Frequently Asked Questions
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is used by the Department of Defense to determine if an individual is eligible to enlist in any branch of the United States Armed Forces. More specifically, scores from four of its subtests—the Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Mathematics Knowledge, and Arithmetic Reasoning subtests in particular—are used to compute an Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score for everyone who takes it.While the test cannot be failed per se, each branch of the military has established minimum AFQT score requirements for candidates to be eligible for enlistment. For example, the Army requires candidates who have at least a high school diploma to obtain a minimum AFQT score of 31 to eligible for enlistment. In addition, AFQT scores are used to group recruits into different categories. For instance, candidates who obtain AFQT scores between 93 and 99 are considered Category I recruits and are regarded as highly trainable, whereas candidates who obtain AFQT scores of 9 or lower are considered Category V recruits. These recruits are prohibited by law from enlisting in the military.
In conjunction with the above-mentioned subtests, the other subtests of the ASVAB are used to ascertain an individual’s potential for success in different military occupational specialties (e.g., to be eligible for a career as a cryptologist, candidates must have demonstrated on the ASVAB an aptitude for mathematics as well as language). As it stands, the ASVAB is only administered in English, and candidates typically take a computer-adaptive version of the ASVAB at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), although there are two other version of the ASVAB. That means that for every question a candidate answers correctly, the ASVAB becomes slightly more difficult, and for every question a candidate answers incorrectly, the test becomes slightly easier. Finally, the ASVAB is regarded as one of the first steps in the enlistment process, and candidates usually take it after initially making contact with a military recruiter.
How long is the ASVAB?
It depends on which version you take. More often than not, you’ll take the computer-adaptive version of the ASVAB at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), and it takes approximately three hours and twenty minutes to complete. The CAT-ASVAB consists of the following subtests, number of questions, and time limits:
|General Science (GS)||16||8|
|Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)||16||39|
|Word Knowledge (WK)||16||8|
|Paragraph Comprehension (PC)||11||22|
|Mathematics Knowledge (MK)||16||20|
|Electronics Information (EI)||16||8|
|Auto Information (AI)||11||7|
|Shop Information (SI)||11||6|
|Mechanical Comprehension (MC)||16||20|
|Assembling Objects (AO)||16||16|
When and how can I take the ASVAB?
In general, the ASVAB is offered year-round. If you’re still in high school, you can contact your school’s guidance counselor, and he or she will help you register for an ASVAB test that will likely be given at your school. Otherwise, you can contact your local military recruiter, and if you’re eligible, they should initiate the process for you.
Am I ready to take the ASVAB?
Thankfully, prior to sending you to a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to take the CAT-ASVAB, your local recruiter will likely give you a pre-screening, internet-delivered Computer Adaptive Test (PiCAT) in his or her office. The PiCAT is an unproctored version of the ASVAB, and recruiters use it to determine if you’re ready for the real test.
How many times can I take the ASVAB?
It depends, since ASVAB scores are valid for two years from the date you take the test. In light of that, the following restrictions apply:
- After each attempt on the ASVAB, you must wait at least 30 days before you can take it again; and
- After your third attempt, you will be required to wait six months between each attempt.
Your recruiter will have the most up-to-date information about this, insofar as the military sometimes changes its policy regarding this.
I’m not good at math. What should I study to pass the ASVAB?
Again, the ASVAB has two different math subtests, notably the Arithmetic Reasoning and Mathematics Knowledge subtests.
Generally, the Arithmetic Reasoning subtest includes the following topics:
- absolute value
- prime numbers
- multiplication and long division, including with fractions and decimals
- exponents, radicals, scientific notation
- order of operations
- ratio, proportion, and rates
- mean, median, mode
- word problems involving distance, rate, and time, combined work, ratio and proportion, and percent increase or decrease
Generally, the Mathematics Knowledge subtest includes the following topics:
- solving systems of equations
- lines and angles (e.g., right, acute, obtuse, vertical, and supplementary)
- triangles, quadrilaterals, and circles
- area, perimeter, and similarity
- solid geometry: surface area and volume
- coordinate geometry (e.g., linear equations, slope, slope-intercept form, and distance between points)
What resources do you recommend to study for the ASVAB?
Not surprisingly, I would recommend Grammar Hero’s YouTube Channel. There, you’ll find videos for just about every topic that’ll show up on the ASVAB. Apart from that, I would recommend checking out a copy of ASVAB for Dummies or a similar study guide from your local library. In light of the fact a lot of people are turned away from military service due to underlying medical conditions, I would not recommend buying any test prep materials or paying for tutoring.
What is an AFQT score?
As mentioned above, AFQT stands for Armed Forces Qualification Test, and it computed by averaging your scores on the Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Mathematics Knowledge, and Arithmetic Reasoning subtests. In short, your AFQT score is used by each branch of the military to determine if you are eligible for enlistment. Beyond that, it is what the military uses to gauge your level of trainability. The higher your AFQT sore is, the easier you should be able to train to complete complex tasks. AFQT scores are ranked in the following categories:
|Category III A||50–64|
|Category III B||31–49|
|Category IV A||21–30|
|Category IV B||16–20|
|Category IV C||10–15|
What are the minimum AFQT score requirements?
Air Force – To join the Air Force, you need minimum AFQT score of 36. If you have a high school equivalency degree but have not completed at least 15 hours college credit, you need a minimum ASVAB score of 65. Of all the branches, the Air Force is the most selective.
Army – To join the Army, you need a minimum AFQT score of 31. If you have a high school equivalency degree , you need a minimum AFQT score of 50.
Coast Guard – To join the Coast Guard, you need a minimum AFQT score of 40. Those with only a high school equivalency degree need a minimum AFQT score of at least 50 and, in addition, should have at least 15 hours of college credit.
Marine Corps – To join the Marine Corps, you need a minimum AFQT score of 32. If you have a high school equivalency degree, you need a minimum AFQT score of 50.
Navy – To join the Navy, you need a minimum AFQT score of 35. Those with only a high school equivalency degree need a minimum AFQT score of at least 50 and, in addition, should have at least 15 hours of college credit.
What jobs did I qualify for?
Since the military offers hundreds of different career paths, it would be nearly to impossible to give you a concise answer. Assuming you already took the ASVAB and saved the printout of your line scores, you can use the following resources to determine what military occupational specialties you qualify for:
In addition, your recruiter will give you more information about potential career paths. However, I strongly encourage you to spend some time researching different military careers before you take your physical at MEPs. In doing so, you will have an idea as to what you’re willing to do with the next four to six years of your life.
I have additional questions. Who can I ask?
Ask a recruiter, a family member, a military veteran, or a smart friend!