What is the ADF Beep Test?
The ADF Beep Test is part of the Pre-entry Fitness Assessment (PFA) to become part of the Australian Defence Force.
The beep test used by the ADF is a 20-meter shuttle run; recruits need to run between the two lines on a 20m track, keeping up with the beep. At each level, the speed of the beeps increases, which means that to keep up, you need to run progressively faster.
The ADF beep test is used to evaluate recruits on their cardiovascular and aerobic capacity to make sure that they are fit enough to deal with both the rigors of training and being a member of the armed forces.
Why is the Beep Test Important?
The beep test is an important part of the ADF fitness assessment because members of the armed forces need to have a good level of aerobic capacity.
The format of the beep test puts recruits under pressure, because as the beeps speed up (and your running speed needs to increase), you become more tired - and have to push through to find your second wind.
Alongside the beep test, prospective recruits need to complete a set number of sit-ups for all three branches, and for the Army, they also need to be able to complete a set number of push-ups as well.
Beep Test Requirements for ADF Roles
There are different requirements for the beep test, depending on which branch of the ADF you are applying for, and in some cases depending on whether you are a man or a woman.
- For the Navy, both women and men need to reach at least level 5.5.
- For the Army, both women and men need to reach at least 7.5.
- For the Air Force, women need to reach 5.1, and men need to reach 6.1
The scoring levels needed for particular roles are also different - Navy Divers and Army Special Forces need to reach at least 10.1.
Understanding ADF Beep Test Scoring Levels
There are 21 levels on the beep test, and the run between each beep is known as a shuttle.
At each level, the number of shuttles increases as the beep speed increases.
For Level 1, there are 7 shuttles and the speed that you will have to run at is 8.0km/h, which is a little over walking speed.
Level 4 has 9 shuttles, and you need to run at 10.0km/h, with 7.2 seconds between each beep.
Level 6 and 7 have 10 shuttles each, but by Level 7 you will have to run at 11.5km/h which is pretty quick - and by then, you will have run a cumulative distance of 1220m and have been doing the test for more than 7 minutes.
Navy Divers and Army Special Forces recruits who need to get above level 10 will have to complete 11 shuttles, running at 13.0km/h, and keep running for more than 10 ½ minutes.
How To Prepare for the ADF Beep Test
While you need to have practiced a beep test before you get to the PFA, you don't need to concentrate on just getting to the right level needed for the branch you are applying for - there are other ways that you can build the endurance, strength, and flexibility to take on the test.
1. Build Endurance and Cardiovascular Fitness
The beep test was invented to test cardiovascular or aerobic capacity back in the 1970s. What this means for the modern recruit is that the best way to improve your performance in this test is to build on your endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
You can do this by incorporating longer runs into your training plan - 5km is a good distance to get the endurance started, but if you are a bit fitter already you might want to try for 10km.
Interval running is another way to build that endurance and fitness; this means alternating between running at around 80-90% of your maximum sprinting speed for a set time interval, and then jogging gently for another time interval, and repeating.
The faster you can recover (get your heart rate down) after intense or endurance running, the fitter you are in terms of cardio.
2. Improve Agility and Speed
20m is not a big distance, but it is the turn at the end that can make all the difference when it comes to the ability to keep going in the beep test.
You need to be strong enough to stop and turn and have flexibility through the ankle, the knee, and the hip to be able to turn quickly and push off fast to continue the next shuttle.
Your training should also encompass things like turning in place, sprint starts, and quick stops so that you are used to the muscles needed and the way that your body reacts. Some people prefer to turn the same way each time, while others try to change it up on each shuttle to improve balance.
The sprint intervals will also help develop speed, and you will become more agile the more you work on your flexibility.
3. Develop Mental Resilience and Focus
It is tempting to 'race' against other recruits in the test, but this can be detrimental especially if you set off too fast in the early stages, as you can get your heart rate up too high and give yourself too much to do early on.
The beep test is about your response to the increasing speed of the beeps, so if it is a race it is just with yourself. You need to be able to remain focused on the task at hand to get to the line before the beep - for at least 7 minutes.
Resilience is what will get you to keep going even when you feel like you have nothing left - and that is something that recruiters want to see in ADF applicants.
Tips for Acing the ADF Beep Test
Understand the Beep Test Format
If you have never tried a beep test before, then the format might catch you out - typically, first-timers will run far too fast in the early levels and tire themselves out needlessly.
You need to be aware of the level that you are expected to reach and always train further than that if you can. If you need to get to Level 7, don't stop until you get to Level 8 - then you know you can do more than the minimum. In the test itself, you will be expected to keep going until you are told to stop.
Warm Up and Stretch Properly
This might only be a short test, but if you do not warm up and stretch before and after, you could risk an injury.
Pay particular attention to stretching and warming up your legs, especially the ankles and knees, and make sure that your hips are flexed and limber because you will rely on these more than you think.
The beep test is only one part of the assessment, so you should also warm up for push-ups and sit-ups if you need to complete them too.
Pace Yourself During the Test
The running speed needed is not much above a brisk walk for the first couple of levels which can take you by surprise if you aren't ready for it.
As mentioned before, going off too fast might make sure that you have time behind the line before you start again, but this can distract you from finding a flow and getting into the zone.
Going off too fast is also not going to be good for your heart rate and your breathing, as you will have to maintain that maximum effort for longer than is needed.
Pacing yourself, and knowing how fast you should be going at each level, is the best way to ensure that you can reach (and exceed) the level that you need to pass.
Maintain Proper Running Technique
Although the 20m distance does not seem like a long way, if you do not maintain proper running technique you are less likely to be able to stop, turn, and push off correctly - and you could be wasting precious energy getting that turn in.
Stay upright and make sure that you are using your arms for balance and extra speed, and you should find it much easier to keep going.
Cool Down and Recover
After the shuttle run is complete, take some time to cool down and recover properly. Some gentle stretching is key - make sure that you allow those hard-working leg muscles and your joints to stretch out.
Hydrate here if you can, you might be surprised by how much you will have sweated during the run.
Resources and Tools for Beep Test Preparation
ADF Beep Test Training Programs
Many gyms and personal trainers are aware of the requirements of the PFA, so if you have a gym membership or already work with a PT, you should be able to ask them to help you develop a plan to reach the beep test targets.
There are other resources online that are built to help you train for the beep test, just make sure that you look for plans based around the 20m beep test, as other institutions use different distances in their tests.
Beep Test Mobile Apps and Audio Files
There are different resources online that can help you when you are training for the PFA. The ADF has an app that is designed to help you train for all sections of the fitness test, including the beep test, with a personalized training program and videos demonstrating different techniques. The ADF Active app can be downloaded from both the App Store and Google Play.
If you just want to try a beep test, there are different places you can get the timed beep test audio - you can find them on streaming services like Spotify or YouTube, and specialized ADF-related sites. Again, make sure you are looking at the 20m audio files, as other places use different shuttle distances.
Online Communities and Support Groups
There are many online communities and support groups for potential ADF recruits, and they are a great place to get more information about what to expect from the beep test, as well as an understanding of what your peers have gone through when they have done it.
Online support can even help you improve your beep test time, and give you the help you need to keep going through the whole ADF application process.