ASVAB Test: How to Study, Prepare & Improve Your Score

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (mercifully shortened to ASVAB), is a lengthy test that takes about three hours to complete and 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 home 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.

For those who are considering enlistment, the ASVAB test will play a large part in job placement within a military career. Each branch of the service has minimum scores that must be achieved 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 to determine skill levels for various occupations. If someone wishes to join the Special Forces, for example, the applicant will need 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 test takes between 10 and 35-minutes to complete, although 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.

asvab overview

How the ASVAB Scores Work

Scoring on the ASVAB follows a rigorous statistical method to make certain that results are accurate and useful. On each of the four sections of the exam, applicants receive a score that indicates how far they placed above or below the average score.

It gets a little complicated at this point, but the amount above or below is measured in what are called “standard deviation units.” For each standard deviation unit above or below the mean score, 10 points is added or subtracted. A score of 60, for example, says that the test-taker was one standard deviation above the mean score.

The most important thing to remember about ASVAB scores is that they are used to determine results for the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). An applicant’s original ASVAB scores are used to create a percentile ranking of all candidates.

The ASVAB sections are Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), Word Knowledge (WK), Mathematics Knowledge (MK), and Paragraph Comprehension (PC). A unique formula is used to compute those four raw scores into AFQT rankings, which are expressed as percentiles.

ASVAB scores themselves are the primary basis for determining enlistment eligibility and are used to place applicants into various jobs. In addition, the scores are extremely helpful when it comes time to plan out an applicant’s proposed military career path.

While there are more than four sections on the ASVAB, the scores on the four above mentioned sections are the only ones that are used for AFQT score calculation and enlistment eligibility.

When administrators begin to create the AFQT score, they add three components from the ASVAB scores, namely the AR score, the MK score, and twice the combined WK and PC scores. The result is scaled according to percentile performance, thus the final AFQT score will tell applicants where they placed in the mix. A score of 85, for example, would mean you did better than 85 percent of all test-takers that day.

The various branches of the military use the AFQT scores in slightly different ways for occupational placement and academic evaluation. The ASVAB examination is an important part of your military record and should be approached with care and preparation.

10 Sample ASVAB Questions

The following questions are taken directly from different websites online. The 10 items below are from the math and verbal sections, but the final question is from the general science section. The answers are at the bottom.

# 1: The eastern part of Texas will ambush the senses of all who enter it with preconceptions of sand and cacti around every bend. It has a look and atmosphere that does not fit the boots-and-saddle image of the state.

The author implies that the look and atmosphere of east Texas does NOT resemble that of the:

  1. marshlands.
  2. mountains.
  3. seashore.
  4. desert.

# 2: A thin transparent layer of oxide protects the metal titanium against corrosion. The same thin layer attracts artists interested in making their art with the help of technology. By using heat or electricity, an artist can thicken the oxide layer and thereby turn the metal a range of vivid colors.

According to the passage, some artists work with titanium because it:

  1. is transparent.
  2. does not corrode.
  3. generates its own heat.
  4. can assume a variety of colors.

# 3: They returned to the beach, where blankets spotted the slope to the water. An advancing wall of clouds, black and gray, darkening the expanse of ground beneath, approached from the west. To the east and above them, the sky remained clear, the sun warm, as if collaborating in the deception.

The “deception” referred to in the passage is that:

  1. there is no storm approaching.
  2. the sky is clear in the east.
  3. it is too cold to swim.
  4. the sun is warm.

# 4: If the tire of a car rotates at a constant speed of 552 times in one minute, how many times will the tire rotate in half-an-hour?

  1. 276
  2. 5,520
  3. 8,280
  4. 16,560

# 5: One in every 9 people in a town vote for party A. All others vote for party B. How many people vote for party B in a town of 810?

  1. 90
  2. 720
  3. 801
  4. 819

# 6: A motorcycle cost $7,250. If it depreciates by 12 percent per year, how much will it be worth after one year?

  1. $870
  2. $1,250
  3. $5,920
  4. $6,380

# 7: Antagonize most nearly means:

  1. embarrass.
  2. struggle.
  3. provoke.
  4. worship.

# 8: Wilted most nearly means:

  1. left.
  2. limp.
  3. budding.
  4. requested.

# 9: His record provides no reason for apprehension. Here, apprehension means:

  1. anxiety.
  2. change.
  3. enjoyment.
  4. endorsement.

# 10: Air is less dense than water because:

  1. it is lighter.
  2. its molecules are further apart.
  3. its molecules are closer together.
  4. it moves more quickly and easily.



improve your asvab score

Five Tips to Practice for the Test

If you want to achieve a good score on your ASVAB test, practice is important. You can take example tests. You can read books, watch YouTube videos, and learn everything you can about the ASVAB.

Tip # 1: Get Acquainted with the Different Sections

To study effectively for the ASVAB, it is wise to get acquainted with the sections and how they are scored. There are two math portions, one called Mathematics Knowledge and one called Arithmetic Reasoning. The verbal part of the test consists of two parts as well, Word Knowledge and Paragraph Comprehension. These four are the most important parts of the test as far as scoring is concerned. Plan your study time around these knowledge areas.

Tip # 2: Take Practice Tests

Take practice tests to determine where you should spend the bulk of your study time. If a practice exam shows that your math knowledge and problem- solving ability are excellent, but that verbal scores are below average, for example, you would be smart to spend 60 to 70 percent of your study time on the verbal review.

Tip # 3: Set Aside Daily Study Time

Make a daily schedule for studying and do your best to adhere to it. Total hours per week will vary for everyone, but a good rule of thumb is to study between five and ten hours per week for about three months prior to the exam date. Having a daily schedule will help you keep your mind focused on the test’s content, and in many ways is more important than what you study, if you hit all the main knowledge areas.

Tip # 4: Don’t Go Overboard

Build rest into your schedule and try to maintain healthy lifestyle habits during the review period. Don’t study yourself into a rut! Have at least one day each week when you do not study at all. At the same time, attempt to sleep and eat within healthy, normal limits during your preparation phase.

Tip # 5: Review Work

Spend one day each week doing nothing but review work. Retention levels for most people go through the roof when they review material for a test. Taking one day per week to review your study materials from the last several days will do wonders for your comprehension, retention, and confidence.

Bonus Tip

Ease up on the studying for one or two days prior to the test, focusing primarily on review work in your weak areas. Get plenty of sleep the night before the exam and go in with a confident attitude. You will be better prepared than the average test-taker at that point.

Best ASVAB Study Guides

Here are several good books and resources you can use for your ASVAB Study Guide.

# 1: 2021 / 2022 ASVAB For Dummies: Book + 7 Practice Tests Online + Flashcards + Video (For Dummies (Career/Education)) 10th Edition

asvab for dummies

In a friendly, straightforward style, Angie Papple Johnston—who passed the test herself in 2006 to join the Army—provides in-depth reviews of all nine test subjects. Don’t worry if you slept through some of this material in school; you’ll find a complete refresher on everything you’ll be expected to know—plus full explanations for every answer, drill exercises, and strategy cheat sheets for verbal, math, and general sciences. You’ll also get tips on how to pinpoint areas where you need to develop mental muscle and to strengthen your test-taking skills. And if this weren’t already giving you some pretty awesome firepower, you can also go online to reinforce your game using flashcards and customizable practice tests calibrated to address areas where you need help the most.  ~ Source

# 2: ASVAB Prep Plus 2022–2023: 6 Practice Tests + Proven Strategies + Online + Video (Kaplan Test Prep)

asvab prep plus

Kaplan’s ASVAB Prep Plus 2022–2023 features proven strategies and realistic practice for all sections of the ASVAB and AFQT. Comprehensive subject review, expert tips, detailed explanations, and flashcards will help you face the test with confidence. Kaplan is so certain that ASVAB Prep Plus offers all the knowledge you need to excel at the ASVAB that we guarantee it: After studying with the online resources and book, you’ll score higher on the test—or you’ll get your money back. ~ Source

# 3: ASVAB Study Guide 2021-2022: ASVAB Test Prep Secrets, Practice Question Book, Step-by-Step Review Video Tutorials: [5th Edition] Study Guide Edition

asvab study guide

Our guide is full of specific and detailed information that will be key to passing your exam. Concepts and principles aren’t simply named or described in passing, but are explained in detail. The Mometrix ASVAB study guide is laid out in a logical and organized fashion so that one section naturally flows from the one preceding it. Because it’s written with an eye for both technical accuracy and accessibility, you will not have to worry about getting lost in dense academic language. ~ Source

# 4: ASVAB Study Guide 2021-2022: ASVAB Book and Practice Test Questions for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Exam [10th Edition Prep]

asvab test prep books

Studying is hard. We know. We want to help. You can ace your test. Each part of the test has a full review. This study guide covers everything likely to be on the ASVAB test. Lots of ASVAB practice test questions are included. Miss one and want to know why? There are detailed answer explanations to help you avoid missing the same question a second time.

Are you a bad test taker? Use your time wisely with the latest test-taking strategies. Don’t settle for just learning what is on the test. Learn how to be successful with that knowledge. Test Prep Books has drilled down the top test-taking tips. This will help you save time and avoid making common mistakes on test day. Get your ASVAB study guide. It includes review material, practice test questions, and test-taking strategies. ~ Source

You can click on the image or SOURCE links to purchase them via my Amazon store.


What you will find below are some of the most frequently asked questions concerning the ASVAB, and the answers.

What is a good ASVAB score?

A good ASVAB score would be a passing score, which would be anything above the minimum required score for the branch of the military that you are seeking to enlist in. For the Army, that would be any score above 31. For the Air Force, that would be any score above 36. ~

How many questions are on the ASVAB?

The CAT-ASVAB has a time limit of 154 minutes with nine test subgroups and 145 questions. The ASVAB MET location has 225 questions and a time limit of 149 minutes.

No outside help is allowed during the ASVAB, including the math part of the test. This means you can’t use a calculator to get the ASVAB. Depending on the version you are using, the ASVAB contains up to 55 questions about mathematical concepts. Get to know ASVAB by taking field tests. ~ 

How many times can you take the ASVAB?

ASVAB tests are valid for two years, as long as you are not in the military. In most cases, once you join the military, your ASVAB scores remain valid as long as you are in. In other words, except in a few cases, you can use your enlistment ASVAB scores to qualify for retraining years later.

After you take an initial ASVAB test (taking the ASVAB in high school does not count as an initial test), you can retake the test after 30 days. After the retest, you must wait at least six months before taking the ASVAB again.

When you retake the ASVAB, it’s not your highest score that counts, but rather the score on your latest test. If you score lower on the retest, that is the score that will be used for your military enlistment. ~ The Balance Careers

What is the average ASVAB score?

The highest possible score on the ASVAB is 99. The lowest possible score is 1.

The standardized score received by around half of the ASVAB test takers for each section is 50 or higher. Less than 20% of the test-takers earn a score of 60 or higher. Therefore, the average ASVAB score is 50. ~

How can I improve my ASVAB score?

Your recruiter is a vital asset in gaining entrance into the military. They can even help you increase your ASVAB score by introducing study techniques. Recruiters work with applicants on a daily basis and help them prepare for the military, including ASVAB testing preparation. Recruiters have access to practice tests and materials that may help improve your score. Recruiters can help test-takers network with one another and form invaluable ASVAB study groups. Recruiters can help you deal with anxiety you may feel toward taking the test. By reducing stress, they are helping you gain a clearer head for studying. ~

What is the best way to practice for the ASVAB?

In my opinion, the best way to practice for the ASVAB test is to take several practice tests. I would also read several books on the subject, use flash cards, and watch some helpful YouTube videos.

Where can I take the ASVAB?

Many high schools give students the opportunity to take the ASVAB as part of career exploration. If you chose not to take one in high school, then you will have to schedule a time to take it. You can contact the Armed Forces Recruiting Officer in your area and you can schedule an appointment with a local recruiter from the branch of the military you wish to join. ~ ASVAB Practice Test Online


In conclusion, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (mercifully shortened to ASVAB), is a lengthy test that takes about three hours to complete and provides a comprehensive assessment of a test taker’s abilities in key academic and technical areas. Your score on the test will determine if you are eligible for military service and what jobs/MOSs you will qualify for.

Achieving a good ASVAB score is important if you want to attain certain jobs in the military. Preparation is key. If you study and prepare for the ASVAB test ahead of time, there is no doubt in my mind you will improve your score.

What are your thoughts about the ASVAB? What tips can you suggest? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

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chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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