What is the ASVAB test?
The ASVAB, or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, is a military career aptitude test developed by the Department of Defense to test potential candidates for employment in different armed forces units. The ASVAB tests candidates in four domains:
- Verbal - Tests candidates on reading, comprehension, and vocabulary.
- Math - Tests candidates on quantitative aptitude, arithmetic reasoning, and math at the high school level.
- Science/Technical - Requires knowledge of electricity, electronics, automobile technology, tool shop, and mechanical principles.
- Spatial - Helps determine the knowledge and ability to assemble machine parts.
The AFQT, or Armed Forces Qualification Test, is not a separate test but rather a sum of the test scores from the ASVAB Math and Verbal domains. The AFQT score is used to determine placement eligibility for careers across the branches of the military.
What is on the ASVAB test?
The ASVAB test has two versions:
- The Enlistment ASVAB is used for recruitment purposes and is taken at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS). It is commonly known as iCAT, or CAT-ASVAB. CAT-ASVAB is a computerized and adaptive test.
- The ASVAB Career Exploration Program (CEP) is taken by high school and community college students. It is not used for recruitment, but rather for testing the military readiness of the candidates. CEP is a pencil and paper test and is also called P&P-ASVAB.
Each test is split into 10 subtests that assess candidates in four domains: Verbal, Math, Science/Technical, and Spatial. The following table provides details about each subtest in the order they appear on the ASVAB.
|General Science (GS)||Assesses knowledge of physical and life sciences||Science/Technical|
|Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)||Tests candidates on their ability to solve math word problems||Math|
|Word Knowledge (WK)||Requires answering questions related to word meaning and synonyms||Verbal|
|Paragraph Comprehension (PC)||Requires reading, comprehending, and answering questions from a passage||Verbal|
|Mathematics Knowledge (MK)||Tests high school-level mathematics||Math|
|Electronics Information (EI)||Assesses knowledge of electricity and electronics||Science/Technical|
|Auto Information (AI)||Tests automobile technology knowledge||Science/Technical|
|Shop Information (SI)||Measures tool and shop aptitude and knowledge||Science/Technical|
|Mechanical Comprehension (MC)||Assesses candidates on mechanical and physical principles||Science/Technical|
|Assembling Objects (AO)||Measures the ability to put objects together||Spatial|
How many questions are on the ASVAB?
The number of questions on the ASVAB differ between the computerized and the pencil & paper versions of the test. The auto information subtest is not present in the pencil and paper version of the ASVAB. The time allowed for each subsection also differs between the two tests. The following tables provide details about the two versions of the tests, including the test sections, number of questions, and the time allotted for each section.
|General Science||16 questions||8 minutes|
|Arithmetic Reasoning||16 questions||39 minutes|
|Word Knowledge||16 questions||8 minutes|
|Paragraph Comprehension||11 questions||22 minutes|
|Mathematics Knowledge||16 questions||20 minutes|
|Electronics Information||16 questions||8 minutes|
|Auto Information||11 questions||7 minutes|
|Shop Information||11 questions||6 minutes|
|Mechanical Comprehension||16 questions||20 minutes|
|Assembling Objects||16 questions||16 minutes|
|Total||145 questions||154 minutes|
Pencil and Paper ASVAB
|General Science||25 questions||11 minutes|
|Arithmetic Reasoning||30 questions||36 minutes|
|Word Knowledge||35 questions||11 minutes|
|Paragraph Comprehension||15 questions||13 minutes|
|Mathematics Knowledge||25 questions||24 minutes|
|Electronics Information||20 questions||9 minutes|
|Shop Information||25 questions||11 minutes|
|Mechanical Comprehension||25 questions||19 minutes|
|Assembling Objects||25 questions||15 minutes|
|Total||225 questions||149 minutes|
The ASVAB consists of ten different subtests, each with its own score. These subtest scores are delivered to candidates via the ASVAB Student Results sheet following the test. The scores are combined by the military to create two types of composite scores: the AFQT score and the line scores.
The AFQT score is the sum of the scores from the Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge, Word Knowledge, and Paragraph Comprehension subtests. It is reported as a percentile score and is used by all branches of the military. The line scores combine various subtest scores to assess proficiency in specific areas of focus. They are used to assess eligibility for specific careers. The following table provides a description of each line score.
|ASVAB Line Score||Description|
|Clerical (L) Line Score||Includes word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning, and mathematical knowledge subtests. Uses only AFQT scores as it is a non-combatant position.|
|Combat (CO) Line Score||Includes paragraph comprehension and word knowledge scores. Also includes mechanical comprehension, auto, and shop subtests to assess candidates for combat mechanical machine failures or servicing.|
|Electronics (EL) Line Score||Includes general science, mathematics knowledge, and arithmetic reasoning subtests. Includes electronic information to prepare candidates for electronics work in buildings, ships, or military vehicles.|
|General Maintenance (GM) Line Score||Includes general science, electronics information, and mathematical knowledge. Also includes auto and shop subtests to test conduciveness to maintenance and repair of military vehicles.|
|General Technical (GT) Line Score||Includes arithmetic reasoning, paragraph comprehension, and word knowledge subtests. General technical assessment is done through arithmetic reasoning.|
|Mechanical Maintenance (MM) Line Score||Includes mechanical comprehension, electronic information, and auto and shop subtests. Mechanical comprehension helps in assessing the ability to maintain military vehicles.|
|Operators and Food (OF) Line Score||Includes mechanical comprehension, auto and shop knowledge, word knowledge, and paragraph comprehension subtests. Mechanical comprehension is required to operate machines.|
|Surveillance and Communications (SC) Line Score||Includes arithmetic reasoning, mechanical comprehension, auto and shop knowledge, word knowledge, and paragraph comprehension subtests. Mechanical, auto, and shop knowledge helps in maintaining equipment.|
|Skilled Technical (ST) Line Score||Includes general science, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mathematics knowledge, and mechanical comprehension subtests. Mechanical comprehension is required for solving technical issues.|
What is the AFQT score?
The AFQT, or the Armed Forces Qualification Test, is the sum of the candidate's scores from the following four subtests:
- Word Knowledge (WK)
- Mathematics Knowledge (MK)
- Paragraph Comprehension (PC)
- Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)
The mathematical representation of the AFQT score is: AFQT = WK + MK + PC + AR
The score the candidate receives on the ASVAB Student Results sheet is a percentile score among other test-takers. The percentile score depicts the percentage of test takers that have scored less than the candidate. For example, a percentile score of 65 depicts that a candidate has performed better than 65% of test-takers.
What score do you need to pass the ASVAB?
The minimum AFQT score for a career in the U.S. military is 31. However, some service branches require even higher scores. The minimum AFQT scores for the major branches of the military are depicted in the table below:
|Military Service Branch||Minimum AFQT Score|
|Air Force ASVAB||36|
|Coast Guard ASVAB||45|
|Military Police ASVAB||31|
Each service branch has a minimum AFQT score to determine candidature. However, the final selection also depends on the line scores calculated from various subtests. The minimum required line scores differ by both military branch and career path.
What is a good score on the ASVAB?
The AFQT is presented as the percentile score of test-takers aged 18 to 23 as per 1997 sampling. Therefore, a candidate's score shows the percentage of test-takers that have scored less than the candidate. The percentiles are divided into the following categories, with 50 being the average score:
|Category||AFQT Percentile Score|
|Category I||93-99 (Highest)|
|Category III A||50-64|
|Category III B||31-49|
|Category IV A||21-30|
|Category IV B||16-20|
|Category IV C||10-15|
|Category V||0-9 (Enlistment denied)|
How is the ASVAB score calculated?
The ASVAB scores for different service branches, including the AFQT score, can be calculated using ASVAB score calculators available online. The first step is to calculate AFQT scores, which are the sum of the Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge, Word Knowledge, and Paragraph Comprehension subtests. After this, line scores from the other subtests are added to calculate scores for different service branches. The combined scores of the AFQT and other subtests are used for final recruitment.
How long does it take to get ASVAB scores?
ASVAB tests administered at Military Entrance Processing Station provide scores almost immediately. However, the pencil and paper tests administered by the Career Exploration Program can take 2 to 3 weeks to provide candidates with results.
How long are ASVAB scores good for?
The ASVAB scores are valid for up to 2 years if you do not join the armed forces. However, after joining the military, the scores are valid for as long as you are employed.
Preparing for the ASVAB
Just like any standardized test, preparing for the ASVAB helps increase test scores for most candidates. Preparation helps candidates adapt to the questions asked on the actual test, while mock exams and practice tests help simulate the exam conditions.
How to study for the ASVAB
The ASVAB tests candidates on several subjects, so it can be difficult to remember content across all the subtests. The key to remember such a large curriculum is to go through each subtest regularly. This review should be followed by a small chapter test of each topic. It makes sense to subscribe to an ASVAB test prep course or use an ASVAB study guide to streamline preparation. Some important study tips include:
Be informed about the content covered on the different subtests. In addition, learn about the minimum scores for the service branch you intend to join.
Have a strong grasp of general academic subjects such as math, science, and English grammar. These subjects make up a significant portion of the ASVAB exam.
Attempt to review a portion of each subject every week. You can use a mobile app that provides easy-to-access content along with a report of your progress.
For the Electronics, Auto, and Mechanics subtests, it is helpful to be engaged in a hands-on project such as building a chair, changing a switch, or repairing a motorcycle.
To help with the Assembling Objects subtests, practice building things! Playing with Legos and other construction pastimes help develop the necessary skills for success on the ASVAB.
How to prepare the day of the ASVAB
It makes sense to prepare for your ASVAB test day well in advance. Last minute preparations may lead you to miss out on requirements for the test and increase nervousness, thereby affecting your performance.
The most important requirements include bringing a valid identification and being seated in the examination hall before the time that the test begins. You are not allowed to bring anything into the examination hall and must leave calculators, stationary, and water bottles outside. Important strategies for your ASVAB test day preparation include:
- Prepare your registration, identification, and other requirements in advance.
- Learn about what to expect on the test day and familiarize yourself with the route to the test center.
- Get to the test center on time.
- Carefully read the requirements of each question. Be attentive of the time and do not get stuck for too long on one question.
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Test registration for the ASVAB is typically conducted at a Military Entrance Processing Station close to the candidate. To register for the ASVAB, candidates are required to contact the recruiters of the service branch that they wish to join.
How do I register for the ASVAB test?
A military recruiter will determine if the candidate fulfills the basic military admission requirements. If the candidate fulfills the criteria, the recruiter will schedule the candidate for the ASVAB. The requirements include but are not limited to:
- General minimum age of 18 years, or 17 years with parental consent. Maximum age varies depending on the service branch and ranges from 27 years to 39 years.
- Pass a stringent fitness test.
- Be a permanent U.S. citizen or a resident.
- Possess a high school diploma, GED, or similar high school educational credentials.
What are the ASVAB test dates and locations?
A candidate can take the ASVAB test at approximately 65 Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) across the country. In the case that a MEPS is not near, candidates may request to take the ASVAB at a satellite Military Entrance Test (MET) site which is easily accessible. MEPS will administer a computerized test, whereas MET sites will administer a pencil and paper test. Once registered, the candidate will receive information about the location and the requirements for the test day. Being late to the site may require re-registration.
How much does the ASVAB test cost?
The registration for the ASVAB is free, and the military does not charge prospective candidates. However, it makes sense to enroll in a preparatory course and make use of prep materials such as ASVAB study guides. The price of books or online study guides can increase the cost, but it can also increase the chances of a better test performance.
Are accommodations available for the ASVAB test?
The accommodation policy in the U.S. is based on legislation such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It aims to protect the rights of students who have physical or learning disabilities. The military provides accommodations to civilians employed in the armed services, but not to commissioned officers or enlisted members. Due to these exemptions, accommodations for physical or learning disabilities are not available for the ASVAB test.
View all available ASVAB resources
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average ASVAB score?
The ASVAB score is standardized as a percentile. Therefore, the average ASVAB score is approximately 50. Less than 20% of all candidates score higher than 60. The score is arranged into different categories for the selection process, and the required score differs for each service branch.
How hard is the ASVAB?
The ASVAB tests students on general subjects, technical knowledge, and spatial knowledge. As with any standardized test, the difficulty of the ASVAB will depend on the candidate's skill at test-taking and knowledge of the content. However, a wide range of content is covered on the ASVAB. This includes specialized subjects that are not usually a part of the school curriculum, such as electronics, auto, and shop. More practice may be required for these subjects.
Can you retake the ASVAB?
Candidates who wish to improve their score can retake the ASVAB within 30 days of their initial attempt. Candidates can retake the ASVAB at monthly intervals up to three times. After the third attempt, the waiting period increases to six months.
What is the difference between the ASVAB and the PiCAT?
The PiCAT is an untimed, unproctored version of the ASVAB which can be taken at home. However, candidates who take the PiCAT must pass a subsequent validation test at a Military Entrance Processing Station prior to enlisting.
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