[IPAC-List] Ideal PPT for FF

cpaullin at humrro.org cpaullin at humrro.org
Mon Mar 15 09:48:49 EDT 2010

We developed a customized PPT that simulates several firefighting tasks
with minimal skill requirements. Test-takers must complete several events
within a certain amount of time. The events are performed continuously, so
the test gets at both endurance and strength. There are other tests like
this on the market.

What may set this test apart is that it was developed in a Fire Department
that already had quite a few female firefighters. Thus, long-held beliefs
about the overwhelming criticality of physical strength had already been
challenged. There were women on the force who could outperform many of the
men, and there was also first-hand evidence that women could do the job,
even if they weren't necessarily as strong as their male colleagues. The
cut score for the test is based on normative data provided by Firefighter
incumbents, and there were a number of female incumbents in the norming
sample. The cut score is lower than many I've seen but still ensures that
Firefighters are much more physically fit than the general population. The
department in which the test was normed was willing to accept a relatively
low cut score because they had first-hand evidence that women could do the
job. We also created three broad score bands in the passing range. I
believe that having more strength/endurance, at a broad level, is better
for performing the physically-demanding aspects of the Firefighter job.
It's much harder to explain how small differences in strength/endurance
(as under strict ranking) make a big difference in job performance. The
PPT receives a reasonable weight in the hiring process, but other factors,
such as soft skills and problem-solving skills (as measured in a
structured oral interview) receive more weight.

Gender differences: There's a lot of research showing gender differences
in physical abilities, so it may be unrealistic to think we can devise a
PPT that doesn't exhibit mean score differences. However, it is possible
to identify physically-fit women who can do well on PPTs and to help women
train for both the PPT and for Firefighter job requirements.

Quasi-experimental study: We used the PPT test described above in two
different cities. One city devoted extensive efforts to recruiting
physically-fit females and to providing additional physical training for
them, with much of the recruiting and extra practice supported by female
firefighters. Thus, this city provided positive role models and
assistance in improving fitness levels. (The recruiting/prep program was
not limited to female applicants, but more effort was devoted to helping
female applicants participate.) The second city did not make any special
effort to recruit physically-fit applicants (of either gender) or to
provide support for fitness training. In the first city, 76% of female
applicants passed the PPT (98% of male applicants); in the second city,
24% of female applicants passed (97% of male applicants). The study was
quasi-experimental because we had no pre-test measures of fitness, so we
can't definitively state that the two samples were of equivalent fitness
levels prior to administer the PPT. Still, I believe there's a lesson

Note that I am not advocating the simulation type of PPT over
construct-based PPTs. (The latter measure strength/endurance directly
using weight lifts, push-ups, treadmill, etc.) There are pros and cons for
each type of test.

From: "Brull, Harry" <Harry.Brull at pdininthhouse.com>
To: "Joel Wiesen" <jwiesen at appliedpersonnelresearch.com>, "IPAC-List"
<IPAC-List at ipacweb.org>
Date: 03/14/2010 11:34 AM
Subject: Re: [IPAC-List] Ideal PPT for FF
Sent by: ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org

Why would an ideal test produce a rank order? I don't know of any
evidence that the faster/stronger/more flexible firefighter is a better
firefighter. If you don't want adverse impact against women, rank order
physicals aren't the way to go.
I'm open to contrary evidence, but I would save my rank ordering for
attributes such as work ethic, teamwork, judgment under pressure,
courage, etc.
Harry Brull

Harry Brull | Senior Vice-President
PDI Ninth House
Global Leadership Solutions

1.612.337.8233 office
1.612.414.8998 mobile
1.612.337.3695 fax
Harry.Brull at pdininthhouse.com

33 South Sixth Street
Suite 4900
Minneapolis, MN 55402


-----Original Message-----
From: ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org
[mailto:ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org] On Behalf Of Joel Wiesen
Sent: Sunday, March 14, 2010 10:40 AM
To: IPAC-List
Subject: [IPAC-List] Ideal PPT for FF

Perhaps an ideal physical performance test for firefighter would:
- be safe
- reflect job tasks
- provide a basis for ranking applicants, and
- not have undue adverse impact on women.

What existing tests best approximate this ideal?



Joel P. Wiesen, Ph.D., Director
Applied Personnel Research
62 Candlewood Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583-6040
(617) 244-8859

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