Train Driver Tests are a unique group of tests covering a wide range of psychometric assessment tools like the Group Bourdon Test, TEA-Occ, TRP, ATAVT, WAFV Vigilance, VIGIL, SJE/MMI and others.
They are carefully prepared to assess attributes like attention span, concentration, reasoning, perception and memory, along with hand-eye coordination, alertness and reaction time.
In fact, it is a carefully curated test pack testing both cognitive and psychomotor skills based on stringent selection criteria set forth by the railway authorities (e.g. RSSB or Rail Safety Standards Board in the UK).
The base set is common for almost all Train Operation Companies (TOC’s) in Europe, including the UK, with minimal company specific variations.
You need to know exactly what awaits you on the assessment day as you take the tentative first steps towards fulfilling your ambition of becoming a train driver.
It is a highly competitive selection process where you get only two chances to pass.
Note: The train driver assessment tests and qualifying criteria are a bit different though outside of mainland Europe.
For example, in the USA, in addition to the cognitive and psychomotor tests, there are often group exercises and mechanical reasoning tests.
Also, an internship in a railway company or formal training in locomotive engineering is preferred.
A Federal Railroad Certification is required (covers safety and general awareness; sometimes done post-employment).
The work safety questions revolve around Track Safety Awareness (TSA) criteria which may considerably vary among TOC’s or Track Owners as they are often referred to Down Under.
Some TOC’s require specific versions of tests e.g. for Situational Safety Awareness: Psyfactors SSA (Mobile Equipment Operator Version), for Abstract Reasoning: Aptitude Profile Test Series (APTS) etc.
Furthermore, a Certificate IV in Train Driving is recommended ( 21 competency units: 12 core + general & specialist elective units).
On the other hand, in some countries the recruitment process is centralised and administered by the Government.
For example, if you are planning to drive a locomotive in India, be prepared to sit for a pan-India Railway Recruitment Board exams announced periodically.
These focus on assessments of English, Mathematics and General Knowledge apart from standard aptitude tests.
10 Constituent Assessment Types With Examples
1. Group Bourdon Test (GBT)
This is one of the primary assessments included in the Train Driver Test suite which challenges almost all under-prepared aspirants.
It focuses on the capability of the test taker to concentrate and identify a required pattern from a given set under considerable constraints of time.
Unlike other ‘odd-man-out’ type of logical reasoning psychometric tests, here the parent set can appear visually ‘overwhelming’ to some test takers, is repetitive and places high demand on both speed and accuracy.
The GBT basically consists of five pages containing contiguous boxes arranged in twenty five columns.
Each box in the columns has a set of dots in different patterns – the counts of dots ranging between 3 and 6.
One has to work from left to right through each row in a page and identify (strike out in case it is a paper and pen exercise) the box(es) having patterns of 4 dots.
The test taker has to work on one page at a time.
Two minutes are allotted per page.
The time is strictly monitored and once 2 minutes are up, the candidate has to move on to the next page.
Like most tests included in the Train Driver Test suite, there is generally a practice session at the start.
PRO TIP #1: On the face of it the test seems to be deceptively simple.
But beware! Unless practised earlier, the visual impact of a large page full of boxes looking similar with near identical patterns can play tricks with the eye.
At two minutes per page, you have to get the maximum number of right picks the first time – there is no second chance to revisit and ‘revise’ the answers.
PRO TIP #2: Get the maths in your head – you cannot finish off all the rows in a page unless you are unreally fast, giving an automated scanner a run for the money.
If you take only half a second to scan one box in a row, checking a single row of 25 boxes and marking out the 4-dot ones will take around 15 seconds.
The given time for a page is 2 minutes or 120 seconds.
So do not worry about finishing all rows.
Even if you are able to go through, say, 7 or 8 rows, ensure that you get the count of boxes with 4 dot patterns right for all these rows.
Way better than attempting to check out 10 rows and getting the numbers wrong in 6 of them!
PRO TIP #3: Having said that, lots of practice helps the brain scan an entire row way faster and the patterns are visualized in one go, highlighting the intended 4- dot boxes in a row far quicker.
They actually tend to ‘stand-out’ from the clutter.
But for that you have to practise and practise real hard at that.
Increase your focus and be prepared to shut the word out and concentrate solely on the task for a good ten minutes.
You will definitely see the scores improve.
Sample Question #1
Consider the following sample rows. Find out the cells or boxes having patterns of 4 dots only for each row:
Solution: Candidate cells marked out (crossed out diagonally – check out with the TOC instructor/ assessment centre representative for instructions; might change):
Explanation: Start with the first row and scan from left to right.
Mark candidate cells immediately.
Do not wait to finish the row and mark.
You will save on time and accuracy.
Move on to the next row only after you finish the previous row.
PRO TIP #4: Now that you got your eyes strained by working on just two rows, imagine the kind of illusion and fatigue that can be created as you need to scan an entire page with dot patterns.
And then repeat through five such pages. Each page within two minutes.
To reiterate, do not take lightly.
Focus. Practice. Repeat.
2. Test of Everyday Attention (TEA-OCC)
This is another interesting test quite different from most other psychometric tests.
The ‘Occ’ after the hyphen (‘-‘) in the name stands for Occupational Assessment and is meant to test the ability to concentrate, clearly follow instructions, auditory and general alertness and multi-tasking acumen.
There are three stages, each progressively a notch higher in the level of difficulty.
2.1 TEA-OCC Part 1
The first part tests the attention to auditory alerts.
A set of tones are played, in no particular sequence.
The candidate is expected to note the pitch of the tone and count only the low tones – the beeps are mixed between low tones and high tones.
The ask is to count the number of low tones or ‘beeps’ heard in a series played.
PRO TIP #5: Clear your mind and concentrate. Be alert.
By now you must be getting a hang of what these tests are trying to assess – ability to concentrate, focus and carry out specific instructions.
To keep it simple, do not count the high tones – focus on the low tones, keep track and it should be fairly easy.
Trick is not to let your mind waver as the gaps between tones can and shall vary and high and low tones would not necessarily be consecutive.
PRO TIP #6: The 1st beep that is heard is generally of a low pitch.
Check out with the immediate next beep, so that you know – just in case some TOC would want to trick the status quo or check reaction against the unexpected, much like what a real life train driver might face on the job any day.
Can’t complain – that’s what you are being tested on!
2.2 TEA-OCC Part 2
Right after the part 1, expect to be dished out by part 2 of the test which is basically a modified version of ‘directory search’.
From a given grid you are to find out the set satisfying a set of conditions.
The conditions may be a combination of characteristics – phone# area code + type of business or phone# area code + user rating or phone# area code + given distance from city landmark etc.
This test is administered to gauge the test takers ability to quickly pick up visual cues, interlink separate characteristics and quickly zero in on an answer, all against a ticking clock.
PRO TIP #7: Listen carefully to the exact instructions for the desired combination of characteristics.
Discard the ‘story’ part of the directions and focus on what exactly is required.
Mentally try to isolate sets with the desired characteristics as a single picture.
Fairly easy with a bit of practice.
But remember, like all assessments of the train driver test suite, practice against the clock.
Accuracy, along with speed, is the key attribute the TOC is looking for.
Sample Question #2
Statements: Consider the following information grid. Find out the number of restaurants with phone numbers in the area code (01342):
Solution: 3; Candidate cells are highlighted here to cross check your answer.
Explanation: Scan with a plan. Don’t just jump to it.
Start with the first row and scan from left to right for the right combination.
Mark candidate cells immediately.
Do not wait to finish the row and mark.
You will save on time and accuracy.
Move on to the next row only after you finish the previous row.
2.3 TEA-OCC Part 3
Just when you are done with the combination of grid search, symbol search and number search in part 2 referred to above, you shall be dished out another combination on your plate.
The part 3 of the TEA-Occ test is essentially a combination of part 1 and part 2.
It is designed to assess your multi-tasking ability in addition to accuracy, speed and attention span.
In part 3, a series of beeps are played, which you need to count based on the instructions, as you simultaneously have to search a given grid (as in part 2).
This needs oodles of practice as you should be able to correctly do the parameter based number-symbol search even as a part of your attention needs to be focussed towards hearing the beep that can go off at random intervals.
PRO TIP #8: In this test it is equally important to get both parallel activities correct.
Pay close attention to instructions as some TOC’s can ask to pick out only low tones from random high/low beeps played.
Generally it is only one pitch of tone played, though.
However, never hurts to err on the side of caution and stay prepared beforehand!
3. Trainability For Rules & Procedures (TRP) Test
The TRP test is administered as part of the train driver test suite to evaluate three things – understanding, retention and interpretation of new information.
This particular test again comes in two parts.
The first part of the TRP test assesses a candidate’s ability to understand and retain new information.
First expect to listen to a fairly long audio clip, almost always train related.
You have to listen carefully and attentively and make mental notes.
Nearly all TOC’s do not allow you to take notes as you listen to the audio.
Once the audio tape completes, you shall be handed out a longish information sheet on the topic.
You are allowed to take notes on paper as you study the passage, but soon enough (generally in the range of 5 minutes or so) the instructors would take away the handed out document as well as the notes you prepared.
Then you are given a set of questions based on the information presented so far.
If you had been attentive enough, it would be fairly easy to retain the information and answer the questions.
All are multiple choice questions.
Number of questions are generally in the range of 15-20.
PRO TIP #9: Make it a point to take notes and actually write down points as you read through the passage.
It is a scientifically proven fact that writing your notes as you process new information aids in retention.
Also known as the cables and dials test, this part assesses the ability to interpret visual information and prioritize dealing with possible defect scenarios in a real world setup.
There are forty odd questions, each dealing with different variations of sets of multiple dial readings.
All questions are multiple choice types.
You have to check the dials and the given key that mentions the relative priority of colour codes of sectors of the dials.
Then you have to identify from the given multiple options the correct sequence to address the dial readings in proper order of priority – from highest to lowest.
Once again, there is a strict time pressure.
PRO TIP #10: Be careful as you check the visuals.
To increase the difficulty level, some questions may also have dial readings given as numbers along with sectoral colour coding on priority.
In that case, in addition to interpreting the relative significance of the coloured sectors of the dials, you would also need to assign a numerical value to prioritize the order of defect fixing.
Sample Question #3:
Assuming the following readings on three dials and the recommended priority of checking for defects, what would be correct order for addressing the dials?
Solution: b) RLM
Explanation: Since blue colour coding gets the highest priority, the dial where the arrow is in the sector coloured blue will get the 1st priority.
Hence dial R should be checked first.
Then in order given, the dial where the arrow is in the orange sector should be addressed.
That makes it dial L.
Dial M has the arrow pointed in a sector which is marked as lowest priority as per instructions given in the question.
Hence b) RLM is the correct answer.
4. Adaptive Tachitoscopic Traffic Perception Test (ATAVT)
Well, the name of the test itself sometimes is enough to set butterflies in the stomach!
Actually this is nothing but a psychometric test to check out visual perception and information capturing speed while being exposed to a very brief stimulus, generally a visual stimulus like a picture flashed very briefly.
This test is administered through a computer.
Typically, expect a scene from a road or city street to be presented to you in a monitor for a very brief period, for a second or less.
Before the picture comes up, there would be an alarm tone to alert you for the picture about to pop up.
Multiple choice options will come up on the screen after briefly showing the visual and you have to identify major items seen, especially buses, cars, pedestrians, traffic lights etc.
Tick the correct choices and that’s it.
Sounds easy, right?
But hell no – it does require practice, loads of it.
The more quickly you can grasp information from a fleeting visual and process it, the more the chance of cracking this test.
Practice is the key!
Remove guesswork and aim for accuracy coupled with speed.
ALERT: Sample Follows. Read The Next Statement BEFORE Checking Out The Sample Question!
Take just a quick glimpse at the following picture (to simulate the test, remember to cover it with your hand right the instant you see it); be honest to yourself and try out the question that follows.
Sample Question #4:
Out of following, what did you notice in the picture shown?
Solution: b) Pedestrian and d) Car
5. WAFV Vigilance Test
This part of the test, as the name suggests, is meant to assess your level of vigilance.
Well, we all know that’s one important part of driving a train with the overall responsibility of the passenger, crew or goods carried!
It measures how long your span of attention does not waver and how alert you remain to externally applied stimuli.
Speed and accuracy of response too are key.
The weighted average of correct responses against incorrect ones as well as mean value of reaction times are considered to gauge fitment.
The WAFV Vigilance test is administered through a computer.
What happens is you will simply see on your screen a flashing grey square.
It changes colour, mostly a different shade of grey, at random (well, strictly speaking it is often programmed according to a sequence – but that’s immaterial to the test taker).
The ask is simple.
As soon as you notice the change in colour, press a green button to register the fact that you noticed the change.
The entire test goes on for a good half an hour.
PRO TIP #11: Remember and be prepared for long lulls between two consecutive colour changes.
Considerable time may pass before the next change in colour.
Remaining alert (and hey, guessed it right – ‘vigilant’ is the word!) is of paramount importance.
This is to mimic a real life scenario where you might be driving the train straight ahead for long before suddenly you notice a runaway deer (ahem!) on the track or just nothing happens but you are expected to stare ahead, ever vigilant, looking out on the track for prolonged period without evident fatigue.
PRO TIP #12: The other thing you need to be forewarned – do not squint or try to look too hard and get misty eyed.
It often so happens that by trying to peek too hard the mind tricks itself into thinking the colour has changed.
No kidding, it happens!
So just stay focussed.
And do not forget that you are to press the button to register your response.
6. Vigil Test
This is another version of the vigilance test to check your ability to stay alert and responsive against critical events while monitoring seemingly monotonous tasks.
Instead of a flashing grey square, in this version of the test you will have a bright dot moving across a circular path (that’s the most common; variations exist).
The dot flashes and moves in small jumps following pre-set ‘stepping stones’.
The moment you see the flashing dot take a double jump (guessed right, an anomaly), you have to react and register your response by pressing a green button.
Some variations do not have the circular path jotted down on the screen to increase the level of difficulty.
But the end purpose is the same – to check against fatigue and decreasing efficiency over prolonged intervals.
7. 2Hand Two Hand Coordination Test
As the name suggests, this is a test of coordination between both hand movements.
In addition, hand to eye synchronization is an attribute that is assessed.
This test too is administered through a custom computer terminal with knobs or joysticks.
On the screen there shall be a virtual track and a ball.
The ask is to use the joystick or knob to regulate the motion of the ball and ensure it travels through the winding trajectory laid out on the monitor without skidding off track.
Total mean duration and total mean error duration are key parameters tracked.
PRO TIP #13: Much like some widely used entertainment video games it demands quick hand eye coordination and control in movement of both hands.
Try to stay relaxed.
Tension will make things worse.
Just focus on keeping the red ball on the track using the joysticks or knobs for as long as possible.
8. Situational Judgement Exercise (SJE)
To understand the behavioral aspects of a candidate and to ascertain how he or she might react to a given situation, the situational judgement test cases are administered.
Honed over years of research and analysis of behavioural science, it is now a fairly standardised test with reasonable degree of confidence in predicting how an individual might behave in a typical situation.
In the context of the Train Driver Tests suite, the situational judgement tests are often referred to as Situational Judgement Exercise (SJE).
In most of the SJE test cases. the focus is to understand the levels of professionalism, attitude and awareness of safety procedures.
Given a scenario and multiple options arising thereof, the prospective candidate is required to mark the options from most to least favourable responses.
Typically, the options are outlined as follows:
5. Very Unhelpful
3. Neither Unhelpful nor Helpful
1. Very Helpful
Sample Question #5:
Assume you have just started your shift and is piloting the train during the morning rush hour.
As you cross the second station on the route you are notified by the ticket collector that in the third compartment there is an intoxicated passenger trying to break an emergency window using the fireman’s axe.
What would you do next?
Rate your responses in the order of 1 to 5, 1 being the option you think would be the ‘most helpful’ in the given context.
a) Ask the ticket collector to seek help from other co-passengers and try to overpower the unruly passenger.
You meanwhile focus on ensuring the train runs per schedule so that passengers reach their destinations on time.
b) Use the public address system in the train and threaten the unruly passenger that unless he restrains himself, he would be evicted from the train in the next station.
You then focus on keeping the train running on schedule.
c) Alert the emergency response services and the next station of the situation.
Notify the next station and your supervisor that you would be stopping the train in the next station and there might be a likely delay in schedule till such time the emergency responders deal with the situation.
Safety of passengers is more important compared to possible schedule issues.
d) Stop the train in the next station.
Rush to the third compartment, confident that with your fitness level and strength you can overpower the unruly passenger and ensure safety of the passengers.
You then notify the emergency responders and the station crew to take custody of the offender.
e) Do nothing and let the ticket collector deal with the situation.
As the driver your duty is to run the train and focus on your job.
Trying to resolve the situation is not your responsibility as you are not a peace officer.
Solution: C-1; D-2; B-3; A-4; E-5.
Explanation: Safety of the passengers is the paramount objective and as the driver it is your duty to take appropriate measures to ensure that.
Option (e) is thus the least desirable.
If you leave it to the ticket collector to try to gather other co- passengers and disarm the unruly man, you are again actively jeopardizing the wellbeing of your passengers and crew instead of securing their safety.
Thus (a) is also not a desirable option.
Trying to warn the disturbing passenger equipped with a potentially dangerous weapon would not possibly do any good either, rendering option (b) a rating on 3.
In both options (d) and (c) you would be taking the correct steps in alerting the emergency responders and notifying the station staff.
However, in option (d) you would be trying to take the matter in your own hands before notifying the ER or station staff, which is not advised.
Thus option (c) would be the most helpful option to address the scenario given above.
Hence the answer.
PRO TIP #14: Strictly speaking there is no right or wrong answer for SJE questions, but certainly you can understand the desirable ones based on the options given, common sense and the credo of safety first.
9. Written Communication Test
This is often an optional part of the Train Driver battery of tests with no Pass/Fail impact.
However, some TOC’s insists on including it in the assessment process.
Focus is not to check your grip on literature or advanced writing skills but to ensure you can express yourself clearly and legibly while writing a report or describing and situation that warrants a notification.
Often a topic is specified, or a situation stated, or a cartoon shared based on which a small write up needs to be prepared.
Keep it simple.
Keep it legible.
Avoid slangs or social medium abbreviations, maintain the basics of grammar and sentence structure.
10. Multi-modal Interview (MMI)
The long lists of tests is generally followed by what is known as a multi-modal interview.
This is basically a good old interview, but by a board where members use different interview techniques (or ‘modes’; hence the name) to understand your behavioural patterns, attitude, professionalism, ethics and overall fitment.
Be smart, polite and professional and give honest, objective responses.
Brace for questions that could be meant to ascertain your consistency of answers, may be even based on the responses you gave for the SJE part of the test.
Handle it like any other professional interview, backed by your research on the TOC you are applying for and things should be good to go!
Other Administered Tests
Sometimes in addition to the aforementioned tests, some TOC’s also include additional tests on logical and numerical reasoning.
But they are more TOC specific exceptions rather than the generic test layout.
Different variations of tests we already discussed are sometimes administered (e.g. the RAAT as a variation of the TRP test where the audio part is taken out or the SCAAT test which is another version of the tests meant to assess concentration and attention), but don’t you worry – if you are thorough with the ones discussed, you already have your bases covered.
While you do your research prior to your interview, remember that these tests have evolved over time and some of the information available in some forums or websites are already outdated.
For example, it would perhaps be a waste of time brooding over the Fast Reaction & Coordination Test, Driver Memory Test and others.
These have been discontinued by most, if not all TOC’s and are hardly relevant for your upcoming assessment day.
Well, so now that we have got a fair idea of what’s coming on the assessment day(s), time to highlight a few key points and brush up the basics:
1. There are only two attempts allowed by most TOC’s as on date.
They are a tightly informed group of companies sharing assessment information on candidates.
2. Most TOC’s won’t allow assessment within six months of a failed attempt.
Prepare well and ensure you won’t need to bother on that.
3. For some TOC’s the assessments are spread over two days.
Do your research beforehand. Prepare accordingly.
4. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Do not bank on the second chance.
Try to get it right the first time!
Have faith in yourself, try out the pro-tips mentioned and practice.
Your dreams won’t get derailed (on yes, pun intended!).
5. Most TOC’s send out a set of practice tests prior to the assessment day(s) along with the information kit.
Keep in mind, the actual tests tend to vary from practice tests sent out.
So, to reiterate, do your own research.
Practice. Repeat. Stay prepared.
6. Time your tests.
By now you must have noticed that the focus of the tests is to assess performance under constraints of time.
Try to beat the clock.
The more you practice against the clock, better the scores would get and the less stressed you would be on the day of the assessment.
7. It is virtually impossible for anyone to complete ALL the questions in all the assessment sets.
So, don’t despair if you feel you are unable to answer all questions within the stipulated time while you practice.
Rather, focus on accuracy along with speed.
8. Do it right the first time; there is no time for revision during the tests on assessment day Make it a habit.
Back to the basics again – practise speed and accuracy.
9. Stay calm. Stay focussed.
Most of the questions and assessment tasks are manageable with proper preparation, but focus and concentration are key.
To that effect, it does never help when the mind is not composed.
Remember, there are nothing called ‘silly mistakes.’
There are just costly mistakes arising out of lack of preparedness or avoidable carelessness.
10. Find out the areas of weakness early and start working on them.
Be honest to yourself.
Discount guesses and count only those that you are sure of.
Set the bar a notch higher.