College applicants need to take the SAT and/or the ACT. Medical students take the MCAT. Before your orders are cut to attend the Army’s flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, prospective aviators will have to pass the Selection Instrument for Flight Training. Better known as the SIFT, both commissioned and warrant officers are required to obtain a score of at least 40 in order to qualify for flight school. The multiple-choice test is broken down into seven sections and can take up to three hours. Full disclosure, I managed a nice SIFT score of 69. Here are some tips to help you achieve the highest score possible so you can be above the best.
1. Study Guides
This one may seem like an obvious answer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother going through the resources that are readily available to them. Books have been published that detail the types of questions that are on the SIFT. While you can take the shotgun method and go through all of them, focus on understanding the reasoning behind the questions you will be asked. Additionally, take the practice tests and, crucially, don’t cheat yourself. Yes, the answers are in the back. But, you’re not learning anything if you peek ahead. Online study guides and quizzes are also available with a quick search. These help to prepare you better since the SIFT is only administered via computer.
2. Play ‘Find It’ Games
Once you’ve exhausted your conventional study resources, it’s time to get creative. The first two sections of the SIFT are Simple Drawings and Hidden Figures. The former requires you to pick out a drawing that is different from the ones around it and the latter asks you to identify an object hidden in a mess of other objects. In both sections, speed, accuracy, and attention to detail are essential. Having a quick eye to spot differences and pick them out in a crowd will help you succeed here. Who knew all that time looking at “Where’s Waldo?” and hidden picture books as a kid would come in handy?
3. Play Video Games
No, I’m not kidding. But, I’m not talking about Call of Duty or Fortnite either. While those games could help with reaction times which will allow you to submit your answers faster, you’ll want to play flight games in preparation for the SIFT. The next two sections are the Spatial Apperception Test and the Army Aviation Information Test. During the SAT, you will be shown a scene from the pilot’s perspective in the cockpit. Using that, you will have to select the image that depicts the aircraft in that same position relative to its surroundings. The AAIT is a little more straightforward and will ask questions about general aviation knowledge, Army Aviation history, aircraft mechanics and components, principles of flight, and common aviation words and phrases. If you’re a military aviation buff, you’ll have a leg up in the knowledge portion. To help with other questions in these sections, arcade flight simulators like Apache Air Assault and Ace Combat can help immensely, especially with the SAT. You don’t have to be a master pilot on Microsoft Flight Simulator, but more detailed simulations like it will help you to understand the more intricate principles of flight.
4. Pay Attention in School
If you’re still in school, do yourself a favor and pay extra attention in math, science, and English. If you didn’t do that well in school and have already graduated, pay extra attention to the SIFT practice tests and seek additional related practice tests. The last three sections of the SIFT are the Math Skills Test, the Mechanical Comprehension Test, and the Reading Comprehension Test. When it comes to the MST, it’s not advanced calculus. But, you will be tested on algebraic expressions, geometric equations and basic trigonometry. You can also expect to calculate percentages and rates over time in word problems. The MCT is a mix of physics, math, and science theory. Be familiar with the laws of physics, simple machines, heat transfer and the inter-connectivity of systems. The best practice for the RCT is to read each passage and the available answers in their entirety. Remember that words have meaning and focus on details to identify context clues and extrapolate the information needed to determine the correct answer.
While the SIFT is not an indicator of how well you will perform in flight school or as an Army Aviator, it does determine your aptitude to train in the skills necessary to fly with the best. A pass/fail result is displayed immediately upon completion of the SIFT and the Test Control Officer/Test Examiner will provide you with the numerical score. Remember that they have to sign your testing letter for your score to be valid. Once you obtain a passing score, you are ineligible to retake the SIFT. Additionally, if you don’t pass on your first try, you will have to wait 180 days before you can retest and a second failure to pass will disqualify you from the Army Aviation Program. As with all tests, study hard, be prepared, and do your best.