ASVAB for Dummies

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (mercifully shortened to ASVAB), is a lengthy test that takes about three hours to complete, and which provides a comprehensive assessment of a test taker’s abilities in key academic and technical areas. Developed exclusively by the Department of Defense, the test is given to more than half of all U.S. high school juniors and seniors each year. Those who wish to enlist in the military can use their scores for two years. Other students, along with their guidance counselors, use the results to hone in on strengths and weaknesses. The ASVAB is recognized as an accurate measure of a student’s ability in math, verbal, and other skill areas.

asvab for dummies
ASVAB for Dummies book

For those who are considering enlistment, the ASVAB test will play a very large part in job placement within a military career. Each branch of the service has minimum scores that must be achieved in order to enlist. Civilian test-takers obtain useful information about the careers in which they will excel. Because test scores have such a significant impact on a military career, many applicants spend several months using a study guide or taking a prep course to enhance their potential scores. It is generally recommended that candidates spend about an hour per day for at least six weeks in preparation for the ASVAB.

The exam itself consists of two sections each on mathematics and verbal skills, as well as sections on automotive/shop, electronics, and mechanical comprehension. The verbal and math scores are fed into a formula to generate a candidate’s Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score, which determines a person’s enlistment eligibility.

For various job placements in the military, administrators combine different section scores of the ASVAB in order to determine skill levels for various occupations. If someone wishes to join the Special Forces, for example, the applicant would need quite high scores on the verbal, math, mechanical and automotive/shop portions of the ASVAB. Every military career category has its own set of score cutoffs.

Each part of the ASVAB takes between 10 and 35 minutes to complete, though the entire exam lasts for approximately three hours. The most important sections of the exam, for comprehensive scoring purposes, are called Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge, Word Knowledge, and Paragraph Comprehension. High school students who have taken the well-known SAT exam will see similarity between the two tests, especially in the four core sections mentioned above. All sections of the ASVAB are administered in multiple choice format.

Final Thoughts

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Author Larry Bell is a professional writer, comedian, and automotive enthusiast whose work can be seen at and many other online publications. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the Thunderbird School of Global Management.



5 thoughts on “ASVAB for Dummies”

  1. Amy Skalicky

    Just one, but I was a single mom back then, not ideal for enlistment. I told him that I was thinking about it and just seeing if I could get in, which wasn’t really true, but I didn’t want to tell him the real reason I took it, which was actually in response to a conversation I had with someone who was bragging big time about how awesome he was and how he was the best at everything when he was in the Army. He ended up remarking to me that “someone like you couldn’t even score well enough on the ASVAB for the Army to even look at me.” Well, of course I had to take it, for I wasn’t going to let him get away with that you-know-what. I got the feeling I beat his score, because when he saw it, he looked at me, and he was really ticked, and then he just walked away. I never heard another word about it. If you tell me I can’t do something, I have a tendency to go do it :-)

  2. Amy Skalicky

    Did you know that the military has been giving some version of the ASVAB since just after World War I?

    I took the ASVAB once, just for kicks, and got 88% of the questions right. I did not prepare, which I highly recommend anyone who is taking it as part of their enlistment into the military taking the time to do. There is plenty of prep material available, not only online, but in bookstores as well. ASVAB for Dummies is a good one. Incidentally, math kicked my behind, as that has never been my best subject. I liked the logic-based questions though.

  3. This is some great information about the ASVAB, Larry. Anyone serious about joining the military should do the best they can with the ASVAB so they can qualify for the job they want. It would be in everyone’s best interest to take a couple practice tests, read a book or two about the subject, and study for the test.

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