The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) is the most widely used multiple-aptitude test battery in the world. It measures a test taker’s suitability to enlist in the United States Armed Forces and assesses his or her abilities to be trained in specific civilian or military jobs.
When you take the ASVAB officially, you will be given either a paper-and-pencil version of the test or a computer version (also referred to as a Computer Adaptive Test ASVAB, or CAT-ASVAB). About 70 percent of prospective recruits take the CAT-ASVAB, so that’s likely to be the version you’ll encounter.
What does the ASVAB test?
In addition to evaluating math and reading skills, the ASVAB also assesses performance in categories such as science, electronics, auto repair, and the ability to assemble objects. While the section topics and question types are the same on both the paper-and-pencil and CAT-ASVAB versions of the test, the amount of time and number of questions will differ slightly on each version. In the table below, you’ll see the order in which the ASVAB subtests are ordered, the material tested in each section, and the differences between the paper-and-pencil and CAT-ASVAB versions. Additionally, note the sections that are highlighted in gray. These subtests make up the AFQT. In this table, the subtests are listed in the order in which you’ll take them on Test Day.
|Subtest||Questions / Time Limit in Minutes (CAT-ASVAB)||Questions / Time Limit in Minutes (Paper & Pencil)||What’s Tested|
|General Science (GS)||16 questions / 8 minutes||25 questions / 11 minutes||Knowledge of general concepts from life, earth and space, and physical sciences|
|Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)||16 questions / 39 minutes||30 questions / 36 minutes||Ability to answer word problems that involve basic arithmetic calculations|
|Word Knowledge (WK)||16 questions / 8 minutes||35 questions / 11 minutes||Ability to recognize synonyms of words|
|Paragraph Comprehension (PC)||11 questions / 22 minutes||15 questions / 13 minutes||Ability to answer questions based on short passages (of 30–120 words)|
|Mathematics Knowledge (MK)||16 questions / 20 minutes||25 questions / 24 minutes||Knowledge of math concepts, including applied arithmetic, algebra, and geometry|
|Electronics Information (EI)||16 questions / 8 minutes||20 questions / 9 minutes||Knowledge of electronic principles and terminology and of basic electronic circuitry|
|Auto and Shop Information (AS*)||11 questions / 7 minutes; 11 questions / 6 minutes||25 questions / 11 minutes||Knowledge of automobiles, and of tool and shop practices and terminology|
|Mechanical Comprehension (MC)||16 questions / 20 minutes||25 questions / 19 minutes||Knowledge of basic mechanical and physical principles|
|Assembling Objects (AO)||16 questions / 16 minutes||25 questions / 15 minutes||Ability to determine how a disassembled object will look when it is put back together|
|Totals||145 questions / 154 minutes||225 questions / 149 minutes|
Registering for and Taking the ASVAB
How to Read Your ASVAB Scores
Different Versions of the ASVAB
Depending upon your reasons for taking the ASVAB and your stage in the career decision-making process, you will take on one of the following three versions of the test battery:
Enlistment Testing Program ASVAB
This version of the ASVAB, sometimes referred to as the Production Version, is used for enlistment purposes only and is administered to potential enlistees in all branches of the military. A potential recruit’s performance on the ASVAB subtests is used to determine whether the candidate has the necessary aptitudes to enlist in a desired branch of service and for which military jobs the candidate is best suited.
Career Exploration Program ASVAB
This is a paper-and-pencil, eight-subtest version of the ASVAB that is administered, along with an interest inventory, to high school and postsecondary students as part of the Department of Defense’s Career Exploration Program. The content and format of this ASVAB are the same as the enlistment paper-and-pencil version, with two exceptions: the Assembling Objects subtest is not given, and the Auto and Shop Information subtests are combined into one subtest.
Armed Forces Classification Test (AFCT)
The Paper-and-Pencil Test vs. the CAT
- The length of time of many of the subtests has been reduced from the paper-and-pencil ASVAB, and the number of questions that you are required to answer has been reduced even more.
- The test can be scored immediately. You will know how well you did as soon as you finish the test.
- The test administration is very flexible, so you don’t have to wait for the next scheduled test date to take the test.
- There’s no chance of losing points by filling out your answer sheet incorrectly.
- The CAT format gives you the chance to work methodically on one question at a time with no other questions there to distract you.
Disadvantages of Taking the CAT-ASVAB
- You cannot skip around on this test; you must answer the questions one at a time in the order the computer gives them to you.
- If you realize later that you answered a question incorrectly, you cannot go back and change your answer.
- You can’t cross off an answer choice, so you’ll have to use your scrap paper to keep track of the answers you’ve eliminated.