ASVAB Test Blog

Dec 15th, 2019

Must-Know Facts about the ASVAB Exam!

facts about the asvab exam

Facts about the ASVAB Exam

The ASVAB exam is an aptitude test used to establish whether candidates are qualified to enlist in the US armed forces. It is also used to assign what role a candidate should pursue. Here at ASVAB Test Practice, we have put together the complete guide to get you started.

ASVAB stands for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and includes a wide range of questions among many different subjects – from science and math to object assembly, mechanical comprehension, and electronics information.

Approximately 900,000 candidates take the ASVAB exam each year.

The majority of ASVAB exams are taken at MEPS – Military Entrance Processing Stations. However, candidates who do not live near an approved MEPS may arrange to have the test taken at a MET site (Military Entrance Test).

There are two primary ASVAB test formats:

  • CAT-ASVAB – computerized ASVAB
  • MET-site ASVAB – taken at a designated MET site

Let’s review each of these tests in turn.

What is the CAT-ASVAB?

CAT-ASVAB refers to “computerized adaptive test” ASVAB exam.

This means that the exam “adapts” to how you are performing. If you are answering more questions correctly, then the system will identify more difficult questions for you to answer. Similarly, if you are having a run of incorrect answers, the system will adjust for this and ask easier questions. Therefore, the computerized format adapts to how you perform on the exam. This is not the case with the pencil and paper format of the ASVAB test, to which later we will come.

There is a total of 135 questions on the CAT-ASVAB – all of which must be answered in 173 minutes. However, this 173-minutes is divided into sections – based on which topic you are being tested on.

There are 10 subtests on the CAT-ASVAB – all of which are used to measure the candidate’s aptitude in four domains:

  • Verbal comprehension
  • Math comprehension
  • Science and technical comprehension
  • Spatial comprehension
General Science (GS)158 minutes
Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)1539 minutes
Word Knowledge (WK)158 minutes
Paragraph Comprehension (PC)1022 minutes
Math Knowledge (MK)1520 minutes
Electronics Information (EI)158 minutes
Auto Information (AI)107 minutes
Shop Information (SI)107 minutes
Mechanical Comprehension (MC)1520 minutes
Assembling Objects (AO)1540 minutes

Candidates complete the ASVAB exam at their own pace. If you have finished one of these subtests, you can move onto the next without having to wait for other candidates to finish. Moreover, most candidates finish the exam well before these allotted times; the average being around 90-minutes. When you have finished the exam, you may leave the hall.

Note that candidates are not permitted to change their answers. Once you have finalized your answer, you cannot go back and change it. Also consider that you may receive a penalty if you choose to guess answers. This may happen, for instance, in cases where time is running out and you may be tempted to guess a bunch of answers just to complete the exam on time. However, the computerized ASVAB has an algorithm that detects this behavior. To avoid penalties, try to answer questions as best you can.

Approximately 70% of candidates take the CAT format of the ASVAB exam.

Note that shop information and automotive information are tested separately on the CAT-ASVAB – but are combined into one score (AS) to calculate your overall ASVAB result. For the pencil and paper format of the ASVAB exam, automotive information and shop information are merged into just one test.

CAT-ASVAB scores are valid for up to 2-years.

What is the P&P ASVAB Exam

The pencil and paper ASVAB exam (P&P ASVAB) is the most common format taken at MET sites. More MET sites are, however, moving toward using the CAT-ASVAB.

Unlike the CAT-ASVAB, the P&P ASVAB contains 9 subject domains with a total of 225 questions to be answered in 149 minutes.

The distribution of time for each subtest is as follows:

General Science (GS)4520 minutes
Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)3036 minutes
Word Knowledge (WK)3511 minutes
Paragraph Comprehension (PC)1513 minutes
Math Knowledge (MK)2524 minutes
Electronics Information (EI)209 minutes
Auto and Shop Information (AS)2511 minutes
Mechanical Comprehension (MC)2519 minutes
Assembling Objects (AO)2515 minutes

Unlike the CAT-ASVAB, the pencil and paper version is more like a standard test – where all candidates take the exam at the same time; taking approximately 3-hours to complete the P&P version of the ASVAB test.

Whereas in the CAT-ASVAB candidates are unable to change their answers, they can change answers in the pencil and paper version. However, those changes are limited to each subtest of the exam. For example, if you are on the Math Knowledge part of the ASVAB exam, you are not permitted to go back to General Science and change answers.

And unlike the CAT-ASVAB, there is no penalty for guessing. So, if time is pressing, you are advised to guess rather than leave answers blank.

The P&P ASVAB is no more or no less difficult than the CAT-ASVAB. Though the formats are different, both exams have been carefully calibrated to ensure that candidates are likely to achieve the same final score irrespective of which format of the test they take.

AFQT Score and MOS Scores

AFQT score = Armed Forces Qualification Test score

This score is used to establish whether you are eligible to enlist in the US armed forces. The score is calculated from just 4 of the ASVAB tests listed above:

  • Word Knowledge
  • Paragraph Comprehension
  • Arithmetic Reasoning
  • Math Knowledge

Scores from all ASVAB tests are used to determine the most optimum role for you in the US military.

The score is in the form of percentiles. For example: a candidate scoring 72 indicates that they have scored (at least or better) than 72 percent of a nationally represented sample of test candidates between the age of 18-23. Put another way, ASVAB performed a national study on scores taken from candidates between 18-23 years old. ASVAB then compares your exam performance to this national sample of scores. If you score 72, then, it means you have performed as well as or better than 72% of this sample.

In addition to the AFQT score, there is also the MOS score.

MOS = Military Occupational Specialty score

These are scores used to determine your eligibility to join specific military roles.

Here are a few examples:

  • Engineering Naval Division: AI + EI + MK scores
  • Surveillance and Communications Division: VE + AR + AS + MC
  • Marine Science Technician: VE + AR ≥ 114 and MK ≥56

Each of the five branches of the US military has their own sets of composite scores used for each MOS.

Preparing for the ASVAB Exam

One of the most challenging features of the ASVAB test is the broad range of subjects that candidates need to study.

It takes many weeks, if not months, to adequately prepare for all elements of the exam. Candidates who fail the ASVAB can re-take the exam one month later. If they fail the exam a second time, they must also wait a month before the next attempt. If they fail the exam a second time, candidates must wait 6-months before re-taking the test.

To avoid failing the exam, candidates should take as many ASVAB test practice questions as possible. The more questions you practice, the more gaps in your knowledge you can plug. There is a limited range of material to test and so, by taking ASVAB test questions, you maximize the possibility of not only passing the exam but ensuring that you score as high as necessary to become eligible to enlist in the military position you want to join.

Check back to ASVAB Test Practice soon for even more facts about the ASVAB exam and more exclusive content on the exam and how best to prepare!



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