The 10 Most Idiotic Questions from FDNY Entrance Exams

While reporting this week's cover story "Hosed," the Voice obtained two FDNY Entrance Exams (identified as "7029" and "2043"). We took all the questions ourselves, and were kind of amazed at how idiotic some of them were.

Answering them, we had to wonder: why shouldn't minorities be expected to do as well on these questions as white people? But equally troubling was this thought: is answering these questions correctly really going to make someone a good firefighter?

Here are what we considered the 10 most painfully obvious questions. Take them yourself and let us know what you think.

10. A group of firefighters and their officer respond to a fifth floor apartment in a seven-story building. When they arrive at the apartment, they are told that the contents of a wastepaper basket was on fire, and the fire was extinguished prior to their arrival. The officer instructs the firefighters to ventilate, or remove, the smoke from the apartment by first using a method that will not cause damage to property. Which one of the following would be the most appropriate method for the firefighters to use to remove the smoke?

A) Breaking out all the windows with a crowbar.
B) Pulling down the ceiling with a six-foot hook.
C) Cutting through the floors with an eight-pound axe.
D) Manually opening all the windows and removing the screen.

9. Firefighters are required to operate on the subway tracks during emergencies in the subway stations. Which one of the following would present the greatest threat to the safety of a firefighter working on the subway tracks?

A) A subway platform crowded with people.
B) Rubbish burning in a small garbage can located on a subway platform.
C) A subway car entering a station.
D) A maintenance crew working on the track.

8. Firefighters conduct building inspections to locate potential life-threatening conditions in the even there is a fire. Which one of the following would the most-serious threat to life in the event of a fire?

A) An unlocked front door in a building.
B) A locked basement door in a building.
C) A car in the driveway of a building.
D) A building with a missing fire escape.

7. A fire department instructor is explaining the hazards of operating on a frozen lake to a newly-assigned firefighter. Which of the following is an action that a firefighter should not take in this situation?

A) Put on a personal flotation device.
B) Bring heavy equipment onto the lake.
C) Prohibit civilians from going out onto the lake.
D) Engage firefighter safety line prior to operating on ice.

6. After firefighters are sure that a fire has been extinguished, and that there is no hazard in the building, they begin a salvage operation. Salvage involves moving and covering furniture and other properties, covering broken windows and holes in the building with plastic, and redirecting and cleaning up water to minimize damage. After extinguishing a fire in a high-rise apartment building, firefighters begin salvage operations. Which of the following pieces of property is in the most danger of being damaged?

A) A leather couch that has been burned on one side.
B) A large screen television with a broken screen.
C) An antique painting hanging under a leaking ceiling.
D) A pillow laying [sic] on the floor in a puddle of water.

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There is nothing "Idiotic" about these questions at all being on a Firefighters test. The only thing idiotic is the author referring to them as  "idiotic" because he doesn't want questions asked that could lead to the  most qualified, English speaking, Candidates being hired. He doesn't want any questions asked that may require some education to be answered  and may require candidates that can read.


These questions would indeed discriminate against the African Americans, as chances for answering them correctly is correlated with IQ.  It is true that the answers to these questions are rather obvious, but they are only obvious to a person with relatively high IQ. To a person with low IQ it is hard to read through the long paragraphs and extract the meaning. 

The average IQ of African Americans is a whole standard deviation lower than average for the country and these exams would indeed discriminate against them.


Also, these exams are asking quite obvious common sense questions, and a person who has difficulties answering them is less qualified to be a  fire fighter.

E.g. I would not want a firefighter smashing windows if opening them was equally easy.


@jspbeef He refers to them as idiotic because even an idiot can answer them... I have 0 fire experience and all of the correct answers were readily apparent to me.  They are idiotic, and not racist at all.


@prettyravegamegirl Quite simply, it isn't. The judge made a serious error in judgment by saying that the tests were discriminatory. This is a judge that wants to move up, to be appointed to higher courts. What better way to do this then to get his name in the papers for a high-profile case? It's reminiscent of the New Haven Fire Department case where SCJ Sotomayorwhile still a member of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled in Ricci v. DeStefano that New Haven could throw out a promotional test to lieutenant because African-Americans didn't do well enough on the test to be promoted, even though they have in years past. The case got reversed in the Supreme Court, where Justice Sotomayor had to excuse herself from the proceedings do the nature of her history with the case.

The city had already appealed the ruling, and the appellate court had agreed with the city and reversed the part of the judge's decision that the city appealed, and ordered a new trial to take place. The biggest mistake, in my opinion, was the city appealing only part of the verdict and not the entirety of it. So right after the appellate court reversed the decision and ordered a new trial, DeBlasio settles with the Vulcans for $94 million of taxpayer money. That means that for simply having a certain skin color and failing a test, they are going to get a payout of $64,000 each.

The Vulcans, the United Women Firefighters, these organizations want more members. And I completely understand and support that. Where I disagree is how they go about it - by lowering standards, by picking and choosing who gets in and who doesn't simply because of their gender or ethnicity. Civil Service testing is one of the cornerstones of fair hiring practices in this city, and it allowed people of all colors and genders to get equal opportunity in this city that couldn't be found anywhere else. In fact, the FDNY had some of the first black firefighters, lieutenants, captains, and chiefs, as far back as 1898. It was solely due to civil service testing that this happened. To say that this system, which gave many African-Americans an honorable and stable career when options were extremely limited, is discriminatory against them is ironic. But it's obvious that they don't truly believe that claim - it's just a means to an end. The pushback you see from rank and file firefighters is simply because what we want is for people coming onto the job, a job where depending on who has my back can make the difference between me coming home to my family or not, to be held to the same standards that the rest of us were held to.


@vivarto No no got it all wrong. It isn't the CONTENT of the questions that is's the fact that the test is written, and not oral. THEY CAN'T READ THE QUESTIONS!


@vivarto So what you are saying is African Americans cannot be expected to be as smart as other races? That sounds pretty racist to me


@kraznor2 @jspbeef I'm very glad you we're able to answer these questions despite having no fire fighting experience ... no who else doesn't have any fire fighting experience? anyone taking the exam, and the most qualified applicants should be able to answer the questions. FDNY doesn't care about what you know about fire fighting, they will teach any applicant everything they need to know as they progress in their careers. FDNY needs fire fighters who can pay attention to details, focus, and communicate. that's what some of these questions are going after. I'm sure the exam is more than 10 questions, and other skills are tested with other questions (i.e. quantitative reasoning, logic, ect....)


@Defiant @vivarto I'm sorry, but if you all really think that this is "racist" please do us all a favor and leave the country? If someone can't read, then they don't need to be saving lives for a living. If you can't take the time to read a simple passage that a 3rd grade child could read (provided can also get the right answer) then they don't need to be working. What if they had to read directions on their own? For safety equipment that they have to use properly? And also what if none of them could read the labels? Like how to use a fire extinguisher, or how to properly seal a fire hose onto the fire hydrant? In your world you can let the illiterates use complex equipment to save our lives. They vote anyways. In my world, sorry to hand it to them, they just aren't good enough. People need to realize, not everyone can be winners. And babying people is just going to make things worse. 


@Iborche @vivarto  The fact that blacks file lawsuits because they are "disparately impacted" (cannot score as high as whites) on a competitive job related test is, in all essence, blacks themselves claiming they are not as smart as other races.   


@Iborche @vivarto It's just plain fact and liberals HATE fact ! The same issue arose here in St. Louis. 1,000 black fire fighters took the test for advancement and not ONE could pass - therefore the test HAD to be racist because every single white fire fighter that took the test passed with flying colors.


@Iborche @vivarto Not sounding racist at all.  Just stating historical facts.  Unless you consider facts to be racist!

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