About the ASVAB

Whether you are deciding to go into military service or still choosing a career path to take on the civilian side of the working world, the ASVAB is a useful tool that can help you make the choice. It can help you realize the type of work that will sustain your interest and match your potential, as well as open opportunities that you might not have previously thought of pursuing. It was first administered in 1968, and named the official entry test for all branches of the US military in 1976. For years, it has helped guidance counselors and recruiters evaluate students and armed services candidates and determine career paths, both civilian and military, that suit them.

What is the ASVAB?
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is a series of tests on 8 or 9 subjects, intended for assessing your suitability for a specific job, and which line of work matches your abilities. It is easily one of the most widely-used multiple-subject test batteries, conducted at high schools and recruitment centers for the armed forces.

Not an IQ Test
While the ASVAB may be similar to a standard IQ Test, it is not designed to measure your intelligence. Rather, the aim for this test is to determine how able or ready you are to be trained for a specific line of work. You do not need to get a very high or perfect score on all subtests, but if you have decided on the military branch or specific designation you want to pursue, it would be ideal to do well on the subtests that count towards that line of work. This will be further discussed here and other articles on this site.

ASVAB Components and Structure

Each of the ASVAB’s subtests consists of a varying number of questions, adding up to a total of 200. A specific time limit corresponds to each subtest, and is strictly followed. Here is an outline of the ASVAB with number of questions, time limit and topic covered.

SubtestContentQuestionsTime Limit (mins)
General Science (GS) General knowledge questions on physical, earth and biological sciences. 25 11
Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) Word problems that require simple arithmetic calculations. 30 36
Word Knowledge (WK) Asks to identify correct meaning or antonym of certain words. 35 11
Paragraph Comprehension (PC) Items to be answered based on short paragraphs or passages given. 15 13
Auto & Shop Information (AS)* Tests basic knowledge of automotives, tools, and shop terminology. 25 11
Mathematics Knowledge (MK) Questions on high school mathematics including geometry and algebra. 25 24
Electronics Information (EI) Items on basic electronic circuitry, principles of electronics and terminology.. 20 9
Mechanical Comprehension (MC)) Questions on basic physical and mechanical principles. 25 19
Assembling Objects (AO)**) Items on spatial orientation; Measures capacity to recognize spatial connections. 16 9


*Divided into two subtests on the CAT-ASVAB.
**Included only in the CAT-ASVAB.

Versions of the ASVAB

Student ASVAB
Also known as the high school version or the Institutional ASVAB, the Student ASVAB is a paper version of the examination given at schools all over the United States under the collaboration of the Department of Defense and the Department of Education. Its main purpose is to assist the schools’ guidance counseling department in giving recommendations on possible career paths to high school students, whether for civilian or military areas. Results from this version of the exam may also be used to evaluate applications for military enlistment, should you apply within two years from taking the exam.

Enlistment ASVAB
Also referred to as the production version, the Enlistment ASVAB is administered by military recruiters. This comes in two formats—paper and computerized, the latter also being referred to as the Computer Adaptive Testing ASVAB or CAT-ASVAB. The paper version is very similar to the Student ASVAB, while the CAT-ASVAB has one subtest not available in the student version, which is Assembling Objects or AO. Also, a subtest called Auto & Shop Information has been divided into two separate subtests in the computerized version.

The Enlistment ASVAB is typically conducted and processed at Military Entrance Processing Stations or MEPS, where, aside from taking the CAT-ASVAB, applicants also go through a medical physical examination and a security screening. While many take the CAT-ASVAB, at times, MEPS staff may administer the paper version of the ASVAB to applicants at remote testing locations across the country. You can also take the CAT-ASVAB at a Mobile Examining Team (MET) site.



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