ASVAB Test Blog

Mar 24th, 2020

ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension Study Guide!

asvab paragraph comprehension study guide

ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension Study Guide

The paragraph comprehension test is one of the four core subtests used to calculate your AFQT Score. Here, in this ASVAB paragraph comprehension study guide, we detail the facts you need to know to prepare and pass the exam.

As the name suggests, paragraph comprehension is about understanding the purpose and detail of paragraphs. At the outset, this sounds simple – but the questions asked are not often straightforward. Instead, candidates are asked to infer the meaning and understanding of concepts and words within a given context.

If you are not an avid reader, this may – at least initially – be challenging. But with enough practice, there is no reason why you cannot enhance your ability to handle paragraph comprehension questions. And given that this test is used to calculate your AFQT score and eligibility into the US military, this exam has added value.

What the Test Asks

Depending on whether you are taking the paper ASVAB or the CAT-ASVAB, you are assigned a different number of questions to be answered in a different allotted time.

Here are the details for the 2022 ASVAB exam:

  • CAT-ASVAB: 10 questions to be answered in 27-minutes
  • Paper ASVAB: 35 questions to be answered in 11-minutes

Even though the number of questions and allotted time varies considerably between these two exam formats, candidates are likely to accumulate a similar final score in either. The exams are formatted to ensure score accuracy.

There are four kinds of standard question asked on the ASVAB paragraph comprehension exam:

  • Context questions – where you are given a paragraph and asked to figure out the most accurate title that describes the overall paragraph context.
  • Detail questions – where you are asked to find specific details within the paragraph itself.
  • Inference questions – where you are asked to infer the answer from the suggested meaning in the paragraph.
  • Word knowledge questions – where you are asked to determine the meaning of a specific word in its wider context.

Taken together, these four paragraph comprehension questions test a candidate’s verbal reasoning and analytical skills – essential, transferrable skills that the military and other careers consider valuable. The higher the score, the more you demonstrate to the military that you can problem solve and work things out. It also shows that you have a solid grasp of written communication, too.

ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension Exam Prep

So far in this ASVAB paragraph comprehension study guide, we have discussed the nature of the exam and the kind of questions asked. Now, we turn our attention to how you can build your skills to successfully answer these questions.

The first tip is clear – you need to read more. And when we say read more, we mean a lot.

There is no substitute for reading paragraphs, day after day, to ensure that you can infer the meaning of paragraphs and that it is something you do almost second nature. However, this means reading beyond your comfort zone. Remember, the ASVAB test questions you get asked are often dry and sometimes technically challenging. It may be on a subject, such as a specific scientific topic, which you are entirely unfamiliar with.

When you read more, it must be:

  • Comfort-zone topics – subjects you are familiar with and can easily understand and infer the meaning of words and the overall context.
  • Challenging topics – topics outside your comfort zone that challenge your ability to work things out.

We recommend both techniques for an additional reason – namely, that this also serves to enhance your performance during the ASVAB Word Knowledge exam. There is some degree of overlap between the two and, by preparing for one exam in this way, you simultaneously prepare for the other – saving study time and maximizing the prospect of scoring high on both exams.

Second, you need to take as many ASVAB test practice questions as possible.

The more paragraph comprehension questions you practice, the greater the ability you must identify your strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps inference is your weakest skill, where you struggle to infer the meaning of a given context. By taking ASVAB practice test questions, you can learn from the explained answer. Gradually, you will learn not to make the same mistakes again and again.

Test Taking Tips

During the exam, try to avoid the temptation of choosing an answer that most resembles text in the question. This kind of mindless matching is predictable. Often, examiners deliberately create these problems – knowing that candidates who are weak on paragraph comprehension are likely to see some words in the question and rush to the paragraph to find the same text and choose the most similar answer from the four available options. Avoid this temptation at all costs. You must answer the question based on what is asked, and not what you find in the text alone.

When you are asked to determine the meaning of a word, it is imperative that you do two things:

  • First, that you do not take the meaning of the word itself.
  • Second, read the meaning of the word within its wider context, the sentence before and the sentence after it (at the very least).

Remember that words can have different meanings depending on the context in which they are placed. Avoid the temptation of choosing the meaning of a word from what you know about that word. Instead, read it within its context and this may give you a different outcome.

When you are trying to establish the overall meaning of a paragraph (such as being asked to give an accurate title for the paragraph), try to think as if you were the author of the piece. In fact, you should come to an answer to that question before reading the four possible options. It is likely that the answer you think of relates to the correct answer in the list provided.

Finally, candidates should time themselves. Paragraph comprehension often takes time, particularly given the dry nature of some of these paragraphs. You must take equal time for each paragraph to ensure that you are not left rushing toward the end of the exam. Paragraph comprehension and rushing is a toxic combination that must always be avoided.

That’s about it for our ASVAB paragraph comprehension study guide. Check back to our blog soon for more exclusive content to help you master this subtest and every other subtest you need to pass to enlist in the US military.  

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