The RAF AST Aptitude Test
If you are applying to join the Royal Air Force, you will have to undergo several aptitude tests as part of the recruitment process.
As per of this, the RAF has a collection of aptitude tests that are collectively known as the Airman (or Airwoman) Selection Test or the AST. This consists of a series of 7 aptitude tests that each focus on a different set of cognitive skills.
What is the RAF aptitude test?
The AST is crucial for admittance into the RAF and also determines the trade you will specialise in and the placements you will be offered upon completion of the application process.
RAF recruits need to be highly skilled and able, and the aptitude tests assess the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate to match them with the skill set and capabilities needed for specific trades and placements.
The RAF AST focuses on the natural talent and innate abilities of each candidate to match them to a job role within the organisation. There is no special training or education that needs to be completed before taking these tests - instead, candidates only need basic secondary school-level education in order to be successful.
How is the RAF test structured?
The AST takes place in an Armed Forces Career Office (AFCO) and is invigilated by a RAF Careers Officer. The test takes approximately 90 minutes to complete and is separated into seven specific areas.
RAF Verbal Reasoning test
The RAF AST verbal reasoning test includes 20 questions that need to be answered in 15 minutes. Each question is based on a short passage of text which you must read, understand and analyse in order to answer the multiple-choice questions.
For more information on the RAF Verbal Reasoning test, check out our full page.
RAF Numerical Reasoning test
The RAF numerical reasoning test is separated into two distinct sections. The first is on basic arithmetic, based on your knowledge and manipulation of the four basic operators as well as decimals and fractions. There are 12 questions that must be answered in 4 minutes.
In the second section, your interpretation of data is assessed through analysis of tables and graphs and there are 15 questions to be answered in just 11 minutes.
Click here to find out more about the RAF numerical reasoning test.
RAF Work Rate test
The work rate test is specifically to measure how quickly you can work out a code. Candidates are presented with a table that has three rows, one of each containing numbers, letters, and shapes. You will be presented with 20 alternate codes that you need to work out in just 4 minutes.
Want to know more about the RAF work rate test? Click here for our full page.
RAF Spatial Reasoning test
Spatial reasoning assesses a candidate's ability to understand and manipulate shapes in space. In the RAF AST, the spatial reasoning assessment is split into two subsections, the first on 2D shapes (10 questions to be answered in 4 minutes), and the second on 3D shape orientation with 10 questions to be answered in just 3 minutes.
Take a look at our full RAF spatial reasoning test page.
RAF Electrical Comprehension test
Based on GCSE Physics electrical knowledge, you will be presented with 21 questions based on visual and written information. In just 11 minutes you will need to demonstrate your ability to understand elementary electrical concepts like the way switches, batteries and fuses work.
Want to find out more about the RAF electrical comprehension test? Check out our full guide.
RAF Mechanical Reasoning test
Mechanical reasoning involves GCSE Physics-level mechanics principles like energy, forces and motion and levers. Candidates have 10 minutes to answer 20 questions that need analysis of mechanics to answer correctly.
Check out this full guide to find out more about the RAF mechanical reasoning test.
RAF Memory/Recollection test
In the AST, your memory is tested in two specific sections. Each section is prepared through a video, with 10 questions to follow.
In the first section, candidates are presented with a sequence of letters and need to recall the order of the letters within the sequence. In the second, a sequence of blue grids with yellow squares need to be recalled.
Want more information on this test? Take a look at our RAF memory test page.
RAF CBAT tests: what are they & how to prepare for them?
The RAF CBAT is another assessment that an applicant must take if they are applying to be commissioned personnel, like a pilot or an intelligence officer. CBAT stands for Computer Based Aptitude Test, and these are taken specifically at RAF Cranwell, whereas the AST is generally taken at the nearest AFCO.
The CBAT is a number of tests that need to be taken depending on the trade applied for - there are more than 15 tests ranging from psychomotor ability to strategic task management and short term memory.
Take a look at our full RAF CBAT guide here.
Top 5 tips for preparing and passing your RAF AST
1. Practice Tests
One of the best ways to prepare for any test is to practice, and with so much riding on your performance in the AST it is definitely worth taking time to brush up on your test skills. One of the most efficient ways to do this is to take practice tests based on the actual RAF tests used in the assessment.
As part of your practice, try to focus on the areas that you know are your weaknesses. It is perfectly normal for candidates to have areas of weakness in the aptitude tests, and you can minimise the impact of this through diligent practice focused on the areas that are causing the most concern.
2. Brush Up on School Education
While the content of these aptitude tests is not meant to be difficult, candidates will need to be fully up to speed on secondary school level education. This might mean that you need to revisit the principles of GCSE Physics, English and Maths to ensure that you have all the background knowledge you need.
3. Practice Timing
The main reason these tests are so challenging is because they are under very time-restricted parameters. While the content of the assessment might not be too challenging, the fact that decisions have to be made very quickly - and under test conditions - makes the AST challenging. When you are practicing the various aptitude tests, the best thing to do is to practice under full test conditions and that includes strict timing.
4. Prepare Beforehand
The AST is taken at a Armed Forces Career Office (AFCO) and it is important that you are prepared for the assessment. It will be monitored by RAF Career Officers, and the entire seven sections will be covered in just 90 minutes. To be successful in the test centre, you need to make sure that you are prepared as thoroughly as you can be - through practice and by making sure you are confident - even in the aptitudes that you might struggle with.
5. Read Test Instructions Carefully
Everything you need to answer the questions and be successful in the aptitude tests is provided in the assessment itself, so be sure to read the instructions carefully. In the RAF tests, as in other aptitude assessments, specialist knowledge is not important and it is actually more effective if you forget what you 'think' you know and accept the information that you are given as being true.
In the test, the instructions will let you know exactly how you need to answer the questions so it is important to read them carefully.
Is the RAF aptitude test hard?
The short time frame for the questions combined with the pressure of knowing that this test is the most important part of attaining the right position within the RAF is what makes the AST difficult.
The content of the questions are all based on secondary-level education and knowledge, so if there were no time constraints then the questions would probably not be considered difficult for someone who had completed their GCSEs.
What do I need to take the AST?
The AST is a specific part of the RAF recruitment process for non-commissioned roles. To start your application, visit the RAF careers website and choose the role that interests you. The RAF Careers team will contact you to discuss the next steps in your application, including the AST.
There are no necessary prerequisites for the AST in particular.
How is the RAF aptitude test scored?
The RAF do not release the required scores for different roles in the RAF, but it is used to determine the most appropriate roles for applicants. As the assessments are designed to find strengths and weaknesses, it makes sense that those with the highest scores are likely to be chosen for more technical or higher level roles.
Once you have completed your AST, your test is marked the same day and you will meet with a recruiter. This will form what is known as 'trade counselling' and the recruiter will help you decipher what your results mean - especially if they point to a different trade than the one you might have applied to in the first place.
Although there are no official pass marks published, it is possible to fail the AST. Candidates will have the chance to retake the test, but a second fail mark will put a hold on the application, and candidates could have to wait years before they are allowed to retake the test.
How long is the Test?
The assessment itself is only 90 minutes long, but with the official debrief and the trade counselling this could be a full day.
What to expect at the Armed Forces Career Office (AFCO)
The assessment is not just about your performance, as you will be taking the test at an Armed Forces Career Office. Prepare before the test by making sure you dress appropriately - official RAF guidelines suggests that candidates should be dressed smartly so no trainers or sports clothes. It is always best to arrive early so you can be as prepared as possible and not flustered.
Make sure to bring photographic ID and any other documents that the recruiter you have spoken to has asked for.
During the assessment yourself, it is important to remember that even the RAF recruiters understand that the test is difficult, and you might not complete all the questions during that 90 minute time frame - very few candidates do.
The AST is meant to point each candidate at the most appropriate trade for them within the RAF, and although it is challenging, it is important to ensure that each applicant matches the required skills and abilities for RAF careers.