Assessment Exercises

ADC’s use job simulation exercises. This means that parts of the job you are applying for are replicated in a fictitious situation to see how you manage. There is more time-pressure because you have a time limit on activities, but the things you will be expected to do won’t be too far off what you might expect to see in the new job.

Types of exercises and how these are used will vary between different FRS’s, depending on their preferences and priorities. Previously, when there was a National ADC which most FRS’s used, transferability between services was easier because everyone was assessed in the same way, against the same criteria, using the same methods. However local variations have meant this is no longer the case.

ADC Exercises usually fall into the categories of:

Written Exercises (inbox / in-basket or strategic direction paper), Group Discussions, Presentations and Role-plays Psychometric tests. The role-play can involve a one-to-one scenario (the candidate and one role-player) or a group scenario (the candidate and two role-players. There may be three at Strategic level).

Some FRS’s are including an operational assessment as part of ADC activity. This tends to be a simulated situation where firefighting skills, knowledge, leadership and decision-making are evaluated. Depending on resources this can either be in a physical situation (i.e. training fire-ground) or a simulation (i.e. VECTOR computerised simulation or Minerva suite).

ADC’s in different FRS’s

Most ADC or assessment exercises will begin with the candidate reading Background Information that is relevant to the environment all of the day’s exercises will be set in. It is not usually necessary to do any research or studying before the ADC; all of the information that you need will be presented on the day. If this is not the case, you will be told in advance. Instructions are usually read out by an administrator before each exercise begins.

Whereas in the past all ADCs were part of a National Toolkit, now exercises are mainly purchased from specialist consultancies or sometimes they are designed in-house. This means it is more difficult to predict exactly what they will cover. However, there are plenty of rules and best practice guidelines about designing assessment exercises, which means we have a fairly good idea of what you can expect to complete. Each exercise will assess a number of PQAs / competencies or values and standards, ideally more than once across a range of different exercises.

Tip: You will be unaware what areas are being assessed for each specific activity; just deal with the issues that are presented to you. If you do this you will automatically be showing the skills areas the exercise is designed to assess.

In Basket / In Box

This is a written exercise which requires you to deal with a number of items presented, usually in memo, email or letter form. You will need to deal with the items, outlining the actions you would take in response to them. As with all of the exercises, the type of tasks you will find in the in-basket would be similar to the sort of thing you would need to do at either Supervisory or Middle Manager level, as appropriate. You can have a go at a “mock” inbox exercise and get feedback on your performance before the real thing here at FRS Development.

Group Discussion

You may have around 20 minutes to read the relevant information and make notes. Then you and the rest of your group (usually 6 candidates) will have the opportunity to discuss the issues outlined and make collective decisions / recommendation based on analysis of the information. This type of exercise is less common now as it can be difficult to control group dynamics which can vary depending on who is in the group. This can make it more difficult to standardise i.e. make sure that all candidates can perform in a level playing field. However, some FRS’s are returning to using this style of exercise, so remember to stick to your objectives and not be thrown by strong personalities who may try to dominate. Find out more about how to successfully navigate the group discussion exercise here at FRS Development.


For this exercise you will have approximately 15 minutes to read through the relevant information and prepare, and up to 20 minutes to meet with the individual and deal with issues presented. It will often be a performance type issue which you will need to address and attempt to resolve.

Tip: The key factor here is to listen and question. Don’t assume you have all of the information already. However, you should go into the meeting with some sort of a plan, don’t expect the role-player to lead you without you providing some structure and direction to the discussion yourself.

Explore your approach to role-plays and gain detailed feedback in advance of the real thing with this practice on-line tool at FRS Development.

Multiple Role-play

The timings may vary, but in this exercise you will be required to deal with 2 role-players, who usually have their individual perspectives and expectations which you need to manage. A common misconception is that this sort of scenario will always involve conflict. There may be difference of opinions to manage, but a heavy-handed approach to resolving differences is rarely the right way.

Presentation / handover / briefing exercise

This is the exercise that will vary the most depending on what your FRS decides is most appropriate. It should be in-keeping with what you might expect to do within the new role e.g. a media type exercise if you could reasonably be expected to brief journalists or field questions on a matter of public interest. Despite the differences in title, it is an exercise which will involve you presenting information to an audience, either assessors or role-players, who will then ask you questions on your understanding of the issues. The usual mistake made here is to reiterate existing facts gleaned from any information supplied without building on it with your own views / perspectives / analysis or proposals.

Learn more about a presentation exercise here at FRS Development.

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