UPDATED 2021

ASVAB Test Guide

ASVAB Test Summary
What: The exam determines one's placement in the military.
Who: The test is administered by the Department of Defense and offered to prospective military recruits.
Where: Exams are offered at high schools and Military Entrance Processing Stations.
When: The exam can be taken as early as one's junior year in high school.
How: Computerized.
Type: Multiple choice.
Why: The exam is used to determine one's military career path.
Time: Ranges from 90 minutes to over three hours.
Language: English
Preparation: Many preparation guides, books and other materials are available.
Cost: No cost.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a multiple-choice exam that primarily determines one’s qualification for placement in the U.S. military.

According to the ASVAB Career Exploration Program, the ASVAB was created in 1968 by the U.S. Department of Defense and has since been the subject of research regarding how well the exam predicts success in a multitude of occupations. The test is taken by any person interested in enlisting in the military and is also an optional exam for most high school students during the eleventh grade. An applicant’s score on the ASVAB can be critical, as certain sections of the test are used to comprise the score on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), which determines one’s eligibility for entrance into the military. According to the official site of the ASVAB, the exam is administered to more than one million military applicants in a given year. There is no cost associated with the ASVAB.

The official site of the ASVAB explains that if a high school or post-secondary student decides to take the ASVAB, the test will be taken in conjunction with the ASVAB Career Exploration Program. If a potential military applicant decides to take the ASVAB, but is not currently a student, he or she must first speak to a military recruiter; a local recruiting office can be found at http://www.todaysmilitary.com. If the recruiter decides the applicant is qualified to take the ASVAB, he or she will arrange a time and date for the applicant to take the exam at a local Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) or a Military Entrance Test site (MET).

What to Expect on the ASVAB

The ASVAB is made up of multiple-choice questions that evaluate the applicant’s overall knowledge and skills. There are three formats of the ASVAB:

  • Student ASVAB
  • CAT-ASVAB, a computer-adaptive test
  • MET-site ASVAB, a written exam used solely for people who want to enlist in the military

About 70% of military applicants take the CAT-ASVAB. Each exam is different, but all are made up of nine or 10 subtests in the following areas:

  • General Science
  • Arithmetic Reasoning
  • Word Knowledge
  • Paragraph Comprehension
  • Mathematics Knowledge
  • Auto Information
  • Shop Information
  • Mechanical Comprehension
  • Assembling Objects and Electronics Information

On the CAT-ASVAB, each question’s difficulty is determined by the answer to the previous question. If a question is answered wrong, the computer will follow that question with an easier question.

Each subtest is timed, but time limits vary for different formats of the test. The CAT-ASVAB takes about an hour and a half, whereas the MET-site ASVAB takes three and a half hours.

Scoring the ASVAB

There is no pass or fail on the ASVAB, but the score will help determine a military applicant’s occupation once he or she is admitted into the military. Some occupations have minimum score requirements in certain sections. Test takers with military goals should take time to study those particular subjects to ensure they score well enough on the exam to be able to pursue their ideal military career field.

Thinking about taking the ASVAB? Check out our ASVAB Test Directory.