How to Prepare for British Army Aptitude Tests?
There is a huge range of positions in the army. Many of these can lead to a very fulfilling career for both men and women who join the forces.
The army doesn’t only wage war. Nations need their military to carry out necessary and important civilian duties.
However, while careers in the army can serve you for life, the potential recruit must undergo a rigorous recruitment process and a range of pre-employment tests before being accepted into the ranks.
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What Tests Does an Army Applicant Have to Do?
The range of jobs within the armed forces is large. The biggest task faced by the army is matching the right candidate to the right job. For that reason, there is a wide range of tests available for positions in the army.
The range becomes even wider when you take into account the different branches of the armed forces you may want to work for. You may, for example, be considering working for the RAF, the Admiralty, the Royal Navy, or even for defense forces in another country.
What Will I be Assessed on?
Depending on the role and the department of armed forces you are applying to, you can expect to be assessed on one or all of the following:
- Numerical Literacy
- Verbal Literacy
- Spatial Reasoning
- Technical/Mechanical Reasoning
- Memory/Accuracy/Speed tests
- Critical thinking and advanced reasoning
Even though different areas of the armed forces have their own specific tests, you will encounter overlap in the tests administered.
For example, the British Army use a system called BARB, British Army Recruit Battery when assessing prospective recruits. The Royal Air Force uses their own specific aptitude tests. If your dream job, and if you have the qualifications, is to be an officer, you can expect to undergo the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) tests.
All recruits to the British army are required to take this test. The purpose of the test is to determine if you can take in information quickly and logically. In 30 or so minutes, you are required to complete five tests using a touch screen system.
The test results give the employer a General Trainability Index (GTI) and are used as a guide to decide which role in the army you are the best fit for.
You will be tested on:
- Letter checking
- Number distance
- Odd one out
- Symbol rotations
- Maths and English, only if you don’t have a GCSE score of C or above
Your scores will determine which of the following areas the army will employ you in:
- Combat Troops The results will determine if you work in the cavalry or infantry as one of the combat troops.
- Combat Support A higher score will see you working in Combat Support as a support engineer, in artillery or signals or in the Army Air Corps.
- Combat Service SupportThe highest score you can achieve will see you employed as part of Combat Service Support. Here you may work in logistics, intelligence, the medical division, as part of a general’s staff or even in the music division of the army.
When approaching the BARB test, it is essential to bear in mind that your future army career will depend on your results. To optimise your results, gaining familiarity with the tests and style of questioning is essential. As is learning to work within the time allowed for answering questions.
What Is on the Barb Tests?
Being able to deal with numbers is essential for most roles in the army. Brushing up on your Maths skills will give you a solid foundation for this part of the test. Regular practice will enable you to hone your skills and develop techniques for working faster.
You can expect questions along the following lines:
If we add the number of sides in a hexagon to the sum of its angles, we get?
– The correct answer is B.
What is 0.0039645 to two significant figures?
– The correct answer is D.
Test your skills with this free sample numerical reasoning test.
The literacy test determines if you have standard literacy skills. However, if the test shows your English needs some improvement, the employer will take that as a signal to provide you with English lessons.
Typical literacy questions are along the following lines:
Read the four lines below. Which one has a mistake? (For example, a full stop, a question mark, or a capital letter is missing or in the wrong place).
- He’s sitting in a chair right now.
- John’s dentist is unavailable this week.
- Why aren’t you in school today?
- The doctors wives were invited too.
– The correct answer is 4
As you progress further in the armed forces, you can expect more difficult verbal and numerical tests. To get an idea of the level of difficulty, you can access sample tests through the links.
Tests on symbol rotations assess your ability to mentally rotate images. This will give an idea of your spatial orientation, and you can access sample questions further along in the article.
Passing the BARB will gain you admission to the armed forces, at which point you will be given a role that you are deemed a good fit for. But if you want to advance further, you can expect further testing for the new role. Tests will become more difficult as you advance up the career ladder.
Technical Selection Test
If you are looking for a technical role in the army, you will have to do a technical selection test. This will determine if you have the skills necessary for the role.
The following sample question will give you an idea of the format the questioning takes.
1. The GreatBooks book store is growing very fast. Every month its profit is 12% more than the previous month’s profit. In January, the store made $20500. Which of the following is closest to the store’s profit, in dollars, in May?
Royal Air Force
You may decide you want to upgrade your career to working in the Royal Air Force. To gain acceptance at this level, you will have to do the Airmen Selection Test (AST). This is a battery of seven aptitude tests which is administered at a local Armed Forces Careers Office.
You can expect tests in:
- Verbal Reasoning
- Numerical Reasoning
- Spatial Reasoning
- Electrical Comprehension
- Mechanical Comprehension
- Work Rate
- Flight Simulation
The spatial reasoning test assesses your ability to think about objects in 3D and draw conclusions with only limited information. The test assesses your mental ability to visualise the relations between objects and to rotate shapes in your mind.
You may, for example, be given an image to memorise and then questions to answer on your memories of the image.
To get a feel for what you are likely to encounter on this assessment, try your hand at the following question.
Attempt to memorise the image, then cover it and answer the following questions on locations in the image. Where is the kitchen located? Can you remember the locations in the image where you saw people?
The Work Rate Test
This test requires you to do twenty questions in 4 minutes — speed is of the essence. The test, which may be a new experience for many applicants, assesses your ability to work in a calm, efficient and organised fashion as you carry out complex tasks.
You will be given a grid with each column on the grid containing sequences of numbers, letters and symbols. Then you will be given twenty different codes and allowed 4 minutes to decipher them.
Thorough preparation for similar exercises is essential before doing the real test. Not only will you have to hone your answering skills. You will also have to train yourself to do the test in the limited time available.
The Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is another division of the armed forces that has its own distinctive assessments.
As well as the numerical and verbal reasoning tests we have seen already, you will also be asked to do Inductive reasoning and Mechanical comprehension tests.
The Inductive reasoning test assesses your problem-solving skills using non-verbal and non-numerical questions. You will be asked to look at sets of objects and identify the rule at work in a pattern.
Your task will be to identify what set of shapes should come next in the pattern. The following question is typical of an inductive reasoning question.
Here is a next-in-series question. The figures in the top row follow a certain pattern. Which of the answers in the bottom row do you think comes next?
To test your inductive skills further, try the following free sample deductive reasoning test.
The Mechanical Comprehension Test
This test is exactly what the title suggests, a look at your ability to understand the workings of mechanical equipment. You have probably gained mechanical skills already. To see how well you remember them, try the following free mechanical reasoning test.
The Army Officer Selection Board Tests (AOSB)
These are the tests where basically everything happens. Getting to be an officer, as you might expect, is tough.
You can expect to do numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning tests as well as memory tests and to do them under intense time pressure.
Expect to do two days of physical and psychometric tests in the AOSB Briefing and a further three to five days of mental, physical and leadership tests at the AOSB Main Board.
For many applicants, a personality test is probably the most challenging. To do well in this test, you need to have a very clear idea of the type of personality the armed forces envisage an officer to have.
Regular practice on sample personality tests will teach you how to present that personality in the test.
Another factor to bear in mind is it is your workplace personality that is being assessed.
For example, an officer is expected to remain calm in difficult situations. Try the following question and decide which answer gives the best impression of a competent army officer.
Question: Please indicate to what extent you agree or disagree with the following statement.
To get a headstart on preparing for a personality test, try the following free test.
How Do I Prepare for the Army Tests?
Given the range of options available and the corresponding range of tests, if you are considering a career with the armed forces, your best course of action is to enlist the services of a job test preparation company.
For this, we recommend using Job Test Prep, a company with over thirty years of experience in preparing job applicants for the pre-employment testing process.
You can depend on them to give you accurate information about the recruitment procedures for the job you are seeking as well as accurate test preparation materials.
They will supply you with a test prep pack with sample papers modelled on the real tests. It includes a useful method of checking your scores as you complete the tests and helpful explanations for questions and answers as well as useful study guides.
Using their system, you are working on papers similar to the real assessments from the get-go. You can approach the real tests confident you are not going to encounter unpleasant surprises.
To get an idea of the type of test they give you, try your hand at this free sample numerical reasoning and graphs test.
What Tests Should I Practice?
This will depend on which branch of the army you are applying for and which country’s defence forces you are going to be involved in.
With that decision made, have a trawl through their website to get a better understanding of what they will be testing you on and order the relevant test prep pack. If you are applying for more than one role, you can also ask for an all-inclusive test prep pack.
In this article, we will discuss the BARB, the basic entry test for recruits to the army, as well as the more advanced tests that follow as you climb the career ladder.
Today’s armed forces present a wealth of opportunities for the ambitious man or woman.
If it is your ambition to win one of those opportunities, you will find all the resources you need to ace the pre-employment process here.
Written by Elizabeth O Mahony
With 25+ years’ experience as a teacher and state examinations corrector, Elizabeth now writes for the education and careers industry. Her experience preparing students for examinations and running an academy for supplementary education give her invaluable insights into what it takes for job seekers and graduates to succeed in assessments.
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.