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British Army Recruit Battery Test (BARB)

Updated May 24, 2022

Written by the WikiJob Team

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The British Army Recruit Battery test (known as the BARB) is a computer-based psychometric test used by the British Army to assess potential recruits and decide whether they are suitable candidates. It is the first aptitude test you will encounter when applying for a job with the army.

Your result will determine not only whether or not you go through to the next stage of the recruitment process, but also the types of roles you can be considered for. So it is crucial to perform as well as you can.

In this article, we look at why the army uses these tests, what to expect from the BARB, how the test is scored and how to prepare.

What Is Being Assessed in the BARB Test?

The BARB test uses a series of timed questions to assess and measure candidates’ analytical and problem-solving skills. You will need to interrogate data, apply logic and reason, think critically, and draw correct conclusions quickly – all crucial skills for a job with the army.

You will also need to remain calm under pressure, as you are expected to work through the questions at a quick pace. Your final score will be based on both your performance and accuracy in the test and how fast you answered the questions.

As well as filtering out unsuitable candidates, the BARB test is used to match recruits with the most suitable roles within the army. The list of roles you are considered suitable for will be based on your final score, known as your GTI (we will explain this in more detail later in this article).

Those who pass with a low score will only be eligible for limited roles, so performing well in the BARB opens up many more possibilities.

What to Expect From Your BARB Test

You will sit the BARB test at your local Army Careers Centre. The test is taken on a touch-screen computer. It is multiple-choice and lasts about 30 minutes.

At least a week before the date of your test, you will be given a practice booklet describing how each test is set out on the computer and explaining the best methods for answering the questions.

On the day of the test, the recruiter will set up the computer for you and talk you through the test process in detail. There will be an opportunity to ask questions. Before the test begins, you will also watch a short presentation to remind you of the types of questions, and you will be able to try a couple of practice questions.

When you have finished the test, you will be given your GTI score and, if you have passed, a list of appropriate army roles.

The BARB test is made up of five different sections:

1. Reasoning Test

This part of the test is about logical reasoning and assesses your ability to think critically. In this section, you will be presented with a series of statements regarding the relationship between two people. Each will be followed by a question based on the statement you have just read.

The statement will disappear before the question is revealed.

For example:

Example Question

John is not as tidy as Mary.

Who is tidier?

Example Question

Clare is a quicker runner than Amy.

Who runs the slowest?

While the questions may seem relatively simple, you will need to move through them at speed to score highly. When working at this pace, mistakes can easily happen.

It is also important to be aware that the initial statement will disappear from the screen before the question appears, so take care to remember it. Practising these types of questions over and over before the test will help to build up your speed and accuracy. To start practising now, try this BARB practice pack from JobTestPrep.

2. Letter Checking

In this section, you will be given a series of boxes containing four sets of two letters, one above the other, in a mixture of upper-case and lower-case. You must identify how many of the sets contain the same letters.

For example:

H
h
J
i
b
c
W
V

Example Question

How many letters match?

0 1 2 3 4

This test is used to see how quickly you can review the information presented to you. It may seem easy at first glance, but it becomes much more challenging when you are under time pressure.

3. Number Distance

This section of the test checks how quickly and accurately you can complete numerical tasks in your head.

Three numbers will appear on the screen in random order. First, you must identify which of the numbers is the largest and which is the smallest.

Then, you need to work out which of those numbers is furthest away from the remaining number. That is the number you will give as your answer.

For example:

Example Question

8, 3, 15

This type of question is a bit more complex than those we have covered so far and, again, you will be working at speed. The best way to feel confident about answering number distance questions is to keep practising until they come naturally to you.

4. Odd One Out

In this section, you will be presented with three words. You must decide which of the two words are connected in some way. The word that is the odd one out is the one you will select as your answer.

For example:

Example Question

House, Swim, Door

Answering these questions quickly is as important as answering them correctly so, to score highly, you will need to analyse the three words and come to your conclusion in a matter of seconds.

5. Symbol Rotation

For many candidates, this section is the hardest part of the BARB test. In these questions, you will see a box containing two pairs of shapes. You must study the shapes and decide how many of the pairs, if any, contain matching shapes.

This tests your ability to rotate objects in your head and quickly deduce which shapes are the same. It is made harder by the fact that the pairs you are presented with may contain shapes that are the mirror image of each other.

So they will appear very similar, but when rotated they are not an exact match.

For example:

Example Question

How Is the BARB Test Scored?

At the end of the BARB test, the candidate’s score is automatically calculated based on the number of correct answers and the time taken. Your score is known as your General Trainability Index (GTI).

A GTI of at least 26 is required to progress any further in the application process.

Your GTI will also dictate which roles within the army you can go on to apply for.

Limited positions are open to candidates with a score of 26; many require a higher GTI score. The GTI score needed varies from role to role, but the maximum required for any role is 60.

You can take up to three BARB tests but must wait at least 28 days before resitting the test. A test score is valid for 24 months.

How to Do Well on Your BARB Test

  • Repetitive practice is the very best way to prepare for the BARB test. You need to answer every question as quickly and as accurately as possible. The more familiar you are with the types of questions you will encounter, the easier you will find it to work through the test at speed. Find a variety of sample BARB tests and take as many of them as you can. Your aim is to become so proficient at answering the questions that it becomes second nature. We recommend the BARB practice package from JobTestPrep.

  • In the reasoning test, the statement will disappear from the screen before the question appears. Get into the habit of repeating the statement to yourself a few times before moving on to the question so you are confident you can remember it.

  • In the letter checking test, look out for letters that are similar but not the same. Pairs such as ‘Q and O’, ‘p and q’, ‘j and i’ could trip you up when under pressure, so make sure you don’t get caught out.

  • When preparing for the symbol rotation section, try drawing out some shapes and then practise mentally turning them around. This will help get your brain used to what different shapes look like when they have been rotated.

  • Finally, focus on the many exciting roles that could be open to you if you score highly on the BARB. The better your GTI, the wider your choices. Having that end goal in sight will help to keep you motivated.

Frequently Asked Questions

The British Army Recruit Battery (BARB) is a computer-based test that is taken at an army assessment center, and it is the first aptitude test that you will take when you apply.

This psychometric test is used to decide if the recruit is good enough to progress further into the process, but the score is also used to decide what roles you are most suitable for – with the more intensive roles needing a higher score.

The BARB is in five different sections:

  • Reasoning
  • Letter checking
  • Number distance
  • Odd one out
  • Symbol rotation

You will have 30 minutes to complete the multiple-choice assessment.

Your score is based on the number of correct answers you get as well as how fast you complete them and presented as a General Trainability Index (GTI), and you need a score of at least 26 to be taken further in the recruitment process.

The British Army Recruit Battery Test (BARB) is the first stage in the process of becoming a soldier in the army, and the score you achieve will not only be the deciding factor as to whether you get into the next sections of the assessment process but will also inform the Careers Officer of which role would be right for you.

The higher you score, the more likely you are to get the trade you are looking for.

This is why preparation is so important. Getting the highest score you are capable of will open all the doors for your future career in the Army.

One of the most important preparation steps you should take is practicing the BARB test regularly.

Practice will not only help you feel more familiar with the test structure, layout and time limit, but it will also help you identify any areas where you need some more revision.

Personal preparation, aside from revision and practice tests, should be about getting enough sleep, eating well and staying hydrated.

There are five sections in the British Army Recruit Battery (BARB) test, all designed to assess different aptitudes and competencies.

The first section is Reasoning, which is about using logic to answer a question.

The Letter Checking questions are looking for your attention to detail and ability to spot errors.

In the Number Distance section, you are being assessed by how comfortable you are making quick math calculations in your head.

To ensure that you have a good vocabulary, the Odd One Out test looks for your knowledge of word meaning by finding the word that doesn’t fit in a group of three.

The concluding section is often the one that is most unfamiliar to candidates. In Symbol Rotation, you are being assessed on your spatial awareness by being able to visualize the rotation of a shape. You will be given boxes containing two pairs of symbols and choose how many match.

The British Army Recruit Battery Test (BARB) is designed to be challenging so that the recruiters can get the absolute best applicants.

However, the content of the test itself is not necessarily what makes it difficult.

As this is an assessment that is taken under exam conditions, with a tight time limit, and as part of a full day of other assessments like medical and fitness tests – the pressure and unfamiliarity of it make it challenging.

You can combat the unfamiliarity of the structure and the pressure of the time limit to achieve the highest score possible by taking practice tests – you will see the types of questions that you will need to answer and how much time you need to answer them.

It is possible to practice the British Army Recruit Battery Test (BARB) online, with both free and paid-for options available.

On the MOD recruitment page, there is a free practice test that is exactly like the assessment that you will take on the day.

Here at WikiJob, you can use the example questions and the detailed information to learn more about the test, but we recommend using JobTestPrep as the perfect resource.

With JobTestPrep you can take free practice tests that are structured like the BARB, with answers so you can revise any areas that you find more difficult.

The Prep Packs include more tests, but also revision notes, tips, and tricks to elevate your performance and get the best score.

When you are getting ready to take the BARB test at the assessment center, you will find a wealth of information to help you get prepared on the Army recruitment site – everything from what to take, nutrition tips and what the day will be like.

It is possible to fail the BARB test; if you get a General Trainability Index (GTI) score of 25 or less your application will not be taken further.

However, if you do fail the BARB, you can retake it up to three times, but you must wait 28 days between each test – and your score is valid for 24 months.

You can also retake the assessment under the guidance of your dedicated Career Officer if you did not achieve the score you needed to be considered for the trade for which you were applying.

The BARB test is designed to look for inherent competencies and skills that will make a candidate easy to train in the trade that you are interested in.

These skills include:

  • Problem-solving
  • Working under pressure
  • Learning Ability
  • Critical Thinking
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Spatial Awareness
  • Memory
  • Work Rate
  • Accuracy
  • Attitude

As the BARB test is part of the full army assessment day, there are a few things that you will need to bring to the center – things like a change of clothes for the fitness test, snacks and drinks (although you will be fed hot meals at appropriate times through the day).

You might need to bring some documentation, such as driver information from the DVLA or examination certificates, but the most important thing to remember is some ID, which must be in an acceptable form, such as a Passport, photo driving license or a firearms license.

You will also need to bring proof of address, like a relevant bill in your name.

There are 80 questions in total in the BARB test, and you have 30 minutes to complete the test.

The questions are separated into segments with different question types that look for different skills and competencies, as follows:

  • Reasoning – 12 questions
  • Letter Checking – 16 questions
  • Number Distance – 20 questions
  • Odd One Out – 20 questions
  • Symbol Rotation – 12 questions

Final Thoughts

While you will have to take other aptitude tests during your application to join the army, the BARB test is the most important as it determines your GTI score and, therefore, the variety of roles available to you.

Simply passing the test may not guarantee you your ideal job in the army, so it is crucial to go into the test well prepared and ready to score highly.

Candidates who do well in BARB are those who can work accurately and methodically but also quickly. And the best way to become better at this is to practise, practise, practise.

Before your test, you should try all the different types of questions over and over again until they become completely familiar. You should then be able to walk into the test centre feeling calm and confident and walk away with a high GTI score and a long list of suitable army jobs.


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