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The ASVAB was introduced in 1968 as an aptitude test designed to measure military recruits' ability to absorb military training and determine recruits' potential usefulness in the armed forces. It was also designed to sort recruits into potential roles in the military based on recruits' specific skills and aptitudes.[1]

Although the test was originally implemented within the Armed Services' Student Testing Program and was used only sporadically among the Enlistment Testing Programs of the different branches of the United States Armed Forces, the Department of Defense implemented the ASVAB across all Services for recruit selection and classification in 1976.[1] Since then, the ASVAB has been administered to all military applicants and to regular students in more than half of American high schools.[2] In sum, over 40 million people have taken the ASVAB since 1968.[3]

As of a major revision in 2002, the ASVAB has nine tests: Assembling Objects, Auto and Shop Information, Mechanical Comprehension, Electronic Information, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge and Mathematics Knowledge.[4] The Student Testing Program version of the examination omits the new Assembling Objects test.[5]

Updated versions of the ASVAB are created approximately every decade. Most recently, four new versions of the computerized version of the ASVAB were implemented in 2008.[6]

Function of the Test

ASVAB Study Guide

The ASVAB is administered to many American high school students as part of the Armed Services' Student Testing Program.[5] Nearly 14,000 high schools administer the examination to juniors and seniors each year. In this context, the test is intended to measure students' strengths and weaknesses in order to help students make more informed academic and career decisions.[4] These test results may be used for military enlistment within two years from the date of testing.[5]

The examination is also administered to military applicants under the Enlistment Testing Program.[5] In this context, the ASVAB is used for determining applicants' eligibility for military enlistment as well as which military jobs would be best suited for each applicant.[5] Military applicants who score lower than 90% of test takers are completely ineligible for military service,[7] and individual branches of the Armed Services require different minimum scores for enlistment eligibility.[8]

Test Administration

ASVAB Flashcards

Each year, the ASVAB is administered at approximately 14,000 American high schools to upperclassmen.[4] It is also administered to military applicants on a daily or near-daily basis at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) or, in locations too far away from a MEPS, at satellite Military Entrance Test (MET) sites.[9] There is no cost to take the ASVAB.[10]

Both computerized and paper and pencil versions of the ASVAB exist. The paper and pencil version of the examination (P&P-ASVAB) has 225 questions and is administered over 149 minutes. The computerized test (CAT-ASVAB) is adaptive, meaning that the test adapts to test takers' ability levels. Answering questions correctly yields relatively harder questions, while answering questions incorrectly yields relatively easier questions. This design makes it possible to administer a test with many fewer questions without sacrificing accuracy. The computerized exam has 145 questions and is administered over 154 minutes.[9]

Applicants desiring to retake the ASVAB must wait one calendar month before the second test. Applicants must wait another month before taking a third test. Applicants who wish to take a fourth test (or more) must wait six calendar months between test sessions.[9]

Accomodations for test takers with disabilities are not available for military applicants; only test scores obtained under standardized testing conditions may be considered for military enlistment. However, individuals taking the examination as an assessment of personal aptitude and skills may receive accomodations including having test questions read aloud, receiving additional time, using an enlarged print edition of the test, or having test directions signed. No braille version of the ASVAB is available.[11]

Test Format

Sections of the ASVAB Test[12]
ASVAB Test Subject Areas # of Questions Time Limit
General Science 16 8
Arithmetic Reasoning 16 39
Word Knowledge 16 8
Paragraph Comprehension 11 22
Math Knowledge 16 20
Electronics Information 16 8
Auto Information* 11 7
Shop Information* 11 6
Mechanical Comprehension 16 20
Assembling Objects 16 16
Total 145 154

Test Environment

The ASVAB test is provided at both Military Entrance Processing Stations and many high schools. It can be taken in pencil and paper, or on the computer. The test allows the test taker to take it on their own pace, meaning they don't have to wait for every test taker to finish. Usually the computer-based ASVAB Test takes about half the time that the pencil and paper test takes.[13]

Test Structure

The ASVAB Exam contains four domains: Math, Science/Technical, Verbal, and Math. These domains are made up of ten subtests: General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Math Knowledge, Electronics Information, Auto Information, Shop Information, Mechanical Comprehension, and Assembling Objects. In the paper and pencil version of this exam, the Auto Information and Shop Information are combined into one subtest. The test is designed to match your set of skills. If a question is answered incorrectly, an easier question will follow. If a question is answered correctly, a harder question will follow.[14]

Sample Questions

More free ASVAB practice test questions.


Each of the nine subtests of the ASVAB is scored and reported separately. On the paper and pencil version of the examination, all answers left blank are considered incorrect, and there is no penalty for guessing.[9]

Subtest Scores

ASVAB Subtest Scores and Percentiles[15]
ASVAB Subtest Score Percentile
30 2.3
40 15.9
45 30.9
50 50
55 69.2
60 84.1
70 97.7

Scores on the ASVAB subtests are standardized based on a sample of about 6,000 individuals aged 18 to 23 who took the examination in 2004.[16] Test takers receive a standardized score placed on a scale with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10.[17] For example, a score of 50 on a given subtest means that the test taker scored as high or higher than 50 percent of test takers on that subtest, while a score of 60 means that the test taker scored one standard deviation above the mean, or higher than 84.1% of test takers.[15]

Composite Scores

The ASVAB subtest scores are combined in various ways to calculate a variety of composite scores.


US Armed Forces AFQT Categories and Scores[17]
AFQT Category Score Range
I 93-99
II 65-92
IIIA 50-64
IIIB 31-49
IVA 21-30
IVB 16-20
IVC 10-15
V 1-9

For military test takers, the most important score derived from the ASVAB is a composite score called the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), which is computed using the standardized scores from just four of the ASVAB subtests: Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, and Word Knowledge. The AFQT score is used to classify potential military recruits into categories ranked from I (highest scorers) to V (lowest scorers). It is reported as a percentile. For example, a military applicant with an AFQT of 50 scored as high or higher than 50 percent of the population used to standardize the test in 2004. A score of 70 indicates that the test taker scored as high or higher than 70 percent of test takers.[17]

In addition to the AFQT, there are many other possible composite scores which may be calculated from ASVAB subtest scores. In the military, these composite scores are used to assess how well suited a military applicant is for each of the 142 career fields in the military. For example, in the Air Force, an "Electronic" composite score is calculated based on scores in the Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge, Electronics Information, and General Science subtests, while in the Navy, an Engineering composite score is calculated based on the Automotive and Shop Information and Mathematics Knoweledge subtests.[18]


In addition to the ASVAB subtest scores, high school students and civilians who take the ASVAB receive three Career Exploration Score composites: Verbal Skills, Math Skills, and Science and Technical Skills. These composite scores are designed to give test takers insight into possible career directions.[2]

Related Tests


  1. ^ a b Official Site of the ASVAB: History of Military Testing March 2 2014
  2. ^ a b Today's Military: ASVAB Test March 2 2014
  3. ^ Official Site of the ASVAB March 2 2014
  4. ^ a b c Enlisted ASVAB Testing Basics March 2 2014
  5. ^ a b c d e Official Site of the ASVAB: Frequently Asked Questions March 2 2014
  6. ^ The Nine Lives of CAT-ASVAB: Innovations and Revelations March 2 2014
  7. ^ Joining the Military: It Starts with the ASVAB March 2 2014
  8. ^ Official Site of the ASVAB: Enlistment Eligibility March 2 2014
  9. ^ a b c d Official Site of the ASVAB: ASVAB Fact Sheet March 2 2014
  10. ^ ASVAB Questions March 3 2014
  11. ^ ASVAB Career Exploration Program Frequently Asked Questions March 2 2014
  12. ^ ASVAB Test Breakdown 12 June 2015
  13. ^ ASVAB Fact Sheet 12 June 2015
  14. ^ ASVAB Fact Sheet 12 June 2015
  15. ^ a b Percentiles can be calculated using a normal distribution calculator. For example, when a distribution has a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10 like the ASVAB subtests do, the proportion of the distribution below a score of 60 is 0.8413, or 84.1%. Similarly, test takers scoring 60 on an ASVAB subtest scored as high or higher than 84.1% of test takers, putting them in the 84th percentile.
  16. ^ Official Site of the ASVAB: Norming Information March 2 2014
  17. ^ a b c Official Site of the ASVAB: Understanding ASVAB Scores March 2 2014
  18. ^ Official Site of the ASVAB: Military Jobs March 2 2014

External Links