Air Force Adds Situational Judgment Component to WAPS

Airmen looking to become NCOs will face a new-look test in 2022, the Air Force announced Dec. 16, as the service emphasizes good judgment in its promotion system.

In previous years, the Promotion Fitness Examination included 100 knowledge-based questions. Now, potential E-5s and E-6s will have to answer 60 knowledge questions and 20 “situational judgment test” questions.

For the situational judgment questions, test-takers will “read the description of a situation relevant to their potential rank and duties, examine four possible responses to the situation, and then select the most effective and the least effective response,” according to an Air Force press release.

No study references will be available for these questions, the service said. Instead, Airmen should focus on foundational competencies and the recently-released Airman Leadership Qualities.

“This is another critical step in our talent management transformation, moving us away from using strictly knowledge-based questions while providing more agility in the way we measure the competency level and leadership abilities of our Airmen,” Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in a statement.

Behavioral scientists and senior enlisted leaders in the Air Force collaborated to formulate the situational judgment questions.

Despite the PFE’s overall reduction in questions from 100 to 80, the test will still amount to up to 100 points of an Airman’s total score in the Weighted Airman Promotion System.

“These changes are needed as we better assess and develop our Airmen for the Air Force of 2030,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass said in a Facebook post.

The Air Force already includes a section on situational judgment for its Officer Qualifying Test, and in 2019, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Human Resources Research Organization released a report detailing how the service might implement such questions into the WAPS.

The revamped PFE is just the latest change the Air Force has made to WAPS. In October, the service announced it was changing how enlisted performance reports were scored in the system, tweaking the scoring system to value experience as well as “sustained performance.”

These changes are part of Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.’s effort to revamp the service under his “Accelerate Change or Lose” action plan. As part of that plan, he wrote that the Air Force needs service members who are “multi-capable and adaptable team builders, as well as innovative and courageous problem solvers, and demonstrate value in the diversity of thought, ingenuity, and initiative.”