All About the CPAT Tests

5 Steps to Understanding the CPAT

CPAT or the Candidate Physical Ability Test examinations are a set of indoor exercises designed with the primary aim of testing a person's aptitude for a career in firefighting. Developed by the Task Force, and conducted by the California Firefighters Joint Apprenticeship Committee, the CPAT is a test of international standards. The candidates taking the CPAT are assessed by a panel of experts with profound knowledge and practice in the testing areas.

All about the CPAT in 5 Steps

Let us understand all about the CPAT in 5 simple steps:

  1. Registration

    In order to appear for the test, one has to register on its official website. Registration for this examination can be done on The registration application, , can also be downloaded, filled, and sent to the address mentioned in the registration details of a candidate. Registration information is not accepted over telephone.

  2. Schedules

    The CPAT can be taken at regional test centers. Preparation is a time-taking process, as one has to pass through a couple of stages prior to attempting the CPAT. The first stage is the Orientation, which consists of 2 tests that need to be taken 8 weeks before taking the CPAT. Each of these tests is of 1 ½ hours- 2 hours duration. The Orientation is chargeable. One has to appear for Practice tests in the next stage, which is conducted 30 days before the CPAT. This test consists of a couple of timed tests, which are also chargeable. After clearing the Orientation and Practice test rounds, one becomes finally eligible for taking the CPAT. More information about the test schedules can be found here:

  3. Testing Areas

    CPAT consist of 8 types of physical fitness tests: Stair Climb, Hose Drag, Equipment Carry, Ladder Raise, Forcible Entry, Search, Rescue Drag, and Ceiling Breach and Pull. More information can be found at

  4. Preparation

    The preparation for the test starts from the Orientation stage, in which one is made familiar with the apparatus and exercises. One can assess one's suitability for this test by trying out the exercises with the given apparatus. Expert coaches are involved in the Orientation process. The official preparation website offers a preparation guide, which discusses the physical fitness requirements for CPAT, fitness training endurance programs, exercises to warm up, and the significance of maintaining the body fluids. It offers a downloadable preparation guide.

  5. Taking the CPAT

    The tests are all based on physical exercises of different kinds. There are no paper and pencil tests in this series of examinations. There are eight testing areas and each of these tests have to be taken in a sequential manner, with each of the event being interspersed with a brief walk of about 20 seconds to allow the examinees to relax between the events and organize themselves for the next event. Each of the CPAT events is timed, by using primary and backup stopwatches. If a candidate does not complete the test by the time the timer stops, he/she is disqualified in the examination.

    The examinees have to wear the costumes and weights, which firefighters wear, for this test, as they have to take the test in an environment that simulates the actual firefighting scenario.

The Different Tests

The different tests require the examinees to have good cardiopulmonary and muscular endurance, and good muscular stamina.

Here are certain processes that have to be observed by those appearing for the tests:

  1. Hydration and warm-up- The examinees are made to drink adequate amounts of water before, during and after performing exercises. They are also asked to perform warm-up exercises.

  2. Knee- to -chest exercises- These exercises are to be performed 2-3 times, and staying in the exercising posture for 10 seconds. Different types of knee-to-chest exercises have to be performed by the examinees.

  3. Leg-cross- Different kinds of leg- crossed exercises are required to be done. Each exercise has to be repeated 2-3 times, and the exercising position should be maintained for 10 seconds.

  4. Stretches- Different types of stretches such as side quadricep, butterfly, straddle, cross-over, calf, upper-back, chest, triceps and forearm are done. As in other exercises, each stretch has to be repeated 2-3 times and the exercising position should be retained for 10 seconds.

Exercising Principles of CPAT

The tests are based on the following exercising principles:

  • Adaptation- According to this principle, the human body can take increasing load of physical exercise based on certain factors, such as, regularity of performing exercises, nutrition, and genetic constitution.

  • Overload- This principle is based on the principle that the term "overload" implies exercising more than the amount a person usually does, but not the maximum effort that a person can put. It is generally fixed at 75 percent more than the usual exercising effort of a person.

  • Progression- According to this principle, exercise overload must be done in small amounts to make the body adjust to increasing amounts of exercising in a gradual manner, so that it gets adequate time to recover.

  • Specificity- According to this principle, when the body is tuned towards a particular exercise, it will not be able to adapt to another exercise. Hence, for taking part in CPAT, a candidate should take training in adapting his/her body to different types of exercises.

  • Overtraining- This refers to the exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient rest between exercises.


Persons wanting to take CPAT, and eventually a career in firefighting need to have robust physical health. Hence, the tests are most often recommended for persons with an athletic lifestyle than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.

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