What is the ASVAB test?
If you are looking for a career in the Armed Forces, you will need to prepare to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. It is a multiple-choice entrance test, and all those wishing to enlist in the Military must take the test.
Carried out by the United States Military Entrance Processing Command on behalf of the Department of Defense, a version of the test can be taken by prospective service personnel from the 10th grade upwards, with the main ASVAB taken as part of the enlistment process.
Offered at more than 14,000 schools and Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) nationwide, the test assesses academic aptitude as well as potential for ongoing success in a military career.
The ASVAB test, which was first introduced in 1968, was revised and updated in the 2000s and has a percentile rank scoring system. This means that if you score 95, then you have done better than 95% of the others that took the test.
The test has nine sections. Depending on which version you sit, it will take between 1.5 hours and three hours to complete.
Four of those nine areas determine your general selection (arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension and mathematics knowledge), which together give you an Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score.
The remaining five section scores determine your aptitude for specific roles and areas of the military, and are known as military occupational specialties (MOS). Generally you are looking for high scores across all areas.
The Enlistment ASVAB or CAT-ASVAB is one of two versions of the ASVAB test. It is taken by all those wishing to be enlisted in the armed forces and may be taken in one of two ways.
The version taken at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) is a computerized test called the CAT-ASVAB, which stands for Computerized Adaptive Testing. Essentially this means that the questions asked are adaptive, so become easier or harder depending on the previous given response.
The computerized test is shorter than the written test, with fewer questions.
Those wishing to enlist but who are not based near an MEP may take the test at a Military Entrance Test (MET) site, where the version offered is a pencil and paper or written test, for which the allocated time per section is longer and includes more questions. The questions are not adaptive like the computerized version.
ASVAB CEP (career exploration program)
The ASVAB CEP is taken as part of career planning, often during school where it can be taken from 10th grade upwards. There is no cost to taking the test and whatever the outcome, there is no obligation to undertake any military service or career - it is an exploration program to give students an idea of what they could do with their future career.
Students in 11th grade or above receive real scores which can be used for enlistment should they wish.
Those taking the ASVAB CEP receive the same Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) as those taking the enlistment ASVAB, plus three composite scores in verbal, math and science/technical skills which can be used to discuss further career options.
How is the ASVAB formatted?
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test is formatted by taking multiple-choice questions which fall into one of the following four key areas:
- Science & Technical
The test itself has nine sections that make up the four key areas. A candidate's aptitude at the various sections will indicate which area of recruitment might suit that candidate best.
An ASVAB score remains valid for up to two years, so it gives each candidate thinking time before deciding to enlist.
The nine sections are as follows:
ASVAB: General Science
The General Science test measures a candidate's scientific knowledge, which includes life science, earth and space science, and physical science.
This falls into the Science and Technical area and you will have eight minutes in which to answer 15 questions. Questions may include some basic math to complete to answer questions, e.g. conversion between different measurements.
Click here to find out more about the ASVAB General Science Test.
ASVAB: Arithmetic Reasoning
The Arithmetic Reasoning test measures a candidate's ability to answer math questions when expressed as words. This falls into the Math area and you will have 39 minutes in which to answer 15 questions.
The questions will be expressed in words, with candidates having to solve them using basic math knowledge to select the correct answer.
For more information on the ASVAB Arithmetic Reasoning Test, check out our full page.
ASVAB: Word Knowledge
The Word Knowledge test measures a candidate's ability to understand the context and meaning of words. This falls into the Verbal area and you will have 15 minutes in which to answer eight questions.
The question may give a single word with a list of potential answers, with the candidate required to choose the correct synonym.
Want to know more about the ASVAB Word Knowledge Test? Click here for our full page.
ASVAB: Paragraph Comprehension
The Paragraph Comprehension test measures a candidate's ability to extract meaning and information from a written paragraph. This falls into the Verbal area and you will have 22 minutes in which to answer ten questions.
The candidate will read a paragraph of text and then select the correct answer to a question based on the text.
To learn more about the ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension Test, take a look at our full guide.
ASVAB: Mathematics Knowledge
The Mathematics Knowledge test measures a candidate's understanding of the high school math syllabus. This falls into the Math area and you will have 20 minutes in which to answer 15 questions.
If you have taken and understood high school math you will be familiar with all the questions that you are asked here.
We have a full guide on the ASVAB Mathematics Knowledge Test here.
ASVAB: Electronics Information
The Electronics Information test measures a candidate's understanding of electronics. This falls into the Science and Technical area and you will have eight minutes in which to answer 15 questions.
The questions will test your knowledge of electrical current, circuits, devices, and electronic systems.
Take a look at this full guide to learn more about the ASVAB Electronics Information Test.
ASVAB: Auto and Shop Information
The Auto and Shop Information test measures a candidate's understanding of automobile technology, as well as tools and the common terminology. This falls into the Science and Technical area and you will have seven minutes in which to answer ten questions.
The questions will test your knowledge of automotive maintenance repair and wood/metal shop practices.
We have a full ASVAB Auto and Shop Information Test page here.
ASVAB: Mechanical Comprehension
The Mechanical Comprehension test measures a candidate's understanding of mechanical and physical principles. This falls into the Science and Technical area and you will have 20 minutes in which to answer 15 questions.
The questions will test your knowledge of principles of mechanical devices, structural support, and properties of materials.
Want to learn more about the ASVAB Mechanical Comprehension test? Read our full guide here.
ASVAB: Assembling Objects
The Assembling Objects test measures a candidate's understanding of translating descriptions of objects to how they will look when assembled. This falls into the Spatial area and you will have 40 minutes in which to answer 15 questions.
Click here to read our full page on the ASVAB Assembling Objects test page.
What are the ASVAB requirements for each branch?
The ASVAB score gives you scores which determine eligibility for entry into all branches of the armed services which includes the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, Coastguard, Army National Guard and Air National Guard.
Your score for the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) is divided into categories, with the minimum score required for enlistment to be 31, which equates to a category III score.
The AFQT score is determined by your results in arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension and mathematics knowledge.
The remaining five sections are added together in specific configurations to indicate a candidate's suitability for different military occupational specialties (MOS) within different branches. These are known as "aptitude area scores", "composite scores" and "line scores".
For example, to qualify for the Mechanical Maintenance section you will need to score a specified score from Auto Information (AI), Mechanical Comprehension (MC) and Electronic Information (EI) areas.
Top tips to pass the ASVAB
The ASVAB is a major test for which you will need to put plenty of time into preparing. Our tips to pass include:
Create a study plan
You have a number of areas to plan for, both in terms of consolidating knowledge and then revising, so you will need a plan. Make it manageable though or you will never stick to it. Break down revision into areas allocated by week and then by day.
Understand your strengths and weaknesses
Once you have consolidated knowledge across all areas you will have an understanding of where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Make sure that you revise your study plan to factor in more time to revise areas where you know you need to spend more time. Your plan needs to be smart, so that you concentrate the most time on the high-scoring areas of the test.
Take practice tests
Taking practice tests will allow you to focus where your main weaknesses are, as well as to show you how you are able to apply your knowledge under time pressures. Take and retake practice tests until you are able to confidently answer questions accurately within the given time limits of each area.
How is the ASVAB scored?
The ASVAB test gives you a standard score, an AFQT score and a composite score.
The first score you receive is a 'standard score' which essentially is based on how your score relates to the average test taker, based on a ranking of 1 to 100, with a standard deviation of 10. The mean score is 50 (the middle;) therefore if you score 60, you have achieved a score which is one standard deviation above the mean. The score basically ranks you against others who have taken the test.
The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) is the score which determines enlistment and in which area (e.g. Army, Navy, etc), with the composite score suggesting which specialty you may be suited to (e.g. your specific role).
What is a good score on the ASVAB?
A good score depends in many cases whether you have achieved a high school diploma or GED. Even with a GED, you will have to score at least 50, in some cases 65, to secure enlistment.
In general, the higher your scores, the more chance you have of securing an interesting role - particularly for the air force and special forces.
Is the ASVAB test hard?
There is no getting around the fact that the ASVAB is hard - it is time pressured and covers ten different areas of knowledge, many of which are technical. With the right preparation and practice tests however, it is possible to pass and do well.