Four Questions to Help You Succeed In EMT Class

I was searching around on Twitter today for tweets using the acronym “EMT”. I was struck by how many EMT students were discussing their current trials and tribulations with EMT class on twitter. EMT students talk with each other about EMT class differently than they talk to me about it. Perhaps because I’m the instructor they downplay how difficult the curriculum can be.

Maybe they don’t want to be honest and show vulnerability to me since I also evaluate them on test days. Or perhaps they don’t want to seem like the class is to much for them. I talk with students about my views on the current EMT curriculum. If it were up to me the class would be longer and more in depth. This could make them reluctant to admit when they are overwhelmed.

I know EMT class is hard. I watch my students struggle through it. I remember. Most EMT students have never been asked to absorb that volume of information in such a short time frame. Since I do quite a bit of tutoring for the class, I also get a lot of one-on-one time with the students who need extra help. Some will eventually pass. Some will fail and I’ll have to have a hard conversation with them about the future.

I’ve come to some conclusions about which students are more likely to pass and which will likely fail. Failure is predictable. Sometimes I’m wrong, but not often. When a student sits across the table from me and hears the hard news that they will not meet the standard to pass the class, I can usually point to one of four key areas where they failed.

If you are contemplating EMT class or if you are already going through an EMT program, here are four questions to ask yourself to help you predict you probability of success.

Is this a realistic time for me to do this?

You don’t have to do everything right now. Some folks attempt EMT class at the worst possible time in their life. I’ve had so many conversations with struggling EMT students who are also going through major life challenges outside of their EMT studies. I’m not certain why people wait for these major life upheavals to decide to become an EMT.

If you are going through some major life challenges right now I feel for you. But 16 weeks of intense EMT study will not fix the other stuff. Your study will only further complicate your pending divorce, childcare crisis, financial woes, legal battles and family moves. Work on that stuff first and then when your life becomes more stable, tackle the EMT thing. It will still be there when you’re ready. 

Am I committed to do whatever it takes?

For most students, EMT class is formatted and delivered in a manner different from any previous educational experience. While the content isn’t terribly hard to comprehend (when taught well ;-)) the sheer volume of information is unusual. Students who don’t stay on top of their studies in the first half of the class can get crushed trying to play catch-up in the second half. A poor midterm score is an ominous sign.

I can’t predict everything your EMT class will ask of you, but I have a fair idea. Are you willing to do it all? Are you willing to put in long nights of study? Will you pre-read the chapters. Will you review your notes until you have a firm grasp of everything that was presented? Will you make the big stack of note cards and drill yourself over and over? Will you ask for help if you need it?

None of this is hard if you’re truly committed. The difference between the highest scoring student and the lowest is rarely a matter of intelligence. It is a matter of effort.

Have I eleminated discouraging influences?

When you chose the path of emergency services you’ll probably find may of your friends and family supportive of you. Don’t be surprised if some are not. Some folks who are close to you may feel threatened by this new commitment. Careers in emergency services place unusual demands on our lives. Don’t be surprised if you find stumbling blocks being thrown in front of you by some of those closest to you.

Discouraging influences can come in many forms. From the loved one who references your past educational failures while flipping through your thick EMT textbook to the spouse who encourages you to quit the class at the first sign of a low test grade. Perhaps it’s the friend who pressures you to come along on a night of bar hopping before your big test or a confidant who tells you that you’ve changed.

Acknowledge that these people love you and they are afraid of how this life change is going to effect your relationship with them. Reassure them that they are still important to you and tell them about the crucial role they are playing in supporting you. But don’t let them steer you from your path. It’s OK if the relationship needs to be uncomfortable for a while. This is about your growth and development. Stand firm.

Am I preparing to succeed?

It’s funny how we always seem to be waiting for something to happen before we can start proactively moving toward our future. I’m waiting for the class to start so I can start learning. I’m waiting to get my EMT textbook to start reading. I’m waiting for my acceptance letter so I can start arranging my schedule.

Start preparing for success right now. Start studying now. No syllabus? Start with the DOT EMT curriculum. No textbook? Start with the internet. No schedule? Start talking with babysitters anyway. People who succeed prepare to succeed. It’s no accident. You can start doing things to prepare for your EMT class right now. Right where you are. Stop waiting for that next thing and start moving toward your future.

I’ll see you on the other side.


  1. Another question: do I have the skills to be an effective student? If not, where and how can I make sure I have the:

    1) reading speed and comprehension suitable to the EMT text

    2) note taking method to listen to the instructor, write down important points, and learn from later

    3) time management to set blocks of time for studying that are free of distractions (music, friends, phone calls, text messages, etc)

    Just some ideas

  2. Great points Greg. All things worth adding to the preparations list.

  3. Thank you so much. I am very excited. I know I can do this!! I have total faith in myself. My husband and kids are 100% behind me. I couldn’ t do it without their support. Thank you for the info!!

  4. I am almost finished with my EMT class right now..Our state test is at the end of the month. I am very nervous because I didn’t do all the reading I needed to do in the beginning and I’m finally just getting caught up with you’re definitely dead on when it comes to keeping up with your reading and studying ALL the time. I have no doubt that I can pass this, but I could be doing better than just passing if I would have tried this hard from the start.

  5. I’m reall nervious to start I have a compherantion issue and things are very hard but I have a lot of will power

  6. Thank you for this, I’ve been known to play catch up in a lot of classes, mostly in high school. But, I’m totally committed on studying and preparing for EMT classes. I’m going to be applying soon. 🙂