We teach you the tips and tricks that have worked for other people taking our Foundation course - now updated with one extra BONUS tip (scroll to the bottom to see)

10 December 2018 by Mark Stubbs, FIA Trainer

If you or one of your staff is going to take one of our fire detection and alarm Foundation Qualification Pathway courses, then the following tips will give you a head start in passing that examination.

First things first, let’s chat about the fire detection and alarm qualifications and the purpose of them.  They are designed to give people the opportunity to gain a high-level knowledge and understanding of the topic areas of fire alarm design, installation, maintenance, or commissioning. 

The Qualification Pathway units are not the sort of thing that you can just rock up to, partially pay attention to whilst yawning and scrolling through your Facebook feed, and then expect to pass.  First off, phones are not allowed during the examination, and second – anyone taking these courses will need to focus 100% of their attention on the information provided during class (and before class – more on that later).

The Foundation course, in particular, is a vital part of gaining a qualification in any of the specialist areas mentioned above.  After all, you can only book the subsequent units of the qualification after a pass has been achieved in the Foundation.  It is the gateway to all the other units, so as such, it really is important to pass this part of the qualification, else learners simply won’t be allowed to progress through the Qualification Pathway.

To stand a good chance of passing the Foundation Course and moving on to the other qualification units, follow the advice below and make it your go-to reference whenever you or a staff member is headed to the classroom.

Consider bookmarking this page so you can send it to colleagues or employees, or simply bookmark it for yourself if you’ve booked yourself in for our Foundation Course.  Alternatively, print it out, stick it on the noticeboard, hand it out at staff meetings – whatever you need in order to make it clear how important these steps are (and help you remember them).

So without further ado, here are our top tips for success:


Book a course well in advance
Give enough time to prepare for the class. In these classes, we don’t give ‘homework’ after class, because it is already too late – we expect learners to come to class having done all our pre-learning tasks already.

Allocate plenty of time to not just look at the pre-learning materials, but to study them and to have some understanding. Booking a course at the cut-off date of one week in advance is not likely going to be enough time to do this, so try to book a course that is at least a month or six weeks in advance to give you, or the person booked onto the course, the best possible opportunity to study and pass first time.

This is especially true for the Foundation Course, where learners have told us that they passed because they spent a lot of time studying at home before class!


Use the pre-learning materials provided

Of course, we can’t force anyone to do our free pre-learning materials, but we cannot stress it enough just how important it is to study BEFORE attending class.

We hear it a lot when we ask for feedback – learners who went through all of the pre-learning materials (the videos and PowerPoint presentations) were successful because they said they spent a lot of time studying these.

We recommend watching the videos, pausing them to make notes, rewinding and watching again for sections that perhaps didn’t quite make sense the first time, and replaying them as many times as possible before attending class – just to make sure that the information is in your mind, ready for the exam.

To find the pre-learning materials, visit the Foundation Course page and look at the list of links to the pre-learning videos. It is important to use all of them as each one covers an area that is in the exam.

However, for your ease and convenience, here is the full list of pre-learning materials:

Fire Safety Law
Fire Science
Third Party Certification
Passive Fire Protection
Fire Detection & Alarms (Part 1)
Fire Detection & Alarms (Part 2)
Fire Detection & Alarms (Part 3)
Fire Detection & Alarms (Part 4)

The fire detection and alarm qualifications are theory based, so yes, that means a lot of time reading.

You will need to revise using your course manual before taking your exam. For those that are a bit out of practice: revision means not just reading over the information, but making notes, highlighting sections, re-reading parts, and memorising information (try saying it out loud multiple times until it sinks in and you can say it without looking at the page).

The Foundation Course is 2 days long, with the exam on the second day – usually after lunch. That gives one and a half days to absorb the information, which, when you think about it – is very short. For that reason, we 100% recommend doing revision after Day 1 of the course. Those that revise after class is over usually do a lot better than those that don’t.

A word of warning: failure to revise effectively may end up in a failed result.

We can’t guarantee, but those that have passed the Foundation course always tell us that they revised and tested each other after class.

Ultimately, the thing to remember: REVISE, REVISE, REVISE.

Watch this revision video in combination with your reading of the course manual for greater success:

FD&A Revision Session 

Read the question TWICE

The exam is on a timer – but don’t let that scare you. You have plenty of time to read the question twice and decide on an answer.

The first time you read the question, just read it to get a basic idea in your mind. The second read-through should help you spot any key pieces of information or key words or phrases within the question. Those key pieces of information that you’ve picked out should help you choose the correct answer.

If you’re faced with a question you really don’t know the answer to, skip it and come back to it – you may find that the answer will come to you as you progress through the questions.

BONUS TIP - Try our Access to Foundation course

If you're in need of a confidence boost, or perhaps you think you're not quite ready to take the Foundation course exam just yet, then consider taking our Access to Foundation course.  To be clear, it is NOT a part of the qualification, but a one day training course to give you an extra chance to do some   learning around the subject of fire detection and alarms without taking a formal examination.  The course doesn't go into the full depth of the Foundation Course, but it does give a good overview that will leave you feeling more prepared before you start on the Qualification Pathway.

Find out more about Access to Foundation >> 

These 5 tips should help ensure that you – or whoever you have booked onto the course – is successful in the qualification pathway examinations. 

Sign up to our e-newsletter for more advice like this, and our Training Newsletter for Foundation Course dates across the UK.


This blog was origanally published October 2018, and has been updated and revised following the release of the Access to FD&A Foundation course.