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ASVAB: Word Knowledge Test

Ryan Green
Ryan Green January 04, 2023
ASVAB Word Knowledge Test

What is the ASVAB word knowledge test?

The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) word knowledge test is designed to assess how comfortable you are with the context and meaning of language. The test assesses you on your basic literacy skills, which you'll be required to use every day in all of the military jobs available to you.

Practisting your general reading, writing and comprehension skills is the best way you can prepare for the ASVAB word knowledge test.

In particular, focusing on synonyms and antonyms is a great way to familiarize yourself with what's likely to be asked of you on the test.

The format of the ASVAB word knowledge test

The ASVAB word knowledge test is all about uncovering how adept you are at understanding the meaning and context behind a series of different words.

You'll be required to answer eight multiple choice questions in just 15 minutes (that's just under two minutes a question).

The questions normally ask you to choose the correct synonym, out of a list of possible options, to demonstrate you've understood the meaning of that word.

Communication is an incredibly important, even lifesaving, skill in the military, so this section of the test is essential to get right.

How is the ASVAB word knowledge test scored?

The Word Knowledge subtest is one of four parts of the ASVAB that are used to create the AFQT score.

Alongside Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Math Knowledge, the score from Word Knowledge is combined to create a percentile score that is used as the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).

The AFQT is used to determine whether you have the required level of aptitude to be successful in the armed forces, and whether you are most suited for the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marine Corps.

The total ASVAB score is then used to determine which role you would be most suited for in the branch that you have chosen.

The scores are comparative, and your results will be matched against other test takers to demonstrate how well you have performed in comparison to them. Your results will be used to help you choose the best path into your military career.

Your standard test score is graded on a scale of 1-100 (with 50 being the median). Results are grouped in tens, which means if you score 60, you're one grouping above the median of 50 and therefore have scored above average.

Importance of the Word Knowledge Subtest

The Word Knowledge subtest is designed to assess the strength of your vocabulary, and this is something that is needed when you enlist.

You need to have a good grasp of language use, nuance, and vocabulary to be a successful member of the armed forces. Speaking and writing skills help with giving and receiving commands, understanding information that you are being given, and providing descriptions of people and situations.

Having good Word Knowledge will also help you if you want to apply for a new post or ask for a recommendation.

ASVAB Word Knowledge Vocabulary Lists

ASVAB word knowledge test

The different types of vocabulary that are used in the ASVAB Word Knowledge test are assessed using two types of questions.

The first is a simple definition of words, and the second is how a word works in a sentence.

Basic ASVAB Vocabulary List

Frequently Appearing Nouns

The common nouns that are used in the ASVAB Word Knowledge test are usually relatively simple words that are in common usage.

The top ten common nouns that you might encounter include:

  • Time
  • Person
  • Year
  • Way
  • Day
  • Thing
  • Man/Woman
  • World
  • Life
  • Hand

Common Verbs and Adjectives

Verbs are 'action' words, and adjectives are 'describing' words. There are some common ones that you might find in your ASVAB Word Knowledge test.

Common verbs include:

  • Be
  • Have
  • Do
  • Say
  • Get

Common adjectives include:

  • Good
  • New
  • First
  • Long
  • Great

Intermediate Vocabulary List

The words won't always be this simple however, and you might need to expand your vocabulary to make sure that you understand some less common words.

Advanced Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives

Some advanced nouns, verbs, and adjectives include:

  • Admonish - warn
  • Chastise - punish
  • Adulterate - make impure
  • Discreet - prudent
  • Erratic - irregular
  • Garrulous - talkative
  • Legacy - bequest
  • Illicit - unlawful
  • Obtuse - stupid
  • Oblivious - unaware
  • Reiterate - repeat
  • Qualm - doubt
  • Tacit - unspoken
  • Ubiquitous - present everywhere
  • Severance - separation

Technical and Scientific Terms

These types of words are not necessarily specialist terms, but they have specific meanings in technical and scientific spaces. These might include words like:

  • Axle
  • Calipers
  • Defective
  • Gasket
  • Lubricant
  • Gravity
  • Kinetic
  • Magnetism
  • Acceleration
  • Reflection

Expert Vocabulary List

The words in this list are much more complex, less commonly used, and in some ways they are much harder to deduce meaning from by guessing.

Complex and Obscure Words

Complex words are words that are compound or obscure. These words might include:

  • Captious - find or call attention to faults
  • Malapropism - misusing words because they sound similar
  • Tenebrous - dark and gloomy
  • Parlay - use a skill or resource to get something of greater value
  • Recalcitrant - stubborn, resistant to authority
  • Ostensible - appearing as something or pretending
  • Pejorative - expressing disapproval
  • Verisimilitude - appearing to be true
  • Eschew - avoid or stay away from something deliberately
  • Plaudit - enthusiastic approval or award

Industry-Specific Jargon

Jargon is a term used to describe language that is mostly only understood by a group of people belonging to a specific profession. Some jargon can mean different things based on context.

A few examples of jargon include:

  • Coup de grace - in military terms, this is a death blow that is used to end a wounded soldier's life
  • Hesitation - in auto mechanics, this is a phrase used to describe the 'lag' when you press down on the accelerator
  • Jig - in engineering, the jig is a tool that is used to guide another tool
  • Metrics - in data analytics, metrics are used to measure to describe numerical data
  • Demilitarized zone - this is an area where no military personnel or equipment can be.
  • Artillery - artillery is the term used for the heavy ranged weapons
  • Actuator - in engineering, the actuator is a device that turns energy into action
  • Extraction point - in the military, this is the place where you would congregate to be taken out of a battle zone.

ASVAB Word Knowledge Practice Test Questions

ASVAB vocabulary list

Example Question 1

Which word most nearly means the same as resolute?

  1. Steadfast
  2. Exemplary
  3. Spacious
  4. Fast

The answer is a) steadfast

Example Question 2

Which word most nearly means the same as defective?

  1. Strange
  2. Broken
  3. Defeated
  4. Listless

The answer is b) broken

Example Question 3

Which word most nearly means the opposite of erratic?

  1. Heavy
  2. Small
  3. Steady
  4. Correct

The answer is c) steady.

Example Question 4

Alison was oblivious to the noise around her as she was so engrossed in her book.

Which word below is closest to the meaning of the highlighted word?

  1. Quiet
  2. Obtuse
  3. Illicit
  4. Unaware

The answer is d) unaware

Example Question 5

Francis was ecstatic about the results of the game, even though he wasn't really a fan.

Which word below is closest to the opposite meaning of the highlighted word?

  1. Unhappy
  2. Bored
  3. Angry
  4. Happy

The answer is a) unhappy.

Top tips to pass the ASVAB word knowledge test

1) Understand Word Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes

Even if you come across a word you have never seen before, you can work out its meaning if you understand some of the building blocks of the English language.

To start with, you should think about the different roots of words. These often come from Latin or Greek, and they are the 'bones' of the word if you like.

For example:

  • Bio - biological, natural
  • Cede - give up
  • Corp - body
  • Dict - speak
  • Fract - in parts
  • Graph - display

The other parts of a word can be prefixes and suffixes. Examples of prefixes are:

  • Bene-
  • De-
  • Dis-
  • In-
  • Mis-
  • Re-

Suffixes go at the end of the word. Examples of suffixes include:

  • -able
  • -al
  • -ence
  • -ful
  • -less
  • -ness

Understanding roots, prefixes and suffixes gives you a structure to a word that you can use to work out logically what the meaning of a word could be.

2) Building Context Clues

Context can have an impact on what a word means, and it can also help you to decipher the meaning of an unfamiliar word. The context of a word comes from the words in front of and after it in a sentence.

You can look at how a word is being used to see if that helps you understand better; you have several options to choose from so how the word is being used should help you narrow down the possibilities.

The other thing to think about in terms of context is whether there are any contrasting words being used in the sentence. These can be found by looking for words like unlike, although, despite, or however. If you recognise the contrasting word, the chances are you will be able to understand the emphasized word.

You can also look for other words in the sentence that might help, like synonyms, antonyms, analogies or comparisons.

3) Expand Your Vocabulary Through Reading

The best way to get more vocabulary knowledge is to read, read, and read even more. Challenge yourself with different types of books - if you like action, try comedy or sci-fi, for example. The more you read, the more you will see new and unfamiliar words - and this is even more true when it comes to non-fiction.

The trick to making sure that this is as beneficial as possible for you is to create a word list, so that you can take note of any unfamiliar words. Use a dictionary (or the Internet) to look up new words, find their synonyms and antonyms, and think about how you are going to remember them in the future.

4) Utilize Mnemonics and Memory Aids

Not everyone is good at remembering things straight away, but there are some hacks you can use to make it easier to remember words and their meanings.

Take a leaf out of your school days and create some memory aids, especially flash cards. These are great for visual memory making and can help you to recall more information.

You can also utilize mnemonics. These are memory devices that can help you store and access more information by relating it to something else.

Mnemonic devices can include creating an acronym or making an acrostic out of the first letters of words - like you might have done in school when remembering the order of the planets in our solar system or the colors of the rainbow.

You could also create a silly song, a rhyme, or even just a ridiculous mental image. The sillier it is, the more likely you are to remember it, too.

5) Practice word knowledge tests

There really is no substitute for practicing test questions. Not only will it help you to understand what to expect on the day, it'll also help you to find the right balance between speed and accuracy.

6) Keep an eye on the time

You'll have just under two minutes to answer each question (assuming the test allows 15 minutes for eight questions). Try and stick roughly to this time as it'll help ensure you get a chance to answer every question.

7) Create a Study Schedule

According to the creators of the ASVAB, you are not required to undertake any further study than that you have already completed in school - but that doesn't mean that you shouldnt revise your knowledge.

A study schedule will help you structure your time so that you have enough to revise your knowledge but still keep up with your other commitments, whether that is school, work, family life, or even socializing.

Build a realistic schedule so that you can space out your learning.

8) Use Flashcards and Spaced Repetition

Memory recall is easier the more that you do it, and an excellent way to improve yours is through spaced repetition.

This is much easier if you have created flashcards for these unfamiliar words; you can look through them every so often to test yourself, and you should be able to see an improvement quite quickly.

The trick here is not to 'cram' everything in at once, but to approach revision slowly and logically.

Ryan Green January 04, 2023

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