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How to Pass the RAF Aptitude Test

Updated 23 June 2021

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What Is the RAF Aptitude Test and What Is Its Purpose?

The RAF Aptitude Test, or Airmen Selection Test (AST) as it is often known, is a bespoke aptitude test designed to assess new recruits applying for the Royal Airforce.

The test comprises questions from seven aptitude tests, all of which are featured in more detail in this article.

If you’re applying for a non-commissioned personnel role like Airman, Airwoman, Air Traffic Controller/Officer, Weapons Systems Operator or Aerospace Battle Manager, you will have to sit this test.

However, the purpose of the test is to assess your abilities in different areas and identify the roles you would be strongest in – even if you don’t know it yet.

The RAF has a huge workforce with many different job roles; you might think you know the trade you want to pursue in the forces, but the aptitude test is designed to give you some other options so that you can make the best decision based on your personal strengths.

A lot rests on this test, so performing well is crucial.

How well you do in the test will largely determine your future career. Your results will influence whether you can do the trade you set out to do, and where you will be allocated for your placement.

RAF CBAT vs RAF AST

There are two types of tests for RAF applicants. Which one you take will depend on the position you are applying for.

Non-commissioned personnel will take the AST, whereas commissioned roles – like pilots or intelligence officers – will take the CBAT.

Here are the main differences between the two:

RAF CBAT RAF AST
Taken at RAF College Cranwell, Lincolnshire, UK only The test is taken at your nearest armed forces career office (AFCO)
Comprises 15 or more tests depending on the role you are applying for (which trade). Heavy emphasis on assessing your natural ability in different areas – like short term memory and mental math. Comprises seven different aptitude tests: Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning, Spatial Reasoning, Electrical Comprehension, Work Rate, Memory, and Mechanical Reasoning

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Format

There are a total of 148 questions split over seven categories. You will have 90 minutes to complete as much of the test as you can; you will not lose marks for wrong answers.

If you don’t understand something, feel unwell or need assistance of any kind, attract the attention of the test administrator by raising your hand.

The seven different parts of the test are:

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning part of the AST comprises 20 questions.

These usually start with passages of text, followed by questions on what you have read.

The Verbal Reasoning section is assessing your English comprehension skills and your ability to reason when the problem is presented as text (rather than numerically or visually).

Example Verbal Reasoning Question

High-visibility jackets are bright outer garments used to alert people to the wearer’s presence. This is either to protect the wearer of the high vis, or the people in the vicinity of that person. High-vis jackets are often worn in the workplace by those putting themselves or others in danger, such as highways maintenance personnel, parking attendants and construction workers. In some instances, people also wear high-vis jackets in their leisure time, for example, horse riders, cyclists and runners.

Highways maintenance personnel are required to wear high-vis jackets

Is this statement:

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot say

The answer is: ‘Cannot say’.

Even though you know that highways maintenance personnel must wear high-vis jackets, you can only go by what you are being given in the passage of text.

The text clearly states that high-vis jackets are ‘often’ worn by highways maintenance personnel; this is not confirmation of the fact that these people are required to wear them.

Numerical Skills

The Numerical Skills section includes basic arithmetic (12 questions) and data interpretation (15 questions).

You will have four minutes to complete the first section and 11 minutes to complete the second section. You will be provided with a pen and paper.

Your workings will have to be handed in at the end of the test, but they won’t influence your marks in any way.

Example Numerical Skills Question

A man earns a monthly salary of £2,450; his monthly outgoings are £1,200. How many months would it take him to be able to buy a motorbike costing £3,400?

A. 2 months
B. 3 months
C. 6 months
D. 4 months

The answer is: B. 3 months.

Subtracting the outgoings from the monthly salary will give the amount left over each month:

£2,450 – £1,200 = £1,250

Dividing the cost of the motorbike by the monthly amount left over will give the number of months needed to be able to afford the motorbike:

£3,400/£1,250 = 2.72

The amount is more than 2, so he still won’t have enough money after two months.

Therefore, the answer is 3 months.

Work Rate

Work rate questions ask candidates to find the rate of work using information that is usually missing key details.

Some work rate questions are quite straightforward, whilst others test your arithmetic knowledge.

Here are two examples of the types of work rate questions you might be given in your AST. One straightforward question, and one more difficult question that you would only be able to answer if you knew how to multiply fractions and had a basic grasp of algebra.

Example Straightforward Work Rate Question

Which could be a possible code for 752?

RAF Aptitude TestRAF Aptitude Test

A. @&*
B. YGB
C. Y&B

D. YKG

The answer is: D.

It is the only sequence that follows the same pattern of characters that have been specified.

Example Difficult Work Rate Question

It takes four hours for Pump A to fill a swimming pool with water. Pump B used alone takes six hours to fill the same swimming pool. I want to use three pumps; A, B and a third, Pump C, to fill the tank in one hour.

What would be the rate of Pump C? How long would it take Pump C alone to fill the tank?

Answer:

The first task is to find out the rate of each pump. You can do this by finding how much of the swimming pool would be filled in one hour.

  • Pump A = 4 hours, so the rate would be 1/4 swimming pool/hour
  • Pump B = 6 hours, so the rate would be 1/6 swimming pool/hour

Then we look at C. We don’t know how long C takes, so we use 𝑥

Pump C = 𝑥 hours, so the rate would be 1/𝑥 swimming pool/hour

So we know that:

1/4 + 1/6 + 1/𝑥 = 1 full swimming pool

(If the question was asking you to use all three pumps to fill the tank in two hours, you would still find the rate of one hour, and then multiply that rate by 2 for each pump to give the result of one full swimming pool.)

1/4 + 1/6 = 6/24 + 4/24 (to get this, multiply on a diagonal; multiply 1 and 4 by 6, and multiply 1 and 6 by 4)

To get the answer to 6/24 + 4/24, add 6 and 4 together, and keep the bottom number the same.

= 10/24 (simplify this as 5/12)

So, 5/12 + 1/𝑥 = 1

1 − 5/12 = 7/12 (you work this out by saying there are 12 ones in a whole, so if you take five of them, it leaves seven, or 7/12)

1/𝑥 = 7/12

12 × 1 = 12, and 7 multiplied by 𝑥 = 7𝑥

So 7𝑥 = 12

And

𝑥 = 12/7 hours

𝑥 was the number of hours it takes Pump C to fill the swimming pool. Change it to a decimal by dividing 12 by 7.

Therefore the answer is: It would take Pump C 1.7 hours to fill the swimming pool.

The rate would be 1 on 1.7 hours, as a fraction of the tank per hour.

Spatial Reasoning

Spatial reasoning tests your 2D and 3D orientation skills. In the first part of the test, four minutes are allocated for the 10 questions on 2D orientation, reconstructing broken shapes into whole pieces.

The second part of the test features 3D shapes viewed from different angles.

The questions include having to decide which of the shapes remain unchanged in their structure despite looking different due to the angle and selecting the correct 3D shape for a particular net. For this part of the test, you are given three minutes.

Example 2D Shapes Question

Which answer option is created by joining the corresponding letters together using all of the three shapes below?

RAF Aptitude TestRAF Aptitude Test

The answer is: C.

You should look at which side the letter is on and how each shape will look when it is manipulated to be at that angle. Look for distinguishing features on the shape and work out the change in position based on clockwise or anti-clockwise motion.

Example 3D Shapes Question

Which 3D shape can be made from the 2D net?

RAF Aptitude TestRAF Aptitude Test

The answer is: D.

Look at the positioning of the shapes and where they are in relation to each other. The secret to this kind of question is to practice quickly visualising different 3D shapes from all angles.

Electrical Comprehension

There are 21 questions in this section and you have 11 minutes to answer them.

The questions are the same difficulty level as you would find at GCSE level, so to be in with a good chance of answering the questions, revise GCSE physics concepts.

Example Electrical Comprehension Question

Which list correctly describes the three basic particles that make up an atom?

A. Neutrons, protons and electrons
B. Particles, protons and neutrons
C. Mesons, protons and neutrons
D. Particles, mesons and protons

This is a good example of a question to which you either know the answer or not. If you don’t know it, take a guess and move on quickly.

The answer is: A. Neutrons, protons and electrons.

Mechanical Reasoning

Like Electrical Comprehension, the Mechanical Reasoning section is also based on GCSE-level physics questions. These 20 questions cover topics like forces, levers and pulleys, motion, etc. and you have 10 minutes to answer them.

Example Mechanical Reasoning Question

RAF Aptitude TestRAF Aptitude Test

Which load is the heaviest?

A. Load A
B. Load B
C. Both the same

The answer is: A. Load A

Just because it is smaller, doesn’t mean it is the lightest. Beware – sometimes questions may seem like trick questions because they appear too easy.

Memory

This section is in two parts. For the first part, you will be shown a sequence of letters (one at a time), usually via a screen in the examination room. Once you can no longer see them, you will be asked questions about them.

Example Memory Question

Study the letter sequence below:

A d Y U h n w

Once you can no longer see the sequence, you may be asked questions like:

  • How many letters are there between Y and n?
  • How many capital letters are there?

In the second part of the memory section, you will be shown a series of grids with yellow dots in them (one at a time).

Once you can no longer see them, you will be shown more complicated grids, and then asked to identify which one represents the combination of dots in the original grid sequence.

What to Expect When Taking the Test

You should dress smartly for your test; it is suggested that women wear low heels. There are strictly no T-shirts, sportswear, trainers or jeans.

On the day of your test, you will have an introductory meeting with your recruiter who will tell you what to expect and go through the necessary paperwork with you.

Remember to bring photo ID (driving licence or passport), otherwise you will not be able to sit the AST that day.

The test will be taken under exam conditions, invigilated by RAF career officers. Other people will be taking the test at the same time at different tables.

You don’t need to bring anything into the test with you – only glasses if you require them for reading or looking at a screen.

It is important not to spend too long on each question and get through as much of the test as you can in the time allowed. According to the RAF, most people run out of time and do not complete all the questions.

How Can I Get a Good Score?

As with any aptitude assessment, the best possible thing you can do in preparation for your test is to practise.

Practising will get you used to the style of questions, how to answer them, the format and the time constraints.

Here are some other tips for getting a great score on your AST:

  • It’s important to work on controlling your nerves in the lead up to the test. This aptitude test requires you to be at your most alert and focused. Nerves get in the way of concentration and lose you valuable minutes. One of the best ways to combat nerves is to do as many practice papers as possible, so that on the day of your test, the types of questions and format of the paper is familiar to you and doesn’t seem daunting.

  • Make sure you are not rushed getting to your AFCO. Leave plenty of time, taking traffic and late trains/buses into consideration. You need to avoid becoming flustered and give yourself ample time to gather your thoughts and composure before the test.

  • This is not a test in which you will be able to do well without prior preparation. Although the majority of the test is assessing your natural reasoning ability, that natural ability can be vastly improved with practice. There are also questions for which you will need to know:

    • Basic arithmetic – Adding, subtracting, and multiplication and division of whole numbers, percentages and fractions.
    • Basic English – Spelling and grammar.
    • Basic physics – Laws of physics and basic electrical and mechanical knowledge (circuits, levers and pulleys, etc.)
  • Make sure you complete as many practice questions as possible and read supporting materials on websites, YouTube videos and blogs to ensure you have everything covered.

  • Invest in your future by organising coaching and professional help. So much rides on this test, it’s worth paying for extra support to give yourself the very best chance of doing well.

  • As you practise and read up on the individual tests, you will pick up techniques and tips for approaching questions. Try to revise these techniques so that you can apply them to the questions.

  • Don’t linger on questions. If you are struggling, take a guess (you don’t get penalised for wrong answers) and move on.

  • If you feel like you are reading but not processing the information, sit back from the paper, take a few deep breaths and try again.

  • Get friends and relatives to test you. Read an article in the newspaper and ask them to question you on its content once you are no longer looking at it. You could also ask them to quiz you on the contents of graphs and tables so that you can improve your speed at reaching an answer.

  • Have a go at trying to picture shapes in different positions so that you improve your ability to visualise them. You could also practise memorising sequences of numbers, letters, shapes or pictures.

Test Scoring and Results

Once your test finishes, you can leave the test room and AFCO and take a break before coming back to hear your results.

You won’t be given a test result in the form of a mark. The point of this test is to assess your ability in different areas and see which roles you would be best suited to.

Despite not being given a score in the form of a percentage, your test is still scored in two parts.

  • There are specific scores for each of the seven sections – for each test you will awarded a score of between 1 and 9.

  • There are six group scores where you can achieve a raw score of up to 100; the group scores are referred to as A, B, C, D and E.

Pass marks will vary according to the trade you have applied for, and are likely to be higher for roles that are in demand.

The RAF doesn’t reveal what these pass marks are, so you don’t know what you’re aiming for – you just have to do the very best you can.

After your paper has been marked, you will be called in for ‘trade counselling’ with your recruiter. This meeting is designed to work out which trade path you should take, based on the results of your assessment.

You might be surprised by the trades that are suggested. You will be able to discuss the individual trades with your recruiter to learn more about them if you don’t know the details already.

If you have scored highly, you will be able to pick from a selection of suggested trades. If you get a lower score than you had hoped for, your recruiter may offer you a selection of other career paths that don’t require such high scores. Either way, you will be invited back to attend an interview (not on the same day).

If you fail the AST, you can retake the test. However, if you fail a second time it may be years before you can retake the test.

What’s Next?

If you achieved a high enough pass to be able to do the original job you applied for, or even if you would like to pursue a different trade, you will go from your trade counselling session to watch a presentation by one of the recruiters.

This presentation will provide you with more information about military life and prepare you for the next steps of the selection process, including how to prepare for your interview.

Take a pen and paper to this presentation so that you can take notes – these notes will be crucial when preparing for your interview.

Selection Interview

The selection interview will take place at your AFCO and will be led by your recruiter.

Over the course of 30–45 minutes, you will be asked about your hobbies, education, family, work experience, achievements and why you want to join the RAF.

Use this interview as a chance to show the recruiter that you possess the qualities the RAF looks for; like teamwork, confidence and leadership.

You need to demonstrate an excellent knowledge of the RAF and the job you have applied for (where you might be posted, what training is involved). You will also be asked about your interest in joining, so you need to have answers prepared.

Questions you might be asked include:

  • Which parts of basic training do you think you might struggle with?
  • Tell me about why you want to join the Royal Airforce and not the Army or the Navy?
  • In your opinion, what are the positives and negatives about joining the armed forces?

Fitness Test

If all goes well with your interview, you will be invited to a health assessment and will be asked to complete a fitness test.

The fitness test features several different tests of your strength and agility, including running 2.4 km, press-ups and sit-ups. Time limits for each part of the test are based on age and gender.

The RAF website features a free, 12-week training plan which is great for making sure your fitness levels are high enough to be able to pass this test. There are also video demos of exercises and advice on eating well.

Pre-Recruit Training

If you successfully complete the fitness test to RAF standard, you will undertake pre-recruit training over three days at RAF Halton.

This is designed to introduce you to what RAF basic recruit training is like.

During the three days, you will be required to take another fitness test, and potentially a functional skills test in English and maths – depending on the position you have applied for.

Provisional Offer of Service Interview

If you successfully complete all these steps, you will be invited to a Provisional Offer of Service interview.

This interview is designed to ensure that you are fully aware of what you have signed up for and understand the level of commitment you will need to show.

The interview also gives you a chance to ask any questions you still have.

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Conclusion

The key to success in the AST is practice and revision.

Practice will help you get used to the format of the test and the style of questions, and revision will ensure you know all of those basic maths, English and physics principles you probably never thought you’d need again.

Use online resources like GCSE Bitesize and the RAF’s dedicated AST pages.

Getting a great pass on your AST will set you up for a rewarding career in the RAF. It is worth putting in the extra hours, and even extra money in the form of a coach, to ensure you give yourself the very best chance of securing a fantastic role.

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