How ASVAB Scores Work

The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) is given to more than one million applicants per year. The group of tests that make up the ASVAB measures the test taker’s likely future job performance and academic success. In some ways, the ASVAB is like the better-known SAT exam, but is a bit more geared toward job performance rather than pure academic prowess.

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.

how do asvab scores work
Learn how ASVAB Scores work!

The most important thing to remember about ASVAB scores is that they are used to determine final 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 very 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.

Final Thoughts

If you have any questions we may be able to help you with on the ASVAB, just post them below. Thank you.


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.

12 thoughts on “How ASVAB Scores Work”

  1. I failed the ASVAB twice and then found this program. I followed the simple plan in the guide book and scored a 63 on my third try. After lots of online practice and learning how to eliminate wrong answers, I was finally comfortable with the time limits and that made a huge difference for me. Click here ->>

  2. I found this article extremely informative. I had no idea that the ASVAB was so important. My daughter took the ASVAB as part of her high school senior experience. She scored a 99% and was told by an Army recruiter that she could do “whatever she wanted” in the Army. Honestly, we brushed it off as recruitment tactics, but now I am not so sure.

    1. If she did that well, she could do most jobs. Your job placement isn’t really based off your ASVAB total score. It’s based off different sections on the ASVAB. The GT is very important and there are other line scores as well.

  3. This was an excellent post Larry. Just like any test, the soldier should be well prepared. Studying is a good idea, but don’t over study. Get a good rest before the days test and take your time on each answer.

    You may not think it so important, but one, two or more years down the road, you will realize just how important the ASVAB is. I believe all new recruits should read this post. I hope recruiters see this blog and understand how much it can help.

  4. Thanks for posting Larry. It’s important for test takers to understand exactly how the test will be scored. These kinds of tests don’t determine whether or not you will be a successful individual, but they do have the potential to open doors. It’s a necessary evil and rather than complain about them, you’re better off buckling down and doing the best you can. I’m sure a simple Google search will bring up plenty of prep guides and sample tests.

  5. Katelyn Hensel

    It’s kind of intimidating to think that this one test has such a massive impact on the placement of recruits. Poor fool who is a bad test taker and gets placed below where he should! Tell me, is it possible to retake the ASVAB and get your original score removed from the record? Also, can you disagree with placement and try for another type of job, perhaps one you didn’t score quite so high in?

    1. Yes, you can retake the ASVAB. I don’t know what the current policy is, but I do know a few soldiers who retook it two or more times. I also know there are lots of ASVAB Study Guides and even practice tests. There are also plenty of books and tutorials on the subject.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        You can retake the ASVAB. The majority of reasons that Soldiers do it is to get a higher GT score. For just about any ‘cool’ job in the military or to become an officer, you need a 110 GT score. GT stands for General Technical and it basically takes certain components from the test and add it together.
        My husband just retook the ASVAB to raise his GT score in order to apply for flight school. While there is a huge list of things to do to get selected for IERW, having a high enough GT score was crucial. Our state does not waiver that score and I believe the other states do not as well.
        He was nervous, but he raised his score 9 points and only needed to raise it by 3. He did much better overall and I think that is due to his extensive career and college experience (a big difference from being 18 and fresh out of high school).

          1. Candace Ginestar

            Thank you! I think when he first took it, it was still like the old scantron sheets that you bubble in. He likes the newer computer version better.

  6. Great post, Larry. Anyone thinking about joining the military should take the time to educate themselves about how the ASVAB Scores work. And they should do what they can to prepare for the test. Doing well on the ASVAB gives you more opportunities to choose from. The small amount of time invested to do this is time well spent. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.


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