Everything to Know About the ASVAB Test

Updated: February 1, 2024
In this Article

    The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test is used by each branch of the military to determine a military recruit’s aptitude in ten different areas. The ASVAB test helps assign new recruits into career fields they may be well-suited for, but the ASVAB should not be considered an IQ test. It is a multiple-aptitude battery that measures developed abilities and helps predict future academic and occupational success in the military.

    The ASVAB test is also administered to millions of high school and post-secondary students making it one of the most widely used tests in the world.

    How Does The ASVAB Work? ASVAB Test

    The ASVAB tests recruits in ten different areas. It is presented as ten short tests administered over a three-hour period. Traditionally, the ASVAB is a “proctored” test, meaning that it has required supervision to administer in order to maintain the integrity of the test. However, changes to military recruiting and technology in general have helped the ASVAB evolve as a 21st century tool.

    The Ten Testing Areas

    Military recruiting needs are subject to change, and the ASVAB may evolve with the times; traditionally the test measures aptitude in the following areas:

    • General science
    • Arithmetic reasoning
    • Word knowledge
    • Paragraph comprehension
    • Numerical operations
    • Coding speed
    • Auto and shop information
    • Mathematics knowledge
    • Mechanical comprehension
    • Electronics information

    ASVAB Scoring, Explained

    The ASVAB is not designed as a “pass/fail” type exam, but each branch of the military will have its own scoring requirements. There’s no single score required, since standards may vary among the various branches of the military.

    Traditionally, ASVAB scores are used to determine the recruit’s suitability for various career fields. Military recruiting trends change over time based on need, changes in the military, legislation, and other factors; interpreting a recruit’s ASVAB scores can be affected by these things.

    Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) Score

    You will receive a report with all your scores on it. The most important score is your AFQT score.  This score determines your eligibility to serve in the military.

    Exceptions to this limit are made for about 1% of recruits who exhibit other exceptional qualities and who have a score of at least 25.

    Current Standards for AFQT Scores by Branch

    Each branch of service has their own minimum standards for the ASVAB test. Here are the minimum standards for each branch of service.

    Service BranchRequired AFQT Score: HSRequired AFQT Score: GED
    Air Force3665
    Coast Guard4050

    Minimum AFQT branch scores are subject to change at any time.

    The Best ASVAB Study Guides

    There are a variety of ASVAB study guides including:

    • ASVAB for Dummies: Book + 7 Practice Tests Online + Flashcards + Video by Angie Papple Johnston
    • ASVAB Prep Plus: 6 Practice Tests + Proven Strategies + Online + Video by Kaplan Test Prep
    • ASVAB Practice Test Book: ASVAB Practice Test Questions for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Exam by Trivium Military Exam Prep Team
    • Mometrix ASVAB Study Guide: Test Prep Secrets, Practice Question Book, Step-by-Step Review Video Tutorials by Matthew Bowling

    These guides feature practice tests, pretests and advice about the ASVAB.

    Smarter Academy also offers a Udemy course including ASVAB practice tests.

    The Addition Of PiCAT

    The Pending (formerly Prescreen) Internet Based Computerized Adaptive Test (PiCAT) is a version
    of the ASVAB that applicants can take any time, anywhere, on any personal computer before arriving at
    a MEPS. As an alternative to the current ASVAB testing procedures – the PiCAT saves recruiters’ time, and speeds up the enlistment process.

    Taking the PiCAT exam may, depending on circumstances including scores and other factors, relieve a new recruit of having to take the ASVAB in a proctored setting. In the past, recruits who were preparing to enter military service at Military Entrance Processing Station would take the ASVAB in a group setting; PiCAT can help new recruits avoid having to retake the test. PiCAT test performance and other factors will determine whether or not the ASVAB has to be taken at MEPS.

    Preparing For PiCAT and ASVAB

    One of the most important things a potential military recruit can do to prepare for PiCAT and ASVAB testing is to have a conversation with a recruiter about the state of the current test and what areas the recruit should concentrate on. The “official” word on military sites such as Army.mil includes the following advice:

    You don’t have to go through any special preparation to take the ASVAB. Getting a good night’s rest and arriving on time are the two most important steps you can take to prepare.

    This advice, though well-intentioned, doesn’t address the needs of some new recruits who are interested in specific career fields but are worried about their test performance-especially in areas related to math comprehension. Potential recruits who feel deficient in math, language, or science skills should have a frank conversation with their recruiter to discuss possible refresher study or even supplemental classes in any self-perceived “problem areas” before taking the test.

    Those who are taking PiCAT should ask their recruiter about technical requirements for taking PiCAT remotely including browser issues, security and what happens if there is a technical interruption in the exam process.

    Where Do I Take ASVAB/PiCAT Tests?

    Your recruiter will tell you where, when and how ASVAB and PiCAT tests are administered. Availability of proctored ASVAB tests varies depending on geographic location; coordination of PiCAT testing (rather than scheduling, since PiCAT is designed as an on-demand type of testing) will also be handled by a military recruiting official.

    Army.mil says of ASVAB/PiCAT testing, “The ASVAB is usually given in schools by test administrators from the federal government. Schools determine where and when the ASVAB will be given. See your academic advisor for more information. If you’re not currently in school, contact your local recruiter.” Test administration and scheduling procedures are handled differently by each branch of the military.

    ASVAB/PiCAT Test Languages

    Military testing via ASVAB and PiCAT is in English only.

    Can I Retake the ASVAB/PiCAT?

    Retesting is possible depending on a variety of circumstances. It is possible to retake the ASVAB or PiCAT, but you will need to coordinate this with your recruiting office. In general, you may be required to wait a month or more to retake the ASVAB test; each branch of the service may have different requirements that must be fulfilled in order to retest. The PiCAT can be re-taken only if two or more years have elapsed.

    There may be situations requiring a new test including administrative problems, technical difficulties, perceived or actual test compromise and other factors. Retesting to gain higher scores is permitted.

    Some recruits take the test with a certain career field in mind, don’t score high enough to qualify, and ask for a retest in order to have another shot at the job they want. Talk to your recruiter about this option before you take the test and know what may be required by your branch of service before you may need to retest.

    Can I Bring Study Guides, Notes Or Other Materials To ASVAB/PiCAT Testing?

    No, outside materials are not permitted. PiCAT Test takers are warned not to use internet resources while taking the test.

    If I Take PiCAT, Will I Be Retested At MEPS?

    PiCAT testing does require a shorter “verification test” for new recruits. This is in the form of a short, proctored test that lasts about a half an hour. Depending on circumstances, recruits may be required to take this verification test at a Military Entrance Processing Station, or within 30 days of taking PiCAT if the recruit is not going to MEPS right away. Those who do not pass the verification test will be required to take the ASVAB.

    Written by Veteran.com Team