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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.

Recommendations

  • 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.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Manager Views of Benefits and Challenges of SAT

  • Chapter Three

    The Validity of SAT Scores

  • Chapter Four

    Evaluating the SAT and Related Fitness Tests Using Physical Task Simulations

  • Chapter Five

    What are the Physical Requirements to Perform in Different AFSCs?

  • Chapter Six

    Summary of Criterion-Related Validation Study

  • Chapter Seven

    Courses of Action and Implementation

  • Appendix A

    Survey of CFMs on the SAT

  • Appendix B

    Email Recruiting Volunteers for Pre-Test

  • Appendix C

    Numbers of Airmen and AFSCs that Participated in the Pre-Test (April 15, 2015)

  • Appendix D

    Emails Recruiting Volunteers for Reliability and Validation Studies

  • Appendix E

    Email sent to Subject-Matter Experts to Identify Physically Demanding Tasks

  • Appendix F

    Physical Task Matrix

  • Appendix G

    Movement Classification Questionnaire (MCQ)

  • Appendix H

    List of AFSCs Interviewed by the RAND Team

  • Appendix I

    Survey Items

  • Appendix J

    Additional Information About HumRRO's Criterion-Related Validation Study Efforts

  • Appendix K

    Technical Background for Additional RAND Analyses

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.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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