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Train Driver Tests: Putting Yourself in the Driving Seat

Train Driver Tests: Putting Yourself in the Driving Seat

Updated September 1, 2021

Written by the WikiJob Team

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If you are planning a career as a train driver, one vital thing to know is that there is a very rigorous trainee recruitment process.

Train operating companies know exactly the type of candidate they are looking for, and they assess the suitability of prospective drivers through a series of complex psychometric tests.

Train drivers need to have vital cognitive and psychomotor skills to perform the job safely, so you can expect the tests to assess these capabilities.

What Are Train Driver Psychometric Tests?

Train driver psychometric tests are a suite of assessments that determine your suitability for the job.

The pack of tests evaluates key attributes such as attention span, perception, hand-eye coordination, and alertness and reaction time.

The exact format of train driver tests depends on where you are in the world, as companies work to different standards mandated by global railway authorities.

As a train driver, you will be responsible for safely transporting passengers or freight in varying conditions.

Alongside a safety test, you can expect the train driver's psychometric assessments to cover logical, verbal, numerical and mechanical reasoning.

The assessments measure your inherent skills through timed tests that require both accuracy and speed, two things it can be difficult to achieve at the same time.

For this reason, preparation is really important.

If you complete plenty of practice tests under timed conditions, you can heighten your senses and strengthen the skills you already have.

Replicating the test environment will help you feel ready to take on the real thing.

What Skills and Competencies Are Tested?

The assessments are held at train driver psychometric test centers and are likely to differ from any exam you have taken at school or university.

The tests are not so much about revising knowledge to remember at the crucial moment. Instead, they will assess your natural capabilities.

Some of the concepts the test will measure include:

  • Concentration
  • Observational skills
  • Memory recall
  • Reactions
  • Vigilance
  • Cognitive processing

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What Types of Psychometric Tests Are Necessary to Become a Train Driver?

Different countries have different requirements to become a train driver, including age restrictions and train driver psychometric test cost.

In the UK and US, you need to be 21. In Australia, the minimum age is 18.

For candidates in the UK, a series of psychometric tests await you if your written application is successful.

In the UK, tests such as the southeastern train driver assessment cost around £120.

In Australia, you will be required to take a three-week safe working course.

This usually costs around $2,200.

For the US, the cost can reach the thousands as there is the option to take a conductor or engineer training program.

Colleges in California, Dakota and Kansas are popular choices for these courses.

If you want to become a train driver in the US, a high school diploma or equivalent qualification is a common requirement.

Drivers are educated in-house by their rail company employer, with the training programs combining classroom teaching and hands-on experience.

Operating a passenger or freight train means taking a test for a federal license after completing a formal engineer program.

Trainee drivers are also required to pass tests assessing their skills, hearing and vision, and their knowledge of the railroads.

To become a train driver in Australia, you will need to take a work safety test alongside assessments of logical reasoning, verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and mechanical reasoning.

The major psychometric tests for train drivers across the world are:

Group Bourdon Test

The Group Bourdon test is also known as the dots test, as it involves identifying boxes that contain four dots and ignoring all other boxes containing three, five or six dots.

The test can be taken either with pen and paper or on a computer.

With five pages each containing 25 columns, and two minutes allowed for each page, this test requires 10 minutes of perfect concentration.

This test is regarded as the hardest part of the psychometric testing process, mainly because candidates do not know what to expect.

The Group Bourdon test is designed to assess your ability to concentrate while performing tasks at high speed.

With some prior research and practice, you can familiarize yourself with how the test works, which will save any last-minute surprises.

Test of Everyday Attention (TEA-OCC)

This occupational assessment tests how well you can concentrate, follow instructions and multitask. It is split into three stages, with each one getting progressively harder.

The first part tests your attention to auditory alerts.

You will be played a set of both high and low tones and be asked to count the number of low tones or 'beeps' in a series.

For this task, it will be helpful to clear your mind so you can concentrate and be alert.

Remain focused on the simple instruction: 'count the low tones'.

Part 2 is a 'directory search' task. Here you will be given a grid filled with data such as phone numbers or area codes.

You will be asked to mark the boxes matching a certain combination.

This is a timed task, so you will need to quickly and accurately pick up on cues and zone in on the correct answer.

You can approach the grid strategically and scan left to right to identify and mark the correct combination.

Preparation is key for this task, so replicate the test conditions and flex your brain with plenty of practice.

Train Driver Tests: Putting Yourself in the Driving Seat
Train Driver Tests: Putting Yourself in the Driving Seat

The third and final part of the TEA-OCC is a combination of parts one and two.

As such, it will assess your multitasking ability in addition to accuracy, speed and attention span. In part three, you will hear a series of beeps.

You will need to count the beeps while also searching a grid similar to the one you saw in part two.

This is an intense exercise that requires a lot of practice to keep focused on two equally important tasks at once.

Trainability for Rules and Procedures Test (TRP)

The two-part TRP test evaluates three things: understanding, retention and understanding of new information.

Part 1 is designed to assess how well you can understand and retain new information.

First, you will need to listen to a train-related audio clip and make mental notes.

When the clip finishes, you will be given an information sheet about the topic.

You will be able to jot some notes on the sheet as you read through the passage. This is recommended as it is scientifically proven to aid in retention.

After around five minutes, the instructors will take away the sheet, and you will be given a set of 15–20 multiple-choice questions about the topic.

Ensure you listen attentively to make it easier to recall the information.

Part 2 is also known as the cable and dials test. It assesses your ability to interpret visual information and prioritize dealing with possible defect scenarios in a real-world setup, something you will need to do as a professional train driver.

The group of around 40 multiple-choice questions will present different variations of sets of dial readings.

You will be required to check the relative priority for each of the colored dials before identifying the correct sequence in order of priority from highest to lowest.

As with many of the train driver tests, this exercise is timed.

Adaptive Tachitoscopic Traffic Perception Test (ATAVT)

This psychometric test is administered through a computer and assesses your visual perception and information capturing skills.

You will be exposed to a very brief stimulus, usually a flash of a scene from a road.

The picture will stay on screen for no more than a second, and you will be presented with multiple-choice questions on major items that may or may not have been in the picture, such as buses, cars, traffic lights and pedestrians.

The more you can practice glancing at a brief visual and answering questions about it, the better prepared you will be for this test.

WAFV Vigilance Test

This assessment is all about testing your vigilance, keeping a watch for possible danger or difficulty. This is something you will need to excel in as a train driver.

The test measures how long your attention span lasts and how alert you remain to externally applied stimuli.

As part of the test, you will be shown a flashing grey square on your screen that will change color.

As soon as you notice a change in color, press a green button to register it.

This test lasts for around 30 minutes, so it is important to maintain your concentration.

Situational Judgement Exercise (SJE)

Alongside psychometric tests that analyze your inherent abilities, you may also be required to take a train driver situational judgment test.

This kind of test is rooted in behavioral science and helps assessors understand how you might react to a given situation.

In most of the SJE test cases, the focus for you is to understand professionalism, attitude and awareness of safety procedures.

Presented with a scenario and multiple options, you will need to mark the options from most to least favorable responses.

The options usually range from 'Very Helpful' to 'Very Unhelpful'.

This test can be difficult as, strictly speaking, there is no right or wrong answer.

The thing to remember is that there are answers more favorable than others, and these are what the test is asking you to choose.

Weigh up all of the options and apply common sense and a safety-first mindset to identify the best course of action.

Written Communication Test

After so many mandatory evaluations, you will be pleased to know that the written communication test is often an optional part of the assessment suite.

It has no pass/fail impact on your overall result, but still, some train operating companies insist on including it in the assessment process.

As a train driver, you won't need extensive literature knowledge or advanced writing talents, so this test is more about ensuring you can express yourself clearly and legibly.

These are skills that will be required if you need to write a situation report while on the job.

Usually, this test will include you being asked to prepare a small write-up about a stated topic.

The important things to remember here are to keep your writing simple and legible and in line with basic grammar and sentence structure.

How Do I Pass a Psychometric Train Driver Assessment?

While the exact tests you will take may depend on where in the world you are, the importance of preparation transcends borders.

Remember that each railway psychometric test is there to measure your skills and not to catch you out.

Follow our study tips, and you will have the best chance of succeeding and moving one step closer to your dream job:

  • Study any preparation materials you are given by your train operating company or seek out official practice materials. Knowing what is ahead will calm your nerves and help you feel prepared

  • Make sure you know what to expect from each section of questions

  • As described earlier, the group bourdon tests are a common stumbling point because they are not intuitive. This is an especially important test to practice in advance

  • Try to recreate a mock assessment at home and do all the sections and test elements in one sitting or in the timings, you would use for the official test. With speed and accuracy being so important in the suite of assessments, practicing similar questions will improve your pace

  • Make sure you take study breaks! Yes, practice is really important, but burning yourself out is not the goal here. Taking time away from revision will help consolidate what you have learned. Just before your assessment, be sure to give your mind a break and get plenty of rest so you can feel refreshed for the big day

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Final Thoughts

The process of landing your dream job might sound scary and unattainable.

It is true that the train driver psychometric test is not easy, but you already have many of the abilities and competencies that will help you succeed.

Now you know how the tests are structured and what assessors are looking for, you can fill in any gaps in your skill set.

The most important thing to remember is that practice makes perfect.

Train drivers need to have a steady and considered manner, so try to embody this chilled mindset and don't sweat the small stuff!

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