How Your ASVAB Score Effects Your Armed Services Placement
The ASVAB, or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test, is a test that is given to those wishing to join the armed services. Not only does it help decide that you have what it takes mentally to join the armed services, it can also help direct you into the most suitable jobs, or Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). It was developed by the Department of Defense in 1968 and implemented by all branches of the military by 19756. It is a multiple choice test that covers nine areas of knowledge, including; general science, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mathematics knowledge, electronics information, auto and shop information, mechanical information and assembling objects. Practice Questions for all ASVAB content here
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The test can be done using a computer at any Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), or by pen and paper at a Military Entrance Test (MET) site, or high schools and colleges. Both tests are fair but there are a few small differences. The computerized test is an adaptive test. This means that it is slightly different for each applicant and is based on their knowledge level. The difficulty of the questions is based on earlier responses in the test. There are a set number of questions in each category and a time limit. However, you can move on to the next section as soon as you are ready, you do not have to wait out the allocated time. You cannot make changes to your answers once you have submitted them and it is suggested to complete each question – there is a penalty for guessing. On average, the computerized ASVAB Test takes around 90 minutes to complete. Tips for taking a computerized test
The pen and paper version takes a little longer, around three hours to complete. This is because it is a more traditional test and everyone answers each category in the same, allocated time. The pen and paper test has the advantage of being able to change your answers as you go. However, this is limited to each category. Once a category has been completed and collected, you cannot make further changes. You must also wait to move forward in the test until you have been instructed to do so. Unlike the computerized version, if you are running out of time guessing your answers is a good option as there is no penalty for doing so.
Test preparation can be done in the form of online practice questions. It is highly recommended that applicants take advantage of these test simulations as it will help them gain an understanding of the calibre of questions that will be asked in the actual test. Practice questions here
How to prepare for a test
The scoring system of the ASVAB Test can be difficult to understand, especially as the results are broken down into further categories. The scoring system is based on the Item Response Theory (IRT) which designs and scores tests based on the individual’s performance to particular questions. For example, if two people take a test of five questions and they both get two correct, their results are the same, correct? Not exactly. One person may have correctly answered two easy questions, whilst the other person answered two difficult questions correctly. Therefore, despite their results being the same, one person can be considered more proficient than the other.
Once a computer has used this highly technical system to calculate the scores, they are converted into standard scores. This is done by standardizing the scores against the national norms. The national norms were last calculated in 2004. This was from a sample of about 6,000 American youths between the ages of 18 and 23 who underwent testing in 1997.
The next phase is to use calculate the applicant’s AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) results. This score is used to determine whether an applicant is eligible to enlist in various branches of the military and is calculated using four ASVAB subtests. These subtest areas are Paragraph Comprehension, Word Knowledge, Mathematics Knowledge and Arithmetic Reasoning. Each branch has its own minimum AFQT score for enlisting. The AFQT result is given as a percentile, which is effectively a ranking. For example, if an applicant scores 63 it means they performed better than 63 percent of the cohort who took the test. For those taking the test currently, this cohort is the same group of 18-23 year olds who helped established the national norms. The AFQT is often confused as being a test of its own, but it is important to remember that it is simply a result of the ASVAB Test. Applicants only have to sit one exam, and will receive a plethora of different scores and calculations. More about the AFQT
Further calculations determine the line scores which help to determine which army jobs, or Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) an applicant is most suited for. Various subtests from the ASVAB are used in different combinations to work out the line scores. Line scores and their corresponding jobs will be looked at in further detail below.
When an applicant receives their score card they will see three different scores. These include the AFQT score, the CEP score (if the test has been taken as part of the Career Exploration Program at school), and the relative scores of the nine subtests (ten if the computerized test is taken). The applicant is then able to make an appropriate choice for their position in the military.
Jobs in the Army are extremely varied and it’s no surprise that particular jobs require particular skills. Below is a table of the Line Scores in the Army and their corresponding ASVAB Subtest areas.
When an applicant is enlisting in the Army, they must score a minimum in certain line scores in order to be eligible for particular jobs. Some jobs, such as a musician in an Army band, do not require any particular results, whereas others, such as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, need to qualify in multiple line score areas. Common sense may provide a link between certain line scores and specific jobs. For example, most jobs that involve operating or repairing vehicles or machinery require proficiency in Mechanical Maintenance or General Maintenance. Applicants who wish to work in the food serving sector must achieve suitable results in the Operators and Food area. Some more specific examples of Army Military Occupational Specialities and the required line scores can be seen below.
The Air Force
The Air Force have four qualification areas that they use to determine eligibility for particular jobs. These jobs have minimum score requirements in the area that is relevant to the set of skills necessary for the job. For example, jobs that involve administrative duties, logistics and management tasks require the applicant to score appropriately in the Administrative area. Just like the Army, some jobs demand a particular result in more than one area.
The Marine Corps
Just like other branches of the military, the Marine Corps use line scores to determine an applicant’s suitability for Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). The scores needed, and the area in which they come from are guided by the skills and talent needed for a particular position. For example, a job involving communications, radio, computers and telephones will necessitate a suitable score in Electronics.
The Navy does not use line scores, instead they have ratings. Just like other military branches, these ratings are comprised of combinations of the necessary ASVAB Subtests. Ratings correspond to jobs in the Navy and below you will find some examples of Navy Ratings and their minimum ASVAB Subtest scores.
The Coast Guard use scores directly from the ASVAB Test, they do not use line scores. However, they do calculate scores to gain an understanding of what jobs a recruit is most suited to. The general job area and the ASVAB test areas can be seen in the table below.
The National Guard is a reserve military force. Applicants are required to sit the ASVAB Test, just like and other military branch, but the required entrance score is lower than most other branches. The National Guard operates using the same line scores as the Army, as they are effectively the same. The main difference is that members of the Army are in active duty, whilst the National Guard can essentially be seen as a reserve. They are deployed less often and many members of the National Guard will also work in ordinary civilian jobs. However, their Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) are the same, and therefore so are their line score requirements.
Jobs in the military provide great opportunity. The enlistment procedure can be confusing at first, but upon closer inspection it is relatively straight forward. The most important thing for new recruits to consider is the ASVAB Test, although other factors such as physical fitness and health are also major contributing factors. It is recommended to adequately prepare for the test using the many practice options that are available. The higher an applicant scores in the ASVAB, the more opportunities they will have in their preferred military branch. Each branch of the military uses these scores in their own, unique way to further determine eligibility for Military Occupational Specialties. Hopefully, this article has given you a greater insight into how the enlisting process works and what test result requirements are needed for a range of jobs.