group bourdon test

How To Prepare for Group Bourdon Test? – Ultimate Study Guide with Practice Sheets

Last Updated on September 3, 2022

If you are hoping to become a train driver, you will have to take several different tests, including the Group Bourdon test. As being a train driver involves being responsible for the lives of others, the test is rigorous and can be difficult to pass.

But if the test is coming your way, don’t stress. With the proper preparation, you will soon know what to expect from the test, as well as how to stay calm and pass with flying colours. Read on for an in depth guide on what the Group Bourdon Test is, what it involves, and the best ways to prepare.

What is the Group Bourdon Test (GBT)?

The Group Bourdon Test or GBT is the primary assessment used for applicants wishing to secure a career as a train driver. It is sometimes known as a dot test and is used for jobs where you are required to concentrate for long periods of time.

As a train driver, concentration for your safety and that of your passengers is crucial. Potential employers will want to make sure that you are up to this highly responsible role.

The test assesses your visual perception, concentration, and how careful you are. These are skills that you will need to use all of the time for jobs such as train driving, no matter how routine your role may become over time.

A low score in the test indicates that you are more likely to do something called SPAD (Signal Passed At Danger). SPAD basically means passing a red light at speed, and this is, of course, a very undesirable trait for a train driver.

The focus of the test is on the capability of the applicant to concentrate and identify a pattern from a given set of patterns. There is a strong emphasis on both speed and accuracy. The parent set of patterns is often deliberately repetitive and therefore can prove overwhelming. The test is not carried out on a computer.

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Is the Group Bourdon Test hard?

The GBT is a highly challenging test that is taken under very strict time constraints. It will definitely catch out any candidate who is unprepared for the test.

GBT is not like any other tests and it has the largest number of failures amongst its applicants. Job Test Prep can provide you with the resources to ensure that you are not one of those failed candidates.

What is the application process for becoming a train driver?

Typically there are four stages to the application process:

1. Application form

This is the first stage of the process. Surprisingly, the vast majority of applicants actually fail at this stage. The form is completed online. You should take time to demonstrate that you possess the competencies and qualities that are vital to the role.

Providing evidence that you have given high-level customer service or that you have been able to use prolonged concentration or worked in pressurised conditions will greatly help your chance of going through to the next stage of the application process. You will also need to submit an accurate and up-to-date CV, giving full details of your qualifications, education and work history.

2. Assessment Centre

Once you have passed the application form stage, you will be invited to attend an assessment centre.

Here you will be required to undertake a number of psychometric tests, including:

  • Concentration tests such as the Group Bourdon Test
  • Communications exercises
  • Ability tests
  • Awareness and recognition tests
  • Observational ability tests
  • Vigilance tests
  • Situational judgement tests

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3.  Manager’s Interview

It is now expected that all train driver applicants will be expected to sit a manager’s interview. This is in addition to the structured interview taken at the assessment centre. During this interview, you will be asked to prove that you possess the qualities and skills required to secure the role.

4.  Medical Tests & Vetting

You will undergo medical and fitness assessments to ensure that you will be able to carry out your new role safely.

If you are successful at all four stages of the application process, then you will receive a formal offer to enrol on the trainee program before qualifying as a train driver.

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What qualities does the role of train driver require?

The role of train driver is a safety-critical role, and there are strict guidelines and rules in place that must be observed. Train Operating Companies will want to ensure that they only employ people who take the safety role seriously.

So, what skills are they looking for?

  • You should be capable of maintaining high levels of concentration for lengthy periods.
  • You may also have a number of customer service responsibilities, for example, using onboard PA systems to keep travellers informed and maintaining good customer relations.
  • Your role may also require a certain amount of flexibility and the ability to respond to a change in circumstances calmly and logically.
  • You will be working as part of a team that may involve many members from ticket staff to caterers, and you will be assessed on how well you collaborate and work harmoniously with others to achieve the common goal of providing excellent rail service.

If you are asked questions about previous experiences or asked to provide examples of when you have demonstrated specific skills, you should remember to use the STAR method:

S – Describe the SITUATION you were involved in (be honest here as it is easy to become unstuck if you tell a lie)

T – Explain what TASK you had to perform and also any tasks that others had to undertake.

A – Describe the ACTION you took (include any actions of others in your team too). Try to use examples of when you took action on your own initiative rather than through instruction.

R – Explain the RESULT of your actions and the positive outcomes they produced.

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What is the format of the Group Bourdon Test?

The GBT consists of five adjacent boxes arranged in twenty-five columns. Each box within the columns holds a set of dots arranged in patterns of three to six dots. Working from left to right through each row, you will be asked to cross out any boxes that contain a pattern of four dots.

You will work through one page at a time and will be allowed just two minutes per page. If you do not complete the page within the two-minute time frame, you are forced to move on to the next page.

As with similar tests, there is a practice section at the beginning of the test paper. However, it is not advised to leave your practice until the day of the test; chances of success will be very low.

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How can I pass the GBT test?

Know the format

The test may appear to be quite simple upon initial inspection, but the sheer quantity of boxes containing almost identical patterns can very quickly play tricks on your eyes and your brain. It is essential that you are familiar with the visual format of the test and that you have had lots of practice to interpret the data quickly and accurately.

You only have two minutes per page, and this means that there will be no time to go back and check your answers or to make any corrections. The more the test goes on, the harder it will be to concentrate. Preparation to improve your concentration and stamina will give you an advantage here.

Time the test well

It is unlikely that you will be able to finish all the rows on a page within the allotted time, so it is vital that you have rehearsed your timings. It is reported that very few people actually complete the whole test. Knowing that you take half of one second to scan each box in a row, for example, means that it will take you approximately 15 seconds to check all 25 boxes.

You only have 120 seconds to complete the page, so it would be much better to make sure to find the four dot patterns and get every answer right for seven or eight rows than attempting ten rows and making mistakes in six of them.

Practise, practise, practise

The more you practise, the better your brain will become at scanning and processing the information given. The more times you do the test beforehand, the quicker you will be able to scan entire rows. The four dot patterns should start to really stand out from the other similar patterns, but this will take dedication and lots of preparation on your part.

You will need to be able to focus and concentrate, but over time, you should definitely start to see your practice test scores improve. Knowing what the patterns of dots will look like in advance of the test, and being really familiar with the different patterns you could encounter, will give you a better chance of passing the assessment.

Making sure that you scan from left to right and mark your chosen cells immediately will ensure that you save time and maintain accuracy. It is not advisable to finish the row and then make your mark, but you should only move to a new row once the current row is finished. Practise the test under timed exam conditions each time to ensure that you are adequately prepared.

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How is the Group Bourdon Test marked?

The test is scored under three categories with a number of marks for each category. Knowing the different variables of the score report will help to prepare you and also enable you to understand what you need to practise.

Category one – Perception and attention

In this section of the report, there are two parts — targets omitted and those marked incorrect. These sections look at the accuracy with which you spotted the required information. The marked incorrect section is equally as important because you lose marks for wrong answers.

Category two – Speed

This section will calculate how many clicks you made in the 10 minutes of the test. You will receive scores for total cells, mean cell time, median cell time, completed row, mean row time and median row time. The scoring in this category suggests that the quicker you do the test, the better. However, it is important to remember that you also lose marks for incorrect answers.

Category three – Vigilance

In this category, you are assessed on the consistency of your speed throughout the test – that is, how your times fluctuated from row to row. In this category, you are aiming for the lowest score possible.

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In summary

The role of train driver is a secure and well-respected career, but competition for jobs is fierce, and the application process is arduous. Train Operating Companies are duty-bound to ensure that their assessment processes are rigorous enough to ensure that they find and employ only the very best candidates in order to maintain high standards regarding public safety and customer service.

Job Test Prep can provide you with the resources and practice tests you will need to make sure that you are successful. The GBT is definitely not the kind of test that you will ‘fluke.’ Failure rates are high, and being well prepared will be your best chance to outshine your competitors and secure your perfect career!

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Written by Karen Stanley

​​Karen is a former teacher of 20 years and ten times published author. She writes content for educational organisations and businesses, nationally and internationally. She coaches new and budding writers through to publication and is passionate about creativity; she runs creative writing workshops in schools and fostering agencies.

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