection, a firefighter has found that the doors are satisfactory and exit signs are properly posted. What should he or she check next?
- the automatic sprinkler
- the public hallway
- the roof
- the fire escape
The key word, once again, is next. You have accomplished step 2 and should go on to step 3, the public hallway, which is choice b. Notice that choice c, the roof, does not appear anywhere in the inspection procedure, so it should have been easy to eliminate that choice immediately.
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