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Yet another AIB experience


Lantern Swinger
*Warning* I did fail, so don't do as I do!

Edit: this account is out of date now, as the AIB has been changed according to this post:

The real highlight of AIB was the other guys. All of them were great, and I glad I got to meet them, even if I can only remember 2 of their names. The worst bit? Failing, but apart from that, probably my own nerves. The worst actual event is the planning exercise.

My key bit of advice is to be loud. Very loud, and say lots and lots. I wasn't, and that's the main reason I failed.

There was supposed to be 3 boards, but 5 people didn't turn up, so they moved the one guy in board 2 to join the two in board 1. Board 3 (mine) was full. I suppose that's a good bit of advice; if you want to pass AIB, turn up.

Day 1

Only the essay counts, and even that doesn't count for much. The rest is all practice.


Make sure you have your passport, invitation letter and photograph ready. I looked like a right prat at reception because I had to dive through my suitcase to get the photo out. Don't look like a prat.

After that, there was some waiting until lunch. The food was a bit too fancy for my liking, but it's all right.


We changed into overalls, then went straight to a room to write an essay. Nothing you can really prepare for - 6 questions, and 3 were defence related. The others were along the lines of the OCR GCSE English language paper; look at questions 4 and 5 on it to get a feel for the style of it (not sure if I can actually say what the questions were).

PLT practice

This is okay. I was still too nervous to find it fun, but swinging across water on ropes is never a bad thing. Just make sure to pay attention to all the techniques you’re taught here, and remember things like hands go on shoulders when 2 people are securing planks (at least for my board it was on shoulders), and when securing a spar, you can't show any nails - fingers and thumbs must be fully tucked in.

Planning exercise practitice

You get far less time to think about the problem, only 7.5 minutes to look at the scenario and then 7.5 minutes to come up with a solution to a problem that has now been introduced, but it's for a reason - this exercise is far easier than the one you'll do tomorrow. This was all in silence, and at the end, you’re given three answers. All of us had chosen the exact same plan of action as answer c described, so I guess that shows how easy this is.

Rest of the day

We had an hour and a bit free time in the rec rokm before tea, then a couple hours afterwards. We spent some of this time practicing PLT techniques and some going over planning exercises from the books that they have there. There's also the latest copy of Navy News. Tea was fancy as well (maybe I’m just a really simple person, though) but I managed to eat enough. We then chilled in the rec room for a while, just talking or playing pool, until we went up to bed. I then showered on the night, because there was no one else about and so no rush to try to get done or push in front of others. Beware; you have no room. Also, the doors are glass and so the layout is rather public - just sling your towel over the door frame if it bothers you.

For those who are over 18, you can leave Sultan after planning exercise practice and have tea at the pub (you will have to pay for that, of course), as long as you return by 11.

Day 2

This day we more relaxed, I found; although this is the busy day where everything counts, I had settled in a bet more. The marine seargant woke us up at 6:15 with some music, then we rushed into suits for breakfast. Don't get too much for breakfast if you know you're not going to eat it; I had a bowl of coco pops and then realised I wasn't hungry, so my eggs and toast went to waste. Lunch is ordered now as well.


I found this quite enjoyable. Still too nervous at the beginning, but it didn't affect me in the end. We had 15 minutes to plan a fairly straightforward situation, then we left our plans behind to go do a leaderless task which there was no plan for. Try to take control from the beginning. Make sure to speak up here, and say “well done team!” for absolutely everything. But be loud; it’s an echoey hangar, and the officers need to hear you easily to be able to award you marks. Refer to everybody by “candidate number #” throughout, it helps the officers give marks too - and everybody getting more marks is a good thing.

After that, our planned PLTs began. I was candidate 1, so I went first - which was really good, as after my PLT I relaxed and had fun in all the others. You get your plan back, then have 30 seconds to attempt to memorise it, if you haven't already. From the card you read out the equipment check and then the mission statement, then it's taken away from you. My brief was apparently really good - I managed to be loud enough and because I split it into phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3 it seems more military (or so my ACLO told me). The other guys on the board were impressed, at least. Then we got into action. I was still issuing commands, but no support or motivation - my downfall. At one point, I had all of us standing on a little platform on the water. This platform wasn't big enough for the four of us, so we all took a dive. That actually relaxed us all again, as now there was no pressure to stay dry. All the staff were laughing too, so it was a good thing. Obviously I planned to do exactly that. All to my design. Anyway, we successfully completed my PLT, then I stopped being nervous after it - and the rest was fun. We completed one more PLT out of the 3 remaining, but the others were quite close to being done.

Planning exercise

This was horrible. 15 minutes silence looking at a situation, then you’re moved to a room with the officers who are assesing you and the same one who appears in the AIB video that the navy put on YouTube. She gives you the problem (which you don't get in writing) then you get 15 minutes to discuss with your board to come up with a solution. I was told I didn't speak enough here, and that's possibly because I had no bloody clue what to do. At the end, we hardly had a plan. One guy presented it, then the questionning began. I didn't think it was that bad. After that, we had 2 minutes in silence to make a plan (whether we used the same one as before or changed it) and then two minutes, one at a time, to present to the officer. My plan wasn't very good, because the first question I was asked was basically “how about you do something entirely different instead?”.


After that, I had my interview. People say it's relaxed, but I disagree. The officer on the right in particular had a sort of blank expression throughout, but when he started asking questions, he had a sort of bemused “why on earth would you answer with that?” face. As for navy knowledge, the only thing I was asked was where the navy is in the world - they didn't even care about which ships in particular. The only question that caught me out was “if your family and friends were to describe you in 3 words, what would they be?” I gave 2 words then couldn't think of a third.

Throughout the interview, I didn't come across as confident and as a naturally quiet person, I really wasn't doing myself any favours here, which is another reason I failed. My examples were fairly weak too - but as a young’un, I don't think I was expected to have great examples anyway.


Lunch was brought to the rec room, so I scoffed it down then. From when my interview started, the next sessions were split into approximately 1 hour chunks. 1 person would do an interview, the other 3 would do a psychometric test. When they finished the test, they returned to the rec room and waited for the next activity. The tests themselves were fairly simple - though at the last few questions, the maths requires too much thinking and the abstract test… all the shapes were the same. No idea what the answer might have been, so I guessed.

It seems it paid off because the RM seargant said I got one of the highest psychometric test scores he’d seen in months.


This was the easiest part, as you’ve already passed it if you're at the AIB. As long as your time is below 11:09 (for the youngest age group) it doesn't matter what it is. The PTI was quite nice, until one guy started walking on the final lap. PTI mode activated, and the shouting started - but he didn't go full ballistic, so the guy got off easy. He passed with 1 second to spare. My advice here; pass with more than 1 second to pass. I was the fastest in my group at 9:57, but no where near the AIB record of 7:23.


I was already prepared to fail, so I didn't have much of a reaction when the officer said “you put in a lot of effort, but unfortunately you didn't quite make the mark”. At least he was the one who didn't have the bemused expression. We were all waiting in the waiting room beforehand, then called up one by one to get results. After getting them, I talked to the seargant then started packing up. Once the other guys had also came up to pack up, I asked them - they all passed. In fact, I was the only person to not pass from both boards. Oops.

My advice

I won't get the full report back for a couple of weeks, so I don't know exactly what I did wrong,but the officer said it was mostly because I wasn't loud enough in both the PLT and planning exercise. What I did say was really good, he said, it just wasn't often enough or loud enough. He also said I didn't come across as confident enough in the interview, and thst I didn't say enough in it - they weren't able to get the detail they needed.

So to pass, be loud and say lots of stuff. Whatever seems relevant. Things like “good job candidate number #” and “well done team!”.
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Lantern Swinger
"The food was a bit too fancy" said no-one ever until now that is.

I think I really am too simple. But the turkey meatballs were dressed in this sauce that I found too spicy (I don't have any spicy food ever, so most of you probably wouldn't even register it was spicy - it was rather mild) and they had vegetables that I didn't recognise that they cooked in weird ways.


Interesting read, you don't often get to hear from those who fail. Looks very much like you didn't feel confident in some tasks so you weren't acting confident.

My plan wasn't very good, because the first question I was asked was basically “how about you do something entirely different instead?”.

What makes you think your plan wasn't very good? Without a doubt, every single person would have been asked a variant of that question.

he had a sort of bemused “why on earth would you answer with that?”
Again, what makes you think his job wasn't purely to see if you were confident in your answer?

Could you fill us in a bit of the prep you did? If you go round again, what will you change in your preparation?


Lantern Swinger
Interesting read, you don't often get to hear from those who fail. Looks very much like you didn't feel confident in some tasks so you weren't acting confident.

What makes you think your plan wasn't very good? Without a doubt, every single person would have been asked a variant of that question.

Again, what makes you think his job wasn't purely to see if you were confident in your answer?

Could you fill us in a bit of the prep you did? If you go round again, what will you change in your preparation?

I agree with that first statement - I was still nervous in the PLT, so I wasn't fully confident. After that I relaxed, but the planning exercise I was lost - which also led to a drop in confidence.

As for my plan, I don't think anyone has ever had a good plan, but it was bad mostly because it required doing something (disembarking a boat at a certain location, in my case) which I was told I couldn't do. But yes, most people probably feel that way. No point worrying about it when it's over, being confident while delivering the plan probably matters just as much.

If that was his job, he succeeded - I don't know why I wasn't so confident here, because I was fine in the SIFT interview.

As for preparation:

I read Navy News and the RN website to get an idea for operations and current deployments.
I used the RN website and Wikipedia (I'm sorry) to learn about the capabilities of the ships, but I didn't need it.
I printed off some planning exercises from another thread somewhere here (I'll find it later)... then proceeded to not do most of them. I don't think I actually did one properly.
At my pre-AIB brief, the officer told us the sort of questions to expect, so I planned answers for those questions. I didn't quite remember it all, though, so I had to make up some answers on the spot.

If I go for it again, there's 2 main things I'd do; practice more planning exercises, even if they're far easier than the real thing, and also prepare an answer for the 2 minute pen talk. I started well enough, then began stumbling through my answer and the officers had to guide me to keep talking. Preparing a good answer that you can memorise will definitely get the interview off on the right foot and will create a better impression.


War Hero
You have to realise that the AIB is all about assessing your personality and almost everything else is padding. Maths tests, English tests, wiggly box tests are all objective and easy to assess i.e. pass or fail. Personality is far more subjective and, clearly, this is what you need to get right for next time.

No, you do not need to shout loudly. There are times when it is appropriate to shout but that does not mean that it is required all the time for you to appear confident. Most of the time it is more than enough to talk normally, so long as the assessors can hear you. It is HOW you convey your ideas, plan etc that is far more important than how loudly you can manage to do so. Your basic problem was a lack of confidence in your plan which, in turn, translated to ineffective communication and a lack of confidence in delivery. It is quite obvious from what you've written that things went well when you were able to practice them or knew about them beforehand because you were confident in what you were doing. When you were unsure, because you were unable to practice, your confidence wained and so your ability to deliver cogent argument fell foul.

Do you know that they really don't give two hoots about the actual plan? It is all about how you present it but, much more importantly, how you can adapt and re-assess. That you had a crap plan in the first place is not important but it's how you listened to what was said by others and changed. Of course, if you really believe yours is the best idea then you also have to be able to stand up and justify how other ideas are not as good as yours and why you're doing what you said in the first place. It's absolutely fine to say, "thank you for that input, I think that's a good idea (value your team member) and I will incorporate that into the plan. We shall now do X, Y and A, instead of X, Y, Z". If you think someone's idea is crap then, if you have time, you can explain why you think your's is better but, if not, you still thank them for their input but say you're going to stick with Plan A. If you haven't got the first idea of a plan then you don't need to let everyone know that. Open with a statement of the problem, equipment etc and then ask for ideas. Listen, encourage, thank, nod sagely, all the while stealing the ideas of others and making them seem like your own. RN officers have been doing it for centuries and getting the credit for doing so (Admirals are the best at it) :D

As for bemused looks etc. Did you ever think that it might be on purpose to unbalance you and make you unsure of what you're saying? Could it be that it was a test to see how you reacted to being looked at in an incredulous way and how that affected your confidence? The fact that you commented as you did shows that it was a very effective 'mind game' in your case and that it did adversely affect you. How are you going to react when you've got a bunch of experienced sailors in front of you, you're a young Midshipman and you're detailing your plan to a (quite usual) sea of WTF expressions? If you were unnerved by one man's bemused looks you'll be a jibbering wreck with a party of piss-taking sailors who all KNOW their idea is better. Dealing with that sort of thing in the AIB, as in real life, is very, very That bemused face will soon look far more sure of your answer if you're confident enough in yourself to smile.

Your ACLO summed it up for you and it's all about your confidence....or lack thereof. Yes, you must practice what you can and read what you can. This in itself will give you more confidence but you also have to learn to adapt and modify that which cannot be practiced and then come back with a new idea, which you're so certain is better than the first that it is easy to answer, confidently, any questions they might throw at you.

Personality. Smile & laugh. Secrets to the AIB and life thereafter. There's no need to shout. :)


Lantern Swinger
I never said you need to shout, just you need to be loud - slightly above natural talking level (for me, at least) to ensure the officers hear you.


War Hero
That's what you took away from what I wrote!

Okay, there's no need to be loud either.

(Saved a lot of writing that time).
Agree with everything Pontius has mentioned. When I did my AIB our Planex was terrible! The quick fire questions asked by the lieutenant however were there to lead you to other potential solutions. These could then be considered in your 2 minutes thinking time.

Of my board, 3 of us deviated from our original plan (all completely different) and one stuck with it and we all passed. As has been mentioned, it's not always about the plan itself. It's about how you present the information given to you in a coherent fashion with a bit of confidence behind it!

Good luck in the future!


Lantern Swinger
Easy to see why you failed. You said 'tea' instead of 'supper'. Schoolboy error :)

I actually thought about that the entire time - over half of the guys I was with were from down south, so northern me seemed incredibly crass. But I couldn't bring myself to be that posh.

As for retaking, I think I'll go engineering rating (accelerated apprentice scheme if I can, but I'll talk to my AFCO about that) and after maybe a few years experience there, I could possibly be ready to try again.


War Hero
I actually thought about that the entire time - over half of the guys I was with were from down south, so northern me seemed incredibly crass. But I couldn't bring myself to be that posh.

As for retaking, I think I'll go engineering rating (accelerated apprentice scheme if I can, but I'll talk to my AFCO about that) and after maybe a few years experience there, I could possibly be ready to try again.
Don't often flash but just WTF has the north south divide to do with anything.
I have had all sorts of accents as my boss throughout my service and I didn't give a rats fart where they came from just what they were telling me to do.
I appreciate your trying to be humorous but I smell an element of truth about your roots.
Pontious did a good summation of your AIB. read it, re read it and take on board his comments. Its not how loud its HOW its said. If you decide on a plan, stick to it. If it fails, learn.


Lantern Swinger
I never said being northern was anything to do with failing - simply that I felt odd for saying tea rather than dinner and not using other posher mannerisms.

What truth about my roots are you smelling?

And yes, I did read what Pontius said, but I don't want to clog up these comments with a back and forth over why I failed - I'd rather have left it so that people can get some sort of insight into AIB, when read along with all the other threads, rather than just reading all about one person's failings.

I keep mentioning being loud because that's directly what the board president told me. Shouting is obviously too much, but being loud conveys confidence in what you're saying and also ensures the officers can give you the mark, because they definitely know what you've said. Your tone means they'll give you more marks once they've heard it.


Lantern Swinger
But I'm not. I'm saying I felt weird when talking with the other guys on my board because they were southern and so used different words.

At no point did any officer hear me refer to the evening meal as tea, so I don't know why you all appear to think I'm blaming my AIB failure on that.


War Hero
Read your responses!
There is a North - South flavour in there.
Stop 'biting' thats our talk for responding so defensively.
You were doing ok in the beginning being honest about your fail then you started waffling!!! Epic fail on here in my eyes.


Sorry to hear that you didn't get a Pass this time around, WA. Will you go again?

I have to say that I don't agree with the North/South thing... that sounds as if it's your own insecurity that you will need to deal with. An accent doesn't define the man - indeed, my Board President was a Westcountry as they come and looked like a hard bastard to boot. Definitely not posh!

Your ACLO will be able to give you a better idea of where you can improve for next time; the Planex will be easier now that you know what level of questioning to expect and you'll be able to stengthen any areas of weakness. Good luck!
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