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What you need to know about the ASVAB
The ASVAB test is administered to potential military recruits to help determine which branch of service and which military jobs they will be best suited for. It is not a test of intelligence and is administered only in English. The test consists of nine subjects: General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Mathematics Knowledge, Electronics Information, Auto and Shop Information, Mechanical Comprehension, and Assembling Objects. In some testing situations, the Auto and Shop section is divided into two separate tests, with the same names.
ASVAB Test Format
There are two versions of the ASVAB: a computer-adaptive test and a paper and pencil test. Both versions are multiple choice, but they vary somewhat in a few areas, including having different numbers of questions in each section.
The CAT-ASVAB (computer-adaptive)
- There is a penalty for guessing.
- The test is usually completed in under two hours.
- You may not go back to previous questions or sections.
- You can move to the next section when one test section is complete.
- The computer issues your next question based on your success at answering the previous question.
The P&P-ASVAB (paper and pencil)
- There is no penalty for guessing
- The test may take up to three hours to complete.
- You must wait for directions to move to the next test section.
- You may go back to previous questions but not previous sections.
- The questions do not change based on your success on previous questions.
The four most important sections of the test—Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge-make up your Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT) score. Your AFQT score ranges from 0 to 99 and determines if you are able to enlist in the military and which jobs and programs you may qualify for when enlisted.
The ASVAB test is also utilized by some high schools to aid in career planning.
Please refer to the information at the beginning of each of our ASVAB practice test sections and our section study guides for more details about the number of questions and time allowed for each section.
Answers to all your questions about the ASVAB
Table of Contents
What are the costs?
There is no cost to take the ASVAB test.
What should I bring?
Bring a valid ID and a watch to help you keep track of time if you are taking the paper-and-pencil version of the test. Do not bring any personal supplies, such as a pencil or a cell phone. Calculators are not allowed when taking the ASVAB.
How is it scored?
The ASVAB is scored in percentiles between 1 and 99 based on the previous testing of 18 to 23-year-old young people. So, if your score is 73, it means that you scored equal to or better than 73% of the test group used for norming.
What kind of job can I get?
The military offers boundless opportunities for people looking for a career in serving their country. The five branches of the military (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) all have active, reserve, and guard units with jobs unique to each branch and level of commitment. Examples of different jobs include military police, telephone technician, psychological operations specialist, journalist, dental specialist, and oboe player. Each job allows for different levels of advancement depending on factors such as job performance and length of service.
Am I eligible?
A recruiter will help determine your eligibility to join the military and therefore take the ASVAB test. Factors such as age, health, or criminal record may disqualify you from joining any branch of service. If you qualify for further processing, your recruiter will schedule a time and date for you to take the ASVAB test.
High school and postsecondary students can also take the ASVAB test as part of the Department of Defense’s Career Exploration Program. This paper-and-pencil version of the test is the same as the paper-and-pencil enlistment version but excludes the Assembling Objects section. It is intended to help those students considering a career in the military to discover their strengths in both military and civilian jobs. If the student scores high enough in the AFQT section of the test, he may use the score to enlist within the two-year expiration window.
You may retake the ASVAB twice after one-month intervals. After that, you must wait six months for third and subsequent retakes.
Why does it matter?
Getting a good score on the ASVAB is critical, as it dictates if you are able to enlist in the military and which jobs you will be eligible to apply for after enlistment. An accurate score can also provide a valuable tool for general career planning.
What salary can I expect?
Salary in the military greatly varies depending on years of service and rank. Although everyone in the military has a “base pay” rate, those in hazardous or more in-demand jobs may receive bonus pay in addition to their usual rate. There is also usually free housing or a “housing allowance” offered. Salary went up across the board 3.1% for military members in 2020.
When is it available?
The ASVAB test is given all year round. A recruiter will schedule a time and date for you to take the test or you will be told by your high school counselor when your school is testing.
How much time is allowed?
The paper-and-pencil version of the test administered at a Mobile Examination Test (MET) site usually takes about three hours. The time needed to take the CAT-ASVAB test can vary. The test is adaptive. If the candidates answer a question correctly, they are given one of increasing difficulty. If the candidates miss a question, they are subsequently given an easier item. This pattern continues until the test is finished. Because of its adaptive nature, the CAT-ASVAB test generally takes about half the time of the paper-and-pencil version, about two hours, at most.
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