Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)

Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)

Photo By: Lance Cpl. Damien Gutierrez

History and Introduction of the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery)

The ASVAB is a multiple-aptitude battery that was introduced in 1968.  It has been used as the single selection and classification battery for enlistment testing since 1976.  It measures developed abilities and helps predict future academic and occupational success in the military. It is administered annually to more than one million military applicants, high school, and post-secondary students.  ASVAB scores are used to determine if you are qualified to enlist in the military and to assign you to an appropriate job in the military.  The information provided here will help you prepare to take the ASVAB.


The ASVAB is given in schools as part of the Career Exploration Program (also called the Student Testing Program).   Most ASVAB testing is conducted at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). If you do not live near a MEPS, you may take the ASVAB at a satellite location called a Military Entrance Test (MET) site. The ASVAB is administered by computer at all MEPS, and by paper and pencil at most MET sites. Regardless of whether you take the ASVAB by computer or paper and pencil, your scores should be very similar.


The ASVAB consists of ten short tests to complete during three hours. An ASVAB test administrator will give you instructions and tell you how long you have to complete each test. However, before you begin, you will have a chance to answer some practice questions and ask any questions about taking the test.

After you take your initial ASVAB, you must wait one calendar month to retake the test.  You must wait an additional calendar month to retest a second time.  After that, you must wait six calendar months to retake the ASVAB.  Your scores may be used for  enlistment for up to two years from the date of testing.



The computerized ASVAB (called the CAT-ASVAB) is an adaptive test, which means that the test adapts to your ability level.  The computer software selects items that are suitable for you, based on your responses to earlier items in the test. Because the     CAT-ASVAB is targeted toward your ability level, it is possible to administer a shorter test than is used in the paper and pencil administration.  More details on how the  CAT-ASVAB works are given on page 3.

You are allowed to complete the CAT-ASVAB at your own pace.  That is, when you complete a test in the battery, you can immediately move on to the next section without waiting for everyone else to move on.  You may leave the test room as soon as you are finished with all of the tests. Although each test has a fixed number of questions and a time limit (see page 3), most examinees finish the test before the time limit is reached.  The average examinee takes about 1 1/2 hours to complete the CAT-ASVAB.

You are not able to review or change your answers once you have submitted an answer on the CAT-ASVAB.  If you are running out of time, it is best to continue trying to  answer as best as you can, rather than filling in random guesses for the remaining items, as the CAT-ASVAB has a penalty for guessing.


The paper and pencil ASVAB (called the P&P-ASVAB) is a traditional test, which means that everyone takes the same set of questions at the same pace.  The number of test questions and time limits for each test are shown on page 3.  In all, it takes about 3 hours to complete the P&P-ASVAB.   You are allowed to review your answers onthe P&P-ASVAB.  However, you cannot go back to an earlier test section, or proceed to the next test until instructed to do so.  If you run out of time on the P&P-ASVAB, it is to your advantage to fill in random guesses for the remaining items, as there is no penalty for guessing.


The ASVAB tests are designed to measure aptitudes in four domains:  Verbal, Math,  Science and Technical, and Spatial.  The table below describes the content of the ASVAB tests.  The tests are presented in the order in which they are administered.


*AI and SI are administered as separate tests in the CAT-ASVAB, but combined into one singlescore (labeled AS). AI and SI are combined into one test (AS) in the P&P-ASVAB. Scores on the combined test (AS) are reported for both the CAT-ASVAB and P&P-ASVAB.

ASVAB Test Lengths and Time Limits




How the CAT-ASVAB Works

In the CAT-ASVAB, you receive a test that is tailored toward your abilities.  Items are    selected for administration from a pool of items.  After each item is administered, information is collected and evaluated, and the item best suited for your estimated ability level is selected to be administered next.   Typically, if you answer an item incorrectly, an easier item is selected to be administered next.  If you answer correctly, then a harder item is selected to be administered next.  The branching used in the CAT-ASVAB ensures that you will be administered items best suited to your abilities.

The ASVAB has 10 tests.  Your scores from four of the tests — Word Knowledge (WK), Paragraph Comprehension (PC), Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), and Mathematics Knowledge (MK) — are combined to compute your score on what is referred to as the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).  Scores on the AFQT are used to determine your eligibility for enlistment in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps.  Scores on all of the ASVAB tests are used to determine the best job for you in the military.

To be considered for enlistment in the Army, you need to score at least a 31 on the ASVAB. Your scores will be provided to you on a report called the ASVAB Student Results Sheet, with additional information to help you understand your score.

AFQT scores are reported as percentiles between 1-99.  An AFQT percentile score indicates the percentage of examinees in a reference group who scored at or below that particular score.  For current AFQT scores, the reference group is a sample of 18 to 23 year old youth who took the ASVAB as part of a national norming study conducted in 1997.  Thus, your AFQT score of 62 indicates that you scored as well as or better than 62% of the nationally-representative sample of 18 to 23 year old youth.

ASVAB Scores

The AFQT score is the most important ASVAB score, because it determines if you can enlist in the U.S. Army. However, the U.S. Army also converts the ASVAB test scores into 10 other composite score areas known as “line scores” that determine what MOS an individual may qualify for. Listed below are the parts of the ASVAB that affect your AFQT and each of the ten line scores.

  • Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) – Paragraph Comprehension, Word Knowledge, Mathematics Knowledge, and Arithmetic Reasoning.
  • Clerical (CL) – Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning and Mathematics Knowledge.
  • Combat (CO) – Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Auto & Shop and Mechanical Comprehension.
  • Electronics (EL) – General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge and Electronic Information.
  • Field Artillery (FA) – Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge and Mechanical Comprehension.
  • General Maintenance (GM) – General Science, Auto & Shop, Mathematics Knowledge and Electronics Information.
  • General Technical (GT) – Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, and Arithmetic Reasoning (AR).
  • Mechanical Maintenance (MM) – Auto & Shop, Mechanical Comprehension and Electronic Information.
  • Operators and Food (OF) – Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Auto & Shop and Mechanical Comprehension.
  • Surveillance and Communications (SC) – Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, Auto & Shop and Mechanical Comprehension.
  • Skilled Technical (ST) – Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, General Science, Mechanical Comprehension and Mathematics Knowledge.


Where can I find more information about the ASVAB?
Visit the official ASVAB website at