Army Officer Selection Board
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|Army Officer Selection Board|
|Garrison/HQ||Leighton House, Westbury|
Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) is an assessment centre used by the British Army as part of the officer selection process for the Regular and Army Reserve and related scholarship schemes. It is an equivalent of the Admiralty Interview Board and the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre of the Royal Air Force. The board is based at Leighton House, Westbury in Wiltshire, England in a dedicated camp.
AOSB is commanded by the President AOSB, a Colonel in the British Army. The board president is supported by a number of vice-presidents.
The AOSB has its roots in the War Office Selection Boards (WOSBs) of World War II. The WOSBs were created by Army psychiatrists and established in 1942. They involved candidates taking a three day stay in a country house, where tests were administered including written tests of mental ability, questionnaires, Leaderless Group tests and interviews. Psychiatrists and some psychological components of the WOSBs were removed from the Boards after the war.
Applicants for the British Army undergo initial suitability assessments, through computer based tests and interviews, along a number of routes. All candidates will be required to attend AOSB at a point determined by the type of entry. Candidates for scholarship, Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College and professionally qualified officers will attend only one board, other entrants will be required to attend both a briefing board and a main board.
Candidates will have undertaken insight or familiarisation visits to appropriate units prior to attendance at the board.
All boards have a similar format, consisting of a range of academic, physical, mental and aptitude tests assessing suitability for future employment.
Each board of up to two 'groups' is presided over by a Vice-President, with Professionally Qualified Officer boards supervised by an officer of the appropriate specialisation. Each group of 6-8 candidates is assessed by a Deputy President, who is a Lieutenant Colonel, a Group Leader who is a Major or Captain, who will run the activities in addition to recording evidence, and an Education Advisor who is a serving or retired officer of the AGC(ETS). Up to three boards can be running concurrently with each group being made up of up to eight candidates.
This takes place over two days and must be attended prior to being able to proceed to the main board. It is an opportunity for candidates to learn some of the techniques that will be tested at the main board and for the AOSB assessors to offer advice and guidance to those attending about how prepared they currently are to attempt the much more challenging main board. It is designed to give potential officers an idea of what is required and expected at the main board. Candidates will participate in a number of assessments including physical and intellectual ones during their time at briefing. The results will be used by AOSB assessors when feeding back to candidates.
Before leaving AOSB briefing, candidates will be assigned a category based on the evidence available to the assessors. This will be: 1 Allowed to proceed to the main board as soon as desired. 2 Required to delay for between three and twenty four months (often awarded to younger candidates with potential ability but insufficient maturity, or for remedial purposes such as to improve upon physical fitness) 3 The candidate is thought unlikely to pass the Main Board based on the evidence presented at briefing. However, they are not prevented from attempting the Main Board if, after further consideration, they believe they can achieve the required standard. 4 The candidate is not considered suitable for commissioned service based on the evidence available. This may be as a result of a number of issues including personality or their ability to apply their intellect or both. Candidates who receive a Category 4 at the Briefing may appeal against this result if they genuinely believe that their performance at briefing was not representative. If successful (strong cases must be made)the candidate may be allowed to attend a Main Board.
AOSB main board
This is a four-day selection event that consists of a number of different but inter linked intellectual, physical, mental and aptitude tests. It is designed to put candidates for both the Regular Army and Army Reserve under pressure whilst fostering their team spirit and competitiveness.
The Boards normally run from Tuesday until Friday but a small number each year take place from Thursday until Sunday.
On arrival, candidates are allocated a number (used instead of one's name) and placed into teams known as groups. They remain in these groups for the duration of the board, making it common for strong friendships to develop during the process. As candidates are assessed against a standard and not against each other's performance (there are no set quotas for acceptance – if you meet the standard you pass), it is not uncommon that strong groups will see a large proportion of their members meet the standard.
On the last night of the course a formal dinner is held for the candidates. In the past this was regarded by the candidates as another test, this time of their manners and social skills; it is not clear whether this was ever actually the case. Nowadays, the staff are at pains to point out that the meal is not an assessment, and no directing staff are present at the event.
The details of the physical tasks, command tasks, interviews and academic tests are not made public. It is known that the assessment consists of a physical fitness assessment, an individual obstacle course, three multiple-choice tests on current affairs, general knowledge and military knowledge, three interviews, a group discussion and essay on current and moral affairs, a 5-minute lecturette, individual planning exercise, and both leaderless team tasks and a series of command tasks where an individual team member commands the rest. There are also group races where each group gets an opportunity to test themselves against the other groups undergoing selection at the time.
Candidates are only permitted to make 2 attempts to pass the board. These must be separated by a minimum of 8 months. AOSB selectors are looking for evidence throughout the main board that the candidate has the appropriate characteristics that after training will allow them to perform effectively as a Junior Officer in command of soldiers both in barracks and on operations.
AOSB (Reservist) Main Board
This no longer exists as a separate entity. Regular and Reserve candidates are assessed together at the AOSB Main Board. Some AOSB Main Boards are held over Thursdays to Sundays but these cater for both Regular and Reserve candidates and are exactly the same as normal midweek Boards.
CFCB (Cadet Forces) Board
The Cadet Forces Commissions Board is used to select officers for the Army Cadet Force. Run over a weekend, the course is broadly similar to the AOSB Main Board however there are no physical tests. There is no set quota for selection and candidates are assessed against a standard, not each other.
Following completion of CFCB, a candidate is awarded one of four possible results:
- Selected - The candidate has been successful at the board and is recommended for a TA General List Section B commission within the Army Cadet Force.
- Not Selected (Encourage) - The candidate has not been successful, however it has been recognised that they have potential and are encouraged to attempt the board again at a later date.
- Not Selected - The candidate has not been successful. If they wish, they can attempt the board again at a later date.
- Not Selected (Discourage) - The candidate has not been successful and is deemed to be unsuitable for a commission. The candidate cannot normally attend for another attempt, however in extenuating circumstances their county commandant can appeal to the President CFCB for an exception to be made.
If a candidate has not been successful at the board, they must wait at least 1 year before a second attempt. If the second attempt is unsuccessful, they must wait a minimum of 5 years for a third attempt.
Army Scholarship Board
The Army runs two Scholarship Boards each year for boys and girls aged between sixteen and seventeen. The board is similar in many ways to the Main Board, with a fitness test, interviews, planning exercise and leadership tasks. The board is only 24 hours, and is specifically tailored to suit candidates in this specific age range. The Board is designed to identify intelligence and leadership at a young age. Successful candidates are then subject to further scrutiny by Recruiting Group prior to potentially being awarded a financial award whilst at sixth form, and then a subsequent annual award for each year whilst studying at university. They are also awarded a final lump sum on completion of the 44-week Commissioning Course after university. By passing the Board, scholars have a guaranteed place at Sandhurst, and they do not need to pass the AOSB Main Board to enter RMAS.
Physical fitness requirements
The general fitness requirements for both Regular and Army Reserve officer entrants are:
- 44 press-ups (males) or 21 press-ups (females) in 2 minutes or less.
- 50 sit-ups (both genders) in 2 minutes or less.
- The Bleep test, or MSFT, to level 10.2 (males) and level 8.1 (females).
- Obstacle course "best effort" within 3 minutes, measured against an undefined minimum standard.
The fitness requirements for the Welbeck Board and the Army VI form scholarship board are:
- Level 9.3 on the Bleep test, or MSFT for males and 6.6 for females
- Obstacle course as above
The Army Officer Selection Board was known as the Regular Commissions Board (RCB) up until the 20th century. In 1949, the RCB moved from Sussex to its current facilities at Leighton House in Westbury, Wiltshire. Both Regular and Army Reserve officers are screened here.
- Vivian Majendie 1943 – 1946
- Hubert Essame 1946 – 1949
- Francis Matthews 1949 – 1950
- Francis Festing October 1950 – March 1951
- George Erroll Prior-Palmer 1956 – 1957
- William Turner 1959 – 1961
- Reginald Hobbs 1960s
- Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid February – September 1965
- David Lloyd Owen 1969 – 1972
|Located Near Westbury, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom|
|Controlled by||British Army|
|Built by||Henry Phipps|
|Occupants||Army Officer Selection Board|
The estate on which Leighton House stands was bought by the Phipps family, a prominent family in the local cloth industry Westbury was known for, in 1585. In 1800 Henry Phipps, father of businessmen and politicians John Lewis and Charles Paul Phipps, built a Neoclassical box house, naming it Leighton House. William Laverton, who ran a wool mill inherited from his uncle Abraham Laverton, bought out the entire estate in 1888. He extended the house and planted trees, including a row of Araucaria araucana (Chilean pine) which still stands there today. Laverton ran his own in-house cricket team which played at W. H. Laverton's Ground and a home cinema until money ran out in 1921. The house briefly became a prep school before the War Office bought the estate in 1939. It previously housed a selection board for National Service. Since 1949 the Regular Commissions Board, later Army Officer Selection Board, has been based there. 
In March 2016, the Ministry of Defence announced that the Westbury site was one of ten to be sold in order to reduce the size of the Defence estate. In November 2016 the estimated date of disposal of the site was given as 2024, with the Selection Board due to move to Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Berkshire.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 October 2014. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
- "A Short Guide to Explain — The Army's Terms & Conditions of Service: Your Entitlements and the Army's Guidelines" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. 1997.
- "Army Officer Selection Board celebrates 60th anniversary". Wiltshire Times. 27 June 2009.
- Historic England. "Leighton House (1181392)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
- "Thousands of new homes to be built as MOD releases more sites". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- "A Better Defence Estate" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. November 2016. p. 22. Retrieved 9 November 2011.