As part of a Department of Defence (DOD) pilot programme, a new military entrance exam is to be administered to US Army recruits to predict the performance, behaviours, attitudes, and attrition of potential Soldiers.

The pilot programme is designed to see how the US Army can get ‘best-fit’ recruits, even in jobs that now require slightly higher standardised test scores than the candidate achieved.

This three-study is for the talent management tool known as the Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System (TAPAS).

In an effort to redefine what a potential soldier will offer the US Army, TAPAS expands on a number of currently used screening tools:

Although candidates will still need to achieve the minimum composite score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) to qualify for their desired military occupational specialty (MOS), the aim of TAPAS is to identify those candidates who will outperform what their cognitive aptitude score (aka AFQT) suggests.

You can find information on the general US military recruitment and selection process for enlisted personnel here.

What is TAPAS?

TAPAS is an innovative talent management tool based on non-cognitive personality and motivation assessment.


The purpose of TAPAS, in combination with the existing accessions screens, is to provide more holistic evaluation of the potential soldier which can improve the development and retention of the force at the individual soldier level.


TAPAS was developed under the Army’s Small Business Innovation Research grant programme and can measure up to 26 personality dimensions.

The 120-question, non-cognitive personality test has actually been administered to US Army and US Air Force recruits, in conjunction with other entrance exams, since 2009.

Meeting Standards

Those enlisting in this pilot that expands eligibility must still pass:

  • ASVAB composite score: must still meet the minimum ASVAB composite score to qualify for their desired MOS.
  • The AFQT;
  • The OPAT;
  • A drug and alcohol screening test; and
  • A criminal background check.

Having passed all of the above, a candidate can now select one of the US Army’s MOS’s.


During the pilot study, up to 6,000 applicants annually from the US Army’s three components will be exempt from the DOD benchmarks providing they:

  • Score between a 45-49 on the AFQT;
  • Have a high school diploma; and
  • Score in the top 50% on the TAPAS test.

Whereas the candidate is already fully qualified to enlist, this exempt population will be used to assess the effectiveness of TAPAS on new recruit screenings.

What Does The Data Suggest?

Data collected between 2009 and 2019 using TAPAS suggests that candidates with higher motivation outperform what their AFQT score indicates. It also suggests that candidates adapt better to the Army and have fewer disciplinary issues.

This data also suggests that candidates during the pilot will:

  • Be more qualified than what their cognitive test score suggests;
  • Will perform to a higher level than predicted by their AFQT score;
  • Have a lower attrition rate than other candidates in the pilot study; and
  • Will outperform peers who have similar AFQT scores.

The hypothesis is that this will improve the overall quality of the US Army.


Brading, T. (2020) New Entrance Test to Increase Soldier Quality, Reduce Attrition. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 17 January, 2020].

US Army (2020) Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 17 January, 2020].