ASVAB Scoring

When one has to appear for an exam, it is necessary to understand  it's purpose, how it is styled, what the questions are and how it is scored. Scoring of an exam is particularly important to set targets for yourself and work towards those. Preparing for an exam without any set targets in mind is like shooting arrows in the air. You fail to put in efforts enough to bear results and before you realize where you went wrong, it is too late.
When you have a score target in mind, you concentrate on achieving it. While you study and take practice tests, the target score is what limits your efforts and achieving it gives you satisfaction. If you do not achieve the score during practice, you work harder to achieve it. Moreover, if you set a high target for yourself, you shall strive to achieve it despite your shortcomings. On the other hand, if you do not set a target, you might not even work up to your full potential by having a relaxed attitude. Hence, it is very important to understand the scoring of ASVAB for achieving success in it.

ASVAB Subtests
The subtests of ASVAB are listed below. Each subtest contains different number of questions and has different time limits for the paper based and computer based versions of the exam.

  1. General Science (GS)
  2. Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)
  3. Word Knowledge (WK)
  4. Paragraph Comprehension (PC)
  5. Mathematics Knowledge (MK)
  6. Electronics Information (EI)
  7. Auto Information (AI)
  8. Shop Information (SI)
  9. Mechanical Comprehension (MC)
  10. Assembling Objects (AO)

The AI and SI subtests are combined as one Auto and Shop Information (AS) in the paper based version. The subtests are scored separately and the scores are combined in different manners for different purposes.

ASVAB Scores
Through a statistical procedure called equating, the scores of ASVAB are balanced across different test forms and methods of administration. Hence, all the scores hold the same meaning, irrespective of how the test is taken. The following scores are reported for the military entrance test.
Standard Scores: These scores are reported for each ASVAB subtest. Standard Scores are scores relative to a national sample of test takers aged between 18 and 23. The Standard score generally achieved by 50% of test takers is 50 and that achieved by 16% of test takers is 60.  
AFQT Scores: These are Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) scores that are calculated and reported as percentiles ranging from 1 to 99. They are computed on the basis of four subtests

  • Arithmetic Reasoning
  • Mathematics Knowledge
  • Paragraph Comprehension
  • Word Knowledge

Since these are percentile scores, they are representative of your performance relative to the performance of a sample group. A study was conducted in 1997 for setting norming standards for calculation of AFQT scores. The sample consisted of 6000 American 18-23 year old youth. If you obtain an AFQT score of 85%, it shows that you have scored better than 85% of the participants of the study.
Composite Scores: These are scores obtained by combining different Standard Scores. The Composite Scores are used for different purposes and are computed using fixed rules or formulas.

How are ASVAB Scores Used?
The scores obtained in the exam are used for the following purposes.

  • Enlistment Eligibility

The AFQT scores are used to determine the eligibility of a candidate for military jobs and scoring requirements vary for different Services. The categories of AFQT scores according to the percentile ranges are as follows
Category         Percentile Score Range
I                       93-99
II                     65-92
IIIA                 50-64
IIIB                 31-49
IV                    10-30
V                     1-9
Those who score in AFQT score category IIIA or higher are eligible for enlistment opportunities. The overall ASVAB qualifying score is 36 if you receive your education from a high school and 65 if you have a GED (General Educational Development) degree.

  • Assignment of Military Jobs

A process called classification is used to assign military jobs. The ASVAB scores are used to enable each applicant to obtain the job best suited to his capabilities and for meeting the requirement of filling the correct job option with the most suitable candidate.
For matching the capabilities of applicants with the requirements of different jobs, composite scores of different subtests are used. The subtests are considered according to the different demands of diverse Services and each Service authenticates the set of subtests best suited for the corresponding professional demands.
For instance, Air Force considers four composite scores based on set computational formulas.

    • Mechanical      AR+2(PC+WK)+MC+AS
    • Administrative                        2(PC+WK)+MK
    • General                        2(PC+WK)+AR
    • Electronic                    AR+MK+EI+GS       

For each of the following composite scores as well, there is a formula.
The Army Composite Scores are General Technical, Clerical, Combat, Electronics Repair, Field Artillery, General Maintenance, Mechanical Maintenance, Operators/Food, Surveillance/Communication and Skilled Technician.
The Marine Corps Composite Scores are Mechanical, Clerical, General Technician and Electrical.
The Navy Composite Scores are General Technician, Electronics, Basic Electricity and Electronics, Engineering, Mechanical1, Mechanical2, Nuclear, Operations, Hospitalman and Administrative.

  • Career Exploration Aid

The ASVAB Career Exploration Program is meant to help students understand civilian and military professional characteristics. It helps them in self-assessment and understanding how fit they are for different professions. Hence, the program guides students to choose a profession that is best suited to their abilities.
Eight subtests are administered under this program; the Assembling Objects subtest is not administered. Three composite scores known as Career Exploration Scores are reported. These are

  • Verbal Skills
  • Math Skills
  • Science and Technical Skills

An ASVAB Summary Results sheet is made available to students and counselors for understanding scores better. The Career Exploration Scores, Standard Scores and score bands are reported in this Summary Result sheet. It also contains explanations of the scores and how they can be used.

You can take a retest if you wish to do so due to any reason. The condition on the first and second retests is that each can be taken after a minimum time of one month after the preceding test. The third retest and any subsequent retest can be taken after a minimum gap of six months. This is applicable to both the student test and the enlistment test under the Career Exploration Program and Enlistment Testing Program respectively.
Retesting is not easy; studying the same syllabus the second time around can be tedious and requires a lot of motivation. Besides, you shall have to wait for long before you can take your third retest. Hence, you should put your best foot forward in the initial attempts itself.

How to Obtain the Maximum Possible Score
For obtaining the maximum possible score, you need to be systematic in your approach. The first and foremost requirement of preparation is understanding the details of the exam. You should then contact your recruiter to clarify any doubts you have and to check the other eligibility criteria. Only after these initial steps should you go ahead with preparation. Learn about the exam pattern and the score required for your choice of profession. This shall make you more focused and hence you shall prepare better. Going ahead with preparation without these preliminary steps shall be imprudent.

Obtaining a high score shall place you in a position in which you can make your own decisions and join the Service of your choice. On the other hand, if you score low, you are left at the mercy of others to make decisions about your future. It shall only be in your best interest to motivate yourself to prepare well for the exam.