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Research Questions

  1. What are the physical requirements to perform in different Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs)?
  2. How can physical performance on job-relevant tasks be measured?
  3. Which physical fitness tests, including the Strength Aptitude Test (SAT), indicate a recruit's capability to meet job-relevant physical demands?
  4. Do the fitness tests predict physical performance equally well for different subgroups (e.g., men and women)?

The Air Force uses the Strength Aptitude Test (SAT) to determine whether recruits meet the fitness levels needed to perform the duties of various Air Force specialties with physical strength requirements. However, the SAT was developed in the early 1980s and has not been revalidated since then. In the interim, the duties associated with many Air Force Specialty Code classifications may have changed, and new ones have been added. These changes require a reevaluation of the SAT's utility and effectiveness for qualifying recruits into these specialties. This report evaluates the status and validity of the SAT in a series of studies and summarizes the studies RAND has completed independently and one study conducted in conjunction with HumRRO, which provided the additional data necessary to develop some courses of action for the Air Force to follow to ensure airmen can meet job-related physical requirements.

Key Findings

The SAT still has good predictive validity but could be augmented with other fitness tests.

  • The majority of Air Force Career Field Managers (CFMs) who responded to a survey are satisfied with the current SAT requirements for the AFSCs they manage.
  • Available measures are largely insufficient for conducting the statistical tests needed to evaluate the relationships between SAT scores, performance, and injuries.
  • Analysis indicates that adding the Arm Endurance test to the SAT adds the most validity of any test.
  • Analyses consistently found support for the predictive validity of the SAT and the related fitness tests evaluated in the study.


  • Maintain the SAT requirements currently in place while following an implementation plan to verify any of four recommended courses of action selected by the Air Force, including the following steps:
  • Integrate job analysis physical demand survey items into Occupational Analysis Division's routine surveys of each AFSC.
  • Provide CFMs and other senior leaders in each AFSC with the SAT requirements summary job analysis data for the AFSCs they manage.
  • Collect feedback and address questions or concerns from CFMs and other senior leaders regarding job analysis survey results.
  • Begin administering any new test(s) (e.g., Arm Endurance) at the Military Entry Processing Station (MEPS) to gather data on new Air Force recruits.
  • Collect data on physical performance of recruits assigned to each AFSC.
  • Use the test data collected from the MEPS and the physical performance data to verify the accuracy of the SAT requirement and to identify other test scores (i.e., requirements) associated with minimally effective task performance for each AFSC.
  • Calibrate and adjust requirements based on feedback and data collected.
  • Establish a system for regular monitoring and updating of test requirements.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the Air Force's Force Management Policy Directorate (AF/A1P) and conducted by the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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