Quick Guide To The Army Proficiency Certificate

Quick Guide To The Army Proficiency Certificate

30 September 2014

Being a cadet in the Army Cadet Force isn’t the usual after-school club. It’s a great way to make new friends, get outdoors and learn new and exciting skills. One of the distinctive features of joining the ACF is the Army Proficiency Certificate, the training programme followed by all cadets, and the badges and ranks cadets earn along the way.

What do the Army Proficiency Certificate (APC) star levels involve?

The APC system provides a progressive programme of training based around a wide range of exciting activities. As cadets progress through the star levels they develop their confidence, become more independent, and learn some CV-worthy and life skills. Here’s an insight into some of the subjects cadets learn:

Cadet and the Community

Many of the ACF’s activities don’t have a military theme. The ACF’s roots are in community work and cadets continue to play an active role in helping local communities. Community work is an important part of achieving a star level.

What do cadets learn about?
Cadet and the Community aims to teach cadets about good citizenship and give them an understanding of how a community works and how they can make a difference to their local area.

What do cadets do?
The Cadet and the Community modules start with something as simple as tidying up the facilities the cadets have been using. As cadets progress they start to help out in community projects; perhaps raising money or assisting at a local event. Senior cadets move from participating in events to organising projects, which can range from tree planting to keeping senior citizens company by visiting care homes.

Drill and turnout

Cadets need to learn how to maintain their uniform and how to present themselves in order to progress through the star levels.

What do cadets learn?
The ‘drill’ part of the syllabus is all about learning how to march and understanding how to function as a part of a team. The ‘turnout’ revolves around teaching cadets how to wear their uniform and equipment correctly. Both of these help cadets to develop self-discipline, attention to detail and a sense of self respect.

What do cadets do?
Cadets perform an increasingly complex array of movements and are also taught how to instruct others in drill. They are also expected to keep their appearance neat and tidy at all times.

Expedition training

One of the best -loved parts of the syllabus, expeditions are a great way for cadets to challenge themselves and work within a team; sometimes seeing incredible areas of the world.

What do cadets learn?
Cadets learn the countryside code and camp craft, which teach them to live and move in a different environment. They learn vital skills such as preparing equipment, planning the best route between locations, understanding what makes a suitable place to camp, how to pitch a tent, preparing a meal and how to work together to overcome challenges.

What do they do?
They get the opportunity to go out on expeditions which can range from expeditions in the local countryside to overseas travel, giving them a chance to discover places they hadn’t dreamed of visiting.


This popular activity is one of the fundamental reasons to join for two thirds of ACF cadets.

What do they learn?
Cadets learn a range of skills including camouflage, how to move as an individual in the field, how to work as part of a team as a section in the field and, as they get more senior, how to lead and command their own section.

What do they do?
Patrolling an area at night as part of a team and dealing with mock ambushes are two favourite procedures for cadets. Taught throughout the year, the annual summer camp is often a great time to experience fieldcraft.

First aid

This is one of the most useful and transferable skills learnt on the APC syllabus.

What do cadets learn?
Starting at basic level cadets are initially taught Basic Life Support. As they progress they learn how to perform first aid.

What do they do?
The training revolves around instruction and practice. In an ideal world cadets would never have to use the skills they learn, but several cadets have used their training with life saving results.


A vital skill for any cadet to master and one with clear links to other APC subjects.

What do they learn?
Starting with the basics, such as what a map is and how to give effective directions, cadets go on to learn how to use a compass to take bearings, how to determine their position using a compass and features on the ground.

What do they do?
Navigation training is most commonly carried out in local countryside or country parks, although some orienteering training can take place in city parks.

Military knowledge

Understanding the British Army is an important part of being a cadet.

What do cadets learn?
Cadets get the chance to learn about how the military works, with a particular emphasis on the customs, traditions and rank structure of the British Army.

What do cadets do?
In addition to learning about the military, cadets may also have the chance to visit battlefields in Europe to find out more.

Skill at arms and Shooting

As an activity that not many people have access to, this is one of the most popular activities offered as part of the APC syllabus.

What do cadets learn?
Cadets receive expert tuition in how to safely use a number of rifles and learn all about the vital safety procedures involved in handling a weapon.

What do they do?
In addition to learning to use rifles safely cadets are able to practice marksmanship and may even take part in national and international competitions as they become more skilled. Many Olympic athletes started their shooting careers in cadets!

Physical recreation

The ACF promotes physical fitness through a progressive range of physical achievement exercises. It also encourages regular participation in physical activity / sports.

What do they learn?
How to warm-up properly, how to improve and measure their fitness, and how to work together to improve their physical condition.

What do cadets do?
Slowly but surely they get fitter!

Going further

Besides the APC cadets have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of additional activities .


A great opportunity to get involved with ACF bands and have the potential to gain qualifications in music.

What do cadets learn?
Cadets are taught to become proficient in their chosen instrument.

What do they do?
Once they have reached a certain level in their instrument of choice, cadets have many opportunities to take part in events both in the UK and abroad as part of an ACF band. Cadets can even gain a BTEC Diploma in music: which is equivalent to four GCSEs at A*-C or four Scottish Standard Grades.

Piping and drumming

Another one for cadets who show an interest in music, this traditionally Scottish pastime is available in a number of ACF counties further south.

What do cadets learn?
Cadets learn to become proficient at the instruments and can gain a wide range of qualifications.

What do they do?
Cadets have opportunities to perform in a number of parades, with the most important being the Easter ‘Concentration’ held in Inverness.


The Army Cadet Force encourages young people to take part in a range of sports as a means of keeping fit, learning team work and having fun.

What do cadets learn?
By joining the ACF young people can take part in a wide range of sports; reaching a high level of ability in a sport helps cadets add to their CVs as well as nurturing a healthy competitive spirit.

What do they do?
Along with taking part in sports they enjoy, cadets may also be able to take part in competitions including seven national com petitions where over 2,000 cadets compete.


Communication is a vital skill for any cadet; as cadets progress through this subject signalling will become more complex.

What do they learn?
Cadets learn how to communicate clearly as well as how to use radios effectively.

What do they do?
As they learn more they may get opportunities to experience how technology is aiding military communication and to handle some of the most advanced communication systems around.

Going further: senior cadets

4 star and Master Cadet

Senior cadets choose subjects to take further. From Gold DofE to learning to instruct other cadets they need to demonstrate a high level of ability and commitment.

Master Cadets have to attend a week-long course at the Cadet Training Centre in Frimley, Surrey. They learn more about leadership and communication and demonstrate good fieldcraft skills. If they are successful they usually undergo some more training in the county before being appointed Master Cadet.

If you're not already a cadet find out more about how to join.