Governance of a City-State
A morale booster for more? How the new IPPT scoring system stacks up against the old

Since MINDEF announced the new and simplified Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), there has been a lively debate on the merits and disadvantages of the new scoring system. In this article, we compare how the old and new scoring systems work hypothetically for three individuals who fall into different age groups. We are doing this for the 2.4km run and sit-up exercise as these two exercises are the only ones retained from the old IPPT. The other three exercises will either be removed from the test, or replaced.

The three individuals are aged 21, 35 and 49. Their score for each exercise — under the old and new system — will be shown as a percentage of the maximum points they would be able to score. These percentage scores for both systems will be plotted in the same graph.

Comparison on the scoring system for the 2.4 km run

It is easier for the test-taker to score points in the new system for slower timings (Graphs 1–3: Range A), but he does not get as many points as before for running faster (Graphs 1–3: Range B). Let us take the example of Michael, a 21-year-old polytechnic graduate waiting to enlist in the army (Graph 1). As Michael dislikes running, he can only manage 13 min 14 sec for his 2.4km run. Under the old scoring system, he would not score any points as he took more than 13 minutes to complete the run. Under the new system, Michael will earn 50% of the maximum points that he can score, as he will be rewarded for completing his run in under 14 minutes. In fact, if Michael’s timing falls between 11 min and 14 min, the percentage points that he can obtain will be more under the new than the old system.

However, if Michael trains hard and takes less than 11 min to finish running, the opposite would occur. For instance, if Michael improves his running time to 10 minutes, he will get 80% of the points under the new system but 100% of the points under the old system. To obtain 100% of the points under the new system, Michael will have to cross the finishing line in less than 8 min 30 sec compared to less than 10 min 20 sec under the old system.

IPPT Graph 1

IPPT Graph 2

IPPT Graph 3

Comparison on the scoring system for sit-ups

A similar scenario would take place for the sit-up exercise. More leeway is given to those who show weaker performance (Graphs 4–6: Range C) under the new system compared with the old system, but it is more challenging for an individual to attain a perfect score. Let’s take Thomas for instance. He is a physically unfit 35-year-old working professional still serving his NSman reservist cycle, and can only do 21 sit-ups (Graph 4). In the past, Thomas would not have obtained any points, as he would need at least 22 sit-ups to start earning points. But under the new system, Thomas will score 40% of the maximum points as he requires merely 10 sit-ups to start scoring points. Thomas will also obtain a higher score under the new than the old system if he does between 10 and 30 sit-ups.

Suppose Thomas started to work out, improving his number of sit-ups to 39. In the old system he would obtain 100% of the points but now, under the new system, he will only score only 80% under the new system. Previously, Thomas would require just 34 sit-ups to obtain full marks but now he will have to do at least 55 sit-ups in order to get top marks.

IPPT Graph 4

IPPT Graph 5

IPPT Graph 6

General Observations

It is clear from our examples that the test-taker would require a higher level of fitness to get top marks in the 2.4km run and sit-up exercise under the new IPPT scoring system, compared to before. On the other end, it is much easier to begin scoring points under the new system.

What psychological and behavioural impact would the new test regime have on IPPT candidates? Servicemen who strive to achieve better performance will find the new fitness standard more challenging than before. In contrast, the threshold for earning points is lower and will benefit those who found it hard to even reach the minimum score in the old system. This may boost the morale of less-fit test-takers and cause them to improve their results. It will be interesting to survey pilot test-takers on these aspects.

The new system may further encourage IPPT test-takers to stretch themselves. For every additional sit-up or 10-second reduction in running timing, the test-takers gain an additional 4% points. Every sit-up and second counts in the new system, but this was not so for the old system where the performance bands were broader. Test-takers had to work harder to cross into the next performance band to score additional points.

There is another interesting aspect to the new IPPT. Previously, the IPPT scoring system considers test-takers up to the maximum age of 49 but the new system extends that age limit to 60 years. This will provide a national fitness benchmark for men beyond the age of 49 who still want to keep fit. This should be a welcome change for test-takers like Aaron, who can continue to have a sense of their level of fitness past middle age.

An important point to note is that the graphs demonstrate the ease or difficulty in earning points but not in passing or failing the IPPT. The new system allows the strength or performance in one exercise to make up for one’s weakness in another. The stakes were higher under the old system as an individual who did not meet the minimum requirement for a single exercise would fail the IPPT.

All in, there seems to be more positive attributes in the new system than the old system. We will be closely watching the pilot implementation of the new IPPT scoring system, which is taking place from now till November 2014, to see if this is indeed the case.

Henry Ho is a Senior Research Analyst and Varian Lim is a Research Analyst at the IPS Social Lab, a centre for social indicators research.

Photo credit:

  • Tags:

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to our mailing list to get updated with our latest articles!