How to Pass the ASVAB Test

The ASVAB was initially developed by U.S. Department of Defense in the late 1960s; however, it was not implemented until 1976. To date, more than 40 million individuals have taken the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).

What is the ASVAB Test?

The ASVAB test is an acronym used to describe the mandated Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery of tests given to individuals who are interested in entering one of the branches of the United States’ military services. The ASVAB is designed to measure the test-taker's qualifications before enlisting in a branch of the US military.  

The ASVAB (which is a sequence of tests) holds the distinction of being the most widely used set of tests in the entire world. Its primary function is to evaluate a candidate’s general aptitude and potential success in the military positions within the U.S. Military. Essentially, the score you earn on the ASVAB will likely determine your initial placement in the military services and even possible advancement opportunities.

Those who want to sit for the ASVAB should be aware that the only way to set up test-taking arrangements is through a military recruitment office. The ASVAB is offered at more than 60 Military Entrance Processing Centers (MEPS), as well as other test locations in federal buildings, etc. If you need to re-take the ASVAB, you must wait a minimum of one month before your second try. If you need a 3rd time, there is another month waiting period. Those who need a fourth attempt must wait at least six months for the retake.

The ASVAB Test Defined

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The ASVAB is comprised of 10 subsections that are crafted to carefully measure a test-taker’s academic prowess and technical aptitude. Four sections of the ASVAB determine if you meet the military’s general eligibility requirements.

  • Word Knowledge (WK)
  • Paragraph Comprehension (PC)
  • Math Knowledge (MK)
  • Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)

These four subsections are scored separately to calculate your Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). The AFQT measures the test-taker’s basic knowledge. 

The rest of the subsections further determine the test-taker’s capabilities and skills. These scores help the military determine you’re your aptitude in clerical matters, mechanical maintenance, combat, surveillance, to name a few. The additional ASVAB subsections

  • General Science (GS)
  • Mechanical Comprehension (MC)
  • Auto/Shop Information (SI)
  • Electronics (EI)
  • Assembly of Objects (AO)
  • Automobile Knowledge Information (AI)

Remember, the higher you scores on the ASVAB, the more likely you will find that you are chosen for the specialty position that you prefer.

The ASVAB Testing Specifics

As noted above, the ASVAB is made up of ten subsections, each with a separate test. 

ASVAB Test Length

The ASVAB can be taken either on a computer or an old-fashioned paper test. The computer version (CAT-ASVAB) averages a completion time of 1 and ½ hours. The paper-based ASVAB (P&P ASVAB) averages a completion time that is near twice the average of the computer-based delivery. The large variation in time can be attributed to the fact that the computerized ASVAB allows examinees to self-pace themselves throughout all tests; whereas the paper version has all test-takers following one timing guideline at a time. 

It is noted that the paper version of the ASVAB exam is only eligible for those test-takers who live an unreasonable distance from the MEPS.

ASVAB Subtest Test Length: Computer-Based Delivery Test Length: Paper-Based Delivery
General Science 8 Minutes for 16 Questions 11 Minutes for 25 Questions
Arithmetic Reasoning 39 Minutes for 16 Questions 36 Minutes for 30 Questions 
Word Knowledge 8 Minutes for 16 Questions 11 Minutes for 35 Questions
Paragraph Comprehension 22 Minutes for 11 Questions 13 Minutes for 15 Questions
Mathematics Knowledge 20 Minutes for 16 Questions 24 Minutes for 25 Questions
Electronics Information 8 minutes for 16 Questions 9 minutes for 20 Questions
Auto Information 7 Minutes for 11 Questions N/A
Shop Information 6 Minutes for 11 Questions N/A
Auto & Shop Information N/A 11 Minutes for 25 Questions
Mechanical Comprehension 20 Minutes for 16 Questions 19 Minutes for 25 Questions
Assembling Objects  16 Minutes for 16 Questions 15 Minutes for 25 Questions
Total 154 Minutes for 145 Questions 149 Minutes for 225 Questions

 

Preparing for the ASVAB

To maximize any test score, it is critically important to appropriately prepare for the upcoming examination. The need to prepare for the ASVAB is equally important, but perhaps even more important for those who have military career objectives.

To excel on the test, one needs to be familiar with the testing environment, the test’s format, the contents of each subsection, and diligent efforts with many practice tests and study guides.

For the subsections that seem most daunting to the test-taker, you can always dust off the memories on these subjects and maybe even take an online or a high school level course as a refresher course. 

Perhaps the easiest way to begin preparing for the test if check out the many no-cost sample tests and questions that are easily accessible online. Some test-takers choose to take all ten-sample tests to set up a baseline level of their current performance on the ASVAB test. It is a great tool to use to gain insight as to how your studying is helping you refine your test-taking abilities. 

The following offers ASVAB test-takers two sets of ASVAB Practice Tests. Each practice test follows the official ASVAB test format – four possible answer choices.

 

Check out this video that discusses how to pass the ASVAB exam and an all-inclusive study-guide.

How to Pass your ASVAB Exam – Video

Preparation/Study Approaches

Time-tested test-taking strategies generally include the following concepts:

  • Learning Exam Contents – this preparation tactic is research-oriented, as you must begin to gather data regarding what the test covers and seeks to measure. It is a smart idea to take a practice ASVAB test early on in the preparation process that can be used as a baseline to calculate how you have improved over time.
  • Familiarize yourself with the ASVAB’s test format.
  • Practice – the U.S. military operates with the adage – PROPER PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE. This poignantly applies to practice for the ASVAB.
  • Focus – remain committed to the preparation strategies you have adopted to improve your problem-solving skills.
  • Time – the ASVAB is a timed test. Here is a list of the average amount of time for each question to complete the ASVAB test.
ASVAB Subsection Approximate Average Timing for Each Question
 Word Knowledge 30 Seconds per Question 
 Mathematics Knowledge 1 Minute 15 Seconds per Question  
 Arithmetic Reasoning 2 Minutes 20 Seconds per Question  
 General Science 30 Seconds per Question  
 Mechanical Comprehension 1 Minute 15 Seconds per Question  
 Auto and Shop 35 Seconds per Question  
 Electronics Information 30 Seconds per Question  
 Paragraph Comprehension 2 Minutes Per Question 
 Assembling Objects 1 Minute Per Question 

ASVAB Eligibility Requirements

High school students, as young as sophomores, are eligible to take the ASVAB test. The test is also eligible for any person who 17 years old, or older. It is noted that an ASVAB eligible candidate may receive a physical examination on the date of the test.

Scoring the ASVAB

The ASVAB is scored using the Item Response Theory (IRT), which conceptually calculates the probability of how an ASVAB test-taker should score at a certain ability level. As a result, the ASVAB exam is designed to ask appropriate queries to demonstrate the precise ability levels of each test-taker. 

Administrators apply the concept of equating as a way to statistically link forms and delivery modes. This ensures AVSAB test-taker’s scores have the exact meaning despite the method of the test’s delivery.

A test-taker’s final score is compared against a pre-determined standard score. Statistically, this standardized score allows the ASVAB administrators to gauge how far from the mean score your score falls. 

AFQT Scoring Information

As noted above, the AFQT score is calculated using the subsections of Word Knowledge (WK), Paragraph Comprehension (PC), Math Knowledge (MK), and Arithmetic Reasoning (AR). A select group of test-takers between the ages of 18 and 23 (in 1997) determined the scoring standards for the AFQT scoring portion. All scores are measured against this test group’s results. The final score of a recent test-taker is determined by the percentage of the test group their results outperformed. For example, an AFQT square of 71 means that the AFQT score outperformed 71% of the 1997 sample test group.  

The results of the remaining ASVAB subtests are used to determine the best placement of a new enlistee given their demonstrated aptitudes and skills. And each branch of the military uses these scores in many ways. 

For example:

Navy SEALS must meet, or exceed predetermined line scores to be eligible for that branch of the military. 

The Army has the lowest qualifying AFQT score of 31. 

The Coast Guard requires examinees to score 40 or higher to be qualified. 

In most instances, test-takers who hold a GED (instead of a traditional high school diploma) are usually required to meet or exceed a score of 50.

AFQT Scoring Categories

AFQT scores are categorized as follows:

  • Cat. 1 | This is the highest category with scores that range from 93 through 99.
  • Cat. 2 | Score ranges between 65 and 92. 
  • Cat. 3 | Score ranges between 50 and 64.
  • Cat. 4 | Score ranges between 31 and 49.
  • Cat. 5 | Score ranges between 21 and 30.
  • Cat. 6 | Score ranges between16 and 20.
  • Cat. 7 | Score ranges between 10 and 15.
  • Cat. 8 | Score ranges between 0 and 9.

 

 

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