Each branch of service has similar requirements in their fitness testing. However, there are some differences between the test required for gaining entrance into the Service Academies or any branch of ROTC scholarship. In some cases, the test you must take to get TO these four-year opportunities of college scholarships for military service are completely different than the fitness test you will take as a Cadet or Midshipman.
Regardless, one thing holds true -- these college tuition scholarships are highly competitive as there are many variables upon which students will be judged. You will be competing against other students in the following categories: Academic achievement, Test scores (ACT / SAT), Athletics, Leadership Roles (teams, clubs, school government), a Physical Fitness Test, and an Interview.
Don't Overlook the Physical Mission of Military Service
Being physically prepared is often overlooked by many of the applicants. Being an athlete in high school may not adequately prepare you for the requirements of military fitness. For instance, if you are a running athlete, you may have upper body strength weaknesses. If you are a power athlete, you may think running long distance is anything over 100 yards. So, understanding your weaknesses when it comes to military fitness is crucial to your performance on these competitive fitness tests. First, you must practice taking the test a few times before taking it officially. Not being physically capable to handle your first several weeks of training, whether at a service academy or an ROTC unit, could prevent you from completing the course or receiving a fully paid scholarship within your ROTC unit. Here is a breakdown of the fitness tests the various branches of service use for their entry into the military as well as the fitness test you will take every six months once you are accepted into a program: Service Academies: The U.S. Military Academy (West Point), Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and Merchant Marine Academy all use the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA), which is a kneeling basketball throw*, cadence pullups, 120ft shuttle run (30ft x 4), crunches 2 minutes, pushups 2 minutes, 1 mile run. *Many people ask, "Why do we have to throw a basketball for a fitness test?" Good question. I asked one of the people who created this test (Professor Ed Perry), who was a wrestling coach and professor at the Naval Academy for over 40 years, and he simply stated, "It measures athletic potential." You do not argue with Coach Perry.
Coast Guard Academy: The Coast Guard does not use the CFA, it uses the Physical Fitness Examination (PFE), which is a pushup test to cadence (until you fail), 2 minutes situps, and 1.5 mile run.
Army ROTC: Be prepared to take the full Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) -- pushups 2 minutes, sit-ups 2 minutes, and a 2-mile run. The Applicant Fitness Assessment (AFA) has students only running a 1 mile test (prior to scholarship acceptance), but to keep your scholarship, you must perform within standards of the regular APFT.
Air Force ROTC: You will take the same fitness test as you will take in the Air Force ROTC Unit. The regular Air Force Physical Fitness Test is the 1 minute pushups, 1 minute crunches, and 1.5 mile timed run. Navy ROTC: The Applicant Fitness Assessment (AFA) has students only running a 1 mile test, but still doing 2-minutes pushups and sit-up tests (prior to scholarship acceptance), but to keep your scholarship, you must perform within standards of the regular PFT. The regular Navy Fitness Test is the 2-minutes pushups, 2-minutes sit-ups, and 1.5 mile timed run.
USMC Option: Typically, you will be accepted into a Navy ROTC unit with the USMC option at graduation, but you will spend your summer training with Marine Corp training programs such as Officer Candidate School (6 week courses). Therefore, you must meet the USMC Fitness Test standards. The USMC test is the pullups -- max (or flexed arm hang for women), crunches 2 minutes, and a 3 mile run, so be prepared for this test. Also, see Patrol Leaders Course for other tuition options.
General Statement on Competitive Scores: You can maximize these fitness tests which will put you in good stead with the scholarship selection board, however they are looking at the whole person -- not just academics and not just athletic abilities, but everything as mentioned above. If you want to perform at a competitive level on any of these tests, score the following numbers: Men - Pushups 1 min – 50, sit-ups 1 min 50-60, pullups – 10+, pushups 2 min – 80-100, sit-ups 2 min -80+, 1 mile run - 6 minutes, 1.5 mile run - 9 minutes, 2 mile run - 12 minutes, 3 mile run - 18-19 minutes. 120ft shuttle run – sub 8 seconds.
Women - Pushups 1 min – 30-40, situps 1 min - 50, pullups – 5 (or flexed arm hang – 1 min), pushups 2 min – 40-50, sit-ups 2 minutes – 80+, 1 mile run - 7 minutes. 1.5 mile run – sub 11 minutes, 2 mile run – 14-15 minutes, 3 mile run – sub 21-22 minutes. 120ft shuttle run – sub 9 seconds. Final Notes: With the basketball toss, if you can get over 70ft for a male and over 50ft for a female, you are in the above average zone. Situps / crunches are different exercises. Sit-ups are harder and require more practice. Work on your pace for either exercise -- Proper Sit-ups. P.S. Do not strive for the minimum standard in ANYTHING. That is not a goal you should set for yourself. That would be equivalent to getting a D in math class. Take the physical mission seriously -- it could save your scholarship one day, or more importantly, your life.
If you think these competitive scores are too tough, do not get discouraged. Still apply if you want to serve. People get accepted with lesser scores than listed in this article. However, do yourself a favor and get on a program and practice these tests. Ideas: PFT Bible or CFA / PFT Prep.
Other resources: The Insider's Guide to Army ROTC Scholarships book – By Colonel Robert Kirkland The PrepWellAcademy.com – Online Mentoring Program for College Prep / Scholarship Resources.