The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) is a test that the United States military uses to determine a potential soldier's aptitude for occupations and achievement in the military. The test scores prospective recruits in Verbal, Math, Science and Technical, and Spatial Intelligence. According to the ASVAB website, test scores are used primarily to determine enlistment eligibility, assign applicants to military jobs, and aid students in career exploration. Understanding the subtests for the ASVAB and how they are scored is an important part of understanding the test itself.
The History of Testing in the Military
According to the ASVAB website, the military began screening soldiers to determine where they would be best fit for service as the military entered World War 1 in 1917. There were only two versions of the test: one paper and pencil test that measured verbal ability, numerical ability, ability to follow directions, and knowledge of basic information; and another non-verbal test given by a proctor for non-English speaking recruits and for recruits who were illiterate. Between World War I and World War II, the military continued to test recruits and volunteers in order to classify soldiers into military jobs, and find candidates for leadership roles. After World War II, the military wanted to develop science and technical positions to meet the growing need within the ranks for specialized positions, so the tests were modified. The test known as the ASVAB was developed in 1974. The military used the test as both a test of achievement and aptitude and a test to determine military fit and readiness.
The ASVAB Subtests
According to the ASVAB website, the ASVAB test is made up of nine subtests, each with a time limit: General Science (GS) has 25 questions about high school science with an 11-minute time limit; Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) has 30 math word problems on a high school level and a 36-minute limit; Word Knowledge (WK) has 35 vocabulary words for questions and a 11-minute limit; Paragraph Comprehension (PC) has 15 high school level reading comprehension questions and a 13-minute limit; Auto & Shop (AS) has 25 questions about automobiles and common tools and takes 11 minutes; Mathematics Knowledge (MK) has 25 math computation questions and takes 24 minutes; Mechanical Comprehension (MC) has 25 questions concerning mechanical principles, and has a 19-minute limit; Electronics Information (EI) has 20 questions about basic electronics knowledge and takes 9 minutes; and Assembling Objects (AS) has 16 questions that measure spatial relationships, with a 9-minute limit. It should be noted that the Navy subtests are a bit different. Recruits wishing to join the Navy should consult the Navy website listed in Resources.
Although there are nine subtests on the ASVAB, not all of the tests are used to determine entrance into the military, nor are they used to determine career placement. For example, the scores on four of the tests: Paragraph Comprehension, Word Knowledge, Mathematics Knowledge, and Arithmetic Reasoning are combined to create one percentile score--the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) score. Each branch of the military sets its own minimum AFQT score. The higher the AFQT percentile score, the more attractive a candidate looks to the military. In addition to the AFQT score, there are other scores reported on the ASVAB results sheet, depending on the purpose of the test. An individual taking the test who is a Navy recruit would have a different score sheet than a high school student two years from graduation because the high school student may still be searching for a career, and the naval recruit needs career training and placement.
Studying for (or Retaking) the ASVAB
It is possible to study for the subtests on the ASVAB. There are study sites online, several of which are listed below in the resources section. Also, each military branch provides ASVAB study guides online and on paper at recruiting offices. Recruits and students wishing to retake the ASVAB can do so every 30 days by making an appointment to retake the test at the recruiting office. Students who wish to retake the ASVAB may need to wait a bit longer, depending on how often the school district is able to offer retakes.
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