What are the ASVAB Percentile Scores?

What You Need To Know About ASVAB Scores

The ASVAB scores are used for two different purposes in the US military recruitment – AFQT scores for deciding the eligibility into military enlisting and ASVAB composite or line scores for determining the job roles for prospective candidates. If aspiring for a military career, it is important that you learn about the scores in detail – the AFQT scores, scoring scale, and the percentile ranks – well ahead of the test dates. Read on to find more about the scores, including the importance of the percentile ranks and scoring categories.

ASVAB Scores – An Overall Picture

The ASVAB is a battery of multiple aptitude subtests that help evaluate the examinees’ abilities, skills and aptitudes in various core areas.The scores you receive, not only decide whether or not you are eligible to serve in the Armed Forces, but also the position in which you should serve. 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.

While the scores of four ASVAB subtests are used for arriving at the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score, which is used to determine the candidates’ eligibility into military enlisting; the overall ASVAB score, appropriately sub-grouped into lines or clusters, is used for the military classification purpose (assigning job roles/career fields for potential candidates).

Each branch of the military has its own AFQT requirements for enlisting candidates. For example, while the Coast Guard has a high AFQT requirement of 45, the Marines has some of the lowest of AFQT score requirements of 31. Similarly, the lines or composites also differ according to the job roles/career fields within each service. For example, the subtests WK, PC, and AR contribute to the Air Force General (G) qualification area, the same subtests club together to form the Army General Technical (GT) line.

For more information on ASVAB scores, refer to: http://official-asvab.com/understand_coun.htm. You can also find a sample ASVAB results sheet at: http://www.asvabprogram.com/downloads/ASR_Poster.pdf.

The ASVAB Scoring Scale

The scoring system used to evaluate the test is based on the Item Response Theory (IRT) model; accordingly, the examinees’ skills, the subtest questions, and the test scores are placed on the same scale. A three-parameter logistic (3PL) model (with the difficulty level of the question, discrimination power of the item, and the guessing probability for the item being the parameters) is utilized here to achieve this.

Both the traditional and the computerized versions of the test use the 3PL model to arrive at the final ability approximation of the candidates (http://official-asvab.com/understand_res.htm). In the adaptive, computerized version (CAT-ASVAB), the 3PL model is also used to select questions as per the candidates’ performance levels.

After computing the final ability of the candidates, the individual scores are converted into standard scores. These relative scores or standard scores are used for all the recruitment and reporting purposes. Standardization of the scores is done by comparing the individual scores against those of a representative sample of American youth (http://official-asvab.com/norming_rec.htm). You can find more information about the development of the ASVAB scoring scale at: http://official-asvab.com/docs/1997score_scale.pdf.

The ASVAB Percentile Scores

The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), as we have seen earlier, is used to measure the candidates’ eligibility for armed forces enlisting. The test evaluates the general cognitive power of the candidates; the AFQT score constitutes of the relative scores of the English and Mathematics subtests. It is this score that is reported as the percentile marks, between 1 and 99. For example, if you have scored 56 in the AFQT sections, it indicates that you have done better than or as good as 56% of the representative sample.

The marks received/AFQT score is further divided into categories for reporting functions. That is, if your score range is between 93 and 99, you fall in the AFQT Category I; if your score range is between 31 and 40, you belong to the AFQT Category IIIB, and so on (http://official-asvab.com/eligibility_app.htm). It should be noted that categories are of much use in the recruitment function. Generally, examinees who score in categories IIIA or above only are considered for military enlistment; also, category V AFQT scores are not counted eligible for enlisting. For more information on how these scoring categories are used for recruitment, refer to the following websites:

AFQT Percentile 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

To summarize, though the AFQT scores are calculated in the same way across the US military service branches. However, the percentile scores differ for each of the branches and as per the job roles that you are looking at. These scores, thus, play a significantly crucial role in recruitment functions.