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New in 2020: ‘No-fail’ PT testing

By early 2020, airmen could have the chance to take a practice physical fitness examination early, with no risk of failing.

Under the “no-fail” PT test concept the Air Force is finalizing, airmen could try their fitness examination before it’s due without worrying about a failure hurting, or even ending, their career. If the airman passes the test — which includes pushups, situps, an abdominal circumference measurement also known as the “tape test,” and a 1.5-mile run — it counts.

But if airmen fail any component of that practice test, as long as they have time left before the test is due, it won’t count against them. Instead, it would become a “diagnostic” test telling them where they need to improve.

This change, which would be one of the biggest changes to how the Air Force conducts PT testing in years, is likely to be announced in February, the Air Force said. It would apply to both officers and enlisted airmen.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said in a September interview that it would allow airmen to take their tests when they think they’re in the best shape.

Airmen’s PT scores determine how long it will be before their next test is due. Airmen who score between 90 and 100 points have a year to take their next test, but those who score at least 75 but fewer than 90 points have just six months.

To pass the PT test, airmen must meet the minimum value in each of the four components and score at least 75 when all four components are combined.

The consequences of a PT failure can be severe. An airman who doesn’t pass the test could have his promotion withheld, and it can also be a career-killer. As a result, there is often a great deal of anxiety associated with testing.

Wright also said in September that the Air Force is considering separating the tape test from the other three components of the PT test. They are now all done on the same day, but some airmen take drastic measures such as taking diuretics to reduce their waist size quickly, he said.

After taking these “unhealthy” steps, Wright said, airmen can exert themselves to pass the other components, which could lead to them getting sick, passing out, or otherwise injuring themselves.

Under the new system, the Air Force is considering having airmen take the tape test at least seven days, but no more than 30 days, apart from the rest of the test.

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