Comprehensive Guide to Mastering the BARB Test 
The ‘BARB’ test is essential in qualifying to serve the British Army, and slots into a 48-hour formal assessment period.
But what actually is the BARB test? What is its purpose, and how can you prepare?
In this article, you will find a comprehensive guide to the ‘British Army Recruitment Battery’ – also known as the BARB test!
By measuring your cognitive capacities such as problem-solving under pressure, the BARB determines your aptitude for various roles in the army. I will explain:
- What the BARB test is
- The purpose of the BARB test
- The 5 Test Sections
- Must-know strategies for your BARB preparation.
Let’s get right into it!
Table of Contents
Understanding the BARB Test
The British Army Recruitment Battery is a test that is sometimes also known as the British Army Cognitive Test (ACT). As the name suggests, this assessment tests cognitive capacities.
What is the purpose of the test?
Overall, the BARB serves two recruitment purposes: filtering out ineligible candidates, and matching eligible candidates to suitable roles/ divisions.
First and foremost, you must pass the BARB test to continue your application to the British Army.
The minimum passing score is a score of 26, and the maximum score to give you eligibility for any army division is 60.
Assuming you pass, the purpose of the test is to determine which Army roles suit your abilities. Scoring highly on the BARB will give you more roles to choose from.
To qualify for junior and senior infantry positions, your minimum score must be 26/34.
To qualify to be an Aircraft technician or Metalsmith, your minimum score will need to be at least 48. Check out all the roles and minimum scores here.
What should I expect on testing day?
Let’s dive into what you should expect on test day!
The BARB test lasts for 30 minutes, and is taken on a computer at an Army Assessment Centre in your area.
There are five test sections: Reasoning, Letter Checking, Number Distance, Odd One Out, and Symbol Rotation. I’ll go through each of these in detail:
There are 12 questions that test logical reasoning/ critical thinking. This includes (but is not limited to) abstract reasoning, deductive and inductive reasoning.
Here is an example of a logical reasoning problem (deductive-style reasoning):
Premises: All surfers love the ocean. Everyone who loves the ocean doesn’t litter.
Deduction: All surfers do not litter.
You may be asked to select an answer from four multiple-choice answers.
The best way to prepare for the reasoning section of the test is to practice this style of logic puzzles. Head to our logical reasoning test guide to find out more about practicing for this section.
Useful Starting-Point Resources:
- Read our other aptitude test success guides here. (Numerical, verbal, etc.).
There are 12 letter-checking questions in the BARB and these test fast perception.
This section is simple. You are shown four pairs of letters, and you must quickly identify how many of the pairs have the same letter.
These questions repeat, and you should try to answer them as quickly and as accurately as possible.
aA db Hh il
aA and Hh should be selected.
The number distance section contains 20 short numerical puzzles. The aim is to prove that you can work accurately and rapidly with numbers.
Sets of three numbers are shown, and you must select the highest and lowest number as well as which of these high and low numbers are numerically the furthest from the middle number.
0.567, 21, 87
Furthest from middle: 87
This is an easy section of the test to study for. Get a friend or family member to flashcard sets of numbers at you to answer from, or even use a random number generator to practice!
Odd One Out
The Odd One Out section of the test – also with 20 questions – has a mixture of analytical puzzles. You have to select the odd word out from a group of three.
Words: running, swim, jumping
Answer: Swim (the present tense as opposed to the present participle)
Words: banned, ran, jump
Answer: Jump (missing the long ‘a’ sound)
Words: anthology, Jacob, London,
Answer: Anthology (not a proper noun)
Words: toaster, spoon, blender
Answer: Spoon (Not an electrical appliance)
As you can see, there are a variety of odd-one-out analytical problems to answer.
You should focus on learning to answer these questions quickly because this is a test of analytical speed as well as accuracy.
The 12 questions in this section of the test are exactly as the section title sounds!
You will be tested on your ability to rotate symbols in your head. For many applicants, this is the hardest test section. Spatial reasoning can be more complicated than you would expect.
Here is an example from the JobTestPrep website:
How many of these two pairs (columns) contain the same shape?
As you can see, some of the shapes have been rotated (the left pair involves a rotation), whereas some have been flipped (the right pair has been mirrored). 2 of the 2 pairs therefore contain the same shape.
- Practice and prepare. The best way to improve your odds is to practice for each of the 5 sections. You can purchase professional practice tests online, but getting into some intellectual games can also help. This could include sudoku, crossword puzzles, scrabble or Rummikub, and newspaper puzzles.
- Practice under time pressure. Time your practice attempts, because the BARB has 80 questions to answer in 30 minutes. Each question should take a matter of seconds (NOT MINUTES) to answer.
- Remember that practicing will be most effective with quality test materials! You should seek information about who writes the practice tests from the supplier. This is a reasonable request; don’t feel as though it’s unnecessary or pushy!
- You can practise CEB / SHL tests here
- You can practise Kenexa tests here
- You can practise Saville tests here
- You can practise Talent Q tests here
- You can practise Cubiks tests here
Useful Starting-Point Resources
- Get hold of a practice BARB test here.
- You’ll find our Numerical Reasoning Test and Verbal Reasoning Test guides very useful for BARB test preparation.
Like taking any exam, doing practice tests for the BARB test is crucial if you want to come out on top of the army jobs selection process.
What Is Included in This BARB Test Guide?
We’re going to cover a lot of ground in this British Army Recruit Battery test success guide. We will help you prepare for the British Army recruitment process as well as help you separate yourself from potential recruits that are also vying for different army roles.
What Happens Before the British Army Recruitment Test?
In a moment we’ll look in detail at the different elements of the BARB test itself. Before we do that, let’s quickly cover the things that need to happen before you take the British army test.
Before you can sit your BARB test, you must visit your local British Army Careers Centre or you can visit the army website, create an online account and submit an application form.
After completing your health questionnaire, if all goes well, you’ll be invited back to the British Army Careers Centre to take your British Army Test.
The rest of this article will focus solely on the BARB test, but for a broader understanding of the army recruitment or assessment process check out this useful video.
Where Will I Sit for the BARB Test?
You will take your BARB test at your local Army Careers Centre.
How Long Does the BARB Test Take?
The British army test is a timed test. You have 30 minutes to complete the exam.
How Is the List of Suitable Roles Calculated?
This list is calculated by the computer and is based on your test performance: the number of correct answers in the aptitude test and how long you took to answer the timed questions. How well you did in the British army test is indicated by your General Trainability Index (or ‘GTI’) score.
What Score Do I Need to Pass the BARB Test?
You need to get a minimum score of 26 to pass your army BARB test. The GTI score required for each role varies, but the highest score for any role is 60.
What’s the Secret to Passing the BARB Test?
Remember, the British army test measures not just your ability, but the speed for you to supply the correct answers. The ‘secret’ to performing well in the BARB test is practice.
Practising will not only show you what to expect but it will improve your speed. Practice will make you feel more confident and in control even with the time limit. If you take only one thing from this guide it should be this: taking a variety of practice tests is essential.
Note the word ‘variety’. There’s several tests available out there, you should try a wide selection.
Where Can I Find Practice BARB Tests?
This practice BARB test is a great place to start. It includes a practice BARB test, plus some great tips so that you can obtain a high GTI score.
Remember: The better a candidate’s score is, the more army jobs they will be able to choose from.
What Happens if I Get a Bad Score?
You will either fail the BARB test and your application will be over, or you will have a very limited range of roles that you can apply for.
What Happens if I Do Well in the Test?
If you get a great score, we promise you that your eligible job list will have so many roles you won’t even have heard of some of them before. (There’s TONS of roles in the army) It will provide you with a real opportunity to go away, reflect and research any of the more obscure roles and see what they involve.
It’s all about giving you the most choice. It is also worth pointing out that you only get one chance at this. You cannot go back and re-sit the BARB test if you’re unhappy with your results.
How to Get a Passing GTI Score
Let’s get into the specifics and look at the test in detail.
What’s Included in the Army BARB Test?
The BARB test has five different types of questions:
- Letter Checking
- Number Distance
- Odd One Out
- Symbol Rotation
Let’s look at each one in turn.
BARB Test – Reasoning
This part of the BARB test is a logical reasoning test and assesses your ability to think critically. Read our Logical Reasoning Test Guide to learn more and to fully prepare in this area.
The BARB test will present you with sentences in regard to the relationship or details of two people. You will then be presented with a question, based on the information you read.
For example: John is shorter than Peter.
This information will then disappear from your screen, so take care to remember it. The question could then be, Who is taller?
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s not so easy when it is a timed question. And remember that speed is vital and that you are being measured against all the other candidates. You need to be moving through these questions at a high pace if you want to get top marks.
Of course, you need to be careful as well as working quickly can easily lead to mistakes due to incorrectly read questions. This could result in getting a final score that does not even meet the minimum score required for the recruitment process.
Because of the expectation to do well in a short amount of time, it is best to be familiar with taking an aptitude test. Taking many practice BARB tests can really help.
BARB Test – Letter Checking
This area of the BARB test will see how quickly and accurately you can conduct ‘checking tasks’ in your head.
- Expect to be presented with four sets of letters.
- Each set will be encased within a rectangular frame and will have two letters – one on top of the other.
The aim of this section is to identify how many of the sets contain the same letters. They will be a mix of upper and lower case letters.
Again, looking for the same letter seems a simple task but answering these tests at a tight time limit can easily lead to you making a mistake.
BARB Test – Number Distance
This element of the army BARB test will analyse your speed and accuracy when carrying out numerical tasks in your head.
Three numbers will be presented on your screen. The first task is to quickly identify the smallest and largest number. The focus here is on speed. Your second task is to indicate which number is furthest from the remaining number and that is the number that you will select for your answer.
Our Top Tip: Practise until this almost becomes second nature to you. It’s possible to get to the point where you will be able to do this in the blink of an eye – all you need to do is plug away and practice, practice, practice. It’s really is as simple as that.
Practising can be boring, but focus on the reward. Keep that long role list in the front of your mind and imagine how elated you will be when you walk away from your BARB test with a whole host of exciting job roles to choose from.
Focusing on this, the reward for a successful outcome will help you to stay disciplined and keep you motivated to practice every day before your BARB test.
BARB Test – Odd One Out
This part of the BARB test judges your ability to spot the odd one out. The army recruiters want to know that you can interrogate information and quickly draw the correct conclusions.
Three words will appear on your screen.
Let’s use these as an example: SEAT – SING – CHAIR
Your task is to see which two words are related in some way. In our example, SEAT and CHAIR are related to each other. This means that the word SING is the odd one out. You will have to select the odd word as your answer, not the related words. In answering this part of the British army cognitive test, you need to know which ones are related to each other in order to come to the right conclusion.
As with all parts of the BARB test, your speed is as important as the correct answer. Getting 100% correct will mean nothing if you take ages to answer! You must get your speed up. Remember, practise, practise, practise.
BARB Test – Symbol Rotation
This final part of the British army test will measure your ability to mentally rotate objects, quickly and correctly. For many people, the symbol rotation test is the toughest among all the tests.
When answering the exam, you will see two pairs of shapes, each contained within a rectangular frame. You will need to decide how many of the pairs (if any at all) contain the same shape.
3 top tips for this section:
1) Of course, we want you to practise! Just like for every other section of the British Army Careers Centre Test. It is the only way to improve your speed.
2) Try this. Take some shapes (try the letters ‘F’ and ‘L’) and write them on a piece of paper. Turn them around in your mind, and get your brain used to seeing what they look like when rotated. It sounds crazy, but it will help.
3) Watch out for this: They throw in shapes that are mirror images of each other. At first glance, and if you are working quickly, they look identical but they will never fit together. And that’s basically what you want to be constantly asking yourself during this exercise: How many pairs would fit on top of each other perfectly if rotated?
What Happens When I Have Completed My BARB Test?
You will get instant access to your GTI score straight away. As long as you have reached the minimum score of 26 points, you will receive your list of suitable army job roles to take away and research.
You will also need to sit your numeracy test and literacy aptitude test before going on to your Army Assessment Centre.
2 Pieces of Essential Reading for You
- You should check out our verbal reasoning guide here.
- You should check out our numerical test guide here.
Example BARB Test Questions
You can find a practice British Army Careers Centre test on the army website here.
This video by Richard McMunn is brilliant. It includes lots of advice and example questions for the British Army Test.
We hope you found this free British Army Careers Centre test guide useful and we wish you the best of luck with your future career and your British Army Careers Centre test!
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1. How Hard Is the BARB Test?
The Barb exam is a challenging test that assesses your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The test measures a person’s cognitive abilities.
The BARB test has a maximum score of 60. To pass, you need a score of at least 26, which is required for any army role. Aim for the highest score possible to acquire more job options.
2. What Is Army Cognitive Test?
The Army cognitive test is a computerized assessment used to measure a person’s cognitive abilities. The test is designed to help the Army identify recruits who are best suited for specific military jobs.
3. Is the Army Cognitive Test Hard?
In reality, there isn’t much of a learning curve for the Army Cognitive Test. The time constraint, on the other hand, makes it a challenge to achieve a score high enough to allow all positions to be filled. Making the most efficient use of your time is absolutely essential. You’ll need to be well-prepared if you want to do well on this test, which has 200 questions and 45 minutes of testing time.
4. What Do I Need to Bring to the Army Assessment Centre?
Clothing for the interview is an important consideration. The interview should be treated as a formal job interview, and your attire should reflect that fact. A neat shirt, suit, tie, or elegant pants/skirt and shoes are all that is required. Be sure to pack enough amenities (including a towel) to last the length of your stay.
5. What Test Do You Have to Do to Get Into the Army?
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, is required for all applicants. The ASVAB is a comprehensive battery test designed to identify the military careers for which a candidate is most qualified.
This article has covered what the BARB/ACT test is, its purpose, and what to expect going into your BARB.
My final advice is to keep a good attitude towards this short, important exam.
We know it can be disheartening to feel cognitively assessed. However, remember that this test comes early on in the whole application process!
Above all, you need to keep a positive outlook as you prepare as well as after the test. Your chances of success skyrocket with preparation and self-belief!
Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.