ITOP is the ‘Initial Test of Potential’, a preliminary sifting exercise which examines your performance of the five PQA’s identified as being most crucial for success as a fire and rescue service manager.
These PQAs are:
- Commitment to Diversity and Integrity
- Effective Communication
- Problem Solving
- Working with Others
- Commitment to Development
The ITOP is divided into the following two sections – the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) and the Simulation Exercise. The two parts of the ITOP are very different, but what they both have in common is that they assess how closely your performance matches up to the standards outlined in the PQA’s. Both tests are administered under supervised conditions.
With the PQA’s are the criteria, against which you will be deemed suitable for further development. The ITOP serves to take a snapshot of your potential. If you do not quite match the requirements this time, it may simply be the case that you need to improve specific aspects of your attitudes, actions and behaviours, in order to be considered suitable for development after your next ITOP.
Taking the ITOP
For many, the tests that you have to take in the ITOP can be unfamiliar and daunting. Getting to grips with what is required can lead to candidates making simple mistakes, such as not managing their time effectively, or failing to adequately detail what their actions would be.
- The simulation exercise will need you to write fairly lengthy answers to 3 tasks. This can be difficult if you are not used to writing, so try to do some practice, writing quickly and legibly prior to the test – its amazing how quickly you will improve
- In your simulation exercise, explain why you would do things, not just what you would do. A clear rationale can make all the difference, and unless you write it down, no-one is ever going to know what your reasoning was
- If you are running out of time, use bullet points to get some of your answer down
- Show your working out for numerical calculations
- Don’t panic! Read the questions slowly before putting down your answer in your SJT, double checking to make sure you have understood.