New NYC Fire Department entry exams suspiciously lacking in questions about fires

Here’s an odd slice of life story which popped up in the Big Apple recently. There are periodic opportunities for individuals to compete for job openings with the New York City Fire Department and the jobs are widely sought after. The job requirements are pretty rough and not many people can make it all the way through the training, but plenty of folks give it a shot. Before you can even get your foot in the door to look at the shiny equipment however, you must first pass a basic entrance exam. Candidates are chosen for interviews and possibly training based primarily on the results.


There’s been a change to the test this cycle, though. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that there have been a lot of changes. And they mostly concern the fact that the test questions have little or nothing to do with fighting fires. (NY Post)

FDNY candidates ​will take an entry exam that quizzes them on topics like African ​killer bees and on math questions such as comparing veggie chips to pretzels, but little on firefighting…

A recently posted preparation manual asks aspiring Bravest to practice by watching videos produced by Lowe’s hardware store on how to install a ​toilet, replace a ​sin​k, and lay a tile floor.

“It’s great to prepare firemen for their second jobs as plumbers,” an insider quipped. “The FDNY might as well call this the ‘Side Job Preparation Guide.’ ”

To test reading comprehension, the tutorial asks applicants to read a 1998 Tampa Tribune article, “Natural Born Killers,” on African bees migrating to the United States.

By contrast, they note that the NYPD’s sample test questions all involve crime-fighting and patrol-related scenarios. I suppose a fireman might be called on to clean out a nest of killer bees, but fixing toilets and installing new floor tiles seems unlikely even in the event of the most unusual 911 calls. So how did the test wind up this way? You’ll never guess.


In January 2010, Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Giraufis ruled the FDNY exams first given in 1999 and 2002 discriminated against black applicants and halted their use. The city later agreed to pay $98 million in back pay to those minorities passed over, and give some a second​ chance to join the department.

The city and the Vulcan Society, a fraternal group of black firefighters, devised a new exam that Garaufis approved in 2012. Of 9,400 who scored high enough to be hired, 42.3 percent were minorities​ — more than ever.

I haven’t taken the test myself so I can’t speak to this from direct experience, but it still sounds rather odd. I understand this is an entrance exam, so they certainly can’t expect you to know everything about firefighting when you walk in the door. That’s what school is for. But most tests do require a certain degree of basic aptitude and a demonstration of at least some effort at preparation before you show up. My neighbor’s kid took some civil service exam last year for a state job (I don’t recall what it was) and he wound up taking it twice. They had practice exams available for those who were interested and some basic educational material. If you took the time to bone up on all of that and do the practice exams it wasn’t too difficult, at least in his experience.


Who knows? Perhaps some of these new recruits will work out well and really contribute to the department. But it just sounds odd. In closing, here are a couple of the sample questions they provided. You’ll need to bone up on these if you want to be a fireman.

Scientists hope to stop killer bees by:

a. using poison
b. controlling breeding
c. removing their stingers
d. importing bees from Africa

FF Johnson was thinking about the Mini Rice Cakes on his way to work and had 36 Mini Cakes as soon as he got to the Firehouse. How many total Calories did he consume?

a. 140
b. 240
c. 280
d. 210

What are most toilets made of?

a. Glass
b. Clay
c. Ceramic
d. Marble


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