The Air Force announced Monday that airmen will no longer have to take Weighted Airman Promotion System tests to be promoted to master sergeant, senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant.

The tests will be dropped for active duty senior non-commissioned officer promotions beginning with the chief master sergeant cycle this fall, the Air Force said in a release.

SNCO promotions now follow a two-phase process, with the two WAPS tests — specialty knowledge tests and promotion fitness exams — comprising the first phase for master sergeants, and only the PFEs for E-8s and E-9s. The second phase consists of a central evaluation board.

Each 100-question test can earn an airman as many as 100 points towards promotion. Specialty knowledge tests measure how well an airman knows information specific to his or her career field. Promotion fitness exams measure general knowledge in such key areas as leadership, Air Force history and organization, regulations, customs and courtesies.

Dropping the first phase means the Air Force will now use a promotion board process, similar to the board process used by officers, to decide which airmen should be promoted to the SNCO ranks.

“This adjustment focuses on performance being the driving factor we consider when selecting our senior NCOs,” Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force’s personnel chief, said in the release. “It also continues our work toward increasing transparency and making our processes simple.”

In the release, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said dropping tests will make sure the wrong airmen don’t end up in leadership positions, simply because they’re good at taking tests.

“We trust this board process will continue to give senior leaders and commanders the greatest level of confidence that the right individuals are being selected for promotion to the top enlisted ranks,” Wright said in the release. “We found that removing the testing portion will eliminate any possibility that airmen without the strongest leadership potential might test into promotion, while also ensuring that our strongest performers continue to earn the promotion they deserve.”

The Air Force said promotion boards will still use the current scoring process, and continue to review the last five years of evaluations and all awards and decorations.

But the Air Force will no longer score decorations separately as its own point category, the release said.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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