What are AFQT Scores and Composite Scores?

Jun 15th, 2020
what are AFQT scores

What are AFQT Scores?

AFQT scores are used to establish whether you are eligible to enlist in the military. Each branch of the military has their own set standard score that must be achieved.

The scores are calculated from the results of just 4 of the 9 subtests on the ASVAB exam:

  • Paragraph Comprehension (PC)
  • Word Knowledge (WK)
  • Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)
  • Mathematics Knowledge (MK)

There is a meticulous process on how ASVAB scores are calculated. First, the results from the PC and WK are combined – in what is known as Verbal Expression (VE) score. Your raw AFQT score is then calculated as:

  • 2VE + AR + MK

This score is then converted to a percentile score (explained below) – which compares the number of questions you answered correctly to a national sample of standardized results. By scoring 50 percent, for example, you score 50% as well as or better than this sample.

Just like academic exams where you score A, B, C, or D – the ASVAB has its own classification system of interpreting your results:

AFQT ClassificationScore Range

The higher the score, the greater the chance of being selected to enlist in the military. Bear in mind that candidates who score a IV or below are ineligible to enlist in the military, except in extremely limited circumstances.

As we have already mentioned, each branch of the military has its own minimum score that must be achieved before you are eligible to enlist in that branch:

Military BranchMinimum Score
Air Force36
Marine Corps32
Coast Guard40
  • Note that these are minimum entry requirements, but only the highest-scoring candidates will be enlisted depending on how many positions are available in a given year. Also, note that these minimum scores may be higher depending on if you have completed the GED (but not completed a high school diploma). In limited circumstances, candidates may be eligible to enlist who score below these minimum standards. Scores may also be higher for special enlistment programs.

Understanding AFQT Scores

Remember – when you hear someone say, “I scored 72 on the ASVAB”, that does not mean they scored 72 percent of questions correct. AFQT scores are not measured on this kind of scale.

Instead, AFQT scores are measured on a scaled system – a scale of percentiles from 0 to 100, where if a candidate scores 60, it means they have performed one standard deviation above the average score taken from a nationally represented sample of scores of 18-24 year’ olds. This sample was taken in 1997 and your score is being compared against this sample of scores.

In other words, the number of questions you answer correctly is being compared to others who have taken the test. The higher you approach 100, the greater the number of students you have outperformed from this national sample.

What are Composite Scores

The AFQT uses four subtests to calculate whether you are eligible to enlist in the military. Each branch of the military has its own minimum score.

However, to enlist in specific positions in the army, composite scores – also known as line scores – are used. The purpose of these line scores is to match your skill set versus the range of jobs available in the military. By doing this, the military is establishing where you will best fit into the military and where you are likely to flourish and excel.

For example, in the case of mechanical maintenance positions, the composite score is calculated using:

  • Automotive and Shop Information (AS)
  • Mechanical Comprehension (MC)
  • Electronics Information (EI)

There are literally hundreds of combinations and associated scores, which may vary over time. It is imperative that you stay on top of these scores as they may be modified, or the requirements changed, when this is deemed necessary by that specific branch of the military.

Value of Understanding ASVAB Scores

It is worth taking the time to understand ASVAB scores.

Remember – candidates are not required to score high on all 9 subtests of the ASVAB exam. You only need to score high for the 4 AFQT subtests – guaranteeing your place within the military. If you are hoping to join a specific branch or job position in the military, you must know which other subtests to prepare for. In the case of mechanical maintenance positions, which we reviewed above, there are three additional subtests you must score high on. This means you do not need to spend more time than you need to on other subtests, such as assembling objects, which is neither relevant to either AFQT scores or your composite score.

However, if you are unsure which branch of the military to join – or even which position you would like to do – then it is important you score high on all 9 subtests of the ASVAB exam. This opens more opportunities and gives you greater flexibility to be offered more positions for consideration. By limiting your study, you limit your potential job prospects. True – preparing for all ASVAB test questions can be challenging, but it is surely worth it in the long-term.

Check back to ASVAB Test Practice soon for even more exclusive content and features to help you master the exam and boost both AFQT scores and composite scores!