If you are planning to join any branch of the United States Armed Forces, you will need to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a group of tests also known as the ASVAB. Each branch of the Armed Forces has different requirements for different careers, but without fail, the higher you can score on these tests, the more options you will have available to you and the more money you can potentially make. If you do not take the time to prepare yourself for these tests, you will not get your best possible score, which can severely limit your future options.
A study guide is a book designed to help people prepare for a specific test, such as the ASVAB. There are many guides available, but before you rush out and buy one, check several out at your local library -- each study guide will have a slightly different layout and format and you want to choose the one that best fits your study style. Most study guides will describe the format of the ASVAB and the timing for each test and offer advice, tips or suggestions. Most also offer practice questions or mini-tests that you can use for self-study as you prepare. A good study guide will help you plan a schedule of study so that you do not waste your valuable time studying your strengths.
Use a Study Schedule
As Benjamin Franklin once said, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Since this test is incredibly important, you need a plan. You likely already have an idea of your strengths and weaknesses, but taking an online practice test or an assessment test in a study guide can help you confirm where you might struggle so you can spend time on the subjects you have the most difficulty understanding. Studying for different parts of the test on different days works well for many people. You should budget about one hour every day to practice. If you try to cram for four hours one day once a week, it will be painful, ineffective and you will likely not stick with it. Save one day each week as a review day so you can see what you have learned, where you have improved and where you still need to spend more time. It is also a good idea to study with other people --you can quiz each other and motivate each other. Remember, procrastination is easy, but it will hurt your test scores.
Know the Format
The ASVAB tests are all multiple choice and there are no penalties for guessing. Even if you have no idea of the answer and cannot eliminate some of the wrong possible answers, you still have a 25 percent chance of guessing correctly. This means you should never leave a question unanswered! The ASVAB tests have a total number of 200 items. The total time for the tests is 134 minutes and there are 46 minutes of administrative time for a total of 180 minutes, or three hours. Each test has a different time limit, so manage your time carefully. For example, if you have 30 minutes for one section and there are 15 questions, do not spend more than two minutes on each question or you will run out of time.
Practice tests are available for free online as well as being included in a variety of study guides that you can purchase. The key to using a practice test successfully is to do the test under real test conditions -- no textbook to help you with an answer you don't know, no phones or music to distract you, no asking a friend for some help with a question and most importantly, a realistic time limit. Do not give yourself any extra time when completing practice tests -- this will create a false sense of security and can create extra stress and pressure when you are writing the actual ASVAB with strict time limits. Use the practice tests not only measure your strengths and weaknesses, but also to check your progress and highlight areas that may need further review and practice.
Based in Victoria, BC, Canada, Josh Hawthorne has been writing curriculum and digital project guides since 1998. He holds a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Victoria. Hawthorne freely admits he loves reading zombie literature and is currently working on a book about error correction for students learning English (without zombies).