Detailed Breakdown of the ASVAB Scores

What Do ASVAB Scores Signify?

Though there are no separate tests for enlisting to the various wings of the US armed forces. Only the minimum score requirements for enlisting and classifying into the various military job titles differ for the various services. Also, the ASVAB scores are broken down into different group scores to facilitate military enlisting and classification purposes. Read on to find out more about the division of scores, different score categories, and their significance in the military enlisting process.

The ASVAB Scores in a Nutshell

Depending on the version of the test administered, there are nine (in the traditional ASVAB) or ten (in the CAT-ASVAB) subtests in the ASVAB test. The scores of these subtests are used for multiple purposes. The first important division is  the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score, which is used to determine the candidates' eligibility into military enlisting, across all the branches. The scores of only four subtests, as follows, are used to calculate the AFQT score:





  • Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)
  • Mathematics Knowledge (MK)
  • Paragraph Comprehension (PC)
  • Word Knowledge (WK)

The different branches of the US military forces have different AFQT requirements for enlisting. See the table below for learning about the AFQT score requirements of various military branches:

Armed Force Branch AFQT Scores Required
Coast Guard 45
Air Force 36
Navy 35
Army 31
Marines 31

The next are line scores, which are used for classification purposes. Scores of all the subtests are utilized for this purpose; first the subtests are grouped into various composites and then the relative scores of each of the subtests in any composite or cluster are added up. For more information on the scoring process, refer to: http://official-asvab.com/understand_coun.htm.

Thus, for each candidate taking up the test, there are different types of scores available in the score card  These include the AFQT score, the CEP scores (if the test is taken as part of the Career Exploration Program at school), and the relative scores of the nine subtests (though the CAT-ASVAB administration includes ten subtests, while scoring, the Auto Information and Shop Information subtest scores are combined together). You can find a sample summary results sheet with ASVAB score breakdown at: http://www.asvabprogram.com/downloads/ASR_Poster.pdf.

The ASVAB Scoring Scale

The scoring system is based on the Item Response Theory (IRT) model where the candidates' abilities, the questions, and the scores are placed on the same scale. The model allows the test to be customized according to the performance of individual examinees. The IRT model is based on a three-parameter logistic (3PL) model (parameters being the difficulty level of the question item, discrimination power of the item, and guessing probability for the item).
The 3PL model is utilized for both versions of the test to estimate the final ability approximation of the examinees. In the adaptive version of the test (CAT-ASVAB), the three-parameter logistic model is also used to select questions based on the examinees' performance levels. (http://official-asvab.com/understand_res.htm). Once the final ability computation is done, the scores are converted into standard scores. This is done by standardizing the individual scores against a nationally representative sample based on the national norms available (http://official-asvab.com/norming_rec.htm). The development and evaluation of the ASVAB scoring scale can be found at: http://official-asvab.com/docs/1997score_scale.pdf.

AFQT Categories and ASVAB Line Scores

The AFQT scores are always reported in percentiles (1-99); that is, if your AFQT score is 79, you have done better than or equal to 79% of the representative sample. The AFQT percentiles are further divided into different categories for reporting purposes. At the same time, it should be noted that candidates who score in categories IIIA or above only are considered for enlistment (http://official-asvab.com/eligibility_app.htm); while category V AFQT scores are not generally considered for enlistment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Services_Vocational_Aptitude_Battery).

AFQT Score Range AFQT Category
93-99 I
65-92 II
50-64 IIIA
31-49 IIIB
21-30 IVA
16-20 IVB
10-15 IVC
1-9 V

Job roles or MOS within the forces are determined based on further scoring division. The test scores are grouped appropriately as line scores or qualification areas. Each of the military branches has different lines of different subtests as per the job role requirements. The core lines or qualification areas of various branches can found online at: http://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/asvab/asvab-scores-and-military-jobs.html):

Although, the ASVAB scoring division exists, and the AFQT scores are calculated in the same way across different branches of military service, the test score requirements differ for each of the branches and as per the job roles that you are looking at. The ASVAB score breakdown, thus, plays a critical role in the usability of scores for the intended purposes of enlistment and classification. While the AFQT scores are calculated using only the relevant areas for enlistment, all the core area scores are used in further breakdown of scores for evaluating each individual's abilities and levels.