All About the CAT Version of ASVAB

ASVAB CAT - Why Should You Prefer It?

Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery or the ASVAB is the first step for those whose dream is to get enlisted in the U.S. Military Services. It is available in 3 versions: CAT-ASVAB, P&P-ASVAB and the Student-ASVAB.
CAT-ASVAB is the online ASVAB testing option. On the other hand, the P&P-ASVAB is the paper and pencil version and the Student-ASVAB is administered to students who want to identify their career options.


The Computer Adaptive Testing version of the ASVAB is preferred by many applicants. This version is an automated test administration system. This test is administered at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). All the questions are multiple-choice questions and once the answers are submitted, the candidates cannot change them.

In this testing, the difficulty level of the succeeding question is decided by the answer given to the previous question. If the candidate gives the right answer, then the next question's difficulty level is increased. Hence, the difficulty level of the test is tailored to suit the capability of the applicant.

Another major difference in this version from the traditional methods of testing is that the candidate can move to the next subtest once the previous subtest is completed. This means that, the candidates usually complete the test in a shorter time duration than the stipulated time. If a condition arises where the candidate is not in a position to complete the test in time, the unanswered questions are answered at random and scored. This is a very rare case scenario as most candidates finish the test much before the allotted time.

The Subtests

There are 10 subtests in this version. These 10 subtests fall under four different domains.

1. Science & Technology Domain

  • General Science (GS)
  • Mechanical Comprehension (MC)
  • Electronics Information (EI)
  • Auto Information (AI)
  • Shop Information (SI)

2. Math Domain

  • Mathematics Knowledge (MK)
  • Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)

3. Verbal Domain

  • Word Knowledge (WK)
  • Paragraph Comprehension (PC)

4. Spatial Domain

  • Assembling Objects (AO)

Duration of the Test

In this test, the candidates can pace their responses. Typically the test is for 154 minutes but on an average examinees finish the test in about 90 minutes. Each subtest has a time limit but examinees can move on to the next subtest after completing the previous one. The following table shows the subtests with the total number of questions and time allotted for each subtest.

Subtest No. of Questions Time Duration (minutes)
General Science (GS) 16 8
Mechanical Comprehension (MC) 16 20
Electronics Information (EI) 16 8
Auto Information (AI) 11 7
Shop Information (SI) 11 6
Mathematics Knowledge (MK) 16 20
Arithmetic Knowledge (AR) 16 39
Word Knowledge (WK) 16 8
Paragraph Comprehension (PC) 11 22
Assembling Objects (AO) 16 16
Total 145 questions 154 minutes

Scoring in CAT-ASVAB

Scoring is a very important aspect in this version. This is because; each candidate gets a different set of questions based on his/her ability. This scoring system was arrived at after 20 years of extensive research. Under this system, the scores that are released are not the raw scores. Instead, the raw scores of each subtest undergo a processing called "equating". This equating takes into consideration the difficulty level of the questions answered. Finally, the scores the candidates get will be the same as the scores they would have got if they had written the P&P-ASVAB.

Why Prefer CAT-ASVAB?

There are many reasons why candidates prefer to take the CAT-ASVAB. These are the advantages of the CAT-ASVAB over the P&P-ASVAB:

  • The time duration of the test is less compared to the P&P version of the ASVAB
  • The candidates can answer the subtests at their own pace
  • Minimum scoring errors, as everything are computerized
  • The Scoring accuracy is also increased
  • The candidates can get the score immediately after completing the test.
  • The test security is also increased

Disadvantages of the CAT-ASVAB

For any test system, there will be advantages and disadvantages and the same is the case with this test. The major disadvantage in the online testing method is that, the candidates cannot change the answer once it is submitted. Apart from this, there are no other aspects of this version of the test that can be counted under its disadvantages.


Clearly the advantages of the CAT-ASVAB outnumber the disadvantages. Therefore, we can conclude that the best method to take the ASVAB will be to take up the CAT-ASVAB.