The RAF Aptitude Test (AST)
If you’ve thought about applying to join the Royal Air Force (RAF), you may be aware that you will be required to pass an aptitude test before being accepted.
The RAF relies on a highly skilled and able body of recruits to function as one of the world’s leading military air forces.
To ensure the highest calibre of employees, it requires that every applicant passes the aptitude test before progressing in the process.
The test is also sometimes referred to as the Airman/Airwoman Selection Test or AST.
What Is the RAF Aptitude Test?
The RAF is an enormous organisation with many different departments and specialities that work together for a collective outcome.
The RAF aptitude test assesses the strengths and weaknesses of every applicant to identify a department or role that suits their skill set and capabilities.
Of course, full training will be given, and the test assumes no prior experience.
It instead focuses on natural talent, innate intelligence and certain personality traits to evaluate your suitability for the various roles available.
The better you do on your test, the more career options will open up to you, so it’s worth pushing yourself to excel in every area you can.
Which Question Formats Can You Expect to See?
The AST consists of seven different tests, all presented in multiple-choice format.
Let’s outline the seven test types and on which skills they focus:
1. Verbal Reasoning
This test consists of 20 questions with a time allocation of 15 minutes. It is designed to test your ability to understand and interpret written information.
1. Read the following poster which is on the wall of a holiday cottage in Devon.
Which of the following statements is incorrect?
a) The occupiers must empty the house bins before they leave
b) Free unlimited WiFi is available
c) Guests must keep noise to a minimum
d) The refrigerator must be left empty at the end of the stay
The correct answer is b) as the rules clearly state that the WiFi is only free for two hours and must be paid for after that.
2. Numerical Reasoning
This test is split into two parts. In part one, you have four minutes to answer 12 questions, and in part two, you have 11 minutes to answer 12 questions.
|1 week||2 weeks|
Above is a holiday price list. Prices are per person.
2. Jason wants to take his mother away on holiday. He wants to spend one week in Italy and one week in France. What would the total cost be?
The correct answer is: b) £3,100 because one week in France costs £750 per person (so £1,500 for two people), and one week in Italy costs £800 per person (so £1,600 for two people).
The total cost is, therefore, £3,100.
3. Work Rate
This test assesses your speed and accuracy of working. The applicant has four minutes to answer 20 questions.
3. Which could be a possible code for 459?
The correct answer is: b)
The possible answers can be found by exchanging the numbers 4, 5 and 9 for the letters or symbols that correspond with them on the chart.
4. Spatial Reasoning
The spatial reasoning test is split into two sections.
Part one focuses on how well you can visualise how shapes fit together. You have four minutes to complete ten questions.
Part two assesses your ability to imagine 3D shapes from all angles and allocates three minutes to answer ten questions.
4. Which shape is formed when the three shapes at the top are joined together as per the labels shown?
The correct answer is: a) This shape is formed when you join the edges marked 'X' together and the edges marked 'Y' together.
5. Electrical Comprehension
In this test, candidates have 11 minutes to answer 21 questions based on the electrical information taught during the GCSE physics curriculum.
Some questions will be written and some will be visual; for example, showing a circuit board with associated symbols.
You will need to know the common electrical symbols; for example, a switch, a battery and a fuse.
5. What will happen when the switch is closed?
a) Bulb A will light up
b) Bulbs B and C will light up
c) None of the bulbs will light up
d) All of the bulbs will light up
The correct answer is: d) All of the bulbs will light up. The battery is powering Bulb A, then closing the switch completes the circuit and allows the current to travel to Bulbs B and C also.
6. Mechanical Comprehension
This test allows you 10 minutes to answer 20 questions, testing your understanding of mechanical concepts.
6. If cog A starts rotating, which of the cogs will have the fastest rotation speed?
a) Cog A
b) Cog B
c) Cog C
d) All of the cogs will rotate at the same speed
The correct answer is: b) Cog B. As this is the smallest of the cogs, this will have to rotate at a faster speed to keep up with the movement.
Finally, you will sit a two-part memory test which consists of 10 questions in video format, testing your recall and memory.
Part one asks you to memorise sequences of letters.
Part two tests your ability to remember visual patterns.
Once you have seen the video, you will be asked questions to test your recall.
You may be shown the following (each letter will appear on the screen one at a time):
A, X, L, Z, F, U
After the letters have been removed from the screen, you will be asked a question.
7. How many letters are there in between A and L?
It’s easy to see the answer is 1, but remember that you will no longer be able to see these letters in front of you when you come to answer the question.
What to Expect When Taking the RAF Aptitude Test
You will sit the RAF aptitude test at your nearest Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO), of which there are several across the UK.
You must bring photographic ID with you, such as a passport or driving license, to be allowed to sit the test.
You are not permitted to use a calculator or dictionary, but you will be provided with a pencil and paper to work out your answers in the Numerical Reasoning test.
You are required to dress smartly for your AST (women are advised to wear low heels).
The AST will take around 90 minutes in total to complete, which is a tight time frame. Don’t panic if you don’t manage to complete all the questions, as the RAF advises that very few people do.
Your test will be invigilated by RAF Career Officers.
How to Prepare for Your RAF AST
Taking these tests can prove to be nerve-wracking, so good preparation will help you stay calm on the day and perform at your best.
- By far, the best way to prepare for your RAF aptitude test is to complete practice papers and test questions as much as possible. As well as training your mind to respond to the types of questions and images presented to you, this will also prevent you from getting any unwelcome surprises on the day. The questions above are a small sample of what you can expect to see. Please note that the examples here are of low difficulty, but the questions in the live tests will be of varying degrees of difficulty.
- Leave yourself plenty of time to prepare and, on the day itself, arrive at your test centre early to avoid last-minute stress.
- Make sure you are familiar with the format of the tests and have practised staying within the allotted time frame. The 90 minutes will go quickly, and if you have practised under timed conditioned, you will be less flustered by this.
- Focus on the areas you find the most challenging. If you know you will find the Spatial Reasoning test difficult, focus on this in your practice. The more comfortable you are even with the difficult questions, the more likely you are to perform well on the day.
- Being up against the clock can be stressful, but as with any exam, good preparation and remaining calm will help you keep your cool.
- Practice basic maths at home and try reading a newspaper article then asking someone to question you on it to test your understanding and recall.
Test Scoring and Results
The RAF does not publish a specific pass mark. They are instead looking to discover your strengths and abilities in each area to determine roles you would be most suited to.
A technical job, such as an aircraft engineer, requires a higher pass score (especially in technical questions) than would be needed by a physical trainer, for example.
Immediately after the test finishes, you will be able to leave the test centre for a break, while your test is marked.
You will then meet with a recruiter on the same day to discuss the next steps, depending on how you scored. This is known as ‘trade counselling’.
Keep an open mind about which path is right for you as the test can sometimes indicate that you are particularly well suited to an area that differs from the trade for which you originally applied.
You will have the chance to discuss the various trades on offer and what they entail.
If you score highly on the AST, you will be offered a selection of career paths from which to choose.
If you score lower than you had hoped on the aptitude test, all is not lost.
Although you may not qualify to train in the area you first chose, you may be offered alternative training in an area that does not rely on high test scores. Your local centre can discuss this with you if relevant.
If you fail the AST, you will be given a second chance to take it, but if you fail a second time, you may be required to wait a significant amount of time (years) before you can retake it.
Once you have the results of your test, you will have a clearer idea of which paths you can take within the RAF. If you are successful in passing the aptitude test, you will be invited to an interview.
The interview will take place either at the Air Force Careers Office you took your test or at a selection centre.
The interviewer will recap the information you provided in your application and will enquire further as to why you wish to join the RAF and why you will make a good candidate.
Be yourself during your interview – your interviewer will see through any bluffing or bravado and will view it unfavourably. This is your chance to get to know your recruiter and what working in the RAF entails.
To be considered as an RAF recruit, candidates are also required to pass a standard basic fitness test, usually consisting of a running assessment and simple strength exercises like press-ups and sit-ups; be sure to train for this before applying.
For hopefuls planning on a career in the Royal Air Force, the RAF aptitude test is a critical stage of the process.
Candidates that prepare well, particularly by taking practise tests, will achieve a test score that reflects their best abilities and can therefore benefit from better career opportunities and chance for progression.