The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) is a timed aptitude test administered at over 14,000 schools and Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) nationwide. It was developed and is maintained by the Department of Defense to determine whether an applicant is qualified to enter the military and to ascertain what, if any, occupational specialities an applicant might be suited for. The separate branches of the military have different minimum qualifying scores for the Armed Forces Qualification Test section of the ASVAB. The required AFQT scores are 31 for the Army, 35 for the Navy, 31 for the Marines, 36 for the Air Force and 45 for the Coast Guard. Since this test is so critical to an enlistee's future in the military, it is important to be as well prepared as possible to score well.
Paper-and-Pencil vs. Computer Version of the ASVAB
ASVAB is administered as a paper-and-pencil test or as a test taken on a computer. The person taking the test should determine which version will be most comfortable for her, if she has a choice. The computer version, called the CAT-ASVAB, of the test is adaptive; that is, it will base the questions you are asked on how you answered previous questions. That means you are asked fewer questions all together and the test takes less time to complete. The CAT-ASVAB usually takes 1.5 hours, the paper-and-pencil version 3 to 4 hours. The computer version is self-paced. You do not need to wait till everyone in your group has finished a subtest before going on to the next. You do not need to be a computer expert to take the computer version of the test, but if you do not feel comfortable working on a computer, you may want to take the paper version instead.
Study for the Test
As with any knowledge-based test, you will probably do better on the ASVAB if you study for it. The ASVAB has eight parts: General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Mathematics Knowledge, Electronics Information, Auto and Shop Information and Mechanical Comprehension. The first four parts are the ones that determine your AFQT score. First, figure out what your weakest areas are. If you do not know, several websites offer free practice tests (with answers). The Resources section names a few such websites, but there are many others. Online and print tests and study guides are also available for a price. Plan to spend at least two months studying for the test for at least an hour each day. Make a schedule to ensure you will cover all the areas before your test date. Every so often take another set of practice tests to find out how much you have improved.
General Strategies for Taking the ASVAB
The day before the test, make sure you know where you will be going to take the test and how long it will take to get there. Relax the night before, and try to get a lot of sleep. During the ASVAB, read the the directions for each test before you begin. Read each question carefully before you choose your answer. If you do not know the answer to a question, eliminate the answers you know or think are wrong, then guess from among the remaining options.
Strategies for the Paper-and-Pencil Version of the ASVAB
Each section of the ASVAB is timed, so don't spend too much time on any one question. Skip the questions you cannot answer easily, then go back and try again. Answer every question; guess if you have to. Make sure you mark your answer sheet correctly, selecting just one response per test item. If you need to change an answer, erase completely.
Strategies for Taking the Computer Version of the ASVAB
Double-check that you have selected the answer you want correctly. On this version of the test, you cannot go back and change your answer. If you are running out of time (which happens seldom on this version), do not fill in answers randomly at the end of the test. The CAT-ASVAB penalizes you if you have several incorrect answers at the end of a subtest.
Tanya Lee is a professional writer with more than 30 years experience. She has published extensively in the field of education and as a journalist, the latter in such publications as "High Country News" and "News from Indian Country." Lee holds a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.