British Army Infantry Training: What are the Factors Associated with Failure to Complete?

Research Paper Title

Identifying and Understanding Factors Associated with Failure to Complete Infantry Training among British Army Recruits.


Over 30% of the British Army’s Infantry Recruits who underwent training between 1999 and 2003 failed to complete their training. Previous studies have focused predominantly on identifying the cumulative reasons for failure. There is a dearth of research investigating the effect of failure on the individual recruit and what influences their ability to pass training.

The overall aims of this study were:

  • To achieve an understanding of the role that antecedent personal, social and demographic factors play in a British Army recruit‟s ability to complete basic training;
  • To investigate the possibility of identifying predictive factors that would identify infantry recruits who were at risk of being unable to cope with the transition to life in the British Army; and
  • To explore the reasons given by those recruits who failed to complete basic training to develop a more comprehensive understanding of why recruits fail.


All new army recruits joining the first and second battalion between September 2002 and March 2003 were invited to take part in the study. A biographical questionnaire based on a modified version of the US Army’s 115 item biographical questionnaire form was self-completed prior to infantry training by all those agreeing to take part in the study. Study participants were monitored weekly throughout their training and the training outcome (pass/fail) was recorded. The data was randomly split into a development dataset (two thirds) and a test dataset (one third). Independent variables were grouped into five categories (Demographic & Physical Measurement, Education, Outdoor Education, Non-Physical Activity and Conduct and Behaviour) and tested univariably and multivariably to examine their association with training outcome in the development dataset using logistic regression. The multi-variable model was then used to construct a score and its sensitivity and specificity was tested using the test dataset.

All those within the study who failed to complete Infantry recruit training were invited to take part in a qualitative semi-structured exit interview. These interviews were analysed using framework analysis methodology. Findings from both the quantitative and qualitative analysis were integrated to determine whether prediction of failure was practicable and to develop an increased understanding of the impact that antecedent factors and training experiences contributed to training failure.


Of the study cohort of 999 recruits 36.2% (n=362) failed. Within the failure group 74.4% (n=269) gave reasons to suggest that this was attributable to difficulties in adapting to life in the British Army Infantry. Factors associated with higher odds of failure were: absence of female siblings (p=0.005), aggressive coping strategies (p=0.013), use of ecstasy (p=0.02), evenings per week spent at the family home (p=0.032), truancy (p=0.039), an increased number of schools attended (p=0.046) and classroom behaviour (p=0.052). The area under the curve on the test dataset was 0.58 (0.501-0.65 95% CI).

Analysis of the qualitative data suggested that there was a marked difference between the socio-personal identity of recruits who failed training and the organisational identity of the British Army Infantry. Cognitive dissonance and varying extremes of stress were reported by those recruits that failed during the transition to military life.


A screening tool constructed from items of the biographical questionnaire was unable to predict failure in training with sufficient accuracy to recommend its routine use for new recruits to British Army Infantry training. This study has identified that there is a lack of fit between military identity and the socio-personal identity of the infantry recruit which results in dissonance and stress during the transition into the military. It is recommended that future studies should focus on how to reduce the psychological impact of the transition into infantry training.


Kiernana, M.D. (2011) Identifying and Understanding Factors Associated with Failure to Complete Infantry Training among British Army Recruits. PhD Thesis. University of Nottingham. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 18 January, 2014].


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