Introduction to BARB for the British Army
The British Army Recruitment Battery (BARB) test is a psychometric assessment used as part of the initial application for joining the Army.
It was developed by the Defense Evaluation and Research Agency in conjunction with Plymouth University, and designed to assess the problem-solving and analytical skills of prospective soldiers before they get started on their careers.
The test is taken at the Army Recruitment Centre, and you will complete all the sections at once. There are five sections, and you'll use a touchscreen computer to complete the test.
The BARB is used to not only evaluate your aptitude for the Army - and decide whether your application should be taken further, but the score you achieve in this psychometric test will also determine what sort of role you are qualified to apply for.
BARB Test Structure
There are five distinct sections in the BARB test, and each one is designed to evaluate a different aspect of your logical and critical thinking as well as how you solve problems.
The sections are as below:
The Reasoning part of the test consists of 12 questions.
Each question is a statement about how two people are related to each other, followed by a question. You need to decide whether the answer is true or false.
While this sounds initially quite simple, in reality, you do not have a lot of time to think about it - and what makes it even more difficult is that the original statement disappears once the question is revealed.
This part of the assessment is as much about your short-term memory under pressure as it is about your logical reasoning skills.
BARB Letter Checking
In this section, you will have to answer 16 questions, all looking at your attention to detail.
Each question consists of boxes, each containing four sets of two letters. The letters are a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters, positioned above one another.
You need to decide how many sets actually contain the same letter.
Again, getting a high score in this is about speed - and practice. You need to be ready to spot similarities and inconsistencies really quickly to score highly here.
BARB Number Distance
In this section, each of the 20 questions consists of a set of three numbers, presented in a random order.
You will need to decide which number is the largest, and which is the smallest - and which number is the furthest distance from the remaining number.
This is a numerical task that you will need to complete in your head, and again is something that takes practice to get used to completing at speed.
BARB Symbol Rotation
This is probably one of the more challenging sections for many people who take the BARB test.
There are 20 questions in this section, and each question consists of a box that has two pairs of shapes. To answer the question, you will need to study the shapes and decide how many pairs have matching shapes.
What makes this more difficult is that the symbols are rotated and in some cases mirrored, so you need to be sure of the movement of the shapes before you choose. This means manipulating the 2D shapes in your mind's eye before making the decision.
BARB Odd One Out
In this section, you need to be able to spot the word that doesn't fit.
Each of the 20 questions in this section features three words. Two of the words will be connected in some way, and you need to decide which one is not connected to the rest.
You'll need to have a good grasp of basic English to be able to answer these questions quickly, and you will have to work quickly, much like in the other sections of the assessment.
BARB Test Format and Timing
If your initial application to join the Army meets the criteria, you will be invited to the local Army Recruitment Centre to complete some testing, including the BARB test.
The test lasts for about 30 minutes, and you will get an opportunity to answer some practice questions to get used to using the touch screen computer in the test center.
At the end of the test, you will be given your score, and a list of suitable career options based on your score (if you pass).
Score ranges and what they mean
Your score upon completing the BARB is known as the General Trainability Index (GTI). This score is a combination of the number of correct answers you have achieved and the time it took you to answer - so it is just as important to work quickly as it is to be correct.
The maximum score that you can achieve on the BARB test is 80, and the minimum score that you need to pass the BARB test is 26.
If you score below 26, you will not be accepted into any area of the Army. You can retake the assessment up to three times, but you must leave at least 28 days between attempts.
How your score can impact your opportunities
Taking the BARB test is not just about being accepted to the Army in general - your score is used to establish what type of role you are most suited for.
The higher your score, the more opportunities you will have to choose the role you want to have - lower scores mean fewer opportunities.
As an example, the following are the minimum accepted GTI scores for some of the roles available in the British Army:
- Junior Entry Infantry Soldier in the Queen's Division - 34
- Gunner Crewman - 38
- Roles in the Royal Corps of Engineers - between 40-55
- Corps of Signals - 48
- Royal Military Police - 60
Essentially, the more specialized the role, the higher the GTI score you will need to be considered.
Your BARB score can have a major impact on your opportunities, especially if you have your sights set on a particular career path, so you need to take every opportunity to improve your score.
Tips For Preparing for the BARB Test
Utilize online resources
The BARB test is well recognized as being the biggest barrier for many potential army recruits, and this means that there are lots of online resources to help you prepare for the test.
You can find excellent helpful guides like this one, as well as practice tests, example questions, and revision materials - so make the most of what is out there to improve your chances of success.
Some of these resources might be behind a paywall, but even if you do not want to spend money on your revision, you should be able to find a lot of helpful content online.
Practicing with sample questions and mock tests
The most important thing that you can do to improve your chances at the BARB test is to practice.
When the test is taken outside of the exam environment, the content of the assessment is easy. You could quite easily answer most of the questions if you had unlimited thinking time - but you don't.
Full-length practice tests and even sample questions will have a positive impact on your performance; the more often you answer similar questions to the ones that are on the test, the more comfortable you will be with answering them in the real thing.
You want to be accurate, but you also want to be fast - which means that the critical and logical thinking skills you need to utilize in the BARB test need to be second nature to you.
Whenever you are practicing try and answer the questions as quickly as possible - many practice tests will have a timer attached, but if they don't, set your own timer so you get used to working under time pressure.
Time management strategies
Your practice should have helped you get used to answering the questions quickly. When you are in the test environment, you want to make sure that you are ready to answer just as quickly as you did in your practice.
Take the time to read the questions and the given information properly, though - you don't want to make a mistake because you are rushing.
If you feel like you are taking too long to answer a particular question, make your best guess and move on. Lingering on a challenging question could lead to you running out of time to answer more (and maybe even easier) questions later in the assessment.
Handling Test Anxiety
Knowing that the BARB test is one of the biggest things to stand between you and your ideal career in the Army can make you even more nervous - but that won't help you to perform at your best.
Give yourself the best chance through thorough preparation - both in terms of practice and with some self-care. You need to give yourself the fuel you need to succeed, which means adequate sleep, healthy meals, and hydration.
If you start feeling too nervous in the test center, take some deep breaths and just remember that you have done the practice and you are prepared for success - and whatever the outcome, the Army Recruitment team will help you decide what is next for your career.