PABT (Pilot Aptitude Battery Test): Tips and details

PABT- IAF aspirants are well aware of this term. It stands for Pilot Aptitude Battery Test. It is a test designed for screening IAF’s Flying Branch aspirants and to select those who are genuine Fighter Pilot materials! Sounds cool and tough at the same time, doesn’t it? Sadly, many Defence and IAF aspirants are not fully aware about the technical specs associated with PABT. Like always, Apnaahangout will help lift the mystery and lack of information surrounding this topic. I’m pretty confident that this guide will be of help to IAF aspirants, who want to join the Flying Branch through examinations like NDA/CDS/AFCAT. Please go through the whole guide and do check out related articles dealing with IAF recruitment as well as SSB Interview.


First of all, let us check out what PABT is all about. We will deal with basic details associated with this test as well as some modern developments that have been implemented, when it comes to IAF’s Pilot Aptitude testing scenario. You may also check out – NDA exam and AFMC MBBS exam.


PABT: Basic details and recent developments

As mentioned before, PABT stands for Pilot Aptitude Battery Test. In simple terms, PABT is a test that has been designed to check the Psychomotor skills of a candidate. Apparently, Psychomotor skills do, to a great extent, determine whether you will make a great fighter pilot or not! PABT test has been designed to put a candidate through a set of tests that will check the candidates’ multitasking skills, reflexes, situation reaction ability, control and coordination skills, presence of mind, data and information processing (meter readings) skills etc. In short, it determines whether you are Fighter pilot material or not. It evaluates a candidate, in terms of the above mentioned skills and lets the authorities know whether you can be trained to become a good Fighter pilot or not.



working of Pilot Aptitude Battery Test

PABT- the filter screen


Why is such a strict and stern test required in case of IAF pilots, you may ask. Well, earlier, candidates were recruited for Fighter Pilot training without them being put through PABT. While this seemed okay at first, it proved to be blunder later on! Lots of mishaps resulted, which forced authorities to probe the reason behind these accidents. It was discovered that Pilots’ lack of skill and errors were the primary reasons responsible for a majority of the accidents reported. These accidents resulted in loss of Fighter Jets as well as Pilots. Government had to suffer huge losses, thanks such events.


Soon, it was decided that Pilot selection must be done through a much more scientific and effective method. That’s how the plan to design a strict and skill-assessing test was born. After much research and refining, the final product- PABT- came into existence.


It is a once in a lifetime test. It means that a candidate can face PABT only once in his/her life. If on fails in this test, then one will not be eligible to join IAF as a Fighter Pilot! If one clears PABT and for one or the other reason fails to make it to the IAF and later decides to appear for IAF recruitment again, then there is no need to appear for PABT again!


Okay, so this test is naturally a tough and tricky one. Also, they have not helped things by making PABT a once in a lifetime test. Why are the authorities and the Services Selection Board being too tough on Flying Branch aspirants, you may ask. The answer is that they believe good pilots are born with some qualities. These qualities can’t be developed efficiently through training and coaching. Yes, training helps a bit, but natural ability is much more preferred here. So, basically, it is like- you are either born with it or you are not fit enough to become a Fighter Pilot!


These days, a much more advanced CPSS Pilot selection test has been introduced at some Air Force Selection Boards. CPSS stands for Computerized Pilot Selection System. It is said to be much more advanced and accurate test than the traditional PABT. CPSS is like a more refined, evolved and computerized version of PABT!


PABT has been used for few decades by the Selection Boards. Tests and procedures involved in PABT have hardly been updated. Some experts even say that PABT is not too accurate, when it comes to evaluating skills of a candidate and that it is an outdated test. CPSS is said to be much more accurate and collects and analyzes larger amounts of data while a candidate is going through the test. In comparison to CPSS, good old PABT manages to analyze lesser amount of data, that too in a not-so-accurate manner!


Now that we have been through the origin, basic details and recent developments related to PABT, let us focus on technical aspects related to this test as well a thorough blueprint of it.


PABT: Technical details, format and blueprint

Broadly speaking, PABT consists of 3 tests-


  1. INSB- Instrumentation Battery Test
  2. SMA- Sensory Motor Apparatus Test
  3. CVT- Control Velocity Test


Pretty cool names those tests have, don’t they? Let us analyze each test one by one and see what they are all about.


1 INSB (Instrumentation Battery Test)

An Aircraft has so many meters and dials in it. They serve different purposes such as- checking information such as Flying Altitude, direction, Airspeed, dip etc. INSB test deals with these meters only. This test checks how adept a candidate is at reading these meters, processing the information by reading them and making use of this data to further handle an aircraft.


INSB test can be said to be made up of two parts. Basically, it is like an objective written test. Let us take a look at these two parts of INSB test-


1 Apparatus reading test

In this test, a candidate will have to deal with a set of most commonly used meters on an aircraft and read them well and analyze the data. The instruments that one will face are- Altimeter, Horizon Indicator, Airspeed Meter, Compass and Climb or Dip Indicator. These instruments are used to read and analyze details like- Flight Altitude, General Direction of Aircraft, Climbing or Dipping Degree of the Aircraft etc.


Airspeed Indicator

Airspeed Indicator




Turn and Slip Indicator

Turn and Slip Indicator

Level Indicator

Level Indicator

Heading Indicator

Heading Indicator


Before the test, an Instructor will explain in detail about the functions of these instruments and how to read them and check the correct data that they display. Usually, they will also provide some handy tips and tricks that may be used to read these instruments quickly and efficiently.


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After the briefing, candidates will be handed booklets that contains set of 15 questions (different instrument positions). A candidate will have to analyze those 15 sets of Instruments and read them. Then they have to mark the correct answer from among the options provided. Thus, basically this test is like an Objective test.


Now comes the second part-


2 Aircraft Position Checking Test

The previous test was all about checking Instrument readings and general direction of the Aircraft. In this test, based on reading instruments like Compass, Altimeter and Artificial Horizon, a candidate will have to check the relative position of the aircraft, like whether it is- banking left/right, ascending/descending, direction and degree etc.


Like in case of previous test, an Instructor will explain how the Instruments works and how to read them. After this, a candidate will be provided a set of 60 questions, which is of objective type.


Together, both these parts of INSB test will be over in just more than 30 minutes. Candidates who clear INSB, by scoring minimum qualifying marks are then selected to appear for further two tests- SMA and CVT. So, clearing INSB is necessary. Make use of the following tips to deal with INSB efficiently-


Tips to do well in INSB test-

Be a good listener. When the Instructor explains how the instruments work and how to read them, pay full attention to him/her. If you have any doubt regarding instrument reading, clear it by asking the instructor.


If necessary, create mental images regarding the working of Instruments. This will make Instrument reading simpler.


If possible, familiarize yourself with the crucial instruments mentioned above. Lots of resources are available on aviation related sites, online. You may make use of them and master the art of Instrument reading. Also, one may find and make use of tips and tricks that will make Instrument reading simpler.


Time management is crucial. First set of 15 questions needs to be answered within 12 minutes. Second set of 60 questions must be answered within 20 minutes. Together, the test lasts just more than 30 minutes. One must not crack under pressure. How well one manages time plays a crucial role in how well one scores in this test.


If possible, take help of PABT coaching that is offered by prominent SSB Coaching classes. It will help you get familiar with the Instruments and also help learn tips and tricks that will come handy.


Now that we’ve dealt with specs associated with INSB test, let us check out SMA test and CVT.


2 SMA- Sensory Motor Apparatus Test

The main aim of this test is to check psychomotor abilities of a candidate. It checks the reflexes, hand eye coordination, feet eye coordination as well as ear hand coordination of a candidate. In simple terms, it checks how well the candidate can multitask, that too while under some amount of pressure. SMA test, to an extent, resembles playing a video game!


Pilot Aptitude Battery Test, Sensory Motor Apparatus Test

SMA Test arrangement in PABT


The setting of SMA test is like the arrangement shown above. Basically, it is all about maneuvering a dot, which is placed inside concentric squares. Using a joystick, a candidate can move that dot up and down the screen. Using two foot pedals, a candidate can steer the dot left and right. Using the joystick and the pedals, a candidate has to move around the dot in such a way that it always stays within the concentric squares. At the same time, two dots, yellow and red, will appear time and again on top right and left corners of the screen. Using a stick on the extreme left, which can be moved forward and backward, a candidate has to eliminate the yellow/red dot. This has to be done while maneuvering the dot inside the squares. Also, a beep sound will appear in between all this. A candidate has to stop this sound by clicking on a button provided on the joystick.


Scores are provided depending on the amount of time a candidate manages to keep the dot within the square as well as yellow/red dots as well as beeps dealt with. This test follows the ‘best of three’ model, where a candidate is given 3 tries, each lasting 90 seconds. The marks where the candidate has scored the most marks will be taken into consideration (not total marks of all 3 tries).


Tips to do well in SMA test

Stay relaxed. Loosen your muscles. Don’t remain stiff and nervous. This test is all about how cool and relaxed your nerves can be kept under pressure situations.


Take advantage of the best of 3 model. Use the first try to get a feel of the pedals and the joystick. Sometimes they can be bit stiff. Also, make use of this round to get a ‘feel’ of things and sink in. You may up your game in the 2nd and 3rd tries respectively after making yourself comfortable.


Improve multitasking skills and reflexes using simulation games available on Internet. Some SMS simulation tests are also available, which one may use for practice purpose.


One may also make use of PABT training offered by reputed SSB Coaching Institutes to get a hands on feel and experience. This experience will come handy during the real PABT test.


3 CVT- Control Velocity Test


CVT Test in PABT

CVT Test screenshot

This test is all about checking candidates’ reflexes as well as decision making skills. In this test, a yellow dots keeps on dropping down from upper side of the screen. A candidate has to handle a red dot using a joystick like control stick and superimpose the red dot over as many yellow points dropping down as possible. The more yellow dots that the red dot is able to touch, the more points the candidate will be able to score. One needs to be careful while dealing with curves and deviations that the yellow dots offers. This test also follows the best of 3 model, with each try lasting a period of 60 seconds.


Tips to do well in CVT round-

Stay calm, composed and relaxed. Don’t crack under pressure.


Take advantage of the best of 3 model. Use the first try to get used to the control stick and the movement of the red dot. You may then use this experience to handle the dot well and score much better in the next two rounds.


PABT training offered by reputed SSB Coaching Institutes will be of help.


Check out these IAF related guides. You may find them to be of use- How to join IAF after 12th Science, How to join IAF after B.Sc., How to join IAF after B.E./B.Tech., Tips to crack NDA written examination.

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