The firefighter written exam is one of the beginning parts of the application process of becoming a firefighter. It is usually the first test you will take (before the interviews or the physical agility).
To secure your chances of getting your dream job with a great department, the best thing you can do before the exam is to study a great firefighter exam prep book. So, what are the best firefighter exam prep books and tools?
The biggest difference between a majority of the firefighter exam prep books is the content and activities they include. The books and tools that’ll prepare you the most are the ones that not only provide basics on the content included on the exam but also provide practice exams and study tips.
This way you can find the area that you need to work to improve the most.
Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.
Also read: 15 Tips for Firefighter Interviews
10 Best Fire Test Prep Books
- Norman Hall’s Firefighter Exam Preparation Book (2nd Edition)
- Firefighter Exam (6th Edition)
- Civil Service Exam Study Guide (2019 & 2020)
- Master the Civil Service Exams (6th Edition)
- Barron’s Firefighter Candidate Exams (7th Edition)
- Kaplan Civil Service Exams (2nd Edition)
- Civil Service Exam: SECRETS Study Guide
- Firefighter Exam For Dummies (1st Edition)
- McGraw-Hill Education Firefighter Exam (2nd Edition)
- Smoke Your Firefighter Written Exam
See below for detailed reviews of each book.
4 Best Fire Exam Study Tools
- FireRecruit Sample Questions
- 4Tests Firefighter Sample Exam
- JobTestPrep Firefighter Sample Questions
- Peterson’s Practice Tests Plus+ (PAID)
Before you even schedule your firefighter exam and begin to study, you should get a general understanding of the type of content that’ll be on the test. Doing this will help you determine which material you need to focus on more and which you already have background knowledge on.
For more information about the firefighter written test, read: Firefighter Written Test: What to Expect and How to Prepare
For more info on becoming a firefighter read: How to Become a Firefighter: The Complete Guide
What to Expect on the Test
When I first started testing to become a firefighter, I assumed a firefighter written test had lots of questions about being a firefighter. I thought that I needed to study details about what firefighters do, their procedures, and tools. But as it turns out, the written exam rarely has any questions that are directly related to firefighting.
In fact, the exam is designed to test the cognitive skills that you might have to employ while on the job, like analyzing situations and evaluating possible responses to such situations.
For the most part, the written firefighter exam will have about four to five sections designed to determine how suitable you may be for the job and its requirements. It is usually 100 to 150 questions, with a time limit of 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Some of the questions may be about firefighting but they are assessing more general knowledge on the concepts and how you should react in each situation. You shouldn’t need any firefighting experience or specific education to do well on the test.
Obviously, every test is different and there may be tests that don’t fit these descriptions, but the vast majority are as described here.
Sections of the Test
The written test is designed to test your general knowledge and cognitive skills, not how much you know about firefighting. The fire specific stuff comes later (in the academy and probation).
Here are the sections you may encounter while taking the firefighter exam:
- Reading comprehension
- Reasoning and judgment (decision making and prioritization)
- Math (Basic, Algebra, and Geometry)
- Spatial orientation (Maps and Directions)
- Observation and memory
- Mechanical reasoning or aptitude
Through the testing of these skills on the exam, it allows future employers to determine if you would be able to make accurate, split-second decisions in situations where there’s little room for error. It also gives them an idea if you are “trainable”.
Like any job, you need to know when and how to apply skills, not just understand the content or basic concepts of the job (though this helps).
Depending on where you live and what type of test is used, the firefighter exam that you take may be different than others you have taken or will take.
Generally speaking, the firefighter exam has between 100 and 150 questions and lasts less than 3 hours in total. All questions on the exam are multiple-choice (or true/false) with one correct answer per question.
In order to pass the test, you usually need to score 70 to 80% on the exam. The written exam is almost always pass/ fail, which means you just need to score high enough to pass and get an interview. A higher score doesn’t increase your chance of getting hired. (Again, that may not always be the case and you should always try for the highest score possible.)
Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT)
For more details and tips on passing the CPAT, Read: 8 Tips for the Firefighter Physical Test: Passing the CPAT
For more information of the fitness requirements for a firefighter, read: The Fitness Requirements for a Firefighter – Explained
While not part of the written exam, you’ll have to take the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) after you pass the written portion of the firefighter exam. Unfortunately, you cannot fully prepare for this section of the test just by reading an exam book or studying.
But it is good to understand what the test will be like, so you can be as prepared as possible. Some of these test prep books will include information on preparing for the CPAT or other forms of firefighter physical agility tests.
The best way to prepare for this section of the test is by exercising frequently and targeting muscular strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance. Here is a list of the 8 events of the CPAT so you can begin your workout regimen to ace this test section:
- Stair climb
- Hose drag
- Equipment carry
- Ladder raise and extension
- Forcible entry
- Ceiling breach and pull
It’s important to note that the entire CPAT has a time limit of 10 minutes and 20 seconds without a break between the events. With that said, some portions of the test allow you a warning or one failure, but you need to fully complete the test within the time limit and following the guidelines set for you.
The CPAT is a pass/fail, timed test, meaning you need to complete all of the events within the time limit without becoming disqualified. It’s not a race, and you should focus on performing the tasks efficiently and correctly.
My Top Picks for Exam Prep Books
When deciding which firefighter exam prep books and tools were the best option for preparing you for the firefighter exam, I considered the features, claims, and user feedback for each book. In doing so, I selected 10 books that will prepare you for the exam efficiently and lead you to earn a higher score.
In ranking the books, the books I saw as most effective were the ones that provided the greatest opportunity for success, specifically those that contained practice exams, overviews of each section of the exam, and test-taking tips.
With that said, here are my top 10 picks for test prep books:
#1 Norman Hall’s Firefighter Exam Preparation Book (2nd Edition)
This is the most helpful book that I used when I was preparing for the firefighter written tests. It has lots of practice tests and based on how you score, it breaks down the areas you need to spend most of your time studying, as well as the most efficient ways to do so. This is my number 1 recommendation.
Norman Hall’s Firefighter Exam Preparation Book (2nd Edition) is a thoughtful firefighter exam preparation book produced by a highly-regarded exam preparation publisher. The distributor advertises the book as being the #1 test preparation book for firefighter candidates, and the features included in the book help to back up this assertion.
One of the greatest pieces of this book is the confidence that the publisher has in their own material, guaranteeing that you will score between 80% and 100% on the firefighter exam or your money back. With that said, if you take the advice provided in the book and master the practice exams, you should pass the actual firefighter exam with ease.
Throughout the book, you’ll be given access to memory aids that’ll help you with some content during the exam and the opportunity to take practice exams with a provided answer key and a self-scoring table.
With this book, you’ll be able to see what your approximate score would be if you took the firefighter exam today (assuming the questions are similar to those on your practice exam).
This book also delves into the concepts of the firefighter interview and general information on the career of being a firefighter. You’ll be provided details on how to ace the interview and what to expect once you’ve officially accepted a position as a firefighter.
Although this is my favorite book, there are quite a few other very helpful books and tools that were responsible for me having consistent, high scores on the written tests. Take a look at the other resources that I used below.
#2 Firefighter Exam (6th Edition)
The Firefighter Exam (6th Edition) preparation book is an all-inclusive study tool that provides details on what to expect while on the job, what the firefighter exam is like, and what to anticipate after passing the exam.
What makes this book a great selection to help you prepare to take your firefighter exam is the detail provided regarding the entire test and application process.
Before you even proceed through the book, you’ll take a free online diagnostic test that’ll provide you with immediate feedback on which sections you’re competent in already and which you need to review in-depth. This will allow you to focus your time on the areas of the test that you are weaker in.
Within the five practice exams of 100 questions each, you’ll be tested on the various subjects that you’ll likely encounter while taking the exam.
The questions in the practice exams target verbal skills, reading comprehension, analysis of tables, maps, and graphs, memory and observation skills, logic, mechanical aptitude, and spatial relations. With this array of questions, you’ll be prepared for any question you face while taking the firefighter exam.
In addition to providing you with a study plan, the book also offers insight into the process of becoming a firefighter. The information provided relates to how to pass the physical test (CPAT), interview process, and how to apply for a job.
#3 Civil Service Exam Study Guide (2019 & 2020)
The Civil Service Exam Study Guide (2019 & 2020) is a comprehensive study tool that’ll prepare you for not just the firefighter exam, but any civil service exam in the country. (A large number of firefighter written tests are civil service style tests.) The book is separated into four major tools, each one unique and included to assist you in the exam-taking process.
Among the tools provided are test-taking strategies, comprehensive review, practice test questions, and detailed answer explanations.
As you continue through the book and experience each of the four tools, you’ll learn about the exam, review the type of content that’ll be on the exam, complete practice tests, and review your answers with provided explanations.
The types of questions included in this book’s practice exams relate to reading comprehension, math, spelling and vocabulary, analogies, and clerical information.
Once you’ve completed the practice tests, you’ll be able to review your answers and read the justification for answers that you may have gotten incorrect. That’ll help you understand the answer and not just memorize it.
Perhaps the most effective part of this book is the test-taking advice provided to readers. These test strategies can be just as important as knowing the material and I found these to make quite a difference in both my test performance, as well as test day anxiety.
Not only will you gain knowledge on what to anticipate when taking your exam, but you’ll also learn about how to take an exam efficiently with user-tested test-taking strategies. Understanding the content is great, but not being able to apply it on test day can be a deal-breaker.
#4 Master the Civil Service Exams (6th Edition)
Master the Civil Service Exams (6th Edition) is a recent study tool that’ll help you knock out the written portion of the firefighter exam (and other civil service exams) and allow you to continue on with the job-seeking process.
The major focus of these books is passing the exam and being prepared for the questions you may experience on the test.
Within the four full-length practice tests, you’ll encounter questions testing your skills in math, verbal, memory, and clerical information, all of which are questions you’ll see on civil service exams.
As you complete the practice exams, you’ll be able to check your exam answers and review the detailed explanations for answers you may have gotten incorrect.
The additional information you’ll receive from this tool can greatly impact your ability to land your dream job or progress within your career.
The books will provide insight on the interview process and how to impress your interviewer, the state of the current job market, and how the markets will progress in the coming years.
#5 Barron’s Firefighter Candidate Exams (7th Edition)
Barron’s Firefighter Candidate Exams (7th Edition) is a highly-detailed resource that’ll effectively walk you through the entire firefighter exam and application process. Before you even begin looking through the book and studying the content, you’ll complete a diagnostic exam to discover what your baseline score is as of today.
Included in the five full-length practice exams are questions that have been asked on firefighter exams across the country, which makes the whole studying process just a little bit more realistic. Upon completing the exams, you’ll be able to review the correct answers and explanations behind each answer.
This book doesn’t just focus on getting the answers correct but also building strategies to succeed better in sections like spatial orientation and visualization. Also offered are extensive reviews of each topic you’ll see on the firefighter exam and how to best prepare for each.
The distributor acknowledges that, while the written exam is important, there are also other aspects of the test that you must pass. Therefore, in addition to written exam study materials, the book provides insight on how to pass the CPAT and what happens once you’re qualified for a position as a firefighter.
#6 Kaplan Civil Service Exams (2nd Edition)
The Kaplan Civil Service Exams (2nd Edition) is a civil service exam preparation book that’ll prepare you for all civil service exams and guarantee a higher score.
Kaplan, the book’s distributor, offers its tried and tested score-raising strategies to help you get the highest score and secure a job in the near future.
The best part of this preparation book is the vast amount of data and information included in the book. Not only will you be able to review potential questions you may face on the test, but you’ll also be given access to some of the most commonly tested questions in civil service exams nationwide.
This edition of the book provides you with access to six practice exams that include questions on grammar, spelling, reading comprehension, memory, and more. When you’ve completed an exam, you’ll be able to check over your work and learn the reasoning behind each answer for every question.
You’ll also be given an insight into how to pass the exam and the ensuing psychological tests that you’ll likely face once you’ve passed the written portion of the test.
#7 Civil Service Exam: SECRETS Study Guide
Civil Service Exam: Secrets Study Guide is perhaps one of the most detailed and comprehensive exam prep tools on the market today. Like some of the other study tools on this list, this particular book is a general study tool for all of the civil service exams, not just the firefighter exam.
As you read the book, you’ll gain access to important study tools that’ll guide you through certain questions you might experience on the exam, particularly relating to mathematics, reading comprehension, analogies, spelling, and vocabulary.
The distributor makes a note of the detail the book goes into for each section, acknowledging that you’ll learn in-depth information, not just surface-level information.
Included in the book are practice civil service exams that explain the answers in detail within the answer key. As the name suggests, this book offers insight into the “secrets” of passing the civil service exams.
Some strategies the book reviews are in relation to organizing information, managing time, studying correctly, and reducing test anxiety.
#8 Firefighter Exam For Dummies (1st Edition)
Firefighter Exam for Dummies (1st Edition) is a member of the wildly popular “For Dummies” informational book series that helps to break down complicated information into simpler terms or understandings.
In addition to providing information on how to score well on the written exam, this book highlights some important information on what happens afterward.
Of the questions included in the four full-length practice exams, a majority are focused on math, reading comprehension, tool usage and recognition, memorization and visualization, principles of mechanics, and some on-the-job scenarios.
Also included is a mock exam that is very similar to the New York City firefighter exam, which is one of the most difficult exams in the country.
The book also offers information on how to take a test efficiently, reduce test-taker anxiety, and how to study best for the firefighter exam.
For your own reference, this study tool also provides questions from the National Firefighter Selection Inventory (NFSI), which is an up and coming firefighter exam that is currently used in locations across the country.
Once you’ve passed the written exam, you can refer to this book to help you prepare for the oral interview, CPAT, psychological testing, and the job application process.
#9 McGraw-Hill Education Firefighter Exam (2nd Edition)
McGraw-Hill Education Firefighter Exam (2nd Edition) is an up-to-date firefighter exam preparation book that’ll do much more than prepare you to take and pass the firefighter exam.
Though the test will prepare you for the firefighter exam, you also have the opportunity to complete mini-courses in firematics and emergency medical care to make you even more qualified for a career as a firefighter.
With an impressive number of full-length practice exams (seven total), you’ll be able to experience and be prepared for almost any question you could see on the actual test.
Practice test questions are on memorization and visualization, on-the-job scenarios, principles of mechanics, reading comprehension, math, and tool usage and recognition.
The questions you’ll see in the practice exams are very similar to actual firefighter exams that are currently administered throughout the country. Some of the questions also focus on newer concepts that may be tested, including emergency medical care.
What makes this tool different than others available for purchase are the practice reading passages and chapters targeting personality and cognitive abilities. With the addition of these sections, you’ll be able to perfect your psychological evaluation and master the content on the firefighter exam.
#10 Smoke Your Firefighter Written Exam
Smoke Your Firefighter Written Exam is a prep tool written by and for firefighters, with the author’s experience as a fire chief.
Coming from the perspective of an actual firefighter that has passed the written exam and spent significant time in the field, this book has the potential to provide much more in-depth information than some of the other study tools.
The book is broken down into several sections, each section targeting a different type of question that you’ll see on the firefighter exam in your state. As you read about the types of questions, you’ll be given practice questions of that type and an answer key that explains exactly why the answer was or wasn’t correct.
The greatest feature of this book, by far, is the vast amount of information on the varying topics you’ll encounter on the actual firefighter test. The questions revolve around the topics of spelling, reading comprehension, language, vocabulary, math, mechanical ability, spatial relations, patterns, and more.
Unlike most books, this specific book highlights smaller aspects of each topic, not just the general topic. For example, within the mechanical ability section of the book, you’ll learn about hydraulics, levers, gears, pulleys, screws, and other related material.
Not only will knowledge of this information help you pass the test, but it’ll also be useful once you officially enter the field.
Online Practice Tools
These are some online resources to help with your studying. You can find some practice tests and examples of the types of questions you may see on the firefighter written test. These are all free to use, but some of them have paid upgrades if you want additional practice tests and questions. These practice tests are a good start to see where you are and where you need to put in some work.
Though there is no guarantee that these questions (or types of questions) will be on your exam, in particular, these tools may prove helpful when exam time rolls around.
- FireRecruit Sample Questions
- 4Tests Firefighter Sample Exam
- JobTestPrep Firefighter Sample Questions
- Peterson’s Practice Tests Plus+ (PAID)
Interview Preparation Books
Here is an article with some inside tips to excel on your firefighter interviews: 15 Tips for Firefighter Interviews
Also read: What to Wear to a Firefighter Interview: Attire for Getting Hired
After you pass the firefighter exam, you have a lot in store over the next few months (interviews, physical exams, medical evaluations, fire academy, etc.). If you score well on all these parts, you will have a very good chance of getting hired.
Nailing the interview is the next step in the process and from my experience, the most difficult.
Every interview will be different, and you can’t fully predict what questions you’ll be asked, but it’s possible to prepare yourself for what they may ask.
I’ll be writing a more detailed article on preparing for firefighter interviews in the future.
Here are some books that provide sample interview questions and offer potential answers that’ll wow your interviewer:
1. Smoke your Firefighter Interview
2. Firefighter Interview Rule Book
The firefighter written test is an important step in the process to becoming a firefighter. It is something that you can be well prepared for if you put in the time.
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
- Review the type of content that’s on the test and determine which sections you would need to focus more on.
- Purchase one of these firefighter exam prep books to help you study for the exam (provided above).
- Show up to the test well prepared and confident.
- Once you’ve passed, begin preparing for the physical fitness component of the exam and the ensuing interview process.
How to Become a Firefighter: The Complete Guide