July 27, 2009

A good question about FDNY test questions

Here's a Commenter's question about the Fire Department of New York hiring exams ruled discriminatory in Vulcan Society:
"I have a friend who tells me the test is simply a "dumbed down" version of the SAT with no prior knowledge of firefighting and related topics necessary. At the same time I keep hearing "fire buffs" are skewing the scores for "everyone else." There's a definite disconnect here."

The explanation is that you can pass the test (which you can see for yourself here) in one of two general ways:

1. All the information needed to answer the questions is in reading passages directly above the questions. So, anybody with good reading comprehension can walk in cold and pass the test. For example, here's the question on p. 6 that the New York Times considered to be a smoking gun of "Racial Bias:"
17. Which one of the following portable power saw blades must be put out of service?

A) A carbide tip blade missing nine tips.
B) A carbide tip blade with three broken tips.
C) An aluminum oxide blade measuring 12 inches.
D) A yellow silicon carbide blade measuring nine inches.

Well, I certainly didn't know the answer to that question off the top of my head. However, I could have answered it by reading the 250 word passage on the same page, which includes the sentences:
A saw blade must be put out of service (OOS) and sent to the Technical Services Division when the blade becomes worn or damaged. Carbide tip blades must be put OOS when eight or more tips are missing or broken.

And then I could use Math Skills to recognize that nine missing tips is more than eight missing tips, so I would choose A).

2. If you aren't that good at reading comprehension, you can study ahead of time and learn much of the material asked about so that your poor reading skills won't be a problem. (That's one of the reasons the New Haven reverse discrimination victims chose Frank Ricci as their lead plaintiff -- he's dyslexic, so his reading skills aren't that good, but he just studied hard before the test.)

However, if you are bad at reading and you aren't interested enough in the vocation of firefighting to learn a lot about firefighting ahead of time, well, then, you probably won't do well on the test, much to the outrage of Judge Garaufis and the New York Times.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Holy crap, this is worse than I could ever have imagined.

Anonymous said...

Have you noticed the silence over at Slate regarding the recent court decisions and Gates?

Usually, they are able to muster a smug fog of self-righteousness to get themselves to their preferred opinions and to make each other feel warm an superior. Lately, though, it seems that Ricci, Gates, and Vulcan are so obviously indefensible that they don't even want to try. Its just too embarrasing.

It reminds me of when Juanita Brodrick told us that Clinton raped her -- there was dead silence because there was no answer -- they just hoped it would go away. Feminism (remember feminism?) effectively died the day feminists went silent about Juanita. Perhaps something similar is happening now. No one really believes any of the lberal cant on race anymore.

This means that Sparky Obama is just another brain-dead, screwed up race hustler without enough spine to even gently move the issue forward. All those well-meaning guilty whites who voted for him because he would begin to acknowledge the obvious must be very quietly disappointed.

This is also very similar to what happened after the OJ verdict. All the well-meaning people just went quiet. They had reached out for decades to blacks, and a black jury couldn't even convict a bload-soaked black murderer. Too decent to riot, the quiet people just quietly moved away -- the chasm was too large -- blacks couldn't even convict OJ.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the best way to end this disparate impact nonsense is to take it seriously and apply it to all enthnic groups. How long do you think it would last if it were applied to Jews as well, so that any university student body that was more than 3% Jewish would be deemed to have discriminated against non-Jews?

Anonymous said...

I've taken (and passed) 4 multiple choice NYC Civil Service tests, none of them for uniformed services. They were all essentially tests of reading comprehension and reasoning ability. You did not need to know anything specific about the work required in any of those civil service titles to pass any of those tests. All the specifics were given in the questions, just like in the saw blade question you quoted. This seems to be DCAS's style (DCAS is the NYC Dept. of Citywide Admin. Seervices).

By the way, a large percentage of non-uniformed civil servants in NYC are "provisionals". They hold their titles even though they haven't passed any tests. I know people who've been provisionals for 20 and 30 years.

A few years ago there was a lawsuit concerning these provisionals in the town of Long Beach on Long Island. This lawsuit resulted in a ruling which said that municipalities in NY State should get rid of provisionals and that all civil service positions should be filled through tests.

There have been a lot of discussion between DCAS, NYC agencies and the unions about how to comply with this decision. Being a civil servant, I get most of my news about this from union literature. My union is accusing DCAS of wanting to create new education-and-experience tests in order to go around the Long Beach decision and to avoid firing long-time provisionals. There have always been some education-and-experience tests (which are not tests at all, but simply forms in which you list your past work experience). Now they want to create more of them and simply switch provisionals into those new titles.

Years ago my entire work unit of 9 people went to take a multiple choice test for the title in which we all worked at that time. I was already permanent (i.e. test-certified) in a lower, but related title. Two of my co-workers were permanent in lower, but unrelated titles. The others were "pure provisionals" (they hadn't passed any tests before).

I was the only person from our unit who passed that test. Some time afterwords "The Chief" (NYC's civil service newspaper) published a notice saying that 8 people would be hired from the civil service list for our title to replace 8 provisionals in my agency. Since our unit was the only one in our agency that had people in that title, my co-workers got scared. At least according to "The Chief", they were going to be replaced by people from the street who passed that test.

In the end nothing happened. No one was replaced by anybody. The poor chumps who walked off the street and passed that test didn't even know they were robbed.

Anonymous said...

In the end nothing happened. No one was replaced by anybody. The poor chumps who walked off the street and passed that test didn't even know they were robbed.

Being hopelessly naive here...

Would not the solution be for these provisionals to take the relevant tests then? If they already did the job they should have some hope of passing.

Anonymous said...

"Would not the solution be for these provisionals to take the relevant tests then? If they already did the job they should have some hope of passing."

Well, many have taken the tests and failed them. Also, the tests measure reading comprehension and reasoning ability, not anything specific to the titles. Having worked in the titles does not prepare one for the tests. Why? Well, the descriptions of non-uniformed titles tend to be pretty vague. People in the same title often do a wide variety of jobs. It would be difficult to create title-specific tests for such titles.

Steve Sailer said...

Los Angeles County has online examples to help you study for its general purpose civil service hiring exam for non-uniformed employees.

About half the questions seem to involve correctly calculating your own pay: e.g.,

"Jose makes $578 per week. He receives a 5% raise. How much will he then be making?"

My guess would be that civil servants would prefer not to work with other civil servants who constantly complain that they are getting gypped out of their pay because they are too stupid to operate a calculator correctly.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I'm not going to be the first one to say this and furthermore I know that I'll come across as an asshole for saying it but I got the answer within a few seconds of looking at the question before I looked any further (I kept the rest of the page below the scroll).

If we're putting something "out of service" then it must have hitherto been in service so C and D clearly make no sense. As for choosing between A and B, well, I just pictured it and thought about it. Despite never having touched a power saw, common sense didnt show me any reason why B would be more dangerous than A. In fact, imagining the scene, it was obvious that A would cause the tool to break down quickly in the battle between saw and substance. So...A

Anonymous said...

If you're not good at reading comprehension and are unmotivated about your job, would Judge Garaufis or the New York Times offer you a job? I wonder...

-Victor

Anonymous said...

I remember reading about the “progressive era” of government back at the beginning of the twentieth century when the progressives fought against the patronage system and demanded that government workers should be hired by using objective testing. Now the “progressives” are fighting against the testing system and demanding that people be hired because of patronage.

Of course the progressives never made much progress in places like Chicago where knowing the right people and being of the right ethnic group was always the path to hiring and promotion in government.

DJF

Anonymous said...

"I remember reading about the “progressive era” of government back at the beginning of the twentieth century when the progressives fought against the patronage system and demanded that government workers should be hired by using objective testing. Now the “progressives” are fighting against the testing system and demanding that people be hired because of patronage."

This seems to be the inevitable path of "progressives". All they demand is "change", so no matter how much of their agenda is enacted they will eventually return to rebel against it. "Progressive" is just a convenient euphemism adopted by the malcontents of each generation.

Anonymous said...

My observation from Oklahoma City is that what the "Fire" Department really does is try to beat EMSA (the ambulance service) to the scene of medical emergencies.

If I were to guess, the department responds to more medical than fire emergencies.

At least two of the four member company jumped right into evaluating the patient and gathering information for the emts.

Any test should cover this part of being a firefighter. If medical professionals are assumed to need intelligence by judges, then Fire Department should qualify for the right to give iq tests.

Kent Gatewood

Billare said...

There really can be no doubt in a case like this. The New York Times is either deliberately lying or being deceitful by reporting the story the way they did.

I'm really not really sure anymore how much of the Left's consistent obfuscation is well-meaning or rather conspiratorial.

Reactionary said...

I find this really troubling, because there are many counter-intuitive procedures in the trades that require higher g intelligence, not just quick reflexes or brute strength. With fire, for example, every instinct in us screams "Throw water on it!," or "High ground!," when very different responses might be called for.

If you tried to pilot a plane by instinct and fast-twitch reflex, you'd be nose down headed toward earth in very short order.

"Disparate impact" will literally be the death of some of us.

Anonymous said...

Am I right in assuming that these (firefighter) tests were once much more aimed at people who had learned the subject? And furthermore that their current set-up, with passages including the answers (reading comprehension), are themselves a more recent innovation geared towards the issue of disparate impact?

Anonymous said...

This seems to be the inevitable path of "progressives". All they demand is "change", so no matter how much of their agenda is enacted they will eventually return to rebel against it. "Progressive" is just a convenient euphemism adopted by the malcontents of each generation.

Nope. It's about "Who? Whom?"

~Svigor

Anonymous said...

Reactionary sez:
"Disparate impact" will literally be the death of some of us.



Welcome to recently "liberated" South Africa. Whites are dying in some of the hospitals due to them having been forced to staff most of their jobs with blacks. My mother had a kidney infection after an overnight medical checkup. They told us later the lab staff has been ethnically cleansed of whites and the black girls don't bother much with disinfecting the urine pipes. In the old South Africa such a thing was unheard of.

Half Sigma said...

The test is clearly a disguised general aptitude test (there are math questions, reading comprehension, and logic questions of the type found on the LSAT), not a test of firefighting knowledge.

Not saying that's a bad way to promote firefighters (a fire can be viewed as a logic puzzle requiring reasoning ability to figure out the best way to extinguish the fire and prevent injury or death), but the test is what it is.