Physical Assessment Test PAT Guide 2017



Introduction Firefighting is a physically demanding occupation. There are periods of intense physical exertion interspersed with long periods of downtime. The combination of stress, heat, repetitive physical activities and adrenaline can cause extreme physiological changes within the body.

Developing and maintaining a high  level of physical fitness is essential  to minimise the impact of these  bodily changes. Refer to page 9 of  this booklet for more information  regarding the physical fitness  requirements of firefighting.

Throughout the recruit course, you must meet some physical fitness benchmarks. These are measured over two assessment sessions:

  • Beep Test (shuttle run)
  • Physical Ability Test
  • Sample shuttle run and physical challenge test footage
  • Suitability checklist
  • Video footage of firefighters talking about their experiences
  • Current list of CFA integrated fire stations
  • Schedule for upcoming information sessions and recruitment activities
  • Other guides available for download in PDF format.
  • Applicant Information Guide
  • Reasoning Test Preparation Guide

Beep test

To make sure recruits have the capacity to cope with the rigours of firefighting duties, CFA carries out a test for cardio-respiratory fitness – this is a 20-metre multi-stage shuttle run, usually referred to as the ‘beep test’.

A score of 9.6 is required to successfully achieve this benchmark

You can watch a sample beep test at, purchase it on CD at or download it at (enter ‘beep test’ in the search bar).

Hints and tips
  • The starting speed is quite slow. The time between each beep decreases as the levels progress; you will need to change your running speed accordingly.
  • The end of each shuttle is denoted by a single beep and the end of each level is denoted by a triple beep.
  • You should always place one foot on or over the 20-metre marked line at the end of each shuttle.
Practice at home
  1. Measure a 20 metre, straight course and mark each end.
  2. Warm up and stretch.
  3. Start the CD. The CD begins by explaining the test; it will give you a five second warning prior to the commencement of the Beep Test.
  4. As you hear the first beep, move towards the marker at the opposite end of the space; you must reach the marker on or before the sounding of the next beep. If you get to the line before the beep, turn around and wait.
  5. As the beep sounds again, move towards the marker you started at. You must reach the marker on or before the next beep. Proceed in this fashion until you are too fatigued to continue.
Why this standard?

Level 9.6 on the beep test equates to a VO2 max of 45.2 ml/ kg/min.

*VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen an individual can use during intense or maximal exercise. This measure is widely regarded as the best indicator of a person’s cardio-respiratory fitness and aerobic endurance.

International research supports this level as a minimum entry standard for recruit and operational firefighters; this is also the level recommended by the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC). This figure has been determined to allow capable performance in dangerous environments while wearing Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (CABA).

Good to know

If you are successful at obtaining a place on the recruit course, you will be required to take the beep test (and achieve a score of 9.6) multiple times throughout the course.

Physical Ability Test

The Physical Ability Test (sometimes referred to as the ‘Firefighter Challenge Test’ consists of a timed circuit of eight tasks, with each simulating a typical fireground activity.

Taken as a whole, the circuit is designed to reflect the first 10 and a half minutes of what a firefighter would experience at an actual structure fire.

All candidates undertake the eight tasks in the same order, as listed below.

Watch video footage of these tests at

Tunnel Crawl

You will be asked to crawl along an eight-meter plastic tunnel for this task, which tests your ability to manoeuvre through a confined space in full turnout (firefighter) gear. You will be fitted with breathing apparatus (carried on the back) and a face mask, however you will still be breathing normal air.

This task is a test of endurance and stamina, as well as your ability to deal with claustrophobic conditions. Note that you will continue to wear the breathing apparatus until the final task (Ladder Climb) although the mask will be removed when you exit the tunnel.

Hose Haul

In this task, you will climb a flight of stairs to a height of approximately eight metres, the typical height for the roof of a home. From a level platform, you’ll be asked to haul an 18.3kg piece of equipment (e.g. a coiled hose) up and onto the platform. The object will be attached to a rope line which you will haul up hand-over-hand in a controlled manner.

This task is designed to test both upper body and core strength.

  • Your time will start from the moment your first hand touches the rope.
  • Do not lean over the edge too far.
  • When placing the object on the roof of the building, keep your movement as clean as possible, and do not twist your back – use your feet to turn your body and bend your knees to place the hose on the ground.
Hose hold and advance

Making your way down from the platform, you will move to a pre-positioned hose and branch (nozzle).

Once you have grasped the branch and steadied yourself, water will begin to flow through the hose with the flow gradually increased to 475 litres per minute.

At this point, a timed minute will start, and you’ll be required to maintain control of the branch for the full 60 seconds.

The flow and pressure will then be reduced, and which point you will be directed to advance forward for 15 metres with the flowing branch and hose while maintaining control of the branch.

On reaching the 15-metre mark, you must hold the hose and your position steady for a further 60 seconds, with water again flowing at 475 litres per minute. When this task is achieved you will simply place the hose back down on the ground.

Casualty rescue

You’ll be required to lift a 72kg dummy to chest height and, walking backwards, drag it along a 60 metre course. An assessor will guide you at all times, and you will be asked to lower the dummy back to the ground at the end of the course.

Note that the dummy’s feet must maintain contact with the ground at all times as you drag it. While you can stop to readjust your grip on the dummy, you must not lose contact with it.

This task tests your ability to move a casualty to safety.


Use good posture to help avoid excessive strain. Starting from a squat position, grasp the dummy and lift it to carry position using your leg (not back) muscles.

Coupling board

This task requires you to collect 11 different hose couplings from a box, and connect them to the partner couplings attached to a standing board.

All couplings must finish ‘hand-tight’ and with corresponding colours correctly matched. There are no tricks in this task; it is a simple process of identifying type and size to establish a match.

While relatively simple, this task tests your cognitive processes during physical fatigue.

At completion of this task, your time is paused while the Breathing Apparatus is removed from your back and a safety harness fitted in readiness for the ladder climb.

Ladder climb

This is the final task within the timed sequence.

You’ll be positioned at the ladder: once you have grasped the ladder and ready to climb, the stopwatch will start again.

After climbing to a height of 10 metres, you will step off the ladder onto a structure (e.g. platform, ledge or landing) then climb back on to the ladder and descend. Time will be stopped when both of your feet are on the ground and you don’t have any contact with the ladder.

  • You must ascend and descend the ladder one step at a time.
  • When you reach the op of the ladder, you’ll be instructed to dismount on the right side

This task tests your ability to function at height.

Fitness, training & preparation

To give yourself the best possible chance of successfully achieving the physical assessment benchmarks, you will need to follow a structured fitness regimen that covers aerobic fitness, muscle strength, endurance and flexibility.

Use the information in this guide to make sure your preparation is taliored to the assessments you’ll be attempting.

We highly recommend you consult a fitness professional who can help you with correct technique: this will help you get the most out of your training and avoid injury.

Some terms you’ll find in this section
Frequency: The number of times per week that you would complete your program.
Volume: The ‘load’ of the entire program – ie. how many sets and reps you complete in your training program.
Set: a group of successive repetitions of an exercise without a rest period.
Repetition: the number of lifts you complete within each set.
Weight/load: How heavy the hand-or machine based equipment is.
Rest period: The time you rest for between each set.
Speed of movement: How quickly you lift and lower the weight/load.
Physical capability Description Recommended training Example firefighting application
Aerobic endurance Your ability to sustain prolonged periods of activity and/or exercise at low to moderate intensity. Running, cycling, swimming, etc. Sustaining a prolonged hose drag and hold at a structure fire.
Muscular strength Your ability to lift, pull, push and carry heavy objects over short distances or periods of time. Resistance training (whole body approach) using free weights or gym machines. Lifting a ladder on to a fire truck.
Muscular endurance Your ability to lift, pull, push and carry heavy objects over a sustained period of time. Circuit training with exercises using free-weights, machines weights and own body weight. Carrying a portable pump from a fire truck
across a field. Sustained periods
of applying water onto a fire.Extrication of a casualty from hazardous
Flexibility Your ability to comfortably move your limbs into specific positions at their normal end range of movement (ROM). Proprioreceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): or other system of slow, controlled stretching. An increase ROM is essential for moving
with ease, particularly when crawling through
small spaces during a house fire, or other
work in cramped conditions.
Core strength and stability Your body’s ability to stabilise itself during movement, eg. lifting and bending.Essential for preventing injuries. Core exercises focusing on deep postural muscles that support the pelvis, the lower back and the diaphragm. Helps control lifting and bending during
firefighting activity, and in the prevention of
injury.Provides body stability when negotiating
adverse terrain or uneven ground.
Grip/hand strength The force applied by the hand to pull on or suspend from objects (grip strength and general hand strength are distinct.) Hammer curls, stress ball squeezes, one-arm rolls with dumbbell, bicep curls, hand grips and TheraBand and wrist flexion extension. Equipment haulage.

Hose and nozzle control.

Bodily coordination Good coordination stemming from the proper stimulation of muscle firing patterns. body’s ability to function more efficiently in any environment or situation. Complex, multi-joint exercises such as: overhead lift or diagonal reach with medicine ball; stair climb with bicep curl; lunge with dubmbells, knee lift with lateral raise; push up with hip extension. Functional training involves mainly weight
bearing activities targeted at core muscles of
the abdomen and lower back. Coordination
is very important in safe and efficient

Fitness considerations

Seek medical attention if required

Visit your doctor if you:

  • Are over the age of 40.
  • Are new to regular physical activity and exercise
  • Have a medical condition that warrants special advice.
  • Find that physical activity causes shortness of breath or chest pains.
  • Become faint or dizzy during any exercise.

The right exercise program

It’s recommended that you use the FITT (Frequency, Intensity, Type, Time) principle to design and progress your exercise program.

To avoid over-training and minimise your risk of injury, change one parametre at a time when you are progressing the level of your program.

Additional information on FIIT is readily available online.

If you’re new to exercise, start with a couple of sessions per week to allow for proper recovery. Once your body is handling the new exercise regime, progressively increase the frequency, intensity and duration of your sessions; change the type of activity to keep your program enjoyable and stimulating.

Warm up

A warmup should begin with a few minutes of light intensity activity, similar to the type of exercise you are about to undertake. It is better to partake in active stretching prior to exercise as appose to static stretching.

An effective warmup:
  • Elevates the temperature of muscles and connective tissues.
  • Increases blood flow through the muscles.
  • Prevents muscle soreness and injury.
  • Increases range of motion.
  • Increases efficiency of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Your body requires adequate rest to recover from and adapt to exercise. Make sure you incorporate rest periods in your weekly training cycle, along with adequate nutrition and hydration. A combination of hard and light sessions will also help you to manage your program and avoid over-training.

Signs of over-training include:
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Increased injury rate
  • Prolonged muscle soreness that does not subside after 48 hours
  • Lack of adaptation to exercise
  • Loss of strength
  • Loss of appetite.
Heart Rate

Monitor your heart rate while training to make sure you are maximising your results. A number of fitness tracking products on the market will help you to do this; you can also take your pulse by applying light finger (not thumb) pressure to the left or right side of the neck, or the inside of the wrist.

  • To measure your resting heart rate – measure your heart rate for 60 seconds, three mornings in a row before you get out of bed. Divide the sum of those three measurements by three to establish an average figure.
  • To measure your theoretical max heart rate – take your age away from 220 (eg.: 220-35 = 185 beats per minute).
  • To measure your working heart rate – while exercising, count the number of beats in 20 seconds and times it by three.

Try to keep your training specific. Practicing firefighter-like tasks is the best way to prepare for the physical testing. Safe lifting, pulling and pushing activities and walking with weights are good examples.

Goal setting

Goals are a great way to keep you motivated. When setting goals it is important to make sure they are SMART; Specific, Measurable, Accepted/Achievable, Realistic and Timeframed. Write them down and check in regularly to keep yourself on track.

Adaption & Progression

In order to become more physically fit, your body needs to experience demands greater than what it is accustomed to; the body will adapt to these increased workloads, making the task easier when you go to do it next.

Be sure to monitor your progress and change your exercise program as required. The amount of progress your body can make depends on a number of factors; adequate rest periods, regular workouts, adequate hydration/nutrition and your genetic makeup all influence your body ability to adapt to particular types of exercise. It is essential that all progression is gradual and incremental, to prevent injury and potential regression.

Cool down

Post-activity, it is importa nt to complete a cool down that provides your body with an adequate time frame to return your heart rate, blood pressure and core temperate to normal levels (usually 10-15 minutes is suffice). Incorporate both light cardio activity and static stretching.

Muscle imbalance

When designing a strength training program, include a wide variety of exercises to avoid muscle imbalance (ie. where some muscles are far stronger –and usually also tighter – than others). It is important to be aware that muscle imbalance can lead to injuries and joint problems.

Pairing exercises of opposing muscle groups is a good way to avoid imbalance. For example, complete a back exercise (standing row) followed by a chest exercise (seated chest press).

It is best to include both compound exercises (eg. squats) to work the major muscles and isolated exercises (eg. leg curl) to work the smaller muscles. Stretching can also be used to lengthen any over-tight muscles.

Exercise using large muscle groups

The best way to increase your cardio-respiratory fitness is by performing activities that engage a large amount of muscle. Enlisting the support of more muscle groups means that exercise can be maintained for a longer period of time. Full body exercise, like running, cycling and swimming engage large muscle groups.

Nutrition & hydration

To maximise your exercise program and overall preparation, good nutrition and hydration are essential. Refer to the guidelines and resources at for advice about the amount and kinds of foods that promote good health and wellbeing.

The table below lists some recommended exercises to help you train and prepare for the Physical Ability Test. These are specific to each component of the PAT.

Train for the Physical Ability test (PAT)

Tunnel crawl Crawling through playground tunnels, crawling through sand or on grass, bench press, pull-down, bicep curls, seated row, dumbbell flys, tricep dips, bent over rows.
Hose haul Bench press, push-ups, front raises, lateral side raises, hammer curls, close grip pull-down, reverse curls, stress ball squeezes, wrist flexion and extensions.
Hose hold & drag Bench press, pushups, flys, push-ups, lunges, squats, calf raises, hamstring stretches and fitball rolls, sit ups, prone bracing, fitball plank, barbell curls, dumbbell kickbacks, tricep push downs, pull-down, plyometric exercises
Casualty rescue Leg press, squats, leg extension, lunges, calf raises, hamstring stretches and rolls, prone bracing, sit ups, alternate arm and leg raises, back extensions, shoulder raises, lateral arm raises, bench press, bicep curls, tricep dips, pelvic tilts, hammer curls, wide squats, plyometric exercises.
Beam walk Prone bracing, incline sit ups, lunges, squats, calf raises, flexibility exercises and practice walking on beams at a park or playgorund.
Ladder climb Upper body ergometer, squats, lunges, leg press, leg extension, calf raises, chin-ups, bicep curls, theraband wrist flexion & extension, tricep dips and pull downs.

Exercise programming tips

It is recommended that you engage in all kinds of training (ie. both cardio and weight based training).

If you are new to strength training, maximise your results and minimise your risk of injury by starting with endurance training. After four to six weeks, progress to hypertrophy training (useful for building muscle mass), and then max strength training. Use these tables to guide your training program:

Cardiovascular training
Frequency Duration Intensity Type Progression
3-5 times per week 20-60 minutes Moderate – vigorous (60-90% max heart rate) Run, cycle, swim, ladder climb, stepper etc. Increase by 10% every ~6 sessions.
Change duration first, then frequency, then intensity.
Other training types:
Training type Frequency Volume Speed of movement Rest between sets Weight/Load
Endurance 3-5 sets; 12-16 reps Moderate speed, comfortable 10-30 seconds Light-moderate: 12-16 RM .
Hypertrophy 3-5 days per week (all) 3-5 sets; 8-10 reps Slow, particularly when the load is on the way down. Pause with the weight at end range of movement. 30-90 seconds Moderate:
8 -10 RM
Max Strength 3-5 sets; 3-8 reps Moderate-fast. The weight wil.l be heavy;
while you will try to move quickly, the load will move at a moderate pace only)
3-5 minutes Heavy: 3-8 RM .

When you’re able to easily complete two more repetitions on your last set, it’s time to increase your load! Increase by one weight level or load increment at a time. Avoid changing the volume (ie. the number of reps); it’s important to stay within the training variables, no matter what training type you are working on.

For queries contact: Career Firefighter Recruitment
(03) 9262 8249
(business hours)

Before contacting us, please read through the information in this guide and at

 © State of Victoria (Country Fire Authority) 2016

Brent Clayton

After becoming a Firefighter, I developed a massive interest in the Fire Services Recruitment and Selection Processes. I've been working since 2007 to learn everything about how Fire Services Recruitment works. I've tested and refined proven methods to help people get the edge over the competition. Today, over 100 of my former students are living their Firefighter dream.

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