Reading Tables, Graphs, and Charts for Firefighter Exam Study Guide

Updated on Jun 23, 2011

Depending on what position you are testing for, your firefighter exam may also include a section testing your ability to read tables, charts, and graphs. These sections are really quite similar to regular reading comprehension exams, but instead of pulling information from a passage of text, you will need to answer questions about a graphic representation of data. The types of questions asked about tables, charts, and graphs are actually quite similar to those about reading passages, though there usually aren't any questions on vocabulary. The main difference in reading tables, charts, or graphs is that you are reading or interpreting data represented in tabular (table) or graphic (picture) form rather than textual (sentence and paragraph) form.


Tables present data in rows and columns. Here is a simple table that shows the number of firefighter fatalities by age. Use it to answer the question that follows.

  1. Based on the information provided in this table, what age group suffered the most fatalities in 2007?
    1. 26 to 30
    2. 51 to 60
    3. 46 to 50
    4. 41 to 45

The correct answer, of course, is b. The age group with the highest number of fatalities (19) in 2007 is 51–60.


Here is the same information presented as a line graph. This type of graph uses two axes, rather than columns and rows, to create a visual representation of the data.


Here, you can clearly see the age group with the highest fatalities, represented by a point that corresponds to intersection of the value of the age range of the firefighters and the number of fatalities in 2007. These numbers can also be represented by a box in a bar graph, as shown in the next graph.


  1. What is the probable cause for the higher fatality rate among firefighters in the 51 to 60 age group?
    1. They are more likely to have serious hidden medical conditions.
    2.  They are more likely to be working in hazardous locations.
    3.  They are more likely to be in stressful leadership positions.
    4.  They are at greater risk for vehicular accidents.

The answer is a. A question like this tests your common sense as well as your ability to read the graph. Since all firefighters work in hazardous locations, and all firefighting is physically and emotionally stressful, these are factors that all firefighters, whether in leadership positions or not, are subject to, so choices b and d cannot account for the higher fatality figures of this age group. Choice c is another factor that affects all firefighters and would cause fatalities for all age groups. Choice a is the best answer because firefighters in this age group, as in the general population, are more likely to have a serious, undiagnosed chronic health condition.

  1. What is the total number of firefighter fatalities?
  2. 96
  3. 104
  4. 95
  5. 93

The answer is c. This question tests your basic math skills. Using the information given in the bar graph, you need to determine the value of each bar and then add those members together.

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