This new test, developed by the U.S. Army and implemented in 2013, was designed to predict whether you can successfully complete the Army’s Initial Entry Rotary Wing Aviator course and become an Army Aviator.

The SIFT test doesn’t allow you to use a calculator. The test includes seven sections with varying numbers of questions — the first section has 100 questions, but others have fewer and two don’t have a fixed number. (This setup is possible because the test is computer based.) These seven sections take a total of two to three hours to complete. The seven sections — with the individual breakdown of their allotted times — are listed here:

The SIFT Test
Subtest # of items Time
1. Simple Drawings (SD) 100 2 minutes
2. Hidden Figures (HF) 50 5 minutes
3. Army Aviation Information Test (AAIT) 40 30 minutes
4. Spatial Apperception Test (SAT) 25 10 minutes
5. Reading Comprehension Test (RCT) 20 30 minutes
6. Math Skills Test (MST) varies 40 minutes
7. Mechanical Comprehension Test (MCT) varies 15 minutes

Here are a few important points to keep in mind about the subtests:

  • The first section, Simple Drawings, is designed to be virtually impossible to complete in the allotted time, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t complete all the questions. The simple drawings are very basic, and developing speed is the important thing here. This speed is facilitated by the computer-based nature of the test; when you select an answer, you’re automatically and quickly advanced to the next question.

  • The second subtest, Hidden Figures, challenges you by giving you drawings in which you must find hidden figures. Finding these figures can be an acquired skill, so try to find practice tests to build your skills.

  • The third section, Army Aviation Information Test, covers your knowledge of Army-specific aspects of aviation, such as helicopter knowledge. Read and have an understanding of basic helicopter principles as outlined in the Army Field Manual (FM) 3-04.203 (Fundamentals of Flight).

    If you have a chance, speak to someone who can at least show you how helicopter controls work while on the ground (either at your local airport or at a National Guard unit). If you explain that you’re taking the test for Army flight school, most helicopter aviators will be happy to assist you.

  • The fourth subtest, Spatial Apperception Test, evaluates your conceptual ability to think about and project aircraft movements in a three-dimensional space. Some answers may look slightly off based on your assumption of what the aircraft profile should be, so select your best guess or the answer that best matches what’s in your head.

  • The fifth section tests your reading comprehension. Divide the time allotted for this test by the number of sections and then try to allocate that amount of time to each section. Tip: Briefly read the questions in each section first and then read the passage; that way, you know what information to focus on as you read.

  • The sixth section, Math Skills Test, evaluates your ability to solve basic math and algebra-type problems without a calculator. Some questions may seem hard, but if you relax, remember some basic conversions and formulas, and apply proper problem-solving techniques, you can solve these problems. The number of questions varies in this and the next section, so go as quickly as you can while taking care not to make careless errors.

  • The seventh section, Mechanical Comprehension Test, deals with mechanical functions. These questions let you apply your basic physics and mechanical understanding, your conceptual knowledge, and your ability to solve problems by applying scientific formulas. As with the previous subtest, the actual number of questions varies with each test. Be aware of your time allowed for completion and go as quickly as you can without making careless errors.

After you pass the SIFT, you can’t take it again to improve your score, so do your best the first time around. If you don’t pass it on your first attempt, you can retake the exam once, no earlier than the 181st day following the first attempt. For example, if you fail your first attempt on January 1, you can’t retake the test until July 1. If you fail a second time, that’s it; you can’t retake the test again.