Increase Your Situational Awareness: 10 Exercises & Tests

The first step to survival is understanding your surroundings, and this article will teach you how. It contains 10 exercises that can help you learn more about yourself so that you’re better equipped for whatever life throws at you.

The “situational awareness training pdf” is a PDF that provides 10 exercises and tests to increase your situational awareness.

A road accident illustration.



  • What was the total number of individuals involved in this accident?
  • How many men and females are there?
  • What were the two automobiles’ colors?
  • What were the items on the ground?
  • What kind of injuries did the guy on the ground seem to have?
  • What was one of the automobiles’ license plate number?

How did you do on this little quiz? Not quite as good as you’d hoped? Perhaps it’s time to hone your observational skills and increase your situational awareness.

Developing one’s observational skills provides a number of advantages, including allowing you to live more completely in the moment, observe unusual and pleasurable events that you would otherwise miss, grasp chances that vanish as fast as they emerge, and keeping you and your loved ones safe.

Today, we’ll provide several games, quizzes, and exercises focusing on the latter benefit: having the type of situational awareness that may help you avoid and deal with potentially harmful and important circumstances. However, the advantages of exercising them will undoubtedly extend to all other facets of your life.

Are you ready to start sharpening your senses and honing your observational skills? Continue reading.

Your Senses and Situational Awareness

Human five sense illustration.

To improve your situational awareness, make sure all of your senses are activated and completely tuned into your surroundings. It seems that your mind and body accomplish this naturally – after all, aren’t you always seeing, smelling, and hearing everything around you?

When someone asks, “What’s your license plate number?” and you don’t know, it’s easy to comprehend that you may have glanced at something hundreds of times without ever noticing it.

In truth, although our brain gives us the impression that we are constantly taking in the whole image of our surroundings, this is an illusion. We only pay attention to some types of stimuli while disregarding others.

As a result, if you want to improve your situational awareness, you must be fully purposeful about it – you must intentionally consider how to use and direct all of your senses to a larger extent. You must practice observing. And the first step is to familiarise yourself with the abilities and limitations of your senses:


When we think about observation, we usually think of seeing, and it’s what we rely on the most to make sense of our surroundings. However, what our eyes see isn’t always as precise as our brains would want us to think. Eyewitness accounts of crimes are notoriously unreliable, and famous studies — such as the one in which participants are asked to focus on people passing a basketball back and forth, but miss a man in a gorilla suit walking through the picture — demonstrate that we can look right at something without actually seeing it.


Our eyes don’t work like cameras, recording things as they happen; instead, our brains take in a lot of distinct images, evaluate them, and piece them together to make a cohesive picture. When our brain is on autopilot, it overlooks numerous aspects of our surroundings, thinking them unnecessary in the creation of this picture.

Nonetheless, sight is a critical component of our situational awareness arsenal, particularly if we educate ourselves to seek for things we’d otherwise overlook. Our eyes tell us if someone looks suspicious or if something is out of place in our hotel room (indicating someone has been there while we were gone); they notice unusual features of a landscape to help us create a mental map to guide us home from a hike; and they record footage of building exits or crimes that we can recall later.


We take in a lot of information with our eyes as sight-driven organisms (up to a third of our brain’s processing capacity is dedicated to visual input), and most of us would rather lose our hearing than our sight.

However, hearing is considerably more important than we know for keeping track of and comprehending what’s going on around us, particularly when it comes to staying safe. Our hearing is very sensitive to our surrounds and serves as our brain’s first reaction mechanism, alerting us to things we should pay attention to and influencing our perception of what’s going on around us. Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist, explains:

“Because you hear twenty to one hundred times quicker than you see, what you hear with your ears colors every other sense you have, as well as every conscious thought you have.” Sound enters so quickly that it alters all other information and establishes the scene for it.”

Because its circuitry isn’t as widely scattered in the brain as the visual system’s, and because it’s connected to the brain’s most basic “primal” portions, our hearing is very rapid. Noises strike us in the belly and elicit a strong emotional reaction.

Our hearing’s speed and acuity developed as a survival benefit. Our eyesight deteriorates or fails us at night, in dark woods, and under murky seas, and we can’t see anything beyond our range of view. In order to form a mental image of what’s going on, our ears can still take up sensory input in the dark, around corners, and through water.

Noises are nothing more than vibrations, and we are constantly bombarded with them. Your ears, like your eyes, may be listening to a lot of noises in your surroundings without your brain realizing it; your antennas are usually up, but they don’t always send out a signal to pay attention. Such signals only register in your conscious awareness when they’re particularly important (for example, when you hear your name called at a crowded party) or when they deviate from the expected pattern/tone/rhythm (for example, when there’s a scream, crash, or explosion, or when someone speaks in an unusual/suspicious manner).


By “perking up” our hearing, focusing, and attempting to discriminate and pull out noises we’re ordinarily “ear-blind” to, we can tune into more sounds than we normally hear.


Smell receives less attention and respect in compared to our other senses of sight and hearing. It’s our oldest sense, and we associate it with animals rather than humans, such as the wolf that can smell its prey from almost two miles away.

While canines’ sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than ours, the human sense of smell is nothing to sniff at. Humans are capable of detecting one trillion different odors. And, unlike our other senses, which must pass through many synapses before reaching the amygdala and hippocampus and eliciting a response, smell communicates directly with the brain, becoming deeply linked to our emotions and long-term memories. This is why smelling something from a long time ago may take you back in time.

These established, odor-induced memories serve the same survival function in people as they do in animals: identifying relatives and mates, locating food, and being alerted to potential predators. Our sense of smell can differentiate blood relatives by fragrance, and it can detect danger by picking up the aromas of smoke, death, gas, and other substances, as well as anxiety, worry, and disgust in other people.

While our sense of smell falls short of that of animals, studies have proven that people can detect a scent trail in the same way dogs can, and that the only reason we’re not better at it is because it’s a talent that requires practice. Connoisseurs of the outdoors in the past who were keenly aware of their surroundings often described being able to trace an animal by smell.

While both animals and humans perceive scent in automatic ways — your stomach reflexively grumbles when you smell freshly made cookies – human smell is better to animal smell in one way: we have the capacity to actively examine odours and determine what they could represent.

Smell may therefore help you identify a friend or adversary, traverse an area — our nose can alert us whether we’re near a factory or landfill, a forest of pines, or the campfire of home base — and even track game.

Feel & Smell

Touch and taste are two senses that are very beneficial to individuals who want to live more deliberately and completely engage in their surroundings. However, you won’t utilize them as much for being situationally aware of risk and danger. When you’re attempting to travel in the dark and must rely on the feelings of your feet and hands to guide you, touch may come in helpful.

10 Situational Awareness Tests, Exercises, and Games to Help You Improve Your Situational Awareness 

“You should make it a point as a Scout to see and observe more than the ordinary person.” —1948 Scout Field Book


If our senses are genuinely as magnificent as we’ve just described, and allowing them to default to autopilot is what keeps us from utilizing them more, we must find methods to consciously train and challenge them in order to give them full play.

Learning to observe, understand, and recall is all part of mastering situational awareness. The activities, exams, and games that follow are meant to improve these abilities while also bringing out the dormant powers of your senses. Some of the activities and exercises may be done alone, while others are better done in groups, such as a club, a group of friends, or a Boy Scout unit (in fact, some of the concepts derive from the Boy Scout Fieldbook from 1948). The activities are also fun to play as a family; they’ll keep your kids occupied without requiring you to grab for your phone!

“Kim’s Game” is number one.

Kimball O’Hara, an Irish lad, is trained to be a spy for the British Secret Service in Rudyard Kipling’s renowned book Kim. Lurgan Sahib, an alleged proprietor of a jewelry shop in British India who is really undertaking espionage work against the Russians, is his tutor as part of this training.

Both his boy servant and Kim are invited to play the “Jewel Game” by Lurgan. The merchant places 15 gems on a tray, gives the two young guys a minute to look at them, and then covers the stones with newspaper. The servant, who has played the game many times before, can readily identify and describe all of the diamonds hidden behind the paper, as well as estimate the weight of each stone. Kim, on the other hand, has trouble remembering things and is unable to transcribe a thorough list of what is underneath the paper.

Kim complains, claiming that the servant knows more about gems than he does, and requests a rematch. The tray is now lined with miscellaneous items from the business and kitchen. However, the servant’s memory once again outperforms Kim’s, and he even wins a game in which he can only feel the things while blindfolded before they are covered up.

Kim is both humbled and curious, and she wants to know how the youngster has become such a gaming master. “By doing it many times over until it is done correctly — because it is worth doing,” Lurgan responds.

Kim and the servant practice together over the following ten days, using a variety of things such as jewelry, daggers, pictures, and more. Kim’s abilities of observation soon surpass those of his master.

This game is now known as “Kim’s Game,” and it is used by Boy Scouts as well as military snipers to improve their ability to notice and retain details. It’s a simple game to play: have someone set up a table with a variety of things (24 is a decent amount), examine them for a minute, and then cover them with a cloth. Now jot down as many of the items as you can recall. At the very least, you should be able to recollect at least 16.


Here’s where you can play Kim’s Game right now: Take 60 seconds to look at the artwork below, then scroll past it to see how many items you can recall!

Awareness objects illustration.

How did it go for you? Continue to practice!

2. Increase the size of your field of vision

Most of us, even if we aren’t aware of it, have tunnel vision. Everything else fades out of our field of sight when we focus on a few items immediately around or ahead of us. So, the next time you’re out walking, tell yourself to take in more than normal. Look for nuances in your surroundings that you may otherwise ignore. Take note of unusual landscape features, what people are wearing, side roads, alleys, automobile types and models, signage, graffiti on the wall, and anything else that comes to mind.

Follow these ideas from the Boy Scout Fieldbook to practice broadening your range of view while walking:

“Teach yourself how to survey the ground in front of you… Allow your gaze to travel in a half-circle from right to left over a tiny strip of ground immediately in front of you. Then sweep them from left to right across a larger area of land. By continuing in this manner, you will be able to fully cover the whole field.”

3. Can you tell me what that noise is?

Place a blanket in the room’s corner. Then take turns standing in front of it, producing sounds with random things that the rest of the group must attempt to identify. The more unusual and difficult sounds someone can make, the better – think of lighting a match, peeling an apple, sharpening a knife, combing your hair, and so on.  

4. Eyewitness Examination

Invite someone unfamiliar to your Scouts/friends to a group meeting. Allow them to come in for a few minutes before leaving. Then have everyone write out a physical description of the stranger and see how close they are to being correct.

5. Use your senses to guide you.

Can you rapidly clothe yourself in a pitch-black room? Is it possible to stroll through the woods without a flashlight? Is it possible for you to stroll about the home blindfolded? Practice navigating and maneuvering without using your eyes.

Whose Nose Knows, Nose Knows, Nose Knows, Nose Knows,

Fill paper cups with a variety of aromatic materials, such as orange rinds, onion, coffee, spices (cinnamon, pepper, garlic, etc.), grass, Hoppes No. 9 (any source of these masculine odors is ideal candidate), and so on. The cups are then handed to blindfolded individuals, who smell them and pass them on. After the facilitator has retrieved the cup, the participants are asked to write down what they smelled.

Feel It No. 7

Place various bits and ends into a box that is then handed around, similar to #6. The participants must feel the item and identify it only based on touch.

Scavenger Hunt for Observation

This is a delightful game to play with kids, and it may convert a lengthy stroll in the woods or in the city, where they could moan, into a fun game and an opportunity to enhance their observation skills! Prepare a list of items for the kids to find before you go; for example, on a nature walk, you might put down a shrub with berries, a bird’s nest, moss, a pine cone, and so on. As you travel along, the kids will be on the lookout for the objects on the list, and if they see one first, they may cross it off their list. Compete to see who can locate the most items. It also doesn’t have to be a competition; you may search for the things as a family and maintain a single checklist.


Exit Interview No. 9

Make a mental note of a few things about your surroundings when you travel to a restaurant or other place of business with your family: the number of employees behind the counter, the attire and gender of the person seated next to you, the number of entrances/exits, and so on. Ask your kids questions like “How many staff were behind the counter?” as you leave and get into the vehicle to go home. “Was it a guy or a lady in the seat next to us?” “Can you tell me what color his/her clothing was?” “Did you count how many exits there were?”

10. People Who Are Observing for a Specific Purpose

Dr. Watson learns about his future companion’s remarkable talents of observation and deduction in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study In Scarlet. When the two see a guy going down the street looking at addresses and carrying a huge envelope, Holmes recognizes him as a former Marine sergeant. Watson is completely taken aback by Holmes’ perceptive abilities once the message bearer confirms this identification. “How could you figure it out?” he wonders. After that, the detective provides the following explanation:

“Knowing it was simpler than explaining why I knew it.” If you were asked to show that two plus two equals four, you could struggle, despite the fact that you are certain of the truth. I could see a large, blue anchor tattooed on the back of the fellow’s hand from across the street. That had a strong whiff of the sea. He did, however, have a military carriage and the required side-whiskers. We’ve arrived at the marine. He was a guy with a sense of self-importance and a commanding demeanor. You must have seen the way he swung his cane and held his head. On the face of it, he seemed to be a solid, decent, middle-aged guy, all of which led me to suppose he had been a sergeant.”

“Wonderful!” Dr. Watson is ecstatic.

Holmes responds, “Commonplace.”

Practice people watching with greater attention than is normally accorded the activity if you want skills of inference like the occupant of 221B Baker St. Take note of passers-attire, by’s tattoos, and accessories, as well as their demeanor and manners. Then make educated guesses about their history and profession.

Your senses will be heightened, your skills of observation will grow, and your situational awareness will be increased with enough practice in this and the other exercises and games listed above. “I have taught myself to notice what I see,” you’ll soon be able to say with Holmes.



The “observation skills activities for adults” is a book that will help you increase your situational awareness. The book contains 10 exercises and tests that are designed to help improve your observation skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I improve my situational awareness?

A: Its important to be aware of your surroundings, but the key is being able to stay calm and think critically in a high-stress situation.

What is situational awareness training?

Situational awareness training is the act of practicing how to become more aware and prepared for potential threats.

How do you use situational awareness?

A: A situational awareness is the understanding of how situations interact with one another.

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