Could You Pass a Park Ranger Exam?


By: Teresa McGlothlin

6 Min Quiz

Image: narvikk / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Although being a park ranger sounds like a relaxed and easy job, it's one of the most in-demand positions and one of the most difficult ones to obtain. While there is no specific study required to be a park ranger, those who have studied ecology, biology or wildlife management are often the most prepared. Still, there is a litany of things from every field that you must know to pass the exam. 

As we go through this exam, we are going to touch on everything from conservation to wildlife management. Then, we're going to ask you about your public relations skills, your ability to do math, and the things you remember from biology class. There are more parts of a ranger exam than many other federal or governmental tests, and you should be as prepared to encounter nearly anything as you are to encounter an angry bear when you're on patrol. 

We have taken the liberty of digging up 35 challenging practice questions from a park ranger's exam, and we're curious to see how you'll do. Put on your hat and lace up your boots. You might struggle as much as being on a hike to the top of the fire tower, but we think you'll do great. Are you ready to find out? 

If a plant or animal is not native to an area, what term is used to describe it?

Whether rangers are talking about nonnative plants or animals, they are talking about an invasive species. The onset of an invasive species can cause a lot of ecological damage or completely eradicate species that naturally grow in an area.


Park rangers often work near bodies of water - what is the term for the study of inland waterways?

Park rangers often work near and participate in the conservation of inland waterways. The name of the study of inland waters, their drainage systems, and their ecology is limnology.


You've located a park visitor who has fallen out of a tree - what is the first thing you do?

When park visitors become lost or injured, park rangers are often the first point of contact. During their emergency training, they learned that the first step to rescuing is to immobilize the victim.


How old do you need to be to become a park ranger?

Though some junior ranger positions employ seasonal workers of many ages, to become a full-blown park ranger, you must be at least 21 years of age. It varies from state to state, but 21 is the recommended age.


What might initially indicate that a tree is infested with termites?

Park rangers spend a lot of time checking the health of the trees in their assigned areas. Even in the woods, termites can be a major problem. The first sign of termite infection is strange wood shavings at the base of the tree.


2x + 4 = 12 - can you solve for x?

x = 4. You may wonder what math has to do with being a park ranger, but you might be surprised. From solving visitor problems to measuring the growth of trees, park rangers must be able to pass a mathematical portion of a ranger's exam.


Which sort of park ranger keeps visitors informed about parks and updated on weather?

While most park ranger positions require a bachelor's degree, the position of interpretive ranger often requires less schooling. Interpretive rangers do not venture deep into forests. Instead, they keep park visitors educated and informed.


Be careful where you step - how would you identify a patch of poison ivy?

In order to identify poison ivy, you must look for the "leaves of three." Poison ivy has one large leaf with two smaller leaves growing off to the side. It also changes color throughout the year, so you can never count on the color to identify it.


Can you correctly choose the number one threat to public parks and lands?

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the number one threat to parks and public lands is the outbreak of wildfire. With climate change affecting the weather, more wildfires have taken place in U.S. national parks in the last five years than ever recorded before.


Which US state has the biggest issue with invasive species?

In the United States, they are many different invasive species. However, Florida is the state that claims the most. In Florida's case, the invasive species of many different snakes have been released into the wild by negligent pet owners.


Do you know how many acres of open land are lost every day in the US?

The U.S. Forest Service reports that nearly 6,000 acres of open grasslands, forests and swampland are lost every day. With cities expanding, the loss of open space is considered a major threat to ecological systems of public lands.


Park rangers must know how to identify many different animals - which animal is not considered a small game animal?

One of the most important parts of a park ranger's job is monitoring local wildlife. The types of wildlife vary from park to park, and park rangers often have a background in biology, ecology or wildlife management.


Rangers must know the territory they are serving - how many acres are in a square mile?

In order for park rangers to adequately monitor the landscape of their designated area, they must be good with land measurements. Every park ranger should know that there are 640 acres in one square mile.


If trees needed to be removed in a public area, what letter would you use to mark them?

To encourage new forest growth, trees must be strategically cut down from time to time. Rangers are often responsible for marking trees for removal. They mark them with spray paint and the letter X.


Do you know what type of ranger works for the Department of the Interior?

Some park rangers also function as members of law enforcement. These rangers, called commissioned rangers, have received specialized training, and they are employed by the Department of the Interior.


If you encountered a rattlesnake on your path while patrolling, what should you do first?

Park rangers face many dangers on the job. From unstable landscapes to natural predators, they must watch every step. If you were to encounter a rattlesnake while patrolling, the first thing you should do is stop moving and locate the snake.


What is the name of the agency that oversees wilderness areas?

Founded in 1905, the United States Forest Service is the agency that manages wilderness areas. In total, the United States Forest Service oversees 193 million acres of grasslands and wilderness.


If you wanted to test a body of water's current status without much equipment, what sort of sample would you take?

If you wanted to quickly test the current status of a body of water, you would take a grab sample. Park rangers are often responsible for monitoring water quality. If you needed to do repeated samples, it would be called a composite sample.


You need to know a lot about plants to pass a ranger exam - how do plants get the majority of their nutrients?

Many park rangers have a background in biology or botany. They are constantly monitoring native plants and invasive species, and they know that the soil is the biggest source of nutrients for anything they find growing.


Which former US president was a park ranger?

Out of 45 US presidents to serve the country, only one of them was a park ranger. In 1963, Gerald Ford served as a seasonal park ranger at Yellowstone National Park. He was elected as president in 1974.


Where would you locate the pectoral fin on a fish?

Although not all park rangers are responsible for managing fish populations, most rangers must possess knowledge of an area's local types. If you were monitoring fish, you would note the pectoral fin which sits on the top of the fish.


What year did the US Forest Service hire its first female park ranger?

Not always an inclusive organization, the US Forest Service began allowing female park rangers starting in 1918. The first female ranger is named Claire Marie Hodges. It was 22 years before the next female park ranger was hired.


What is the first thing you would tell park visitors about bears?

Visitors to any national park might be excited to encounter many sorts of wildlife including bears. As a park ranger, it is your job to advise visitors about bear safety. The first thing you would tell visitors is to never feed the bears!


Rangers must be able to communicate with law enforcement - which law enforcement word is spelled incorrectly?

Park rangers and law enforcement work very closely together. As part of a ranger's exam, you must know how to correctly spell a few words you might use when communicating with law enforcement. Here, the word arson is spelled incorrectly.


When someone enters a closed park, what is the name of the legal offense?

After wilderness areas and parks have closed, usually around dusk, it is considered trespassing to ignore the signs and enter the park anyway. Park rangers are responsible for asking trespassers to leave or for contacting law enforcement.


If you wanted to save a tree from being cut down, how would you mark it?

When you are indicating that a tree needs to be cut down, you will mark it with the letter X. If you want to spare a healthy tree, you would mark each side of the tree with a dot around the size of a golf ball.


Park rangers come from many different fields - which field is defined as the study of the way organisms interact with their environments?

Park rangers have diverse backgrounds ranging from hospitality to biology to anthropology. One of the most popular fields for park rangers to study is ecology. It's the study of the way organisms interact with their environments.


If you needed to defuse an angry situation at your park, what is the first step?

Often times, park rangers are called up to defuse angry or tense situations between park visitors. According to the crisis management training they receive, the first step to calming things down is to listen to the issue.


Biology is a big part of a park ranger's job - do you remember what is the most basic unit of life is called?

Think all the way back to high school biology class, and you'll remember that the most basic unit of life is the cell. Many park ranger duties include taking notes with biological notation, and those old facts from school could come in handy!


A young visitor at the parks asks you if fish ever sleep, what do you say?

In addition to a litany of other duties, park rangers serve as educators and ambassadors to the visiting public. Any good park ranger would know that fish do sleep, but they do not have eyelids to close.


Which program allows artists, geologists and others to reside in public lands?

People without the qualifications to be a park ranger can submit to the National Parks Residency Program. The program allows alternative fields of study to reside in the parks for a short period of time.


Do you know which fish is considered the most invasive?

Although there are many different sorts of invasive fish, the Asian carp is listed as number one. Asian carp are a big issue because they are predatory, and they often scare away or destroy native species of fish.


How many years of schooling do you need to become a park ranger?

It does vary from position to position, but most park ranger jobs require a bachelor's degree. Each state has a different requirement for training or experience, so it's important to check with your specific state.


During the dry seasons, where do park rangers spend a lot of time?

During fire season, many park rangers will be put on the lookout for wildfires. From the fire tower, they have the highest vantage point in their park. Wildfires are the number one threat to parks, and being in the fire tower is a serious duty.


Park rangers do a lot of calculations - what does 4(2) - 3 + 6 equal?

4(2) - 3 + 6 = 11. If you take an official park ranger exam, be prepared to do a lot of math. Even on the job, rangers are constantly measuring and calculating everything from land mass to visitor needs.


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