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What is Deductive Reasoning? by Brent Collins

Deductive reasoning measures your ability to apply general rules or regulations to specific situations. You will be presented with general Fire Department rules and regulations and then asked to apply them to specific situations.

Deductive Reasoning is the opposite of Inductive Reasoning. Deductive reasoning starts with a general statement. In Deductive Reasoning you go from the general statement to a particular fact or conclusion.

The Deductive Reasoning questions on the firefighter exam will not be such a rigid exercise in logic. They will deal with situations more complex than the neat world of geometry. But the Deductive Reasoning questions will follow the basic pattern of going from general statements to conclusions. In the ’fact pattern’ or ’stem’ of the question, you will find the general statement. It will be some kind of rule. The answer choices will be specific actions. One of them should be a valid example of how that rule would be applied in a concrete situation. For instance, the question could state a general rule that fire trucks should not be positioned so close to a fire that they could be damaged by flying debris or heat from the fire. The question might then give a description of a fire and tell you what direction the wind is blowing towards. Then the question may ask you what side of the fire the truck should be farthest from. In evaluating the individual answer choices, you should be asking yourself, ’Is this an accurate example of the general statement?’

When answering questions like these, pay attention to any limits or exceptions to the rule. The rule may be in effect only at certain times or under certain circumstances. For instance, a rule might apply only when there are several fire trucks at a fire scene. Or a rule might apply only at night, not in the daytime. And watch out for exceptions. A rule might apply to most firefighters but not to those assigned to certain duties, e.g., all firefighters might be required to wear a uniform, but fire marshals might be an exception. A rule might apply all the time but still with exceptions, e.g., a rule might forbid using the fire truck to go out to purchase food for the meal in the firehouse but it might be allowed to stop for food on the way back to the firehouse from other duties. So, you need to be asking yourself:

1. Are there are limits to when the rule applies?

2. Are there any limits to who is covered by the rule?

3. Are there any authorized exceptions to the rule?

If there are limits or exceptions to rule, you may find them highlighted by certain words in the question. The usual key words to denote exceptions to rules are: except, unless, and if or when... Circle or underline these key words when you are reading rules.

Apart from authorized exceptions stated in the question itself, do not make exceptions. Your task is to apply the rule, not to question it or excuse anybody from following it. In picking answer choices, apply rules rigidly.

As far as the firefighter exam is concerned, Deductive Reasoning is somewhat similar to Information Ordering. But Information Ordering has more to do with following, in proper order, step by step procedures. Deductive Reasoning is more the ability to recognize a correct concrete example of a general rule.

Additional Strategies:

1. Pay attention to steps which may be taken in definite order.

2. Pay attention to when the rule or procedure is enforced.

About the author:
Brent Collins is currently Assistant Fire Chief, Cleveland Fire Department and President of Don McNea Fire School. He is a very generous and helpful person and is always available to help with your goal to become a firefighter. Visit his website for more information on test taking strategies and advice.


3. Pay particular attention to any exceptions.

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