Train Driver Test – To Ace the Psychometric Sections and Assessments
Becoming a train driver is a lengthy and complicated process. Thousands of applicants fail at the initial stage of the process.
If becoming a train driver is your dream, don’t lose heart. This article seeks to inform you of the various stages of becoming a train driver and how you can make adequate preparations to ensure that you pass with flying colours.
Table of Contents
What are the train driver tests?
Becoming a train driver comes with heavy responsibility for the lives of others. Therefore there are extensive pre-employment tests that every candidate must take before they can be a train driver, similar to what we covered in our bus driver test guide. We will dig into what all these are further in the article.
What is the train driver application process?
Here are the four stages applicants must complete to land a job as a train driver:
- Application form and submitting a CV
- Train driver assessment centre (Train driver tests)
- Manager’s interview
- Vetting and medical tests
Stage 1 – Application form and submitting your CV
This stage of the process can have the most casualties, and a very large majority of applicants will fail at this stage. You will be asked to complete your application form online. It will be your first opportunity to demonstrate that you have the key skills and competencies that are crucial for a career as a train driver.
You should provide evidence of your excellent customer service track record. Also, give any evidence of times when you have concentrated for long periods of time or had had to work under pressure.
You will need to make sure that your CV is accurate and up to date with a comprehensive list of your professional achievements to date. These include your employment history, your education and qualifications. It is important to ensure that you are truthful on your CV as you will be asked to refer to it at the interview.
However, it is also wise to make sure you fully understand the skills needed for your new career to make the appropriate links between your work history, experience and existing skill set.
Stage 2 – Train driver assessment centre (Train driver tests)
You will need to have been successful at the application part of the enrolment process before you can move on to stage 2. You will be invited to attend an assessment centre. There are several of these around the UK. You should be able to find one that is not too difficult to access from your hometown.
When you reach the assessment centre, you will be required to undertake a number of psychometric tests, including:
- Concentration tests
- Communication exercises
- Ability tests
- Awareness and recognition tests
- Observational ability tests
- Vigilance tests
- Situational judgement tests
The best way to prepare for these tests, and indeed secure your chance of passing, is to practise and then practise some more. The resources at Job Test Prep can help you to make sure that you are familiar with the format of the tests, the types of questions you may encounter and that you are efficient and accurate enough to ensure a positive result.
The exact tests you receive will depend upon the train operating company to which you are applying. If you fail these tests twice, then you will not be able to take them again — you will be out of the running completely!
Let us look at some of these tests in more detail:
This test could be either a Group Bourdon test or a SCAAT (Safe Concentration and Attention Test) and, as with many of the other tests, depends on the train operating company you are applying to. These tests are designed to assess your ability to concentrate on a mundane task, how you are able to multi-task and how quickly you can switch your focus from one task to another. These skills are obviously highly valued in the role of a train driver.
Group Bourdon test
The test will either be done on a computer or with a pen and paper. You will be given a page that will be covered in groupings of dots. There are 25 different groupings in each row and 21 rows per page. There will be five pages in the group bourdon test. The dots will either be; a group of 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 dots. It will be your task to identify all the groupings of four dots.
One of the most difficult things about the test is that you will only have two minutes to complete each page. You will automatically move onto the next page after two minutes, whether you have finished or not. The whole test will last just 10 minutes. As you progress through the test, you will probably find it harder to maintain concentration. This is clearly the whole point of the test.
The test is marked in three categories. Adequate practice will mean that you know and understand the different variables and how to prepare and practise for them. The three categories are:
Perception and attention – In this section, you are marked against the criteria, ‘omitted’ and ‘ marked incorrect.’ This section evaluates your accuracy in selecting the desired information. It is important to note that you will actually lose marks for incorrect answers.
Speed – Here, you will be marked according to how many clicks you made in the 10-minute time period of the test. You will be given scores for total cells, median cell time, completed rows, mean row time and median row time.
The danger here is that in your desire to achieve a quick time, you may sacrifice accuracy and lose points for every wrongly marked answer. It is very important to achieve the right balance between speed and accuracy.
Vigilance – This section of the marking system will evaluate the consistency of your speed throughout the test. The less your row speed fluctuates, the better.
It is crucial that you adequately prepare for your concentration tests, and you should definitely take the time to increase the length of time for which you can concentrate on this repetitive information. You will not be able to completely eradicate the wane in concentration that will ultimately occur throughout the test, but the more you practise, the longer it will take to reach this point.
Becoming familiar with what the various four dot combinations will look like will help your brain to pick them out more easily. This familiarity will also help you to increase your speed and accuracy as you move through the test, which will ultimately reflect positively on your overall scores.
Very few people get to the end of each page within the two-minute time limit, so accuracy is key. Guessing will not get you to your desired outcome.
Just like the Bourdon test, the SCAAT is designed to evaluate your levels of concentration when working at high speed on routine tasks. The three specific skills tested are:
- Ability to concentrate on a monotonous or repetitive task
- Ability to concentrate on two things at once
- Ability to switch focus quickly and accurately
The test will either be done online or with pen and paper at an assessment centre. The test is different to the GBT because there is no set form to the information you are given. You will be given three sets of three sheets of paper containing shapes and patterns. The patterns may change during the test and they will get harder as the test goes on.
You will have one minute for each page and the test will move on automatically regardless of whether you have finished or not. It is not an expectation that you will finish each page but you will be expected to work quickly and accurately.
You may have more than one task to complete throughout the test.
- On the first page set – identify a target shape each time it appears on a page.
- On the second page set – identify two target shapes.
- On the third page set – identify the target shape and a shape that changes on each line.
Situational judgement tests
These tests are used by many organisations to assess whether or not you will fit in well with the values of that organisation.
During the test, you will be given a range of workplace-based scenarios and asked to identify how you would respond in each given situation. The test is in a multiple-choice format and there is only one correct answer to each question.
The questions will rely on realistic work situations even though they are hypothetical.
They will present scenarios such as:
- Conflict resolution
- Disagreements between colleagues
- Supervisor and subordinate relationships
You will be expected to select your preferred course of action from the suggestions given. Your choice will assess your work behaviours and personality traits. There may also be questions where you are asked to rate the answers from least to most desirable. You may receive questions in written format or in the form of short videos portrayed by professional actors.
These tests are especially favoured where the role is customer facing.
Train driver mechanical test
Once again, this is a multiple-choice test with a given set of answers from which to choose. The test will explore your basic understanding of mechanical concepts and terminology. You will be asked a range of questions about levers, gears and pulleys along with other mechanical processes and how they work.
For this test, you will need to possess basic knowledge of how mechanical devices work around the GSCE level of a pass in Physics. There is a time limit applied to this test and you will usually have around 30 seconds to answer each question.
It is very likely that you will need to at least refresh your memory about certain mechanical concepts. Using the resources at Job Test Prep can help you to do this. You will also be able to practise working to the restricted time frames.
Fault finding tests
These tests do not require any prior knowledge or experience but they will assess your ability to find faults in systems through a logical thought process and the process of elimination.
As a train driver, you may be expected to find and fix faults in electronic control systems, for example, and you will need to apply calm logic to identify and fix such problems. These tests will examine your logical and abstract reasoning skills as sometimes the problems you will encounter in your work life will not always present an obvious cause.
In the test, you will be presented with a range of diagrams used in switches. You will need to determine how the switch operates and find mistakes in the system. The shapes and symbols will be displayed in the form of a grid or flowchart.
Your ability to keep calm under pressure and to solve a problem is a vital skill in your chosen career.
Logical reasoning tests
In these tests, you will be given a series of shapes that are linked together through a particular pattern. There will be a list of options given for the missing shape either within the sequence or at the end of it. The tests will assess your ability to interpret information and draw relevant conclusions through the application of logic.
You will need to find the connection between the shapes and choose the correct option to complete the sequence correctly. Typically there are different categories of logical reasoning skills:
Abstract reasoning is simply another name for inductive and/or diagrammatic reasoning tests. In all of these formats, you will be required to find relationships and rules between given sequences. You will be expected to select either a missing part or the continuation of a particular sequence from multiple given options.
As mentioned earlier, these tests will ask you to make probable conclusions based on a set of information presented in the form of shapes, sequences, patterns and diagrams. It is imperative that you are able to quickly identify the rules and relationships within the sequence in order to select the most logical answer from the multiple-choice options.
In these tests, you will be given a series of word problems and asked to make conclusions from a given range of premises. Usually, there will be a paragraph of text that contains an argument, scenario, or a range of stated facts. A range of possible answers will be listed and only one of them can possibly be true based on the evidence in the text. It will be your task to select the correct answer.
Alternatively, you may be given a conclusive statement and you must decide whether it is true, false, or impossible to say.
These tests are similar to deductive reasoning tests in that they are word-based problems detailing scenarios, evidence, arguments and conclusions.
In the case of a given argument, you will need to analyse the points made and decide which of the yes/no answers applies. Each answer will come with a supporting statement and it will be your job to decide whether the statement is a strong or weak argument.
There may also be questions where you will be asked to make assumptions, inferences and deductions based on the given scenarios and statements.
These logical reasoning tests are used by employers to pre-assess potential candidates prior to the interview stages of the selection process. As a train driver, you will be expected to make decisions, often under pressure and time constraints.
Your ability to use logic to inform your decisions will be a vital skill. Your future employer will want to be certain that you can perform tasks, assess risk and make predictions based on the information to hand and solve problems in a calm and measured way.
Numerical comprehension tests
These tests are used in many different careers and professions.
Once again, the tests will be presented in a multiple-choice format and will assess how accurately you can interpret information given in numerical formats such as tables, charts, number and word problems. Although the answers are there for you to choose from, you will still have to be able to work out the correct answer in order to make your choice.
Verbal comprehension test
As the name suggests, these tests assess how well you can understand and interpret written information. You may be asked to answer questions based on a short passage of text or to complete given sentences. Some train operating companies may present these tests as a ‘rules and procedures test.’
In other questions, you may be given a statement and asked whether you believe it to be true, false, or cannot say. These questions will also be multiple choice. The questions are timed, with just 30 seconds allocated for each question.
When undertaking a career driving a train, it is very important that you possess the right demeanour and character traits needed to deal with such a position of responsibility. Your future employer will want to know how you will fit into the existing team and the organisation as a whole and how you will respond in given situations.
It is important to be yourself during these tests, as it is difficult to maintain a false persona without inconsistencies. But it is also important to remember the ethics of your chosen organisation and the kind of skills required for your chosen profession.
For example, if ‘calmness under pressure’ is a desired characteristic, then declaring yourself to be hot-headed or reactionary may not give a favourable impression. You will also need to think about the way you would react to situations at work as opposed to how you might react during your leisure or personal time, as often these are very different from each other.
Preparation and practice on these tests will help to become familiar with the format and question types. It will help you make the appropriate links between the questions asked, your true personality, and the types of traits that your employer will be looking for.
Train driver-specific tests
In addition to the more generic aptitude tests that you may be required to sit, you may also be asked to complete some more specialised tests relevant to the profession. These may include:
- Rules and procedures test
- Reaction and coordination test
Here is a little more detail as to what these tests will entail.
Rules and procedures test
This test is in two sections and evaluates how well you can memorise important information and then recall it when needed.
Section one – You will be asked to listen to a recording based on a railway topic. After listening carefully, you will be given a set of multiple-choice questions that test your memory about details you have heard.
Section two – This section is a verbal reasoning test where you will be given a passage of text and asked to answer questions about it in a multiple-choice format.
Reaction and coordination test
Being able to react quickly, especially in high pressured environments or situations, is a skill of the utmost importance for prospective train drivers. For this test, you will be given a series of different coloured buttons and pedals. You will be asked to push the correct button or pedal in response to a coloured shape or image shown on a computer screen.
As the test progresses, the speed at which the images appear will increase at an alarming rate. You will need to be prepared in order to keep up and respond quickly and accurately.
Stage 3 – Manager’s interview
It is now common practice for train operating companies to hold manager’s interviews as well as the structured interview that will take place at the assessment centre. It is vital that you are prepared for this part of the process because you will be incredibly frustrated to reach this far and fall in the final stages.
In this interview, you will be asked to provide evidence that you possess the qualities that are required for the role.
Train driver interview
The structured interview part of the recruitment process can last up to one hour. It is during this interview that you will have a real opportunity to impress your prospective employers face to face.
Don’t forget that at this stage, you will be a highly desirable candidate, having passed the other stages of aptitude tests, online application forms and manager’s interviews. It is important that you remain confident in your abilities and are well-practised in what you will say and how you will showcase your skills and talents.
The interview questions you are asked will focus on your skills and competencies, but it is also advisable to research the train operating company to which you are applying. Knowing which routes they may cover geographically, their operating procedures, and the types of skills they look for in their workforce will enable you to prepare your answers carefully and give you an advantage.
Rehearsing your answers will mean that you do not stumble over your words and that you also appear confident and sure of your abilities. You will be asked to give examples of problems that you have solved in your previous work life where you have demonstrated certain skills such as:
- Conflict resolution
- Dealing with customer complaints
- Collaboration and co-operation as part of a team
Using the STAR method when answering these questions is a good way to make sure you stay focused and on topic.
- Situation – describe the situation to which the question refers or that demonstrates the example your interviewer is asking for
- Task – Describe the task that you were asked to perform or the challenge that presented itself
- Action – Describe the action that you took based on the issues you faced
- Result – what were the positive results and impacts of your chosen course of action?
Example interview questions
Possible interview questions that you may encounter could include:
- Why do you want to become a train driver?
- What do you think are the qualities needed to become a train driver?
- Give an example of a time when you have had to deal with a situation of emergency.
- Why did you choose this train operating company?
- Give an example of when you have had to carry out a mundane or repetitive task.
- Are you able to cope with long periods of lone working and how do you manage this?
- Have you ever broken the rules?
- What do you think being a train driver entails?
- Give an example where you have had to work effectively as part of a team.
- Have you ever done shift work?
- How do you think your work colleagues would describe you?
- Describe a situation where you have had to use excellent communication skills to convey an important message to several people in a group.
- Give an example of a time when you have helped a member of the public.
- Describe a time when you have carried out a task relating to health and safety.
You may then be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. It is advisable to have a couple of prepared questions at this stage in case you are unable to think of anything on the day. You can always discard these if they are not needed or a more relevant question occurs to you during the interview process. It is always best to ask at least one or two questions of your own.
Stage 4 – Vetting and medical tests
The role of train driver carries a huge level of responsibility and you will be required to prove that you are able to perform the job safely through a range of medical and fitness evaluations. This will be the last part of the assessment process and once you pass this, then you will be offered a formal invitation of employment as a trainee. You will then enter the training program and begin your journey to become a fully qualified train driver.
Train driver skills
Becoming a train driver is fiercely competitive and vacancies do not appear very often. Therefore it is imperative that you understand fully what is expected from you in order that you present yourself as a desirable candidate. The number of candidates often far outweighs the number of vacancies available.
The main skills required include:
- Good mechanical knowledge
- Ability to concentrate for long periods of time
- Physical stamina
- Ability to work alone for long periods of time
- Good communication and interpersonal skills
- Good hand-eye coordination
- Attention to detail
There is no set level of education required. However, as we have discussed in this article, you will need to be competent enough to pass a range of vigorous aptitude tests. You must be at least 21 years old to drive on the main rail network and 18 years old for the London Underground.
Trainee drivers can earn around £20,000 – £30,000 per annum and qualified drivers can earn as much as £60,000 per annum. Once you obtain your train driver’s licence, it will be valid for ten years.
How long does it take to qualify as a train driver?
It takes around 9-12 months to become a fully qualified train driver, during which you will need to demonstrate an understanding of rules and regulations, mechanical knowledge, route knowledge and around 200-300 driving hours under your belt. When you begin your training, some of this driving practice may be done using driving simulators. You will also be required to complete a PTS – Personal Track Safety certificate.
In summary, a job as a train driver is a position of real responsibility. The application process is long and arduous, but the rewards from this career are many. Competition is high, and you will need to make sure that you put in the time to practise and prepare for the many tests that you will encounter.
Job Test Prep have a comprehensive range of resources designed to mimic the exact format and content of the tests you will encounter in order to make sure you are calm, confident and well-rehearsed.
Practice makes perfect, as they say, and this is no exception! Let Job Test Prep help you to ace your train driver tests and stand head and shoulders above your competitors to secure your dream career!
Train driver selection processes are competitive, and as there aren’t openings for new training drivers very often, you must be prepared to take your chance. Prepare for your train driver online tests and assessments with our range of tailored practice packs.
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.
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.