What is the CPAT?

The Candidate Physical Ability Test, or CPAT, is a standardized test created by the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs to assist fire departments with the recruitment of candidates who are physically capable of performing the essential tasks of a firefighter. The CPAT is acknowledged as a reliable indicator of an individual's ability to function at the scene of a fire.

The CPAT requires firefighter candidates to engage in the following activities:

  • Stair Climb (climbing stairs while carrying an additional 25 pound simulated hose pack)
  • Hose Drag (stretching uncharged hose lines, advancing lines)
  • Equipment Carry (removing and carrying equipment from fire apparatus to fireground)
  • Ladder Raise & Extension (placing a ground ladder at the fire scene and extending the ladder to the roof or a window)
  • Forcible Entry (penetrating a locked door, breaching a wall)
  • Search (crawling through dark unpredictable areas to search for victims)
  • Rescue (removing victim or partner from a fire building)
  • Ceiling Breach & Pull (locating fire and checking for fire extension)

All these exercises must be completed in less than 10 minutes and 20 seconds. Candidates wear a hard hat, gloves, and a weighted vest to simulate the weight of firefighting equipment throughout the test. Candidate success is measured on a pass/fail basis.

Click here to watch the CPAT Instructional Video.

What can I obtain the CPAT?

There are a variety of locations to obtain the CPAT, but common locations are through National Testing Network, NIPSTA, and the City of Naperville.

When do I need to have my CPAT and Ladder Climb and how long are they valid for?

The CPAT and Ladder Climb is required in our process by the time of the candidate’s background phase. This will differ for each candidate depending on placement on the eligibility list and academy timelines. If the candidate does not already have a CPAT and Ladder Climb, they will be prompted to begin the process of obtaining once they are contacted to schedule a polygraph appointment. The CPAT and Ladder Climb certifications are separate, different certifications and both certifications must be presented. CPAT certifications are considered calid within 1 year of the issuance date. Ladder Climb certifications will be considered valid within 5 years of the issuance date. 

What is the Ladder Climb Exercise?

The ladder climb exercise will challenge a candidate's ability to climb to the top of an extended ground ladder that is in a fixed, inclined position. The candidate will then be required to retreat on the ladder to ground level. Safety information and event instructions will be provided to all candidates prior to the exercise. This exercise is not related to the CPAT and will not impact a candidate's CPAT test result in any way. A certificate of completion will be issued to those who successfully complete the exercise.

Where will the test locations be?

We use a video-based, job simulation multiple choice exam administered and proctored by National Testing Network. The applicant registers, pays the required fee, and selects which location, in their respective state where they would take the test.

What if I need assistance covering the cost of the exam?

You may complete and submit the hardship waiver with supporting documentation to the Human Resource Department for review. Applicant eligibility for the testing scholarship is determined by the same income guidelines, with the same limits based on household size, that are used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the federal free meals program. Please allow up to 5 business days for processing.

Can I study for the Fire Private exam?

The test is a general aptitude test designed to test your inherent skills and abilities. 

What can I expect when taking the video-based, job simulation multiple choice exam?

There are four components to the National Testing Network. Each section has its own passing score, and all sections must be passed in order to be considered a pass on the overall exam. Total test time takes approximately 2 hours.

1. Human Relations Test

Part I

The Human Relations Test focuses on teamwork and human relations skills and was specifically designed for firefighters. Candidates watch a video segment and then choose the best course of action in a multiple-choice format. The test items play without stopping.

Part II

Candidates are instructed to pay attention to the behaviors of the individual firefighters and supervisors portrayed in the Human Relations test, then answer questions about the characters. Part II immediately follows Part I.

2. Mechanical Test

The Mechanical Test is a multiple-choice mechanical aptitude test presented on video. Candidates see detailed introductions to an animated brick-making factory, then are asked questions about the factory. Most of the questions are about basic mechanical objects and principles such as valves and water pressure. They are also asked to answer troubleshooting type questions and observe system operations for problems. All the questions can be answered based on common sense and observation of how everyday objects work.

3. Reading Test

This test is designed specifically for firefighters, a job requiring ongoing study of difficult and technical materials. Candidates are required to choose a word that best fits in the blank.

4. Math Test

This math test is designed specifically for firefighters. The questions are presented on video. Candidates must complete the calculations in their heads. No written calculation is permitted. Questions are based on the type of math that firefighters must use on a regular basis as part of the job. Basic areas covered include: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and proportions.

Can any of the testing phases be missed?

No, all phases are mandatory even if completed previously for other departments or processes.

What can I do to increase my chances of being hired?

The City of Aurora offers preference points that are added to test results to determine final placement on the eligibility list. Supporting documentation is required. Preference points can only be added to a passing score and will only be applied in the application/testing phase. The maximum amount of points a candidate can be eligible to receive is 15 points. The preference points are as follows:

  • Aurora Residency: 5 points
  • Bilingual (Spanish): 2 points
  • Paramedic: 5 points
  • AFD Cadet: 3 points (completion of 2 years and obtained EMT-B) or 5 points (completion of 3 years and obtained EMT-P)
  • Explorer Post 99: 3 points
  • Military service: 5 points for active-duty service or reserves for more than 180 days

Are there any exceptions to the 2.0 GPA or GED minimum composite score?

No, but the high school and college GPAs are independent of one another. 

  1. If your high school GPA was under 2.0 but you’ve had at least 16 hours of college credit and your college GPA is 2.0 or higher, you’re eligible. 
  2. If your college GPA is under 2.0, but your high school G.P.A. was 2.0 or higher, you’re eligible. 
  3. A GED with a passing score equivalent to 2.0 grade point average would also make you eligible.

What if I was home-schooled, am I still eligible?

Yes. You must have a GED with a passing score equivalent to 2.0 grade point average and/or have at least 16 hours of college credit with a 2.0 GPA.