What is the PiCAT?
PiCAT stands for Pre-screening Internet-based Computerised Adaptive Test and is an alternative to the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test. It is untimed, can be taken at home, and is designed to be a low-pressure version of the ASVAB that was launched in 2018.
The PiCAT is designed to assess a candidate not only for their suitability for a military career, but also to test their competencies and aptitudes for specific roles throughout all branches of the military.
The test is scored as a percentile, which means that if your score is 76, you will have performed better than 76% of the people that have taken the test.
The test contents, question types, and sections are all the same as the ASVAB.
What is the PiCAT verification test?
As the PiCAT is taken at home without being proctored and with no supervision, applicants will have to take a verification test. This takes place at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) or a Military Entrance Test (MET) site, and you have to complete it within 30 days of the PiCAT completion.
This is a selection of 30 questions, usually ones that were correct in the full assessment, and these are completed under time pressure, with supervision. They usually take 25-30 minutes.
If you pass the PiCAT Verification Test, your PiCAT score will then be used to determine your progression into the military, and the score is kept on record for five years.
If you do not pass the PiCAT Verification Test, you will automatically have to complete the full ASVAB test, and 5% of PiCAT takers are randomly selected to take the ASVAB anyway.
How does the PiCAT differ from the ASVAB?
The content and the question difficulty are the same on both the PiCAT and the ASVAB.
The main difference is that the PiCAT is taken at home, in an applicant's own time, and there is no supervision.
The ASVAB is taken at either a MEPS or MET site, and takes about three hours. The ASVAB is proctored and supervised, and it can be completed on a computer or on paper.
The other significant difference is that the first four sections on both the PiCAT and the ASVAB form the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), and if you don't get enough marks on the PiCAT for these sections then the test will automatically finish, whereas on the ASVAB you will continue the test even if your scores are too low.
What is on the PiCAT?
The PiCAT comprises 145 questions. These are the same as the questions on the ASVAB, except that they need to be answered online, and there is no time limit.
Questions are separated into ten categories. The first four sections are geared towards assessing whether a candidate has the required skills and aptitudes in language and numbers to be successful in the military, while the following six sections look at specific aptitudes to decide on the right branch and even roles in the armed forces that will be most suitable.
In the Word Knowledge section, you will have to answer 16 questions based on your knowledge of words and written language.
You will be asked to find the right definition of a word in a sentence, or to find a synonym of a word.
Each question is multiple-choice, so you will have a number of potential answers to consider.
In the paragraph comprehension section, you will be presented with a short piece of text and will need to identify the meaning of the paragraph.
There are 11 questions in this section, and the answers are multiple choice.
As this test is not timed, a thorough reading of the information and possible answers is needed to be successful so take your time to ensure you understand the text.
This is an assessment of your knowledge of basic mathematical operations, and contains questions based on algebra and geometry.
There are 16 questions in this section, and again the answer is multiple choice. No calculators are allowed, but you can use scrap paper to help you work out the answers.
This is an assessment of how well you can read, understand and manipulate numbers that are presented in unfamiliar formats.
There are 16 questions, all with multiple choice answers. The questions are posed as word problems, and you will need to solve the problem using an equation. Scrap paper will come in handy here to keep the calculations in order.
Scientific knowledge is not a prerequisite for admission into the military, but some roles will require an understanding of general science principles.
Questions in this section will relate to subjects taught in high school such as biology, chemistry, and earth science.
There are 16 questions in this section and the answers are multiple choice.
In the mechanical comprehension section, you are being assessed on your understanding of mechanical devices and the physics behind mechanical processes, such as gravity, friction, force, and acceleration.
There are 16 questions in this section, with multiple choice answers.
Knowledge about shop tools and how they work is not an entrance requirement to the military as a whole, but it is necessary for some branches and roles. If you are looking for some engineering or mechanical job in the Army, Navy or even in the Air Force, recognizing the way basic shop tools work is a necessity.
There are 11 questions in this section. Answers are multiple choice.
For some roles, the knowledge of the way electricity works and how it can be manipulated is an important prerequisite.
In this section of the assessment, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of basic electrical principles like currents and circuits as well as how equipment like radios and TVs work.
The answers are multiple choice and there are 16 questions in this section.
Spatial awareness and the manipulation of 3D shapes in space is a skill used in many military roles, and to test this the PiCAT and the ASVAB ask questions about graphs, technical drawings, and interpreting maps.
In this section, you can expect 16 questions and multiple choice answers.
For roles where mechanical knowledge about automotives is important, the PiCAT asks 11 questions that are based on automotive repairs and basic automotive systems.
The answers are multiple choice.
How to prepare for the PiCAT
If you have been out of the classroom for a while, your general knowledge of maths and English might need to be honed - and with a range of practice tests and courses available online, you can improve your chances for a better score. Practice tests can help you see where you might need more time in revision, and help you realize where your strengths already are.
Focus on Your Areas of Interest
While you might want to nail the entire test - and that is a great idea - remember that your scores will determine which roles you will be eligible for across the military branches. In practice, this means that you want to ensure your best results come from the areas that are most important in the role you have applied for.
Set Up Your Test Area
This assessment is online, and it can be taken wherever you feel most comfortable. You will be sent a link and have 24 hours to complete the test once you have started. To give yourself the best chance, make sure you have an area set aside where there are no distractions, you have a good internet connection, and can work undisturbed. Keep a drink handy and some scrap paper so you can jot down any notes that you need to take.
The unsupervised nature of the PiCAT and the fact that it is untimed might make it tempting to seek outside help - and quite aside from the dishonorable action this would be, it will not benefit you in the long run as you will have to take a PiCAT verification test under proctored, timed, and supervised test conditions. Honesty is the best policy, so make sure you practice and study to perform at your best.
What happens if you fail the PiCAT?
While you cannot fail the PiCAT, you can fail the first section if you do not get the right score. This is set by each branch, and ranges from 31 - 65. Aside from the first section, your score on the assessment will guide the military recruiters as to whether you have the right vocational aptitude to be successful in your chosen role.
If you want to retake the PiCAT, unless there are extenuating circumstances you have to wait for two years.
Is the PiCAT easier than the ASVAB?
In terms of difficulty from the questions, the PiCAT and the ASVAB are the same. However, the PiCAT could be considered easier because it is taken without time pressure, but you will have to sit a verification test to get the score used in your military application.
Remember that 5% of PiCAT takers are randomly selected to take the ASVAB anyway, and if you fail the PiCAT verification test you will automatically have to take the ASVAB.
What is a good score on the PiCAT?
Scores on the PiCAT are created as a composite made up of the scores in particular sections, and represented as a percentile.
The scores from the first four sections are presented as a percentile, and must achieve a minimum of 31 to be accepted into training for the army. If you have a GED, the top minimum score for Air Force careers is 65.
Each role has a composite minimum score; if it is not achieved, then your application will not be taken forward. The best way to guarantee your pick of roles is to perform at your best throughout.
How many sections are there on the PiCAT?
There are ten sections on the PiCAT, and each section has either 11 or 16 questions for a total of 145 questions. The assessment is not timed and the answers are multiple choice.