The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, is a standardized test administered by the Department of Defense to gauge the aptitude, strengths, and potential of military candidates. The ASVAB is also used in some high schools as part of career planning activities.
There are nine subjects on the test, and the scores for each subject test all count toward your total score. However, four sections have been deemed more critical and make up what is called the Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT) score. This score ranges from zero to 99 and a minimum score is required to qualify for military service, although the minimum score varies by branch.
The four sections that make up the AFQT test are Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge. The other five subjects found on the complete ASVAB are General Science, Electronics Information, Auto and Shop Information, Mechanical Comprehension, and Assembling Objects.
To enlist, potential recruits must take the ASVAB, although a longer exam, called the Career Exploration Program, may also be taken to explore potential career paths that may be compatible with individual candidates. A breakdown of the section and time limits is below.
Paper and Pencil ASVAB
After you’ve taken the ASVAB you will receive a few types of scores: a Military Entrance Score (AFQT), Standard Scores, and Composite (Line) Scores. If you are a high school student taking the Career Exploration Program (CEP) version of the the ASVAB, you will also receive a third set of scores that highlight your strengths on the verbal, math, and science/technical subtests.
When someone tells you their ASVAB score, they are referring to their AFQT score. The AFQT score is made up of results from the Word Knowledge (WK), Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), Paragraph Comprehension (PC), and Mathematics Knowledge (MK) sections only. The AFQT score you receive does not indicate the percentage of questions you answered correctly, but rather how you did in relation to a sample group of other 18-23 year-olds who took the test. For example, if you receive an AFQT score of 70, that means you did better than 70% of those in the national sample. ASVAB percentile scores range from 1-99 and are primarily used to determine enlistment eligibility. While there is no pass or fail, each branch of the military has different minimum requirements for enlistment.
Your ASVAB results will also indicate what your score was in each ASVAB subtest. Again, this is not a simple percentage score. To calculate your standard scores, the military uses raw scores and converts them to standard scores using a standard distribution with a mean (average) of 50 and a deviation of 10. The majority of recruits score somewhere between 30-70, so while a score of 60 typically represents a failing grade in percentage scores, it would be considered above average in standard score computations.
Each branch of the military uses different score combinations to determine a candidate’s aptitude in specific job categories. For example, a Clerical job in the Army would assess Word Knowledge (WK), Paragraph Comprehension (PC), Math Knowledge (MK), and Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) scores, while an Electronics Repair job in the Marines would look at General Science (GS), Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), Mathematics Knowledge (MK), and Electronics Information (EI).
Because ASVAB scoring involves a complicated conversion system and isn’t the straightforward percentage scoring you’ve encountered in school, it’s nearly impossible to convert an ASVAB practice test score to an AFQT or Composite score. However, this doesn’t mean that ASVAB practice tests aren’t valuable— in fact, quite the opposite. Taking ASVAB practice tests before test day can help clue you in to areas you may be weak and help direct your study focus so you do well when you take the real thing. And let’s not forget a bad score might mean missing out on the military job you want, or even getting into the military at all! To give you an idea of what a good ASVAB score may look like as you practice, below are AFQT score requirements by branch.
The Air Force has one of the tougher requirements for enlistment, requiring a mimimim AFQT score of 36. GED candidates will only be considered with an AFQT score of 65 and 15 hours of acceptable college credit. These requirements may be waived in rare circumstances if a candidate possess a needed special skill, such as fluency in a foreign language.
To join the Army or Army National Guard, you must have a minimum AFQT score of 31. A recruit may be accepted with a high school equivalent, such as a GED, with a score of 50. You must also have an ASVAB score of 50 to receive benefits such as enlistment bonuses and the Army College Fund.
Like the Air Force, the Coast Guard requires a minimum ASVAB score of 36. A candidate without a high school diploma but with an equivalent certificate, such as a GED or HiSET, must score at least 47. You may be able to obtain a waiver if your AFQT score is low, but you do well on a specific line score and are willing to enlist with the intention of taking the associated job. As of 2009, the average AFQT score of accepted Coast Guard recruits was 70.4.
To join the Marines you need a minimum ASVAB score of 31, or 50 with a GED or other high school equivalency certificate.
The Navy requires a minimum ASVAB score of 35 for high school graduates. The minimum increases to 50 for those with a high school equivalency certificate such as the GED or HiSET.
The Arithmetic Reasoning section of the test measures your ability to solve arithmetic word problems. You may be asked questions such as “If the tire of a car rotates at a constant speed of 552 times in 1 minute, how many times will the tire rotate in half an hour?” Therefore, reviewing common math keywords associated with each operation is recommended. For example, if you see the keywords “in all,” the problem deals with addition. If the problem asks you to “find the difference,” you are being asked to subtract. If a question asks “how many times” per day or week, you know you are dealing with multiplication. If it asks “how many in each,” you should be thinking about division. The CAT-ASVAB has 15 questions in 55 minutes; the paper-and-pencil version has 30 questions in 36 minutes.
The Assembling Objects section of the ASVAB practice test measures your ability to determine how an object will look when its parts are put together. You will be shown an illustration of pieces and asked to choose which one, among a selection of finished diagrams, shows how they fit together. The CAT-ASVAB has 15 questions in 17 minutes, while the paper-and-pencil version has 25 questions in 15 minutes.
The Auto and Shop Information section of the ASVAB test measures your knowledge of automobile technology and basic repairs. You may see a question such as, “Shock absorbers on a car connect the axle to the: wheel, chassis, drive shaft, or exhaust pipe?” The shop questions are about basic wood and metals. For example, you may be asked what sanding blocks are used for, followed by the following choices: preventing high spots and ridges on sanded surfaces, preventing dirt from collecting on the sandpaper, stretching the length of sandpaper, or prolonging the use of the sandpaper. The CAT-ASVAB test has two parts: the first part covering automotive material asks 10 questions in 7 minutes; the 10 shop information questions are allotted 6 minutes. The paper-and-pencil version asks 25 questions in 11 minutes.
The Electronics Information section of the practice test gauges your knowledge of electrical equipment and parts, including circuits, currents, batteries, and resistors. An example may be, “Because solid state diodes have no filament, they: don’t work, are less efficient than tubes, require less operating power, or require more operating power?” The CAT-ASVAB has 15 questions in 10 minutes; the paper-and-pencil version has 20 questions in 9 minutes.
The General Science section of the test covers earth, space, and physical and life sciences. Because science is such a vast and dynamic topic, focus your study on basic principles. This gives you a good foundation to work through any question that is asked of you. Typical questions may include: “Why is air less dense than water?” or “How do you convert Celsius temperature to Fahrenheit?” The CAT-ASVAB test asks 15 questions in 10 minutes, while the pencil-and-paper version asks 25 questions in 11 minutes.
The Mathematics Knowledge section of the exam measures your knowledge of various math areas, such as algebra and geometry. You may be asked to find the square root of a number or the volume of a brick with given dimensions. Algebraic problems may require finding the value of “y” in a given equation. A review of math symbols—such as ≠, ≤, and √—can help you solve the given problems much faster, and using our ASVAB math study guide to practice answering the algebra and geometry questions on the test can help increase your overall AFQT score. The CAT-ASVAB has 15 questions in 23 minutes; the paper-and-pencil version has 25 questions in 24 minutes.
The Mechanical Comprehension section of the ASVAB practice test measures your understanding of basic mechanical principles and mechanisms. You may be asked why an intake valve on a pump opens when the piston goes down, or what direction friction is going when shown a diagram of a skier. The CAT-ASVAB has 15 questions in 22 minutes; the paper-and-pencil version has 25 questions in 19 minutes.
The Paragraph Comprehension section of the test measures your ability to read a passage and interpret the information contained within it. You may read a selection and be asked to interpret the author’s purpose, or what a particular word in the passage means, based on the context of the sentence where it appears. To help you better prepare for the exam, the Paragraph Comprehension section of the ASVAB practice test has passages of similar length and style to those on the actual ASVAB test. The CAT-ASVAB test has 10 questions in 27 minutes; the paper-and-pencil version has 15 questions in 13 minutes.
The Word Knowledge section of the test gauges your ability to recognize the meaning of words both individually and when used in a sentence. A question may be phrased as, “Antagonize most nearly means: embarrass, struggle, provoke, or worship.” Because there are so many words in the English language, you may find it difficult to study the specific words on the test. However, striving to improve your language and vocabulary usage with a practice test like this one can help you not only in preparing for the ASVAB test but also in your career and personal life. The CAT-ASVAB test has 15 questions in 9 minutes, while the paper-and-pencil version has 35 questions in 11 minutes.
Achieving your desired score on the ASVAB is the first step toward a successful career in the military, which means that taking this test can be incredibly important and stressful for many potential recruits. Proper preparation and studying can help you achieve a great score, and it’s always a good idea to understand what to expect prior to taking the exam.
Taking the exam may be a different experience, depending upon where you are able to take it. Testing is conducted at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) and Military Entrance Test (MET) sites. If you are close enough to a MEPS site, you will be administered the ASVAB on a computer. Those who take the exam at MET sites will usually receive a paper-and-pencil test. No matter which test format you receive, the questions and difficulty level will be similar.
The total testing time is generally 3 to 4 hours for the paper-and-pencil version, while the average completion time for the computerized version is approximately 1.5 hours. The reason for the difference is that you cannot move forward to the next section on the paper-and-pencil exam without instruction from the proctor to move forward. The computerized test is adaptive: if a candidate answers a question correctly, the difficulty is increased.
The only item you need to bring with you on the test day is valid, legal identification. Anything else you may need while taking the test will be provided to you upon arrival.
You do not need to bring any pencils, scratch paper, answer sheets, or testing materials. These will all be provided to you by the test administrator. Calculators and cell phones or other electronics are not allowed while taking the exam, so do not bring them.
ASVAB practice tests are a crucial resource in preparing to take the exam. Taking these tests provides several benefits to potential examinees, including the following:
And, most importantly, the use of ASVAB practice tests often results in a higher overall score. While taking this exam can be nerve-racking, practice tests can ensure that the experience goes better than you expected.
While practice tests are a great resource, and should be one of your most frequently used study resources, you may want to consider supplementing your study materials with other resources, such as study guides and flashcards. These materials allow you to see the content in a different format and make sure you are truly comfortable with the content on the test.
Practice tests are a great resource for identifying and familiarizing yourself with the type of content that will appear on the exam. However, to properly prepare, you need to become familiar with the format as well, including the time limits on each section. This is why it’s a great idea to go through simulations of the exam itself, which include timing each section and going through the entire exam in one sitting.
When you move to a new subsection on the exam, be sure to read through all of the instructions thoroughly. The instructions for each section will vary, so it’s a good idea to make sure you clearly understand what is being asked of you.
When taking the paper and pencil version of the ASVAB, you are not penalized for incorrect answers, which means that your score can only be helped when you guess. Even if you notice that you are running out of time in a certain section, it’s a good idea to guess on the ones you won’t have time to read through thoroughly. Do not guess if you are taking the computer version of the test, however.
Even though there is no penalty for guessing, you will still have a greater chance of selecting the correct answer if you pace yourself throughout the test to ensure that you can read each question thoroughly. Some students find it helpful to read all questions first and answer the ones that are easiest. This way, they can use the remaining time on the questions that are more difficult.
Yes, after your initial exam has been administered, you can retake the ASVAB one month from your initial testing date. The one-month waiting period only applies to the second or third attempts at the test. Any subsequent retakes must occur six months after the most recent test date. There is no limit on the amount of times you can retake the exam.
No, there is only one exam, the ASVAB, comprising 10 subsections. The AFQT score refers to the combined score of four of the sections: Word Knowledge, Arithmetic Reasoning, Paragraph Comprehension, and Mathematics Knowledge.
This depends upon what branch of the military you would like to enter and whether or not you have a high school diploma. If you have a GED, you are required to get a score of 50 or above to enter any branch, except for the Coast Guard, which only requires a 47. For candidates with a high school diploma, the following scores are the minimum necessary for each corresponding branch:
ASVAB scores can be used for enlistment for up to two years from the date of testing. Enlistment that is attempted after the two-year time frame has expired will require the candidate to retake the examination.
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