Why are ASVAB tests conducted?

To get enlisted in the U.S. military services one has to take up the ASVAB test. It is administered by the Department of Defense and is administered to more than 14,000 schools and Military Processing Stations all through the U.S. The ASVAB tests the individual's aptitude in 4 different domains. They are Verbal, Math, Science and Technical and Spatial.

The ASVAB tests are conducted at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). The ASVAB can also be taken at a Military Entrance Test (MET) site if the MEPS is far away. The ASVAB is administered by paper and pencil at most MET sites and by computer at all MEPS.

Subtests in the ASVAB

There are 9 subtests in this multiple aptitude ASVAB tests. They are,

  • Arithmetic Reasoning - AR
  • General Science - GS
  • Paragraph Comprehension - PC
  • Mathematics Knowledge - MK
  • Word Knowledge - WK
  • Automotive and Shop Information (AS)
  • Electronics Information - EI
  • Assembling Objects - AO
  • Mechanical Comprehension - MC

The General Science (physical and biological sciences knowledge), Electronics Information (electricity and electronics knowledge), Auto Information (automobile technology knowledge), Shop Information (tools and shop technology and practices knowledge) and Mechanical Comprehension (mechanical and physical principles knowledge) subtests fall under the Science and Technology domain. Arithmetic Reasoning (ability to solve arithmetic word problems) and Mathematical Knowledge (knowledge of high school mathematics) subtests come under the Math domain. Word Knowledge (ability to select correct meaning) and Paragraph Comprehension (ability to collect information from a passage) subtests come under Verbal domain. Assembling Objects (ability to understand and comprehend how an object will look when all its parts are put together) falls under the spatial domain.

Versions in ASVAB Tests

  • The Computerized ASVAB
    The computerized ASVAB, also called the CAT-ASVAB is an adaptive test. It means that the test adapts to the level of the examinee's ability. Based on the answer to a question, the difficulty level of the following question is determined.
  • The Paper and Pencil ASVAB (P&P - ASVAB)
    This is a traditional type of test where all the examinees answer the same set of questions.
  • The Student ASVAB
    This ASVAB is used for students to explore their career options. This is a pen and pencil type test and comprises of 8 subtests.
Type Subtest No. of Questions Time Duration (minutes)
AR 16 39
WK 16 8
PC 11 22
MK 16 20
EI 16 8
AI 11 7
SI 11 6
MC 16 20
AO 16 16
P&P-ASVAB GS 25 11
AR 30 36
WK 35 11
PC 15 13
MK 25 24
EI 20 9
AS 25 11
MC 25 19
AO 25 15

Time Duration of the Subtests

The total time for the ASVAB tests is 3 hours. The time duration for each of these subtests is different. The time duration for the CAT-ASVAB and P&P ASVAB is also different.
The table below gives the time duration for each of the subtest for both the CAT-ASVAB and P&P-ASVAB. The number of questions in each subtest is also given. The CAT-ASVAB has 10 subtests since the Auto Shop subtest is divided into 2 subtests - Auto Information and Shop Information.

Purpose of ASVAB Tests

ASVAB tests are administered to select potential military recruits. These tests also identify an individual's strengths and identify the job the individual will be good at. For this, the scores of the subtests of the ASVAB tests are used.
Standard score is the score obtained by an individual in each of the subtests. AFQT score is the ASVAB score in 4 subtests (Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension and Mathematics Knowledge). This score determines the eligibility of a candidate to get enlisted in the military services. This score is given as a percentile and the minimum requirement for each of the branches of the military services is different. There are 5 branches, namely, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Cops. The composite score is calculated by using different formulae and rules. These are used for many purposes including the analysis of the best suited jobs.

The ASVAB test scores are mainly used for three purposes. They are

  1. Enlistment Eligibility
  2. Military Job Assignment and
  3. Career Exploration

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