ASVAB: Understanding the Forms and Format of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Exam

ASVAB Subtests

There are three major versions of the test. Two of them are "pencil-and-paper" tests and the third is the Computer Adaptive Test (CAT). Briefly, the pencil-and-paper tests have nine components and the CAT has ten.

The first version is the student version, and is given once or twice a year to high school students who are planning to take the exam sometime in their junior or senior year. It may also be known as the institutional version. This test can be used to determine your aptitude for both military and civilian jobs, and your guidance counselor can help you evaluate the results.

A second form, known as the production version, is for those enlisting directly into the service. This is normally administered by the military, and is used to determine which jobs would be best for you. It is given at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). You may take either the pencil-and-paper version, or the computerized version (CAT ASVAB). All branches of the military use this exam.

About the CAT ASVAB

CAT stands for computer adaptive test and means that the computer adapts its questions based on your answers. The first question you will get will be of medium difficulty. If you answer it correctly, the next question you get will be slightly more difficult. If you answer it incorrectly, the next question will be somewhat easier, and so on. The key to scoring well on the CAT ASVAB is to focus your efforts on the earlier questions. The better you do in the beginning, the better you will do overall because the final score is normally based on both the number of correct answers and the level of difficulty.

About the AFQT

There is a shortened version of the ASVAB, known as the AFQT, or Armed Forces Qualifying Test. This is not a separate test, but rather a score based on a combination of both your verbal and your mathematics scores (Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, and Mathematics Knowledge). Its purpose is to determine whether you can qualify to enlist in any of the different branches of the military. The score for this section is a percentile. Thus, if you get an 85 on this part of the test, it means you've scored higher than 85 percent of the applicants who have taken this test.

Although the AFQT is based on four subjects, the two Verbal subtest scores are counted twice-a combination of your Word Knowledge and Paragraph Comprehension scores-and then added to the Arithmetic and Mathematics scores. This results in your raw score for the test. The computers then convert this raw score into your percentile score.

Why is the AFQT so important? You must score at least 31 to be eligible to enlist in the Army, and achieve higher scores for enlistment in the other branches. The chart below shows what scores you need.



Service Branch

Required AFQT Score (with H.S. Diploma)

Required AFQT Score (without H.S. Diploma)

Army

31

31

Navy

35

50

Marines

32

50

Air Force

35

65

Coast Guard

35

50