Mechanical Comprehension asks about principles that impact machines and mechanical systems. Here in this ASVAB mechanical comprehension study guide, we review the key criteria to help you master this subtest.
Knowing about machines and mechanisms and the physics that operate these systems is important. As someone planning to enlist in the US armed forces, a rounded knowledge of mechanical comprehension is a positive thing – even if you do not wish to enlist in a speciality that is non-mechanical in nature.
That said, mechanical comprehension is not used to calculate your AFQT score; the score that determines whether you are eligible to enlist in the military. If you are planning to enter an engineering-style role in the military, then the mechanical exam is the one for you.
Below, we delve into more detail on the exam format, the syllabus of subjects that candidates are expected to study, and study tips and exam tricks to help you prepare and master this subtest of the ASVAB exam.
Depending on whether you are taking the CAT-ASVAB or the Paper ASVAB determines the number of questions you will be asked, and the time allotted for you to answer those questions:
Even though there are more ASVAB test questions on the paper version of the exam, does not mean that the paper exam is more difficult. Both versions of the exam have been carefully calibrated to ensure that candidates will achieve approximately the same score, irrespective of which exam format they take.
In the CAT-ASVAB, the exam is tailored to ability. If you score a mechanical comprehension question correct, for example, the next question will be more difficult. Conversely, if you score a question incorrect, the next question will be easier. The pencil and paper ASVAB exam is a standard MCQ-style test that does not follow this tailored approach.
To score high on the ASVAB mechanical comprehension subtest, candidates are recommended to study in the weeks and months leading up to the exam – focussing on the core principles of physics and mechanical motion and equations that explain how mechanical systems and machines work.
Below, we have put together the complete syllabus that you need to study.
|Mechanical Systems||Power, work, and time|
Levers and fulcrums
Pulleys and gears
Wheels and axles
|Motion and Forces||Forces of the Universe|
Laws of gravity
Newton’s Laws of Motion
Pressure, force, and area
Friction and resistance
|Fluid Dynamics||Principles of hydraulics|
In the final section of our ASVAB mechanical comprehension study guide, we review the key long-term preparation techniques that candidates should apply to maximize their score on this subtest.
Candidates planning to enlist in an engineering-style or related role will probably have had some degree of experience in mechanical comprehension. Often, this is a subject with which many candidates have had many years’ practical hands-on experience. This may be due to an intense interest in how machines work – or even how to take apart and put those machines back together again. This practical experience is invaluable, and it is far more relevant than reading principles direct from textbooks.
That said, if you do not have direct practical experience of machines, the subject is still a manageable one – albeit it may take you more time to get to grip with the fundamental physical principles. We have outlined these principles above, but the best way to understand these principles is to see them in action. The great thing about YouTube, or any other video platform, is that there are many effective and edifying videos that visually demonstrate what these principles mean. So, if you do not have practical experience, the second-best equivalent is to watch these principles in action. When you get down to study, the concepts will mean something – and this makes them far more memorable.
Some physics math does get tested but it is not complex. Most of the time, these ASVAB questions test your knowledge of equations and whether you know how these equations work and why they work in the way that they do. The equations themselves are usually quite short and memorable. For example, two of the most asked equations include:
These equations are short and simple, but do you know what is meant by concepts such as acceleration, mass, and work? Do you know what units are used to represent these concepts? If not, then these are the kinds of approaches you must consider when studying these equations. It may be easy to put an equation into practice but unless you understand what the equation is doing, the entire learning enterprise is pointless. Of course, practicing these equations will also assist in your practice for the ASVAB Math Knowledge exam, too.
Third, candidates should take as many ASVAB test practice questions as possible. The more questions you practice, the greater insight it provides into your overall knowledge level and preparation standard for the exam. These questions are of added value in the case of the mechanical comprehension exam. That is because many of the questions are illustrative. You will be shown an image and asked a question about how this system works when an action is taken. Unless you have had experience of these questions, it can be easy to slip up.
Finally, candidates are recommended to make ASVAB flashcards. Mechanical comprehension is a subject that depends on physical principles. Often, these principles can be difficult to envisage and it can be easy and understandable to get confused. By creating flashcards that briefly explain each concept, including for must-know equations, you can rapidly flick through these cards once the first wave of your study has been complete. Constant repetition and exposure to these flashcards will help convert short-term memories into long-term memories. As always, when creating flashcards – always write these cards and notes in your own words. Never copy direct from sources or books or any other learning tool. Originality forces you to think more about the subject and this makes the flashcard that much more valuable.
That’s about it for our ASVAB mechanical comprehension study guide. Check back to our blog soon for more exclusive content to help you prepare and master the ASVAB exam.
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