Firefighter CPAT Test: Preparation and Practice Tips
Yedidya Lixenberg

Yedidya, Firefighter Recruitment Expert at JobTestPrep.

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What is the CPAT Test?

The Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) is a standardized test used in the United States and Canada to assess the physical fitness of candidates applying to become firefighters.

The CPAT test is designed to evaluate if candidates possess the physical abilities necessary to perform essential tasks that firefighters may encounter on the job.

It is a pass-fail timed test that lasts 10 minutes and 20 seconds and consists of 8 separate events:

During the test you will wear a 50-pound vest to simulate the weight of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and fire fighter protective clothing. An additional 25 pounds, using two 12.5-pound weights that simulate a high-rise pack (hose bundle), is added to your shoulders for the stair climb event.

About the IAFC and IAFF

The IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) and the IAFC (International Association of Fire Chiefs) are two distinct organizations that represent different aspects of the firefighting profession in the United States and Canada.

The IAFF is a labor union representing professional firefighters and emergency medical personnel, advocating for their rights and welfare - while the IAFC is an association that focuses on supporting fire chiefs and chief officers in their leadership roles.

Both organizations work together to create a standardized firefighter physical ability test. All fire departments in the United States and Canada require candidates to provide proof of a current passing score on the CPAT Test.

Where Can I Take the CPAT Test?

Some fire departments (such as the Austin FD in Texas) have a license to administer the CPAT Test. However, you will most likely take the test through a company that provides standardized testing services for various public safety professions – including law enforcement, emergency medical services, and firefighting.

These are some of the biggest standardized testing companies:

  • National Testing Network (NTN): Offers PCAT for many states across the country such as Florida, Illinois, Oregon, and Oklahoma.
  • Public Safety Testing (PST): Specializes in administering the PCAT Test in Washington and Montana.
  • Firefighter Candidate Testing Center (FCTC): It has four testing centers across the state of California and has tested more than 30,000 candidates in the state.

Make sure to contact the specific fire department you are applying to directly, and ask what CPAT Test results they accept. 

The CPAT Events

Stair Climb

The purpose of this event is to simulate the critical tasks of climbing stairs in full protective clothing while carrying a high-rise pack (hose bundle) and climbing stairs in full protective clothing carrying fire fighter equipment.

During this event, you will be required to wear two 12.5-pound (5.67-kg) weights on the shoulders to simulate the weight of a high-rise pack (hose bundle). Prior to the initiation of the timed CPAT, you will have a 20- second warm-up on the StepMill at a set stepping rate of 50 steps per minute. There is no break in time between the warm-up period and the actual timing of the test. The timing of the test begins at the end of this warm-up period when the proctor calls out “START.”

For the test, you are required to walk on the StepMill at a set stepping rate of 60 steps per minute for 3 minutes. This concludes the event. The two 12.5-pound (5.67-kg) weights are removed from your shoulders. You will then walk to the next event.

Hose Drag

This event is designed to simulate the critical tasks of dragging an uncharged hoseline from the fire apparatus to the fire occupancy and pulling an uncharged hoseline around obstacles while remaining stationary.

You will need to grasp an automatic nozzle attached to 200 feet of a 1 3/4-inch hose. You will place the hoseline over your shoulder or across your chest, not exceeding the 8-foot mark. You are permitted to run during the hose drag. You will drag the hose 75 feet to a prepositioned drum, make a 90° turn around the drum, and continue an additional 25 feet. Then stop within the marked 5-foot x 7-foot box, drop to at least one knee, and pull the hoseline until the its 50-foot mark is across the finish line.

During the hose pull, you must keep at least one knee in contact with the ground and knees must remain within the marked boundary lines. This concludes the event. You then walk to the next event.

Equipment Carry

This event will simulate the critical tasks of removing power tools from a fire apparatus, carrying them to the emergency scene and returning the equipment to the fire apparatus.

You will need to remove the two saws from the tool cabinet, one at a time, and place them on the ground. You will then pick up both saws, one in each hand, and carry them while walking 75 feet around the drum, then back to the starting point.

You are permitted to place the saw on the ground and adjust the grip. Upon return to the tool cabinet, you will place both saws on the ground, then pick up each saw one at a time, and replace the saw in the designated space in the cabinet. This concludes this event.

Ladder Raise and Extension

The purpose of this event is to simulate the critical tasks of placing a ground ladder at a fire structure and extending the ladder to the roof or window.

During this event, you will walk to the top rung of the 24-foot aluminum extension ladder, lift the first rung at the unhinged end from the ground, and walk it up until it is stationary against the wall. This must be done in a hand over hand fashion, using each rung until the ladder is stationary against the wall. You must not use the ladder rails to raise the ladder.

You will immediately proceed to the pre-positioned and secured 24-foot aluminum extension ladder, stand with both feet within the marked box of 36 inches x 36 inches and extend the fly section hand over hand until it hits the stop. You then lower the fly section hand over hand in a controlled fashion to the starting position. You will then walk to the next event.

Forcible Entry

This event is designed to simulate the critical tasks of using force to open a locked door or to breach a wall.

You will use a 10-pound sledgehammer and strike the measuring device in the target area until the buzzer signal is activated. Your feet must remain outside the toe-box. After the buzzer is activated, you will need to place the sledgehammer on the ground.


This event will simulate the critical task of searching for a fire victim with limited visibility in an unpredictable area.

During this event, you will need to crawl on your hands and knees through a tunnel maze that is approximately 3 feet high, 4 feet wide and 64 feet in length with two 90° turns.

At a number of locations in the tunnel, you will navigate around, over and under obstacles. In addition, at two locations, you will crawl through a narrowed space where the dimensions of the tunnel are reduced. The movement is monitored as you advance through the maze. Upon exit from the maze, the event is concluded.


The purpose of this event is to simulate the critical task of removing a victim or injured partner from a fire scene.

Now you will grasp a 165-pound mannequin by the handles on the shoulders of the harness, drag it 35 feet to a pre-positioned drum, make a 180° turn around the drum, and continue an additional 35 feet to the finish line.

You will not be permitted to grasp or rest on the drum. It is permissible for the mannequin to touch the drum. You are permitted to lower the mannequin to the ground to adjust your grip. The entire mannequin must be dragged past the marked finish line. You will then walk to the next event.

Ceiling Breach and Pull

This event is designed to simulate the critical task of breaching and pulling down a ceiling to check for fire extension.

You will remove the pike pole from the bracket, stand within the boundary established by the equipment frame, and place the tip of the pole on the painted area of the hinged door in the ceiling. You will fully push up the 60-lb hinged door in the ceiling with the pike pole three times. You will then hook the pike pole to the 80-lb ceiling device and pull the pole down five times.

Each set consists of three pushes and five pulls. You will repeat the set four times. You are permitted to stop and, if needed, adjust the grip. If you do not successfully complete a repetition, the proctor calls out “MISS” and you must push or pull the apparatus again to complete the repetition.

The event and the total test time end when you complete the final pull stroke repetition as indicated by the proctor who calls out “TIME”.

CPAT Test Requirements

Before taking the firefighter physical ability test, you must complete the following requirements:

  • Present a valid identification.
  • Complete the Sign-in Form.
  • Complete the Waiver and Release Form.
  • Wear long pants to take the test.

Additionally, when you conclude the CPAT test, you must sign the Evaluation Form and Rehabilitation Form. Failure to complete and sign any of the forms, your CPAT will be considered failed.


How do I Physically Prepare for the CPAT?

The CPAT Test is an extremely physically demanding assessment. It is the first look at what it will be like to be a firefighter. You should follow an intense workout regimen at least 3 weeks before the test.

Official rules require that you attend 2 CPAT orientations and 2 practice tests prior to the actual test. You can waive these requirements, but it is highly recommended to attend, especially if you have never taken the test before. The orientation and practice test will help you fully prepare and know what to expect – you will learn about the specific rules and procedures to ensure you will perform to the best of your abilities on test-day.

JobTestPrep helps you prepare for every step of the way. The written exam is a great opportunity to stand out from other candidates and ensure your place in the fire department. Practice with our comprehensive study guides and Prep Packs for Firefighter Written Exams such as the Firefighter Candidate Assessment (FCA), the Firefighter Aptitude and Character Test (FACT), and the National Firefighter Selection Inventory Test (NFSI)


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