To join the UK Armed Forces either as a regular or reservist you need to undertake a lengthy application process which assesses your background, education, physical fitness and physical/mental health condition. Once you’ve sent in your application, and these things have been reviewed, you’re invited to attend an Assessment Centre (AC).
The AC is designed to test you suitability for the Armed Forces by undertaking a medical test, physical fitness test and cognitive tests. It usually lasts two full days. Your recruitment manager will book your train travel for you, for free. It can happen either during the week or at the weekend.
I am joining as a reservist, but the process is the same for regulars. Here is my experience of the AC.
My AC was at Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright, just near Woking. Once I arrived at Pirbright train station, I waited outside the front entrance with everybody else. We were picked up around 1700. Before you board the bus they will check your ID (so make sure you have it) and assign you a number. Make sure you remember this number. This is what you’ll be known as throughout your AC experience.
Day 0: Once we arrived at ATC Pirbright we were given a folder where we placed our identity and eduction documents, received a briefing about the AC, were given a bottle of water (keep this with you at all times), and a knife and fork. We then went to the cookhouse for tea.
Important to note, when visiting the cookhouse you must wear pants/trousers not shorts. After the cookhouse we were sent to our accommodation for the night. This was a great opportunity to meet other recruits.
Before going to bed, we received a briefing about the next day. We were due to be up and out at 0530 ready for breakfast. As a section, we agreed to wake up at 0445 to allow us to wash and get ready for the day.
Day 1: The next day we were awake and lined up at 0530. We marched to the cookhouse for breakfast, and then went to the main lecture room for the day briefing at 0730. Day 1 is focused on medical and assessments. I was sent to different buildings and rooms throughout the day. On the medical front, this was very quick and easy for me. I had a hearing test, eye test and an ECG. After this, I went to meet the doctor who checked over my medical records and asked a few questions about my prior medical history.
I passed my medical and was sent to complete my cognitive test. This was very straightforward. If you have a degree, or GCSE in Maths and English, you do not need to sit a numeracy or literacy test. After I completed the test I was sent back to the accommodation to relax and eat a packed lunch. I did nothing else of the rest of the day.
Day 2: We were awake and lined up at 0530 (same as day 1). We marched to the cookhouse for breakfast, and then went to the main lecture room for the day briefing at 0730. Day 2 is split into three sections. Section 1 is focused on the fitness test (bleep test), medical ball throw and mid-thigh pull. Section 2 is focused on the team command tasks. Section 3 is the interview. After you have completed each section, you’re sent to the breakout rooms to relax and wait for everybody to then head home.
Overall I really enjoyed the AC, and it was a great introduction to military life. Enjoy the experience.
- Everyone is in the same boat as you. Everyone is anxious and nervous.
- Respect the staff, and do not answer back.
- Take a book, as you will have a lot of downtime.
- Take extra food, as you will be hungry.