ASVAB Prep Info

ASVAB Test Introduction

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, is not a single test; rather, it is a battery of tests designed to determine the individual skills and abilities of personnel intending to enter the military services. In high schools, it is often used as a basic aptitude test.

Where the military is concerned, the ASVAB has two purposes; the first purpose is to determine whether the potential recruit meets basic enlistment requirements. That portion of the ASVAB used for this purpose, sometimes referred to as the "core" battery of tests, makes up the AFQT or Armed Forces Qualifying Test. The AFQT comprises about half of the entire ASVAB. The rest of the ASVAB may be regarded as an aptitude test of abilities and skills needed in various military occupations. An aptitude test is designed to ferret out strengths and weaknesses and a recruit's qualifications to perform specific military jobs.

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Provided one is otherwise eligible to enter military service, the ASVAB test results are not pass-fail. There is no passing or failing score on ASVAB. The person who takes the ASVAB test may be strong in some areas and weaker in others. The individual's strengths, skills, and abilities will provide some indication of success in the military occupation service field selected.

ASVAB Test Introduction

The ASVAB test is administered at thousands of secondary schools to eligible high school seniors. The ASVAB is also administered at any of a number of processing centers or MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Stations), which the various branches of the military maintain in different locations. In cases where the distance to a high school or military test center is substantial, the test can be administered through a METS outlet. METS stands for Mobile Examining Team Site. A METS site is a mobile unit of personnel and material that can reach out of the way places.

The ASVAB test is required by all branches of military service, and if the test is taken at one of the military processing test centers, the results may be made available to Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard.

Taking the ASVAB is of particular importance to those persons with a desire to obtain military training in a specific area of military service. Communications, engineering, and law enforcement are just a few examples where specialized training is required. For recruiting intending to enter these or other specialized fields, the ASVAB doubles as a basic requirement and an aptitude test. The ASVAB aptitude sections of the test measure whether the future enlistee has the skills necessary for success in specialized fields such, as ground transportation, medical services, electronics, communications, accounting, aviation mechanics, and a variety of other specialized areas.

Who Takes the ASVAB?

The ASVAB is required of any persons intending to enter military service in the enlisted ranks. It is often taken during delayed enlistment programs for high school seniors. Delayed enlistment programs allow the recruit to be screened in advance of high school graduation so as to eliminate processing when the enlistee begins active duty.

Recruits to military officer training schools often take the test, although the eligibility requirements for military officers entail additional tests. ASVAB is not specifically required of officer candidates, but sometimes it is taken as an elective.

Where future officers are concerned, ASVAB is useful as a tool of self-analysis that can be helpful in determining basic aptitudes for different military service occupations in the officer ranks. Many officer candidates find that taking the ASVAB test is in itself a significant and useful preparatory activity that helps them pass the batteries of tests required in the officer candidate schools.

The ASVAB is more commonly used for active duty recruits to the enlisted ranks of the military services and for National Guard and reserves as well. The ASVAB is also often used in high schools across the country in career counseling programs designed to acquaint students with the types of knowledge required in diverse civilian and military fields of work.

What is AFQT?

AFQT is the abbreviation for Armed Forces Qualification Tests. The AFQT is not a single test; rather, it is a composite of four core tests that measure knowledge in a group of typical high school level academic disciplines. The four core tests give one overall score. The overall test score, known as the AFQT, is used by the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force to assess minimum qualifications for new recruits, but it is by no means the only criterion for a successful enlistment in those services.

All of the services require a recruit to have completed and graduated from an American high school. The military services accept the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) in lieu of graduation only in a small percentage of cases. The U.S. Army accepts the highest percentage of enlistees with General Equivalency Diplomas. The U.S. Air Force accepts the smallest number of enlistees with General Equivalency Diplomas (GEDs). However, all the services attempt to limit the number of GED equivalencies they accept and all require minimum scores on the AFQT. The services differ in the percentage of General Equivalency Diplomas (GEDs) they accept. They also differ with regard to minimum AFQT scores.

  • The minimum AFQT score for U.S. Air Force recruits is 36.
  • The minimum AFQT score for U.S. Army recruits is 31.
  • The minimum AFQT score for U.S. Marines Corp recruits is 32.
  • The minimum AFQT score for U.S. Coast Guard recruits is 40.
  • The minimum AFQT score for U.S. Navy recruits is 35.
Exceptions to the minimum scores are made in rare circumstances by some services but are not at all common. The minimum scores are accurate approximations, but they are subject to change according to the enlistment needs of the services.

Is the ASVAB for You?

While most of the people taking the ASVAB have little intention of entering military service, the military is one of the largest employers in the country for young men and women in the United States. While the very thought of anything military conjures up images of infantry slogging through rough terrain with rifles, or teams of soldiers loading huge shells into giant artillery pieces, the reality of military service is quite different. The increasing sophistication and complexity of military service requires a whole range of support occupations that require a high degree of skill and a variety of aptitudes. The ASVAB is designed to determine whether the potential enlistee has such skills and aptitudes.

Modern military service requires staffing in a variety of areas that might not be immediately apparent to the high school graduate. Peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts on the part of the military services require outreach to students having suitable capabilities. Communication and understanding assume even greater importance, and greater efficiency in many of the areas tested on the ASVAB is required.

The first point of contact for students who are thinking of military service is the military recruiter from the service in question. This contact often proceeds without further action from the student; indeed, most students take the ASVAB, find out what possibilities are open to them, and then decide if they wish to actually enlist in military service and undergo additional enlistment processing. Young people should explore all career options before deciding to take one path or another. It is quite common for many students to visit recruiters, ask questions, answer questions, take the ASVAB, and decide that military service is not for them.

However, it is estimated that approximately 80 percent of persons visiting military recruitment offices have a strong desire to gain experience in military service. With regard to the ASVAB itself, which consists of 10 individual test areas, four of the ten individual test areas are used to obtain a composite score called the AFQT score. The AFQT score is based on the following four areas: Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge, World Knowledge, and Paragraph Comprehension. The composite AFQT score is designed to measure overall aptitudes that identify those persons who can successfully be trained for specialized military service occupations. The Defense Department considers the AFQT a reliable predictor of on-the-job success. In addition to serving as a screening process by category ranking, the military services also use the ASVAB testing to examine the aptitudes for various job occupations in those services.

Armed Forces / ASVAB

Those people who are taking the ASVAB with a view toward future enlistment are placed in certain fixed categories. These categories are established in order to meet Department of Defense guidelines and recruitment goals. Although the categories may be revised to meet unusual conditions, they are generally fixed categories.

These Department of Defense fixed categories are established directly from the percentile scores of those taking the ASVAB and from the composite AFQT scores. AFQT scores are always expressed as a percentile rank. In other words, the applicant's percentile ranking is a comparison of his or her AFQT scores with the scores of other men and women in the entire national population of test takers.

There are five standing categories established by Department of Defense profiles with Category I being the highest performance category. Category I and Category II test takers are above average in performance as reflected in overall ASVAB scores. Category III is an average performance category in terms of trainability. The performance categories are important to the Department of Defense because the ease with which recruits may be trained is a major cost factor for the Defense Department. Categories IV and V are below average in terms of performance with a very low predictive rate of success in military training. Federal law has an impact upon those who score in the bottom two categories. Both law and policy limit the number of recruits who may be taken from those categories.

Those whose ASVAB scores are well below average and who fall into Category V are not eligible for enlistment in the military services. Those test takers who are placed in Category IV as the result of their AFQT/ASVAB scores may be permitted to enlist in some branches of the Armed Forces of the United States if they are regular high school graduates. The Defense Department distinguishes between "regular high school graduates" and those with a GED. You may want to consider an Army Distance Learning program.

Some of the services allow for the enlistment of an individual with a General Equivalency Diploma or GED, but services like the Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard do not. In nearly all cases, a Category IV performer must have graduated from a high school and be in possession of the high school's regular diploma. In fact, service branches like the Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force rarely permit enlistment with any Category IV performer, since a large number of the military occupations of these services are highly technical. The United States Navy also has generally higher performance requirements on the AFQT, with rare exceptions.

Paper and Pencil Test vs. CAT-ASVAB

The traditional paper and pencil ASVAB test is becoming more and more a thing of the past. The majority of ASVAB test takers prefer the CAT-ASVAB. There are many good reasons for choosing the CAT-ASVAB, particularly in consideration of the fact that today's recruits are more comfortable with computers than at any time before.

There is a distinct time disadvantage in taking the ASVAB on pencil and paper. The paper ASVAB test requires about three and one half hours to administer; the computer assisted ASVAB can be compressed into a time slot of less than two hours. The reason for the compression of the time required to administer the CAT-ASVAB is that the test taker does not have to answer every single question as he or she does on the paper test.

On the CAT-ASVAB, a correct answer on the easier questions will advance the test taker to questions with a higher degree of difficulty. Essentially, you can get credit while you skip the rudimentary question. In other words, the test taker does not waste precious time establishing basic qualifications and answering basic questions.

There are a few disadvantages to the computer-assisted ASVAB, too. For example, there's no way of "jumping ahead" on the paper test. Neither can you go back and change any of your answers once you've entered them. On the CAT-ASVAB, you must take the questions in the sequence the software presents them to you. There is a disadvantage in the area of scoring to taking the paper and pencil test. The score sheets from tests administered at one of the stationary military testing processing centers must be physically carried to MEPS centers for official processing. This can delay scores by three days or more. However, the scores on the Computer Assisted Testing are available immediately.

Another drawback of the paper and pencil test is that it is more prone to error. As with many standardized tests, it can be scored through the use of an Optical Mark Reader, a type of scanning device which "reads" pencil marks. A misplaced or smudged answer can be misread even if the test taker actually knows the correct answer.

The CAT-ASVAB is far more consistent in its scoring, and it is rare for errors to occur. When errors do occur in Computer Assisted Testing, trouble spots are obvious, easier to identify, and easier to correct. Moreover, the test can be scored immediately, and you can be told how well you did as soon as you are finished taking it.

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