Future Soldiers

Future Soldiers from the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion, National Guard and Marines, recite the Oath of Enlistment during a mass enlistment ceremony Dec. 1 at State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. The ceremony took place shortly before a National Football League football game between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams. 

WASHINGTON — A new military entrance exam is now being given to Army recruits to predict performance, behaviors, attitude and attrition of potential Soldiers. The pilot program is designed to see how the Army can get best-fit recruits.

The three-year pilot study authorized by the Department of Defense is for a talent management tool known as the Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System will evaluate the use of personality testing to supplement the Armed Forces Qualification Test score, which grades four parts of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

Using this pilot, up to 6,000 applicants annually from the Army’s three components who score between a 45-49 on the AFQT, have a high school diploma, and also score in the top 50% on the TAPAS test will be exempt from the AFQT grading scale. Whereas already fully qualified to enlist, this exempt population will be used to assess the effectiveness of TAPAS on new recruit screenings.

The 120-question, non-cognitive test has actually been used on recruits in conjunction with other entrance exams, such as the AFQT, since 2009. However, then it was used to collect data on individuals already entering their military occupational specialties.

While TAPAS is expected to expand the market of eligible recruits, Heffner said it will not compromise Army standards.

“Anyone who enlists must meet standards,” she said. “Those enlisting in this pilot that expands eligibility must still pass the ASVAB, the OPAT, pass a drug and alcohol screening test as well as a criminal background check before selecting one of the Army’s occupational specialties.”

In the past decade, Heffner and her team have compiled data from enlisted Soldiers using TAPAS. The results have consistently shown that individuals with higher motivation outperform what their below-average score indicates. They adapt better to the Army, and have less disciplinary incidents, Heffner said.

“Those who will enlist through the pilot program will be more qualified than what their cognitive test score. I expect them to perform much higher than that. It’s not even a little bit, it’s noticeably higher than that,” Heffner said. “Allowing those who score in the top 50% of the TAPAS to enlist will help fill the Army with “high-quality, extremely-fit individuals who are capable of performing successfully as Soldiers.”