Army Launches Pilot to Study Personality Assessment Entrance Tests for Recruits

70 "future soldiers" participate in a parade in Philadelphia.
About 70 "future soldiers" participate in a parade, June 14, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Shortly after, they were sworn into the Army by Brig. Gen. Charles R. Hamilton, commander of Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, furthering their transition from civilian to soldier. (U.S. Army/C. Todd Lopez)

Before entering service, U.S. Army recruits will now have to take an extensive personality test designed to predict how well they will perform as soldiers.

Under a three-year pilot study, recruits will be required to take the Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System (TAPAS) -- a 120-question non-cognitive exam designed to predict performance, behaviors and attitudes of potential soldiers, according to a recent Army news release.

The TAPAS accession pilot will evaluate the use of personality testing to supplement the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) cognitive ability test, according to the release.

"Those who will enlist through the pilot program will be more qualified than what their cognitive test score says," Tonia Heffner, selection and assignment research unit chief at the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, said in the release. "I expect them to perform much higher than that. ... There will be lower attrition for the people in the pilot program, and they will outperform many of their peers."

Related: Recruiters See Army Physical Assessment Test as a 'Missing Piece'

Up to 6,000 applicants enlisting in either the active Army, National Guard or Reserve who score between a 45 and a 49 on the AFQT will be exempt from that grading scale as long as they score in the top 50% on the TAPAS test, according to the release. This exempt population will be used to assess the effectiveness of TAPAS on new recruit screenings, Heffner said.

"If someone is within five points out of a 100-point scale [on their AFQT] ... we're saying they scored just below, but because of their motivation, they'll behave like someone who scores above," she 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," Heffner said in the release.

Recruits who enlist under the pilot still must pass all entrance requirements, such a drug and alcohol screening test, criminal background check and the Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) -- a four-event physical evaluation designed to assess how well recruits are capable of performing physically demanding tasks often required in infantry and other combat-related jobs.

"Anyone who enlists must meet standards," Heffner said. "This is increasing the overall quality of the Army."

The Pentagon's Close Combat Lethality Task Force leaders have talked in the past about evaluating the use of personality tests to find soldiers and Marines uniquely suited for close combat. The task force was stood up in early 2018 by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as an effort to find ways of helping the services, as well as Army Special Operations Command, to become more lethal at their craft.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

Read More: Inside SecDef Jim Mattis' $2.5 Billion Plan to Make the Infantry Deadlier


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