The Airman Selection Test is the first real stage of the selection process (after the online application but that’s pretty straight forward).
The AST measures your ability to do the trade that you have applied for. You need to pass this to be eligible to continue the application for your chosen trade.
Many people worry about the test and even more so about how to revise and what to revise. Some of the test is easy to prepare for but a large part of the test is measuring your natural ability.
I failed my first attempt. The ‘technical’ trades such as Aircraft Technician, ICT Technician etc. all require quite high scores, and coupled with the time limit in which you have to achieve these high scores, it amounted to me failing my first attempt but subsequently passing the second. Therefore I feel this puts me in quite a good position where I can talk about my experience of the test and how best to prepare.
The structure of the test is as follows –
- Verbal Reasoning with 15 minutes to answer 20 questions
- Numerical Reasoning Part 1 with 4 minutes to answer 12 questions
- Numerical Reasoning Part 2 with 11 minutes to answer 15 questions
- Work Rate with 4 minutes to answer 20 questions
- Spatial Reasoning Part 1 with 4 minutes to answer 10 questions
- Spatial Reasoning Part 2 with 3 minutes to answer 10 questions
- Electrical Comprehension with 11 minutes to answer 21 questions
- Mechanical Comprehension with 10 minutes to answer 20 questions
- Memory Test Part 1 will comprise of 10 questions presented on film
- Memory test Part 2 will also comprise of 10 questions presented on film
Please be advised, this list was correct as of February 2014, but may change in the future.
As you can probably see, the time limits for most of these sections are extremely harsh. While it is very possible to revise for some of these sections and improve your chances, being against the clock will certainly be a bigger challenge in comparison to the complexity of the questions. The questions, however, become more difficult when you’re working your brain until the last possible second. You can feel yourself become more frantic as you realise how long ago it was that you began a particular section, and therefore you know how little time you’ve got left. If you get in the unfortunate situation of having little time left, but lots of questions left, it may not be a happy ending. I talk from experience here. On my first attempt, I messed up on the Electrical Comprehension section. I didn’t know the answer to a question and moved onto the next, but I didn’t miss out the question on the answer sheet, meaning about 8 of my answers were right, but in the wrong boxes, so they wouldn’t have counted. I tried to erase them, go back through the questions, and put the answers in the correct boxes, but ran out of time. I would have rather failed spectacularly rather than making a stupid mistake like that.
I hope you’re now beginning to see how much the time limits can affect your performance. Basic maths questions, for example, will seem impossible and your brain will just stop working for a couple of seconds too long, and then you realise you have to push yourself beyond the realms of possibility to try and pull it back and get ahead of time.
How to revise
This is by far the most common question I see people asking and I completely understand why people get stuck. Here is the only link you need to prepare you for the test – http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/
Another useful wesbsite to practise mental maths is here – http://www.thatquiz.org/
The above website has time limits you can set for yourself, and also adjustable difficult settings, which is quite helpful!
All of the questions are GCSE-level based. The sections you can revise for the most are the Verbal (English), Numerical (Maths), Mechanical and Electrical sections. The parts that you cannot easily revise for are the Memory tests, Work Rate, and Spatial Reasoning. These are the sections which are most reliant on natural ability. You either have it or you don’t.
Another good way to revise, is by practising Psychometric Tests (the proper name for the AST). Many of these will include the same sections as the AST. What you will also find when googling Psychometric Tests are certain websites which will sell you different types of tests. There is even a book on Amazon which is all about the RAF test. I do not believe these to be worth your money. You can do equally as well by just doing the free ones, and using other resources like GCSE Bitseize.
Again, I’m going to come back to the time limit. You cannot prepare for this test fully if you have not incorporated the time limit in your preparation. I cannot stress this enough. Get your family/friends to write out 12 basic maths questions (decimal/fraction/percentage conversions, basic algebra, addition/multiplication/division of fractions etc.) Once you have these, set a stopwatch to 4 minutes and start. This will improve your mental maths. You can do similar things for all the sections that you can revise for my referring to the list above which states the amount of questions and the time you have to do them in.
Following this advice may give you a fundamental basis on which to work on, but I do believe that a large part of it is down to the individual. I definitely didn’t have all this information at my disposal the first time I took the test and although I failed, I still qualified for almost every ground trade in the RAF and that in itself was something I was proud of. If you really want to do well, you don’t need me to tell you how to revise and prepare, because you’ll be doing it anyway. I’m just trying to point people in the right direction as I know that some worry more than others.
Optimism and confidence will get you through it. There was no way on Earth that I was going to leave the AFCO as a failure twice. I said that to myself over and over, and it had a positive effect on my result. I passed the second time, when it would have been easy to fail if I had thought I was going to.
Go in there, give it your all. If you fail, find out what you need to work on, work on it, go back and do what you need to do.