Malmstrom Airman first to take new USAF digital WAPS test

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Elora J. McCutcheon
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

Modernization and innovation: they’re not just for aircraft or facilities. The Air Force took another step forward this week in progressing the ways Airmen test and train.

Enter: the rollout of Electronic Weighted Airman Promotion System testing in February 2024. Since 2022, the Air Force has been developing a method to upgrade its ability to deliver military testing using the commercial vendor versus the previous traditional method of pencil and paper testing.

The eWAPS platform is a collaborative effort between the Air Force, the Personnel Data Research Institute and PearsonVUE.

On February 1, a staff sergeant was the USAF’s first to utilize the modern, electronic testing method at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

Michael Li, 341st Medical Group medical technician, tested out of cycle and alone behind a computer screen in an empty room, save for his Test Control Officer.

Li said he went in with a neutral attitude towards the digital system on the morning of his assessment but could appreciate the convenience of doing everything on a computer. He did not, after all, need to sharpen pencils or erase anything if he wanted to change an answer.

“Digitizing tests can streamline grading and potentially reduce administrative burdens—enhancing the promotion system’s efficacy,” he acknowledged. “[My advice is] familiarize yourself with the digital tools, practice time management…and most importantly, remember your username and password.”

Airmen participating in the 2024 technical sergeant and staff sergeant promotion cycles can anticipate receiving invitational emails, prompting them to visit the PearsonVUE website to establish an account by creating a username and password.

1st Lt. Vincent Cao, officer in charge for the testing center office at Malmstrom, described just how much of a burden the previous paper WAPS testing once was:

“[It] involved several meticulous steps, including the creation and verification of test rosters, thorough examination of testing booklets for potential compromises, scrutiny of answer sheets, adherence to secure document mail protocols and the ultimate dispatch through the official mail center,” he described of the time-consuming procedures, which could easily demand a six-hour investment per testing session.

Beyond the simplified administrative processes, Cao expressed his support of the digital rollout for its modernization of career development.

“A modernized approach not only attracts and retains top talent but also maintains a competitive edge in talent management,” he said. “[This] ultimately enhances the overall effectiveness and adaptability of the Air Force in dynamic global security challenges.”

Finally, years of pencil smudged Scantrons have been done away with and Airmen are leaping into a new, digital age for WAPS.

“This modernization is a transformative step that enhances the lives and careers of our Airmen,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass. “By aligning with industry standards, e-testing ensures a secure and innovative platform for a fair and equitable opportunity in promotion and career advancement. It also streamlines the process by allowing test responses to be submitted directly to the Air Force Personnel Center, eliminating the need for traditional mailing of answer sheets. This advancement not only instills total confidence in our Airmen, but also provides unhindered access, empowering them to reach their goals with greater efficiency and effectiveness.”

Beside a requirement for creating an online account ahead of time, test requirements remain the same: Airmen will prepare by studying Air Force knowledge, to include history, organization, regulations, practices, traditions and customs, and Air Force Specialty Code-specific Career Development Courses, applicable USAF instructions and manuals.

Airmen are eligible for promotion if they meet eligibility requirements in Department of the Air Force Instruction 36-2502, Enlisted Airman Promotion and Demotion Programs.

If eligible Airmen do not receive an e-mail or they can’t find it, they can go directly to the PearsonVUE website and create an account. Accounts can only be created through the PearsonVUE website after Jan. 30, 2024.