If you want to become a New York City firefighter, you'd better hit the books, because the department's stringent entrance exam requires that you understand things like electricity and how to open doors.

The Village Voice has obtained two copies of the department's entrance exam—which has long been the subject of litigation over whether it is designed to keep African Americans off the force—and it turns out that some of the questions are actually designed to test... sentience. Think you have what it takes to be a firefighter? Then see if you can wrap your head around this one, genius:

5. Firefighters have responded to an apartment for an emergency water leak and are now standing in front of the door to the apartment. Which one of the following actions should the firefighters take first to gain entry into the apartment?

A) Knock loudly on the door and then try the doorknob.
B) Cut a hole in the door with a portable saw.
C) Strike one of the door hinges with the back of an axe.
D) Locate the fire escape and climb into the apartment through a window.

People always forget about the doorknob. There's also this gem, which tests an applicant's mastery of electrical conductivity and the thermal coefficient of resistivity:


4. A fire department instructor is explaining to a newly-assigned firefighter the hazards of electrical wires that have fallen in the street. Which one of the following is an action that a firefighter should NOT take?

A) Keep people away from the fallen wires.
B) Use caution when working near energized wires.
C) Handle highly-energized wires while standing in a puddle of water.
D) Notify the utility company and tell them to respond to the emergency.

And this one, which assesses the taker's understanding of inertia, mass, and energy:

9. Firefighters are required to operate on the subway tracks during emergencies in the subway stations. Which one of the following would present the greatest threat to the safety of a firefighter working on the subway tracks?

A) A subway platform crowded with people.
B) Rubbish burning in a small garbage can located on a subway platform.
C) A subway car entering a station.
D) A maintenance crew working on the track.

The truly sad thing is that the accompanying Voice story profiles black firefighters who passed the exam—including one who "scored in the top handful out of nearly 22,000 candidates"—but still haven't been able to join the department in part because their scores have been invalidated by a federal judge who ruled that the tests they passed were racist. Which means they won?


[Photo via Getty]