How to Take the ASVAB Test

What is the ASVAB test?

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery  also called as ASVAB, is a series of examinations that are often broken down into 9 or 10 subtests. Four out the subtests are also part of the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). 
Moreover, ASVAB is a vocational aptitude test that is utilized in two ways: 
  • The student ASVAB helps high school students discover the careers that they want, depending on their aptitudes. 
  • The production ASVAB helps determine whether someone is qualified to enlist in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The ASVAB test is mostly taken as a military aptitude test. It is because the educational level is important for those who want to be part of the military.

According to Learning Express’ ASVAB: Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, here are some of the basic requirements you should have to enlist:

You should be between 17 and 34 years old.  If you are a minor (under 18), you must have your parent or guardian’s permission.

You should be a U.S. Citizen.

Birth Certificate or other Proof of Identification

You should have a High School Diploma or GED (if applicable).

You must pass the Drug Test.

You should have a Clean Arrest Record.

You should also have the following documents available throughout the process:

Birth Certificate or other Proof of Identification

Social Security card or other (2) Social Security identification.

High School Diploma or other High School Diploma equivalency.

Documentation of your Midterm Graduation from High School (if applicable).

Transcript of your College with Credits Earned (if applicable).

If under 18 years old, Consent Form of your parents or guardian

Letter from your doctor or other documentation showing your Medical History.

Your Marriage Certificate (if applicable).

Divorce papers (if applicable).

Format and Content Outline

There are two different formats of taking the test. It can be the Paper-and-Pencil ASVAB and the CAT-ASVAB. Both of them have the same content and test type, which is multiple-choice. But, they only slightly differ in format, the number of questions, and the mechanics of the scoring.
Paper-and-Pencil ASVAB  is often used in schools. The candidates are given test booklets where they can answer the questions. There are also four separate forms of the test. The answer sheets are then taken to a scoring location. The results are given back to the schools or recruiters.  

What are the ASVAB Test Subjects

McGraw-Hill’s ASVAB states that the content outline of the Paper-and-Pencil ASVAB is as follows:

General Science

Measures knowledge of physical, earth and space, and biological sciences

 11 Minutes  25 questions

Arithmetic Reasoning

Measures ability to solve word problems about basic arithmetic

36 Minutes  30 questions

Word Knowledge

Measures ability to determine the correct meaning of words presented through synonyms

 11 Minutes  35 questions

Paragraph Comprehension

Measures ability to get information from written material

13 Minutes  15 questions

Mathematics Knowledge

Measures knowledge of high school mathematics concepts and applications

24 Minutes   25 questions

Electronics Information

Tests knowledge of electrical current, circuits, devices, and electronic systems

 9 Minutes   20 questions

Auto and Shop Information

Measures knowledge of maintenance of automotive and repairment and wood and metal shop practices

 11 Minutes  25 questions

Mechanical Comprehension

Measures knowledge of the principles of mechanical devices, structural support, and properties of materials

19 Minutes  25 questions

The Department of Defense implemented Computer Adaptive Testing or CAT-ASVAB. It is a computerized version of the test. It has fewer items compared to the other format, and it takes less time to complete it. It also has another subtest: Assembling Objects. This subject is not taken in schools.

As stated by the same book about ASVAB, the content outline of the CAT-ASVAB is the following:

General Science

Measures knowledge of physical, earth and space, and biological sciences

8 Minutes  16 questions

Arithmetic Reasoning

Measures ability to solve word problems about basic arithmetic

39 Minutes  16 questions

Word Knowledge

Measures ability to determine the correct meaning of words presented through synonyms

8 Minutes  16 questions

Paragraph Comprehension

Measures ability to get information from written material

22 Minutes  11 questions

Mathematics Knowledge

Measures knowledge of high school mathematics concepts and applications

18 Minutes  16 questions

Electronics Information

Tests knowledge of electrical current, circuits, devices, and electronic systems

8 Minutes  16 questions

Auto Information

Measures knowledge of automotive maintenance and repair

6 Minutes  11 questions

Shop Information

Measures knowledge of shop practices of wood and metal

5 Minutes  11 questions

Mechanical Comprehension

Measures knowledge of the principles of mechanical devices, structural support, and properties of materials

19 Minutes  20 questions

Assembling Objects

Measures the ability to interpret diagrams showing special relationships and how objects are related and connected

16 Minutes  9 questions

The ASVAB Scores

What do ASVAB scores pertain to and how are they utilized?

The score report will contain a compilation of your scores for all of the subtests, and your Armed Forces Qualification Test, also known as AFQT.

There are two ways that each of the scores are listed: standard scores and percentile scores.

Standard Scores

It is the score that determines how close a particular score is to the mean by making use of the standard deviation. For ASVAB tests, they have a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10.

Percentile Scores

It is the score that determines how good the candidate was in relation to others who took the exam. The score will range between 1 and 99.

What is AFQT?

The Military Entrance Score or AFQT makes up a part of your score report, and they are in percentile scores. There are four core subtests that you must pass in order to be qualified for military service: Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), Math Knowledge (MK), Paragraph Comprehension (PC), and Word Knowledge (WK).

The AFQT score is determined by getting the combination of the scores on WK and PC into a composite called Verbal Ability. It is then added to your scores for MK and AR.

The combined scores are then compared to the scores of other takers from ages 18 to 23. It is based on a nationally representative sample. This is where you will also get the percentile score. 

What is a good AFQT score for the ASVAB test?

You cannot actually pass or fail the ASVAB as a student, but for you to get into the military, there are minimum score requirements that you have to pass. As taken from the book, ASVAB for Dummies:

AFQT Category: I

Percentile Score: 93-100

Trainability: Outstanding

100%

AFQT Category: II

Percentile Score: 65-92

Trainability: Excellent

92%

AFQT Category: III A

Percentile Score: 50-64

Trainability: Above Average

64%

AFQT Category: III B

Percentile Score: 31-49

Trainability: Average

49%

AFQT Category: IV A

Percentile Score: 21-30

Trainability: Below Average

30%

AFQT Category: IV B

Percentile Score: 16-20

Trainability: Markedly below average

20%

AFQT Category: IV C

Percentile Score: 10-15

Trainability: Poor

15%

AFQT Category: V

Percentile Score: 0-9

Trainability: Not Trainable

9%

In addition to that, there are minimum score requirements required by the different branches of the military: 

For the Army, they require an AFQT score of at least 31, but it will be 50 if the candidate has a high school degree equivalency.

For the Marine Corps, 32 but 50 if with high school degree equivalency. 

The Coast Guard will have a minimum score of 40 but also 50 for high school degree equivalency. 

The Navy’s AFQT score is 35 and again 50 if with GED, TASC or HISET. 

Lastly, the Air Force requires 36 and compared to the previous positions, if with high school equivalency, it is 65. They require their applicants to at least get a percentile score of average to be eligible for incentive programs such as college funds and enlistment bonuses.

How to retrieve my ASVAB score?

You can get your score report in three ways. You can get it yourself, you can receive it from your guidance counselor, or you can obtain it from your recruiter. 

For ASVAB taken in schools, you can get it from your school within 30 days of your test date. If you took the production ASVAB, your recruiter will contact you regarding the results, and lastly, for CAT-ASVAB, you’ll get the results immediately in printed copies.

How to Study for the ASVAB

What are some methods to improve one's score on the ASVAB?

The ASVAB test will help you determine what career you would want. You can give your focus towards the AFQT categories, for example, so that you can pursue a career in the military. You can also focus on Electronics Information if you want your aptitude to be inclined to that subject.

It’s vital to know your strengths and your weaknesses. You have to give more time on those that you have a difficult time understanding because they will be the ones that will pull your scores down. Since the aptitude test makes use of standard scores, your scores will be affected by your wrong answers.

When it comes to big tests like this, you have to avoid things that will turn your focus away from studying. You need to have discipline because you’ll otherwise waste precious time in matters that aren’t essential. Control is crucial. You often don’t have the liberty of being lazy.

If you keep your breaks longer than they should be, then it will be harder for you to get back to studying. You’ll be more enticed with doing other things until too much time will have passed. Because of this, study schedules can help guide you and keep track of the time for each of the subtests you have to study.

Most educational programs have time and time again advocated the use of study materials to simulate important examinations. ASVAB practice tests, ASVAB study guides, ASVAB practice questions, ASVAB preps, ASVAB quizlets, and more, will help test the ability of candidates to pass each subtest successfully.

Here are some sample tests you can practice that is taken from the book, 1,001 ASVAB Practice Questions for Dummies (swipe left and right to browse each question):

  • For Word Knowledge
  • For Arithmetic Reasoning
  • For General Science

Frequently Asked Questions

There are three locations: at your school, at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), and at a mobile examining team site (MET).

If you take it at your school, then you have to ask your school counselor for help. Most often, you will take the Paper-and-Pencil ASVAB format. 

On the other hand, if you’ll take it at MEPS. You can choose from the 65 MEPS that are located all over the country. You’ll have to take the CAT-ASVAB. 

Furthermore, if you are in remote or distant locations, you can take it at MET sites. There are almost 500 sites that are located all over the U.S. It is often taken in the Paper-and-Pencil ASVAB format, but it may also be taken in the CAT-ASVAB format.

Yes, you can. You can retake the test if you have taken it within the past 2 years. After one calendar month has passed, you can proceed with your retest. But, you have to keep in mind that the score in your recent ASVAB test will be your valid score. So, if you get a smaller score in your second take, it will be the one considered and not the first one.

The difference between the two is that the ASVAB test contains at least 10 subtests. You have to answer all of them to determine your test score. It is more comprehensive. While AFQT only focuses on four categories, which are Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, and Mathematics Knowledge.

Yes, you can. But, you must have your GED certificate or other high school equivalency, and you must be able to obtain a high ASVAB test scores. The military is looking for personnel that will show positive indications of responsibility. They do accept recruits that don’t have a diploma, but more often than not, they prefer those that seem dependable.

You can register with the help of your guidance counselor in your school. On the other hand, if it is for the enlistment exam, then you can contact the nearest recruiter at your convenience.

No, it is free. The Department of Defense offers the test for anyone so they can have the opportunity to get into the military and/or to help guide them through their career exploration.

What is the ASVAB test?
Format and Content Outline
What are the ASVAB test subjects?
The ASVAB Scores
How to study for the ASVAB
Frequently Asked Questions
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