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Are you considering a career in Army Aviation? Be prepared to take the Selection Instrument for Flight Training or SIFT exam, which helps the Army determine if a prospective pilot is academically qualified while also allowing candidates to showcase their skills in seven categories.  

Who needs to take the SIFT exam?

Applicants who wish to be part of the Army may take the SIFT exam. It is ideal for candidates who intend to advance within Army Aviation. 

What does the SIFT exam include?

The SIFT exam evaluates a candidate’s core competencies, judgmental measures, cognitive skills, preferences, mandatory screening, behavioral study, and a job preview in a realistic setting to understand the candidate’s situational judgment abilities. The exam is comprised of a subset of tests in the following areas:

  1. Simple Drawings: This is a spatial reasoning test of speed and accuracy in identifying one shape that is different within a group of five shapes. This test goes very quickly—you have only two minutes to complete 100 items, which breaks down to approximately 0.8 seconds per question. You are scored relative to your accuracy (the number correct versus incorrect) and time (the number answered versus unanswered). Incorrect answers (that is, guessing) will decrease your score on this subtest.
  2. Hidden Figures: This subtest is designed to assess your ability to quickly identify shapes in a complex visual environment. These are essential skills for aircrews who may need to scan the environment at rapid speeds to identify landmarks for navigation, hazards, targets, and other features. Fifty questions (to be answered in five minutes) are designed to measure your ability to see simple figures in complex drawings. Although these figures are fairly well camouflaged, proper visualization should enable you to discern them without too much difficulty.
  3. Army Aviation Information Test (AAIT): The AAIT includes 40 questions (to be completed in 30 minutes) that test your general understanding of the principles of helicopter flight and assesses your knowledge of the following topics:
  • Aerodynamics and performance (40%)
  • Rotary-wing aircraft components and controls (40%)
  • Rotary-wing maneuvers and performance (10%)
  • General category (10%)

The general category questions assess your knowledge of center of gravity, navigation, instrumentation, and basic Army aircraft designations (what each part of the designation means); platform purpose, and types of engines on each type of aircraft.

  1. Spatial Apperception: This test assesses your ability to understand how the view from a cockpit corresponds to an aircraft’s position and to perceive aircrafts in three-dimensional space. Twenty-five questions in the Spatial Apperception Test measure your ability to determine the position or altitude of an airplane in flight by viewing through the windshield of the cockpit the natural horizon and terrain. You must determine whether the airplane is flying straight and level, or climbing, diving, banking to the right or left, or any combination of these maneuvers. You must also determine the general direction of flight of the plane.
  2. Reading Comprehension: In this section of the exam, test takers will be given a passage of text to read and will be asked to answer approximately five questions for each passage. You will have 20 questions and 30 minutes to complete the section. At the intermediate level, the vocabulary is more difficult, the reading passages are of greater complexity, and the questions posed are much more complicated.
  3. Math Skills: This portion of the exam is an evaluation of college-level mathematical terms and principles. Math knowledge—the ability to use basic mathematical relationships learned in introductory mathematics—is one of the most important skillsets tested. Most of these concepts are introduced in beginning  courses in algebra and geometry. Arithmetic reasoning and mathematical knowledge test items appear as four-option questions in this subtest of the SIFT. While scratch paper is allowed to help you answer math problems, calculators are not.
  4. Mechanical Comprehension: This section of the exam tests your knowledge of basic physics, electrical, and mechanical theories. Questions focus on topics such as force, friction, current, fluid, pressure, pulleys, gears, screws, engines, and other machine operations. Familiarizing yourself with physics, basic electronics, and mechanics courses will prepare you for the questions in this section.  

Retaking the SIFT exam

Test takers can take the SIFT exam only twice in their lifetime. After taking the exam for the first time, you will need to wait 180 days before applying and retaking the test again. However, passing the exam with a minimum qualifying score disqualifies you from  retaking the exam again to achieve a higher score. If you don’t receive a qualifying score after your second attempt, you are no longer eligible to take the SIFT exam again. Prepare for the exam to ensure that your score becomes the best representation of your skills in your first attempt.

How to prepare for the exam

With only two attempts to pass the SIFT exam, you want to ensure that you are proficient with the subject material included in the test and well prepared for test day.

Peterson’s test prep offers an online, timed SIFT practice test with detailed answers to every question to help you prepare you for the exam. Taking SIFT practice tests under timed conditions will allow you to adapt to the added anxiety of a time limit. 

If additional studying is needed for mechanical comprehension, Peterson’s published Master the™ Mechanical Aptitude and Spatial Relations Test, an entire book dedicated to this subtest of the SIFT exam.

Preparing for and passing the SIFT exam with a high score will help your career in aviation take flight. Let Peterson’s help you achieve the highest score possible.