UPDATE 30/06/2015 – It’s now been quite a while since I was at Halton for PRTC and even basic training. However, from comments on here and reports from other people, I believe the PRTC is the part of selection which has changed the most. Therefore, I’ll leave my post here, but the following account was sent to me by someone who has recently returned from PRTC and has more up to date information on the changes. If you have any further questions, I can redirect these to people who have recently returned and get the answers you need.

We arrived at the train station and were picked up, allocated our rooms on the coach and then once we arrived, we went in the briefing room. We were given an overview and then had to unpack and get into our gym stuff.

Surprisingly the bleep test was straight away. There were a few drop outs and also one lad bottled I think and said he was too hot to do it. Sit-ups, press-ups etc then off to shower and back to the briefing room. I believe we gave our GCSE certificates in to a woman who gave us a receipt for them, they will be passed onto Phase 2 training or returned if we decide not to join. That night we were in the shop and bar, asleep by 2300.

Obviously I’d packed a load of stuff to last until Friday, but they told us that we were exempt from Functional Skills tests (due to GCSE certificates), however, you WERE NOT exempt if you had Scottish awards. Some unhappy jocks left in the room. We also had a lecture of sorts from a Flt. Lt, RAF Regiment and 2IC at Halton I think….pretty funny guy.

Thursday morning was spent doing various small tasks, pen portrait, type on the PC as much as you can in 60 seconds, spell test and various calculator and English questions, nothing major. Then lunch and quickly changed into suits again, into another briefing room with a Sgt who runs the training centre who was stood with a lad on SATT (Servicemen/women Awaiting Trade Training) and a civilian girl who works in HR. He basically asked us to rate our AFCOs and we had to stand up if we rated it above 8 etc. I think his job was the smoothly manage the recruitment process and be an overseer of the centre, been in 20+ years. After this, the coach showed up and took us to the station. 

(My personal PRTC experience, slightly out of date but still plenty of pertinent information)

The Pre-Recruit Training Course (PRTC) is a 3 day event (if you exclude arrival day) that takes place at RAF Halton. This is also where you’ll do your 10 weeks basic training (Phase 1), should you pass this. The aim of the PRTC is to make you familiar with the place you’ll be doing your Phase 1 Training. Some people like to say that PRTC will give you a taster of what to expect at Phase 1 but I don’t feel this is wholly accurate. It will ease your mind in the sense that you’ll become somewhat familiar with the environment you’ll be doing your training in. However, it doesn’t prepare you for the challenges you’ll face at all, except perhaps early mornings and time management.

Tuesday (Day 0)

It was the morning of PRTC. Everything was packed, and I was ready to go. All that stood between me and RAF Halton was a 2 and a half hour train journey. Not bad compared to a few who had come from further afield and had to fly in! I arrived at Wendover Station and just as I stepped onto the pavement outside, a big white coach pulled up. There was a group of 15-20 other lads waiting and they told me they’d been waiting over an hour. I had chosen the optimal time to arrive it seemed! After going to pick up a few others from Tring Station, we arrived at Halton. My attention was instantly drawn to the parade square. This is where, at some point in the future; we all wanted to be standing when we graduated from basic training. It seemed so far away into the future but seeing the parade square definitely gave me that extra bit of motivation for PRTC!

We stepped off the coach and lined up in front of our Sgt and Cpl who would be running our PRTC. We met them outside our block, got told what we needed to do, and then we did it. It didn’t take too long to get used to following orders. We got assigned a room, found an empty bed space, and dumped our bags. We then went into the briefing room, (which would also become familiar fairly quickly) picked up our bedding and went back to our room to leave it on our bed ready to be made later. We grabbed a pen and pad from our bags, and went back down to the brief room for our first briefing. We had to read some forms which told us about all the rules which we would have to adhere to during our time at the PRTC. These included places we could go and areas that were out of bounds to us, no mobile phones were allowed outside the block, if you’re walking anywhere then don’t talk or be extremely quiet, and a few more. While waiting for the brief to begin, we were informed some trains were delayed and therefore we’d be waiting a while for everyone to turn up. I can’t remember much of what this brief consisted off, except one part about social media usage. Let’s just say, I’d made a stupid mistake in some information I’d posted online before I got to Halton, and I was called out on this and it was definitely a learning curve. In short, don’t put any information online which you wouldn’t want the wrong type of people to read. Think before you type, and definitely think before you post! Lesson learnt.

That evening, we had dinner and then a walk around the main parts of Halton just to show us where we could and couldn’t go. After this, we had a couple of hours of free time in our blocks. It was quite nice to just unpack and have a chat with the other lads. For the first night, I think the lights-out time was around 2230 or there about. I think most of us were in bed for 2200 as we knew we had to be up early the next morning for our fitness test.


Wednesday (Day 1)

0600 was the time to be up, and we had until 0640 to be washed, shaved, showered, dressed and to be outside. I think due to it being the first day; some people were a bit keen and decided to get up at 0530 and earlier. It wasn’t necessary, and we were all soon told that we were to be up at 0600 the following mornings and no earlier. We were formed up outside at 0640 in our PT kit and we headed down to breakfast. This is definitely the time to play sensible. You fitness test is IMMEDIATELY after breakfast. Therefore, it may not be in your best interest to decide to scoff a full English breakfast. There are other mornings where you can do this but unless you want to be the guy or girl running back to the changing rooms during your bleep test to throw up… it probably isn’t the best idea. And yes, that did happen.

After breakfast, it’s straight down to the gym. You get ushered into the changing rooms, and we waited a few minutes before one of the PTI’s came in, called out our names and gave us a group number. Groups had around 20 people in them, so with around 80-90 of us on the PRTC, there were 4 groups. Group 1 does each part of the test first, followed by 2, 3 and 4. Because of this, you always get sufficient rest between the bleep test, press-ups and sit-ups. The rest period between each is a lot longer than I was expecting. We then all spilled out of the changing rooms and into the gym. We lined up and had a few things about the bleep test explained to us and before we knew it, the first group were starting. I was in group 3 so had to wait around 20 minutes for the first two groups to finish. My group was up, and the first couple of 20m shuttles were paced by one of the PTI’s. After that, it was up to us. It was at this point I chose to completely zone out. I wasn’t constantly checking where I was in relation to everyone else; I just made sure my foot tapped the line on every bleep. I did notice at around Level 7 that some people starting speeding up way too much, which resulted in a warning from the PTI’s as they stood on the sidelines and observed. In contrast, those who were falling behind are given 3 warnings. If you miss the line once, you are given your first warning. If you managed to catch up and get to the line on the very next shuttle, your warning is dismissed. If you miss the line consecutively twice, you have your second warning, and if you missed it again straight after for a third time, you’re out. Overall, not a huge amount of people failed. I’d take a rough guess and say about 10-15 fell short of the required level on the bleep test (which is dependent upon age and gender).

If you do fail the bleep test, you don’t automatically fail the whole PRTC and then go home. You’re allowed to fail 1 part of the fitness test and still continue with the rest of the course. The bleep test, sit ups and press ups are the 3 different parts. If you fail 2 or more parts, then you go home. So it really it isn’t bad as some people think, and there’s more leniency than you might have thought. Press ups and sit ups aren’t as bad as I imagined they would be either. Yes, the form is strict and yes, you’ll be told if you’re doing it wrong. But you get given a very clear demonstration on the form before you start, and as you’re actually doing your press ups and sit ups, you’re told if you need to change your form in any way. I was told to go down a bit further on a few of my press ups but none of them were discounted and all was good. The vast majority of people passed both the press ups and sit ups.

The fitness test feels like the ‘main event’ of the PRTC. Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief once it was done, and we all relaxed a bit more too. It was back to the blocks to get a quick shower, with emphasis being on the word quick. The BKSB tests were next, so we soon found ourselves in various classrooms. The Literacy & Numeracy tests are sat together, in other words, you’ll do one straight after the other. Both take 45 minutes so you’re looking at just over an hour and a half from start to finish. Nobody failed these, the level required to pass is basically primary-school level questions. Some of the questions are so deceptively simple that you may feel inclined to go against your instinct – don’t. It really is as easy as it looks. Some of the higher level questions get a bit tougher but as long as you pass, it doesn’t really matter what level you get. You get the results straight after you finish too which is quite nice to get that over and done with so quickly. If you had an absolute nightmare and didn’t reach the required level on the BKSB tests, then you would be sent home, but nobody on mine was.

The BKSB testing took us up until lunch time at around 1215, and we all got a packed lunch which wasn’t bad at all! I can’t remember too much of what happened that afternoon if I’m honest, but we had the evening brief around 1600 where we were issued our service numbers and dinner as normal around 1730 – 1800. We then had a brief on insurance at 1830 that evening. It’s worth listening to as you may want kit insurance once you start training but I’m not going to lie, it’s not the most engaging thing you’ll do during the PRTC. You do get to relax in some really comfortable chairs though, so it’s swings and roundabouts!

Thursday (Day 2)

Thursday is arguably the busiest day of the PRTC. Everyone is up at 0600 as usual, and outside for 0640. Once you’ve had breakfast, its back to the classrooms for some of you to do Functional Skills Maths. Those who are not having their Functional Skills Maths exam will be shown something called the Defence Learning Portal which is some online resources and learning which you need to complete once you go home and before you start training. You get shown how to log in, navigate the website, and what you need to do on there. Once you’ve gone through this and completed your profile, it will be time for you to do the Maths exam (Those who had the Maths exam first will then have the Defence Learning Portal lesson). I didn’t find the FS Maths test too challenging at all really, as most of it is common sense. The focus of this exam is working out. Unlike the BKSB test which is multiple choice, the FS test requires you to work out the answer and show all of your working. It’s basically a short, easier, online version of a GCSE exam. Depending which trade you’re applying for will determine whether you sit the level 1 or level 2 exam. I was sitting the level 2 exam and I still found it fairly straight forward. At most, it’s a few basic level GCSE questions, so nothing that a bit of a refresh using GCSE Bitesize can’t sort out!

Unlike the BKSB tests, you don’t find out how you do on Functional Skills at the PRTC itself. It takes around 4 weeks for you to hear back so in a way, it doesn’t really matter how you do. You won’t fail the PRTC because of it. Worst case scenario is that you’ll have to go to basic training a few days early to have a few lessons in whichever subject you failed (Maths or English) and then re-sit the test.

After lunch, you’ll be going down to be briefed by the RAF Regiment about the Initial Force Protection module during basic training. This is all the weapons handling and practical skills that you’ll do. You’ll be told a little bit about what happens, what to expect, and just general information. After this, probably the best part of the PRTC – boot issuing! It does feel good to finally get your hands on a pair of boots, especially when you realise how comfortable they are. You’ll have your feet measured, get some boots, have a bit of a trying on session, have a walk up and down in them to make sure they fit, and then you’re done. You get back on the coach (Yes, it’s quite a long way and you soon realise how big Halton is!) and you’re taken back to the main, central part of Halton. We then had a medical brief while still carryong our boots in their box and by this point we were all pretty knackered. The fact that the room we had the medical brief was hotter than the core of the sun didn’t help a great deal either. You’ll have to fill in a form before you get to the PRTC detailing which immunizations/injections you’ve had, and this is your opportunity to give that form to the right people. If not, you will probably find yourself getting many ore injections than you bargained for when you begin training. Other than that, you learn about keeping healthy during training and how to best avoid injuries which is always useful!

Post-medical brief, you’ll be going back to your block for your evening brief, detailing what you need to do ready for tomorrow. Friday is obviously the day you leave, so any mess needs to be cleaned up, carpets need to be vacuumed and your bed space and block needs to look exactly how it did when you arrived. You may also want to spend some time on the Thursday night packing, but you do get chance on the Friday morning so it’s not essential.

Friday (Day 3)

The morning routine changes slightly on Friday. You still have to be up at 0600 and outside for 0640, but you also have to take down all your bedding and put it all neatly on the correct piles in the briefing room. You then march off to breakfast as usual, before once again heading back to the classrooms, this time, for the Functional Skills English exam. I was actually exempt from this exam as I already had the Functional Skills qualification in English at the right level. If you have already done and passed functional skills at the level you need, take the certificate with you and you won’t have to do the exam there. As far as I can remember from when I did it at college and from what the other lads told me, it’s basically an exam which includes letter/formal email writing or something similar. Everyone said they found it fairly easy too so it shouldn’t be a huge source of nerves.

The end of FS English signals the end of your main tasks for the PRTC. You’ll then be heading back to your blocks to pack and clean up everywhere ready for an inspection after lunch. Joint effort is needed to make sure the briefing room is nice and tidy and every single bed space is clean. You’ll be told to get rid of fluff on the carpet, so attention to detail is needed. It’s not a big, scary inspection like the ones I expect at basic training though so don’t sweat over it too much! You’ll take your bags down and leave them outside before lunch, and then once you’re back in the blocks and have had your inspection, it’s time to go. It’s a good week and I was quite sad to leave. Now, more than ever, I’m eager to start training. Just one more final hurdle awaits – the final interview.


159 thoughts on “PRTC

  1. Interesting analysis – Incidentally , if someone has been looking for a Jv 820 form , my friend edited a template document here

  2. Hi Ryan. Do you know what to expect at the Specialist Interviews? I couldnt find a section on it here thats all? Kind regards.

  3. Hi Ryan, Great Blog! has really helped with the whole process! I have my fitness test tomorrow and I was wondering what the time scales are between the fitness and the PRTC?

    • GCSE’s are not accepted in lieu of the bksb or functional skills. The only thing that will get you out of them is having the actual qualifications at the right level.

  4. Hi Ryan. I’ve actually got my prtc very soon. I can do all fitness but struggle on beep test. Getting around 9 instead of 9.10. I saw you said it’s not essential to pass all of the fitness but do you know what happened to those who failed the beep test? Thanks

    • First of all, while it’s good to be prepared for everything, don’t settle on being prepared to fail. Bleep test is, in mine and many other peoples opinion, not the best test in the world. The turning at the end of each 20m makes it difficult, but I guarantee if you’re getting close now, then you’ll most likely be absolutely fine on the day.

      As it stood when I did it, people who failed the bleep test came back a month or two later on another PRTC but they just turned up for the fitness test, and then left afterwards. It may have changed since then but that’s my understanding of it and nobody has told me it has changed yet. However, you’ll be told all of that if you need to know it, which hopefully you won’t!

      Best advice for the bleep test is get to the line on the bleep. It still amazes me after 3 years of being in the RAF and countless fitness tests, how many people are running at a decent pace on level 2 and 3. Level 1 is basically a fast walk, Level 2 + 3 is a very light jog. Don’t use energy until you have to! The amount of people that are shattered by level 6/7 is ridiculous and it’s not necessary. You shouldn’t be breaking a sweat in the first couple of levels so take it easy. Also, find a technique on how you want to turn and stick with it. Some people alternate between turning left and right. They’ll do 20m, turn with their right foot, then do 20m and turn with their left. Personally I’ve always alternated every level. I’ll do one level of right turns and the next level I’ll go left. Also, don’t run over the line with both feet and then turn. You have to have a part of your body crossing the line for it to count. You can turn about 2ft before the line and extend your right/left foot over the line. Essentially you’re not even running 20m any more, but as long as your foot is over the line then you’re good. This adds up over the entire test and you run less distance. Last of all, make sure your trainers are not worn and have good grip! If you’re slipping when you turn, then you’re going to struggle before you even get started.

      Most importantly though, adrenaline will help you. If you’re getting level 9 now, you’ll be getting level 10 in the real thing. Your mind takes over your body and the difference is noticeable.

      Good luck!

      • Okay great thank you for the quick response. Of course on the day I will be focused more on every part of the test. I just think I over think it every time I don’t get 9.10. I guess it’s so exciting and nerve racking just having to wait for the day to come and everything just runs through your mind.

    • That’s how it worked when I did it. If you failed one part, you would just come back on a later PRTC and just stay for the fitness test.

  5. Hi Ryan.

    Daughter doing PRTC next week. Wondering if its now been compressed coz she arrives wed and leaves friday…can ya throw any light on that??

    • Hi Dave,

      First of all, best of luck to her!

      I haven’t heard of it being changed but I really rely on what people tell me on here. Obviously, it’s been a very long time since I did PRTC and things are constantly changing. The first I hear of any changes is purely coming from what people tell me on here. I’d be really interested in hearing about your daughters experience so I can update this post and offer more accurate guidance in the future. Would it be okay if you could give me a brief breakdown in what she has done each day? It would be much appreciated.

      Sorry I can’t offer you any more information. It has likely been condensed with most, if not all of the activities still taking place but just in a short time. I’d be interested to get some extra details though so if you could help out with that then that would be great.

      Many thanks!

      • Thanks Ryan.

        I’ll try and get as much info as i can for ya.
        Her train tickets from east yorkshire are all pre paid and we just collect. They are dates wed/ friday. So unless some error they must be ok.
        Will try and get hold of paper work to see what timings and plan is for when she gets there.

  6. I’m an aircraft technician. I went through basic training November 2015 – February 2015, then I did phase 2 training at RAF Cosford for 6 months, then I worked on Typhoons at RAF Coningsby for 14 months and now I’m back at RAF Cosford on my mechanical technician course!

  7. Ah righto… She’s planning on going is as Avionins tech apprentice. After a few choice changes over the last 18 months this was the most appealing in the end.

  8. She will follow the same route as I mentioned in my last comment then. It’s good once you get out onto a squadron. Halton and Cosford are just hurdles to get over and once you get your first posting, you can actually start enjoying it. A lot of squadrons go away quite a bit so plenty of opportunities to see different places and do interesting things!

  9. She’ll love the travelling then and hopefully the start of a solid carreer.
    One again thanks for all the feedback to a jittery nervous dad 👍

  10. Hi ryan, I have PRTC on wednesday and was just wondering if you had any kind of tips or things to expect that the AFCO wouldn’t tell recruits?

    P.S. This whole blog you’ve got has been very useful!

    • Hi Lewis,
      First of all – relax. The biggest hurdle people face is their own nerves. It’s natural to be nervous as the whole process is unfamiliar, but the trick is to make sure you listen to all the instructions you are given and to do as you’re told. At PRTC stage, you are clueless and the instructors know this. They expect nothing of you whatsoever other than you to listen to instructions.

      Enjoy it as much as possible, make sure your fitness is up to a good level so you don’t struggle for the test, and get to know people. Chances are, a few of them will be with you during basic training so it makes it a lot easier if you get to know them now.

      Good luck and if you have any more questions, let me know!

      • Hi, ryan. Thanks for the reply. I passed the fitness first time round which was nice, I was really anxious before each element esspecially the bleep test. The whole thing was pretty good but there was a lot more just waiting around not doing anything then I thought but none the less it was a good experience.

  11. Hi, hope you are well. My daughter did the three day PRTC and she enjoyed it but failed on 4 press ups. She re did it on the Friday and the same again. She now goes back on 29th just for the test again. We have been working very hard on her form and doing the press ups each day along with other fitness. If she fails when she goes back on something so simple again but ok on all other aspects is there still a chance she can get in?? Your knowledge would be very much appreciated. Thanks

    • Hi Jo.

      Unfortunately, all aspects of the fitness tests will have to be passed at some point. While it may seem trivial, it would bring up the debate of why does anyone have to pass the fitness if someone who failed is still let in. As frustrating as it may be, it’s just something that has to be done. The best advice I can give is to keep doing exactly what she has been doing. Do press ups every day. If it’s a chore, make it into a game or something which makes it seem like less of a task. For example, every time you say a particular word or every time you leave/enter a room, do 5 press ups. I remember before I joined I’d just randomly drop down and do 10-20 press ups at home. I’d do this 10-20 times a day and without you noticing, you become more used to it. Form is important as you said, so make sure that is something she concentrates on heavily. If the form is where she is going wrong, then instead of doing as many as she can, make sure she does them extremely slowly and controlled. Find that point where she has her arms bent at 90 degrees with her body straight and hold that position as long as possible. It’ll become muscle memory after a while and the form will become less of a problem.

      Good luck to her for the next attempt and if you or her have any further questions then I’m happy to help!

  12. Hi Ryan, your RAF journey is amazing and I find your article very helpful in terms of preparing for next step.
    Currently, I’m waiting for PRTC (hope it is before christmas) – would l need to take Level 2 FS test even if I have GCSE Maths and English?


    • Hi Rai,

      I’m happy to hear it’s helped you along the way. Yes, FS is a completely different qualification and therefore you still need to do it even with GCSEs. The only thing that will be accepted is if you have the FS qualification already in the required subject at the required level. The test isn’t anything to worry about though, so don’t panic!

      Good luck for PRTC and basic training and if you have any more questions then I’m happy to help.

      • I see. I thought you mentioned at the top that you were exempt from Functional Skills tests due to GCSE certificates.

  13. That was the account of someone else. I have not had anyone tell me 100% whether GCSEs are accepted in place of FS, but I very much doubt they are as the vast majority of people are going to have GCSEs in Maths and English. The FS is more of a requirement for the apprenticeship. I’d very much appreciate if you could clarify this for me when you complete the PRTC and then I can make sure the information is correct.

    • Ryan, I’ve just got my PRTC booked and confirmed that I’ll not be required to take FS test.
      Btw, the process has changed slightly -. Wednesday we get to Halton around 1300 -1400 and we do Bleep test right away. Thursday we do BKSB and we can leave in the afternoon. However, for any who fails Bleep test can retake it on Friday morning followed by FS test (if required).

  14. Hi,

    Any information on the BKSB assessment? Do GCSS certificates at grads C or above excerpt you from the assesment & is it pass or fail.


    • BKSB is mandatory for everyone I believe. As always, if anyone reads this and has different information then please correct me. Functional Skills can sometimes be waived, however BKSB have always been a basic mandatory test and are pass/fail (but aren’t anything to worry about)

  15. Hi,

    I have just completed my OASC, Im applying for SNCO ATC. This might sound like a stupid question but since I did a fitness test at Cranwell will I have to repeat it. Thanks

    • Hi Peter,

      Sorry for the delayed reply. Unfortunately, fitness tests are just a part of being in the RAF. You will likely have more than one fitness test during training, and then an annual fitness test for the rest of your career.

  16. Hi there, I’m a bit confused if the selection proccess has slightly changed nowadays? I did my AST and got good scores so the recruiter said I could apply for any job, eventually chose weapons technician. After that I had an interview but it was only about 20 mins long and was mainly questions about myself and why I want to join the raf. There were no questions about oversea bases or types of aircraft etc. I’ve already done my medical but everywhere I look including RAF website say the interview should be before medical? Did that 20 min interview count as the real thing and i got it easy or has the order changed and it’s to come?

    • Sounds like you got it easy! They wouldn’t make you do another interview if you’ve already done one, even if it was only 20 minutes.

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