Your choice of military career depends on your success on the ASVAB. Those looking to score the highest will use an ASVAB Test Study Guide for an overall review and back this up with a set of ASVAB Test Flashcards to drill down on problem areas. Responsibility is a key value of our nation's military, and the first step is taking responsibility for your own ASVAB preparation.
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 nine different test areas as part of the ASVAB: general science, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mathematics knowledge, electronics information, auto and shop information, assembling objects, 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.
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.
It's important to understand the difference between the ASVAB Standard Scores, and the ASVAB AFQT score. Test takers will receive a separate score for each of the nine sections on the ASVAB. These scores are known as Standard Scores. A Standard Score is used to determine how the test taker compares to the "average" 18-23 year old American on that part of the ASVAB. Not long ago, a large number of people in this age group were given the tests, and these results are the benchmark for Standard Scores. Around half the people in this age group will score a 50 or higher, and about 16% will score a 60 or higher. In other words, the scoring is based on a standard bell curve distribution. Standard Scores are very important when it comes to determining which military job a person will be assigned to.
There is another ASVAB score that's equally important, if not more so, because it is the score that determines if a person is eligible for military service. It's the Armed Forces Qualification Test score, or AFQT score. This score is calculated from only four of the nine Standard Scores on the ASVAB - Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), Mathematics Knowledge (MK), Paragraph Comprehension (PC), and Word Knowledge (WK). First, the WK and PC scores are added together, then the sum is doubled. This is known as the Verbal Expression (VE) score. The VE, MK, and AR scores are then added together, and the sum is the AFQT. This score is a straight percentile measure, expressed as a number from 1-99. The number is the percentage of people who scored lower than the test taker. For example, if a person receives an AFQT score of 63, that means that he did better on the test than 63% of the people who have taken it.
AFTQ scores are divided into ranges, or categories:
Category I: 93-99
Category II: 65-92
Category III A: 50-64
Category IV B: 31-49
Category V A: 21-30
Category VI B: 16-20
Category VII C: 10-15
Category VIII: 1-9
People whose AFTQ scores fall into category V, VI, VII, or VII are not eligible for military service. All recruits from Category IV must have a high school diploma, and only 20% of yearly recruits for each military branch can be from Category IV, except in cases of severe shortages of qualified recruits.
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.