A Guide to the RAF Aptitude Test: Examples & Tips
Updated November 18, 2023
The RAF aptitude test is designed to check your suitability for recruitment into the Royal Air Force.
The test contains different sections that check for your strengths and weaknesses. The results will indicate which roles you’re most likely to excel in.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) offers numerous career opportunities, including in areas you may not have considered, such as:
- Airspace monitoring
- Enforcing security protocols
- Responding to potential threats
This article takes you through examples for each section and a thorough explanation of how the RAF aptitude test is scored. You'll also get an insight into what it takes to prepare for the RAF officer aptitude test and helpful advice on how to get the highest score possible.
Let’s get started.
The RAF aptitude test was initially developed by FC Bartlett, a professor at Cambridge University, at the request of the Air Ministry in 1941.
Nowadays, the RAF aptitude test is used for the cognitive evaluation of applicants who seek employment with the RAF. It consists of seven parts, each serving as a separate tool for assessing skills and personality traits.
The purpose of modern RAF aptitude tests is to assess candidates for specific roles. By identifying the strengths and weaknesses of every applicant, recruiters can find positions that suit the candidates' skills and personalities.
Every successful candidate applying for non-commissioned roles can take the RAF aptitude test, as long as they haven’t failed it more than once before.
These roles include:
- Air traffic controller
- Aerospace battle manager
- Weapons system operator
Before taking the test, you must also meet certain criteria, depending on the role you’re applying for. These criteria include:
It is sometimes referred to as the AST, the Airman/Airwoman Selection Test or the RAF Selection Test.
Consequently, the score in each area determines how you fare on this aptitude test and which roles you may be able to fulfill. By performing well in each section, you will have more career opportunities.
If you score highly only in certain areas, you may be offered a different role from the one you applied for.
You have 90 minutes to complete the entire test, but each section has its own time limits.
Below you will find more details about each section, including example questions and answers. You aren't allowed to use a dictionary or calculator on the test, only a pen and paper are provided for the numerical reasoning part.
The RAF verbal reasoning test has 20 questions that you must answer in 15 minutes.
A verbal reasoning test is designed to evaluate how well you can comprehend written information.
'Employers may use permanent dismissals as punitive actions. These can also be used to punish employee inattention to time-sensitive tasks.'
Considering the above statement, determine whether the following passage is true.
'Employees can lose their job for being late with their assignments.'
c) Cannot say
Steve bought a pack of cookies for £2. James bought the same type of cookies for £2.40.
James paid _______ more than Steve.
Look at the table and determine the code for the number 976.
This spatial reasoning test has two sections, which you need to complete in four and three minutes respectively. The first part has 10 multiple-choice questions testing your ability to imagine how different 2D shapes fit together.
The second one also has 10 questions; these evaluate your ability to visualize how 3D shapes look from different angles.
For the first part, you may be shown three different 2D shapes with one letter on two shapes and two letters on one shape. You will need to identify what shapes they make when put together at an angle, following the corresponding letters on each of them.
The second part is similar, except you'll be given a 2D grid and asked which 3D shape it makes when folded.
What are the components of an atom?
a) Protons, neutrons, particles
b) Particles, mesons, neutrons
c) Neutrons, protons, electrons
d) Neutrons, particles, mesons
For example, you may be shown a lever holding two shapes of different weights and sizes. You will be asked which one is heavier. The correct answer is the one that tilts the lever out of balance, bringing it lower.
The memory test contains 20 questions testing your ability to recall information accurately. The questions are shown in a video and are divided into two parts. In the first part, you will be asked to memorize a sequence of letters.
S, a, b, O, L, C, s
a) How many letters are there between S and C?
b) How many lower case letters were in the sequence?
The second part is very similar, except you will be shown one dot at a time on a grid, followed by entire patterns.
You will be asked to identify which pattern corresponds to the combination in which the dots have appeared.
While there are cut-off scores for all positions, your exam grades won't be revealed to you. After your exam is marked, you will have a debriefing session, during which you will be offered the options suitable for the skills you have shown on the test.
If your score is too low to qualify for any open RAF position, you have failed the exam. If you fail it once, you can resit the test within a short period, but if you fail two times in a row, you will have to wait at least a year to retake the test.
How to Prepare for the RAF Pilot Aptitude Test
Here are some great ways to prepare for the exam and be more confident on the day.
As you've seen from the above examples, each section has a different format and time limit. Look at some sample tests and study the most common question formats for each section so you can understand them and avoid getting confused on the day.
There are numerous sites offering free sample tests you can use to practice. RAF AST test practice is crucial, and you can even request a mock test on the RAF website to familiarize yourself with the type of information you may be asked on the day of the test.
If you are aiming for a specific trade, you can purchase more detailed RAF aptitude test practice exams. These include more specific combinations and are as similar to the real test as the one you will find on the official website.
One of the reasons candidates find RAF aptitude tests challenging is the time restriction for each section.
By testing yourself against the clock during your mock tests, you can learn how to perform well even when you have to make quick decisions.
Make sure to apply the exact time limit for each section and try to answer (correctly) as many questions within that time frame.
By practicing the different parts of the test, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses.
This will allow you to hone the former and work on the latter and ultimately excel in all the sections. To achieve this, spend more time tackling areas you struggle with, even if you are uncomfortable with them.
Apart from taking as many of these mock exams as possible, you can also hone your cognitive skills by brushing up on your secondary school education.
Make sure to revisit subjects like maths, GCSE physics and English. This will allow you to gather all the background knowledge you may need on the test.
Practicing on general aptitude tests will also sharpen your skills.
First and foremost, you must ensure you stay calm during the entire exam. The pressure of performing well may cause you anxiety, but it's critical to control your nerves if you want to focus on answering the questions to the best of your ability.
Make sure to calm yourself in the minutes leading up to the test to avoid losing time during the exam.
Here you will be given all the technical information necessary for the exam. You will have 90 minutes to complete the test, but each section has its own time limits, so you will want to pay attention to these. Otherwise, you may run out of time and leave too many unanswered questions.
Another way to ensure you have enough time to answer as many questions as possible is not to get stuck on the difficult ones. Instead of lingering on questions you aren’t sure about, take a guess and move to the next one. You won't be penalized for a wrong answer, so you have nothing to lose, and you may guess the right one and raise your score.
All that being said, you don't want to rush through the questions either, no matter how pressed you feel about the short time frame for each section. Doing so raises the chances of making mistakes on questions you could have answered correctly had you read them carefully. If you don’t understand a question even after reading it a few times, take some deep breaths and have another go.
After passing the RAF aptitude test, you’ll be invited to an interview in a selection centre or at the Air Force Careers Office.
If the interviewer deems you a suitable candidate for at least one of the trades, you can move on to taking the required standard basic fitness test.
Passing the RAF aptitude test gives you the opportunity to join the ranks of the RAF in the trade you are the most qualified for. Keep in mind that this position may differ from what you originally planned.
If you fail the RAF aptitude test, you’ll get one more chance to retake it within a short time frame. If you fail the second time, you won’t be able to retake it for several years as RAF always prioritize the most suitable candidates.
After the counselling and debriefing, candidates have 90 minutes to complete the entire RAF aptitude test.
The various sections are also timed individually – which is another way to test aptitude in different fields.
The test has a total of 145 questions that are divided into seven sections:
- Verbal reasoning (20)
- Work rate (20)
- Numerical reasoning (24)
- Spatial reasoning (20)
- Mechanical comprehension (20)
- Electrical comprehension (21)
- Memory (20)
While the evaluation isn’t inherently difficult, the pressure of performing well to get the desired position, the fierce competition and the short time frame to complete the test can make it challenging.
As you can see, preparation and practice are the two critical factors for passing the RAF selection test.
Fortunately, there are many great online sources where you can find practice tests that allow you to adequately prepare.
However, passing the test by doing well in one section will not guarantee that you will be matched for the desired role.
If you want to ensure a broader selection of career options at RAF, you must perform well on the test overall.
Otherwise, you may be offered a role different from what you were aiming for, which may or may not suit your preferences.