Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a multiple choice test, administered by the United States Military Entrance Processing Command, used to determine qualification for enlistment in the United States Armed Forces. It is often offered to American high school students when they are in the 10th, 11th and 12th grade, though anyone eligible for enlistment may take it.
Although the test is administered by the military, it is not (and never has been) a requirement that a test-taker with a qualifying score enlist in the armed forces.
The ASVAB was first introduced in 1968 and was adopted by all branches of the military in 1976. It underwent a major revision in 2002. In 2004, the test's percentile rank scoring system was re-normalized, to ensure that a score of 50% really did represent doing better than exactly 50% of the test takers.
The ASVAB currently contains 9 sections. The duration of each test varies from as low as ten minutes up to 36 minutes for Arithmetic Reasoning; the entire ASVAB is three hours long. The test is typically administered in a computerized format at Military Entrance Processing Stations, known as MEPS. If you do not live near a MEPS, the ASVAB can be administered at a satellite location called a Military Entrance Test (MET) site. The ASVAB is administered by computer at the MEPS while a paper-and-pencil version is given at most MET sites. Testing procedures will vary depending on the mode of administration. 
Computerized Test Format
- General Science (GS) - 16 questions in 8 minutes
- Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) - 16 questions in 39 minutes
- Word Knowledge (WK) - 16 questions in 8 minutes
- Paragraph Comprehension (PC) - 11 questions in 22 minutes
- Mathematics Knowledge (MK) - 16 questions in 20 minutes
- Electronics Information (EI) - 16 questions in 8 minutes
- Automotive and Shop Information (AS) - 11 questions in 7 minutes
- Mechanical Comprehension (MC) - 16 questions in 20 minutes
- Assembling Objects (AO) - 16 questions in 16 minutes
- Verbal Expression (VE)= (WK)+(PC)
Written Test Format
- General Science (GS) - 25 questions in 11 minutes
- Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) - 30 questions in 36 minutes
- Word Knowledge (WK) - 35 questions in 11 minutes
- Paragraph Comprehension (PC) - 15 questions in 13 minutes
- Mathematics Knowledge (MK) - 25 questions in 24 minutes
- Electronics Information (EI) - 20 questions in 9 minutes
- Automotive and Shop Information (AS) - 25 questions in 11 minutes
- Mechanical Comprehension (MC) - 25 questions in 19 minutes
- Assembling Objects (AO) - 25 questions in 15 minutes
- Verbal Expression (VE)= (WK)+(PC)
Navy applicants also complete a Coding Speed (CS) test.
- "Numerical Operations" (NO)
- "Space Perception" (SP)
- "Tool Knowledge" (TK)
- "General Information" (GI)
- "Attention to Detail" (AD)
- "Coding Skill" (CS)
Standards for enlistment
AFQT required minimum scores for people with a high school diploma as of December 2012 (unless otherwise noted) are as follows:
|Tier I||Tier II|
|Branch||≥ HS Diploma||= GED|
|Coast Guard||50||50 with 15 college credits|
|*Army National Guard||31||31|
|*Air National Guard||50||50|
GED holders who earn 15 college credits 100 level or greater are considered equivalent with those holding high school diplomas. This would result in only needing the minimum score to enlist. Eligibility is not determined by score alone. Certain recruiting goal practices may require an applicant to achieve a higher score than the required minimum AFQT score in order to be considered for enlistment. Rules and regulations change on a daily basis; applicants should call their local recruiting center for up to date qualification information.
Armed Forces Qualification Test
An Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score is used to determine basic qualification for enlistment.
AFQT Scores are divided into the following categories
- Category I: 93–99
- Category II: 65–92
- Category III A: 50–64
- Category IV B: 31–49
- Category V A: 21–30
- Category VI B: 16–20
- Category VII C: 10–15
- Category VIII: 0–9
The formula for computing an AFQT score is: AR + MK + (2 x VE) where VE = PC + WK.
The VE (verbal) score is determined by adding the raw scores from the PC and WK tests (i.e., how many questions the aspiring recruit got right on each) and using a table to get the VE score from that combined PC and WK raw score.
AFQT scores are not raw scores, but rather percentile scores indicating how each examined performed compared with all other examinees. Thus, someone who receives an AFQT of 55 scored better than 55 percent of all other examinees. Maximum possible score is 99 as a person can do better than 99 percent of those who took the test, but he cannot do better than himself, so the highest percentile is 99.
Law prohibits applicants in Category V from enlisting. In addition, there are constraints placed on Category IV recruits; recruits in Category IV must be high school diploma graduates but cannot be denied enlistment solely on this criteria if the recruit is needed to satisfy established strength requirements. Furthermore, the law constrains the percentage of accessions who can fall between Categories V-VII (currently, the limit is 20% of all persons originally enlisted in a given armed force in a given fiscal year).
In addition to the ASVAB's AFQT, each branch has military occupational specialty, or MOS, scores. Combinations of scores from the nine tests are used to determine qualification for a MOS. These combinations are called "aptitude area scores", "composite scores", or "line scores". Each of the five armed services has its own aptitude area scores and sets its own minimum composite scores for each MOS.
|OF||Operators and Food||VE+AS+MC|
|SC||Surveillance and Communications||VE+AR+AS+MC|
|* SF||Special Forces||GT≥107 CO≥98|
|BEE||Basic Electricity and Electronics||AR+GS+2*MK|
|MEC2||Mechanical Maintenance 2||AO+AR+MC|
|OPS||Operations Specialist||WK, PC, AR, MK, AO|
|* SEALs||Special Operations||GS+MC+EI≥165 or VE+MK+MC+CS≥220 (minimum for BUD/S)|
Air Force/National Guard Composite Scores (Standard AFQT score AR + MK + (2 x VE))
|G||General||VE + AR|
|M||Mechanical||MC + GS (2 × AS)|
|A||Administrative||NO + CS + VE|
|E||Electrical||AR + MK + EI + GS|
|* MARSOC||Special Operations||GT=105|
What Does the AFQT Measure?
The AFQT has been used in non-military settings as a proxy measure of intelligence, for example, Herrnstein & Murray's Bell curve report. Because of the test's significance both inside and outside military settings, it is important to examine what the test measures, i.e. to evaluate the construct validity of the AFQT. Kaufman's (2010) review stated that David Marks (2010) scanned the literature for datasets containing test estimates for populations or groups taking both the AFQT and tests of literacy. One study on nine groups of soldiers differing in job and reading ability found a correlation of .96 between the AFQT and reading achievement (Sticht, Caylor, Kern, & Fox, 1972). Another study showed significant improvements among Black and Hispanic populations in their AFQT scores between 1980 and 1992 while Whites only showed a slight decrement (Kilburn, Hanser, & Klerman, 1998). Another study obtained reading scores for 17-year olds for those same ethnic groups and dates (Campbell et al., 2000) and found a correlation of .997 between reading scores and AFQT scores. This nearly perfect correlation was based on six pairs of data points from six independent population samples evaluated by two separate groups of investigators. Kaufman quotes Marks' conclusion, "On the basis of the studies summarized here, there can be little doubt that the Armed Forces Qualifications Test is a measure of literacy."
- "ASVAB". Military.com. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- "What To Expect When You Take the ASVAB". Department of Defense, Official site of the ASVAB. 19 April 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
- "Minimum ASVAB Scores".
- "10 Steps to Joining the Military - Step 2: Decide if you're ready". Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- 10 USC Sec. 520
- "ASVAB and Air Force Jobs". Military.com. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- Gregory, Robert J. (2011). Psychological Testing: History, Principles, and Applications (Sixth ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. ISBN 978-0-205-78214-7. Lay summary (7 November 2010).
- Hogan, Thomas P.; Brooke Cannon (2007). Psychological Testing: A Practical Introduction (Second ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-73807-7. Lay summary (21 November 2010).
- Marks, D.F. (2010). "IQ variations across time, race, and nationality: an artifact of differences in literacy skills". Psychological Reports, 106, 643-664.
- Official ASVAB Information: The official ASVAB web site for the U. S. Department of Defense.
- About Guide to ASVAB
- ASVAB test description: Includes structure of the test, time allotted per section of the test and which sections are counted towards the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT) score.
- Kaufman, S.B. (2010). "The Flynn Effect and IQ Disparities Among Races, Ethnicities, and Nations: Are There Common Links?"