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The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is one of the most widely used multiple-aptitude test batteries in the world. It was originally designed to predict success in military occupations and is used today to help both those considering entering the military (mostly high school-aged students, but also anyone who is eligible to enlist) as well as those not interested in military service (who comprise the majority of current ASVAB test takers) what sort of career may be the best fit for them. Scores from the ASVAB can be used when enlisting in the military. Students interested in taking the ASVAB should check with their high school to find out when and if the ASVAB will be offered at their school. If it is not offered, students should meet with their guidance counselor to determine if it is possible to schedule a testing session in the future. There is no cost to take the ASVAB.
There are eight different test areas as part of the ASVAB: general science, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mathematics knowledge, electronics information, auto and shop information, and mechanical comprehension. The paragraph comprehension test area contains the fewest questions with 15. The word knowledge test area contains the most questions with 35. All other sections contain 20, 25, or 30 questions.
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The test is part of the larger ASVAB Career Exploration Program. The Program uses the test to help students identify both their interests as well as their strengths in three skills areas (verbal, math, and science and technical skills). Based on a student's skill levels, information is provided about more than 400 occupations in order to enable students and parents to judge their potential success in areas that interest them the most. Schools that may be facing budget cuts or finding themselves with limited resources devoted to career counseling are encouraged to find out whether using the ASVAB Program would be useful, as the testing and career development services are free of charge.
Tests are administered at participating schools. Neither schools nor students incur any costs for taking the ASVAB or using the Career Exploration Program. A test administrator is provided for every testing session and that person has no additional recruitment responsibilities. Various accommodations are available for the ASVAB, such as having questions read aloud, providing extra time, and other accommodations. School staff members are responsible, however, for tests that are administered with accommodations because test administrators are only able to administer the ASVAB by following the standardized procedure. If the test is being used for enlisting, only scores obtained during standardized test sessions (with no accommodations) can be used.
All test takers are given a summary results sheet that shows their percentile score in every test area. A percentile score of 50 means that a score was achieved that was better than 50 percent of all test takers. Percentile scores are given specifically for test takers of their gender and their grade level.
Information obtained from the test is only shared with agencies within the Department of Defense. Test takers are informed that their specific scores will be used for up to two years for recruiting purposes. After two years, test scores will be used for research purposes only.
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The vast majority of ASVAB test takers will ultimately not enlist in the military. The ASVAB Career Exploration Program claims that only two-and-a-half percent of those who participate in the ASVAB join the military. Forty-seven percent of those who take the exam indicate an interest in attending a four-year college, and 16 percent of those who take the exam originally indicate some kind of an interest in joining the military.
For those who are interested in enlisting in the military, they are screened using the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), which is comprised of a subset of scores from the ASVAB. Successfully passing the AFQT is not the sole requirement for enlisting but is one of the qualifications that must be met. There are various requirements for the different branches of the military and those interested are encouraged to contact recruiters to obtain more information about requirements specific to that branch.
ASVAB Test Breakdown
by Enoch Morrison
Last Updated: 12/05/2013
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