Updated 23 September 2020
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.
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.
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:
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.
John is not as tidy as Mary.
Who is tidier?
The statement tells us that John is less tidy than Mary, so the correct answer is ‘Mary’.
Clare is a quicker runner than Amy.
Who runs the slowest?
The statement tells us that Clare is quicker than Amy. So ‘Amy’ is the correct answer.
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.
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.
How many letters match?
In this example, the answer is 1 – The 'H and h' in the first column match, but none of the other sets contain matching letters.
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.
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.
8, 3, 15
Here, the biggest number is 15 and the smallest is 3, leaving you with the number 8.
8 is five away from 3 but seven away from 15.
So, 15 is the furthest away from 8, which means 15 is the correct answer.
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.
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.
House, Swim, Door
Here the words ‘House’ and ‘Door’ are related, which leaves ‘Swim’ as the odd one out. You would select ‘Swim’ as your answer.
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.
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.
The answer is one pair. The first pair is a simple rotation, the second pair contains a rotated mirror image. Therefore, the second pair does not contain matching shapes.
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.
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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