Take a glimpse into the FBI’s physical fitness test
Nov 21, 2018, 4:59 AM | Updated: 8:41 am
PHOENIX — Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an FBI agent?
If you have — but never wanted to put yourself to the test — don’t worry, I did it for you.
The PFT, otherwise known as the physical fitness test.
The test is administered according to very strict FBI protocols with four mandatory events with no more than five minutes of rest between each event.
The events are:
• Maximum number of sit-ups in one minute
• Timed 300-meter sprint
• Maximum number of continuous push-ups
• Timed 1.5 mile run
There is a strictly defined scoring scale and protocol for each event.
“All of our trainings incorporate physicality because we may be involved with criminals who want to fight with us, so we need to have stamina for things like that,” Special Agent Erin Gibbs said.
I’d like to consider myself a relatively fit individual, being 24 years old and playing sports my whole life — but this test seemed a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.
The FBI advisers who administered the test held the media people to high standards: There was no wiggle room and they made sure all the events were done just as if any aspiring FBI applicants were taking on the challenge.
In my mind, I was really hoping we could go ahead and take care of the 1.5 mile run right off the bat so I could use my energy for that at the beginning. But of course, that’s not how the FBI wants it done. They want to see you exert yourself through the first three events and see what else you have left in the tank for the final and hardest event.
Starting off with the maximum number of sit-ups in one minute, the advisers taught me proper FBI sit-ups. What do they entail?
Your arms are crossed on your chest with your fingertips at the seam of your shirt on your shoulder. During your sit-up, you keep your elbows as physically close to your body as you buck your hips up to have your elbows meet your mid-thigh. All the while, they’re counting each time your back meets the ground.
Second, the 300-meter sprint. As I prepared myself for the nearly one lap around the track I had my adviser cautioning me to “take it easy,” as this is the test they see the most injuries. I was impressed with my time clocking almost 80 seconds. However, as soon as I crossed the finish line I thought to myself, “This is it.”
Knowing I only had five minutes until we were on to the next event I tried to calm my breathing to the best of my ability. Just as I had caught my breath and took a sip of water, it was on to the push up challenge.
Next came the maximum number of continuous push-ups — and no, they were not “girl push ups.” They were 90 degree-angle, lock-out, and nose-to-the-ground push ups. They marked me at 16, but I think my adviser was nice and gave me a few extra than I probably deserved because each time I did lower down he would say, “Even lower…”
The fourth, final and hardest test was the timed 1.5 mile run. Legs heavy, arms tired and barely any breath left, I took the start line knowing it was going to be miserable. I thought to myself, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Well, I didn’t win the race — rather I took second, but I was happy to finish.
Clocking a 16 minute run, I wasn’t that pleased with my time. But it was all that I had left in my tank. Each of the six laps I ran, I would pass the advisers and they all cheered me on and gave me words of encouragement. (Which I doubt they do when they have real applicants running the test.)
As we ran they told us how they don’t allow aspiring agents listen to music, wear watches or time themselves in any way. Each lap the agents would laugh and tell me I need to stop smiling.
Supervisory Special Agent Ezell Grigsby told me, “I don’t think I have ever seen someone smile so much during our fitness test.”
My response, “If I’m not smiling, I may start crying.”
“You really gave a full effort, looking at the sit-ups you can improve. The 300-meter sprint was good. Push ups need some work, and the mile and a half could improve,” Grigsby said.
“Eleven more points and you’ll be alright.”
I can confidently say I did not do much to prepare myself for the fitness test. But I am hopeful with some dedicated preparation I may be able to pass the test next year.
If you think you can handle the test, download the FBI’s physical fitness app and give it a go. And if you do well, who knows, maybe one day you will be suited up alongside them.