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Are you interested in obtaining the competitive edge required to be successful in your goal of becoming a firefighter or being promoted to an officer's position within your department?  Since 1950, Don McNea Fire School's seminars, entry-level and promotional products have prepared over 40,000 applicants in their pursuit of becoming a firefighter or an officer.'s entry-level newsletter is about YOU BEING THE BEST – THE BEST PREPARED AND BEST INFORMED!  This periodic newsletter will concentrate on the complete firefighter and officer examination testing process.  We suggest that you start a notebook or 3-ring binder of our newsletters so that you can periodically review them in your examination preparation.

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    1. Test-taking Tactics – Understanding the Test Maker's Tactics

    2. Fire Prep Topics of Interest – Psychological Testing

    3. What Do I Wear To a Job Interview? by Capt. Bob Smith

    4. Final Exam Preparation

    5. NEW Product Additions to Website!  Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS) Practice Exam

    6. Firefighter Selection Inc. (FSI)

    7. Preparatory Exam Seminars

    8. Department Profiles

    9. Free Firefighter Examination Announcements

    10. Testimonials

    11. Valuable Web Site for Candidates

    12. Entry-Level Products

    13. Fire Promotional Prep Products

    1. Test-taking Tactics – Understanding the Test Maker's Tactics

As a test taker, you will be more skilled if you know how a test maker thinks.  Your test taking strategies must anticipate the test maker's strategies.  With multiple choice questions, the problem for the test maker is to create three bad answers for every good answer.

To appreciate the test maker's problems and to improve your own ability as a test taker, you should practice making up a few questions yourself.  Here is some material to work with.  Below is a short reading passage from a Fire Academy training manual, followed by four answer choices.  As it appears below, all the answer choices are correct.  You should try to come up with some other answer choices which would be wrong, or make some little changes in these answer choices so that they are no longer correct.

    Sometimes it is necessary to cut holes in the roof or floors of a building to release bottled up heat and smoke.  During roof or floor cutting operations, everyone in the vicinity of a saw in operation shall observe, as near as possible and practical, a 20 foot radius Circle of Danger.  Only the Officer, the Operator and the Guide Man may enter this circle.  All persons directly to the rear of the operating saw blade must be warned away, as the saw may throw debris 20 feet or more.

    Side pressure or twisting of the blade when operating should be avoided.  The saw should never be forced.  If too much pressure is applied to the blade, the hazard of blade breakage (carbide tipped) or blade shattering (aluminum oxide or silicon carbide discs) is increased.  A blade which breaks or shatters during cutting may cause serious injury to the Operator or others in the area.

    Based on the information above, it would be most correct to say that:

      A) No one should be within 20 feet of the operating saw except the Officer, the Operator and the Guide Man.

      B) Even someone who is 20 feet away can be in danger if the person is directly behind the saw when it is operating.

      C) Carbide tipped blades will break, not shatter, if too much pressure is applied.

      D) Side pressure may cause shattering of the blade if the blade is an aluminum oxide or silicon carbon disc.

No doubt, you can think of many ways to make three of the above answer choices wrong.  But you probably would not want to make an answer choice so obviously wrong that no one would ever choose it.  There is no point making up answers if no one will choose them.  The idea is to make an answer wrong, but still give it some appeal so that it will be an effective "distractor" from the right answer.  Here are some test maker tactics for doing that.

    1. Overstate the point.  In the example, you could change 20 feet to 25 feet.  Or you could say that side pressure will definitely or always cause the blade to break or shatter.  Or you could insist rigidly on the 20 foot circle, forgetting that the rule says, "as near as possible and practical."  Of you could say that the Officer must be in the circle instead of that he may be in the circle.

    2. Ignore the fine points.  In the example, you could substitute something general like "a safe distance" for the exact rule of 20 feet.  Or you could ignore the detail that 20 feet may not be adequate for someone directly behind the saw.  Of you might overlook the fact that these rules apply only when the saw is actually in operation.

    3. Change just one detail.  In the example you could switch "breaking" and "shattering" for the different kinds of blades.  Or you could switch the kinds of blades.  You could change the rule about people directly behind the saw to make it people directly in front of the saw.

    4. Provide some bait to make false answers attractive.  An easy way to do this is to keep some exact words from the "fact pattern" in the false answers.  Another way to do this is to make a two part answer; start with something that is correct, then add something which is wrong.  For the example, you might say, "Other firefighters should remain at least 20 feet away when practical, and the Operator should especially warn anyone directly in front of him."

    5. Twist the meaning around.  In the example you could say that the saw operator must go at least 20 feet from other people instead of the rule that other people must keep 20 feet from the saw operator.  Or you might try saying that the saw cannot be used less than 20 feet from the edge of a roof.

For additional test-taking strategies, click here:

2. Fire Prep Topics of Interest – Psychological Testing

Below are some frequently asked questions and answers concerning this difficult portion of the examination:

    1. I am often in situations where I get frustrated very quickly with people around me.

    Listed below are answer formats commonly used for this type of question, in which you would circle the correct answer:

    Format 1: 

     Strongly Agree     Agree    Neither     Disagree     Strongly Disagree

    Format 2:

     True           False

    We highly suggest that you answer this question Strongly Disagree or False.  One of the key words in this question is "often."  Yes, there will be times on the fire scene where you will get frustrated.  The key word "often" dictates that you are constantly frustrated.  You must remain calm and look at the situation in a logical manner in order to quickly and efficiently resolve the crisis.  One of the key personality traits of a successful firefighter is someone who has patience and is able to look at a situation in a rational manner.

    2. If both salaries were the same, I would rather be a bookkeeper than a sales manager.

    Listed below are answer formats commonly used for this type of question, in which you would circle the correct answer:

    Format 1: 

     Strongly Agree     Agree    Neither     Disagree     Strongly Disagree

    Format 2:

     True           False

    Again, we highly recommend that you answer this question Strongly Disagree or False.  These type questions are key in a psychological test.  This question is used to determine if you would like to work with people or by yourself.  As a bookkeeper, you would likely be working by yourself with limited exposure to the public.  As a sales manager, you would be working with people on a regular basis.  Remember that firefighting is a people-oriented, service-oriented profession.

For helpful examination preparation for psychological testing, click below:

3. What Do I Wear To a Job Interview? by Capt. Bob Smith

I had a candidate tell me he went to an interview wearing a tie, suspenders and no jacket. I asked him, "Who did you think you are, Larry King?" I asked him if they called him back for a chief's interview? No. The defense rests. McFly?

The strongest non-verbal statement you can make in the oral board is what you wear. It is time to step up and make the investment.

Men: Do wear a wool suit in dark blue or gray. Pinstripes are fine, but avoid brown, black, or high fashion brightly colored suits. Sport coats or blazers are out, so is polyester. Tie should be in a solid color such as navy, red, maroon, or yellow stripe, or paisley print. Wear a white or off white, or pale blue long sleeved shirt in cotton or a cotton blend. Starch it no matter what the instructions say. No patterned shirts!

Don't: wear casual or novelty watches, too much jewelry, monograms, religious, political, or fraternity affiliation accessories. Beards are out; mustaches are a gray area. When in doubt, shave it off.

Women: Do wear a tailored business-like suit or dress with a jacket not overly feminine. Choose suits in conservative solid colors such as gray, navy blue, black, beige, or camel with conservative hemlines. Natural fibers, such as wool or linen, are your best bets; most synthetic blends, not matter how attractive, give off a whiff of the bargain basement.

Always wear stockings in natural shades. Avoid dark colors with light colored shoes. Always carry a spare pair.

Don't: Wear anything flamboyant, trendy, faddish, low-cut, too tight or short, or otherwise provocative. You are not trying to make a fashion statement, but trying to get a badge! No heavy perfume, ankle bracelet, stockings with patterns, lace, bold colors, or seams; sandals, very high heels, unusual colors, or casual styles. Ladies: hair up; no bangs falling into your eyes or face.

Don't ever wear slacks, even pantsuits. I had a female who was a paramedic who had been trying for 5 years to get on the fire department. She just missed the cut at Contra Costa County. She was tired of being the bridesmaid. I asked her what she was going to wear.

She said she always wore a pants suit. I convinced her it was time to step up and make the investment. She showed up for coaching in a $650.00 tailored (Killer) wool suit.

I showed her in 10 minutes on the video the mistakes she was making in her presentations.

She called me two weeks later on her birthday, that she had received her notice that she nailed that job in Oakland. She now has the job of her dreams.

I've been coaching firefighter candidates for over 28 years. You may have great credentials, but if you can't pass the job interview, you don't get the job.

For additional oral interview strategies and information about Capt. Bob's Oral Interview Program, go to the following link:

4. Final Exam Preparation

So you received your written exam results and you finished in the top percentile.  First, congratulations!  Second, what are you doing next?  Are you patting yourself on the back thinking how well you have done and the rest of the exam process will be a cakewalk?  Or, have you realized that this is just the first step in the process of becoming a firefighter?  Now it is up to you…are you going to sit back or are you going to start preparing yourself for the oral interview, physical agility, and psychological exam?  You need to focus your time and talents to continually prepare yourself for the rest of the process just as you prepared yourself for the written exam.  The process of becoming a firefighter is like a triathlon race where you are running, swimming, biking – excelling on just one part will not make you a winner.  It's a combined effort on all three parts that will put you in the position to be a winner.  It is the same in the examination process.  Doing well on one step doesn't get you the job of a firefighter – you have to prepare for each step.  When it is completed and you have won, you have a lifetime job.  Think about it – 99.98% of firefighters hired are never laid off.  Where else in today's job market can you find a position that you can have for life?  It is security for yourself and your family.

Click here to review Don McNea Fire School's Final Exam Preparation:

    5. NEW Product Additions to the Website – Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS) Practice Exam!

Don McNea Fire School has assembled an in-depth practice examination for those of you taking the Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS) exam.  This practice includes over 250 questions specifically covering the following subjects:

  • Understanding Oral Directions - This portion of the examination will count for 20% of your score – this is where most firefighter applicants across the country do poorly.  We have developed an audiotape or CD containing 9 practice examinations and over 120 questions specifically to meet the challenges of this difficult portion of the examination.  There is no other preparation of this type available anywhere to help you increase your score on this part of the test!

This practice examination includes practice examination questions on the following subjects:

  • Understanding Written Materials
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Math and Arithmetic Reasoning
  • Maps, Diagrams and Mechanical Drawings

Click on the link below to review and order this preparatory package!

6. Firefighter Selection Inc. (FSI) 

Firefighter Selection, Inc. (FSI) is a testing company used throughout the country.  We have now updated our practice examination package to reflect the current 8th Edition FSI manual being used.  This package includes 640 practice examinations based on the manual as well as a 75-question cognitive exam.  Click on the link below to find out more information!

7. Preparatory Exam Seminars/Preparatory Packages

For those of you taking the San Antonio firefighter examination, we will be holding an in-depth preparatory seminar on Sunday, May 23.  Click here to find out all the details!

If you are taking the Virginia Beach Firefighter Examination, click here to see our preparatory package for this examination!

Taking the Los Angeles City Fire Examination?  Click here for preparatory package information!

8. Department Profiles

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Dept, 6000 SW 87 Ave, Miami, Florida  33196, (305) 596-8600

Don McNea Fire School will be conducting a preparatory seminar for this examination!

Long Beach Fire Dept, City Hall, 333 W Ocean Blvd., 7th Floor, Long Beach, California  90602,  (562) 570-7126

Colorado Springs Fire Dept, 31 S Weber Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado  80903, (719) 385-5950

Bridgeport Fire Dept, 30 Congress Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut  06604, (203) 576-7683

Columbus Fire Dept, 3675 Parsons Ave, Columbus, Ohio  43207, (614) 645-8300

To review additional department profiles, click on the link below for information on the top 150 fire departments in the country, including addresses, phone numbers and links to their websites:

9. Free Firefighter Examination Announcements

Every 7-10 days, Don McNea Fire School will be posting on our website firefighter examination announcements being held across the country.  These exam announcements come to you AT NO CHARGE!  Remember, the more examinations you take and the more experience you have in the testing process will dramatically increase your chances of getting that coveted badge.  Luck goes to the prepared!

10. Testimonials:

    "My name is Jessica and I purchased your psychological exam test booklet in October.  I am proud to report that, with your help, I am one of 3 women who passed the exam.  My rank is 70, with another female in the 90's and another at 124 out of 125 persons who actually made the list. Thank you so much for providing such great resources for future fire fighters.  After using your test booklet, I felt confident about the biodata/teamwork evaluation portion of the test and as you can see, it paid off. Now I am on the list for the Bayonne Fire Dept in New Jersey.  Wish me luck!!"

     "I just wanted you to thank you.  I took your Torrance, CA, exam seminar and just got my letter – I'm in Band I.  Your seminar was super helpful!  I appreciate you guys – I'm excited!  Band I!  You do a great job over there!"

    "I purchased the FSI workbook and although the time left was very short along with the fact I work two jobs, I was able to score a 100% on the recent Las Vegas written exam!   I have thirteen years of experience as a firefighter and engineer and in no way does my experience give me an advantage in the area of entry exams as the days of the "standard" civil service exams seems to be over, I find that the use of specialized study aids such as those you offer are imperative for one to be a viable candidate in today's VERY highly competitive market, for entry into this once not so sought after profession.  Thanks for a fine product and service!"  John B.

    "I wanted to send a quick note to thank you for your preparation tools.  I
    used them throughout the entire hiring process (exam, psychological,
    interview), and I recently received my badge on one of the most highly
    respected fire departments in the state.  I feel that your materials
    assisted me to stand out among the 400+ applicants.  Thank you once again."  L.R., Ohio

11. Valuable Web Sites for Candidates

Learn how entry level and promotional candidates are improving their interview scores up to 15 points and nailing that badge!

Click here:

Fire "Captain Bob"

Steve Prziborowski is a Fire Captain with the Santa Clara County, California, Fire Department and has been in the fire service for 12 years.  He is also the fire technology coordinator at Chabot College in Hayward, CA, where he has been instructing fire technology and EMT courses for 10 years.  He is a state certified Chief Officer, Fire Officer, Master Instructor, Hazardous Materials Technician, and state licensed Paramedic.  He has an associate's degree in fire technology, a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, and a master's degree in emergency services administration.

For further assistance on becoming a firefighter, visit his website at or email him at

12. Entry-Level Preparation Products

13. Fire Promotional Preparation Products

Lieutenant and Captain In-basket Preparation – Each of these examinations include two, 50-question practice examinations, each over 80 pages in length, with in-depth explanations for each question and corresponding behavior dimensions.  Also included in this package are:  Elements of an In-basket, Behavior Dimensions, and our Top-Scoring Performance Strategies that have been proven extremely successful.  Log on to order these products!

Have you recently been hired by a department?  Do you have any questions concerning the hiring process?  Email us at 

We hope this newsletter and upcoming editions will assist you in obtaining the best job in the world – a firefighter.  We wish you the best of luck!

Don McNea Fire School


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