Many veterans entered military service after taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, which scores recruits in a group of ten areas for the best-suited job.
The ASVAB is a proctored, timed, three-hour test that must be administered under a specific set of conditions as defined by Department of Defense policy and the recruiting standards in each branch of military service.
During the 21st century, the ASVAB began to supplement its test with the PiCAT, a new technological approach that contained the same kinds of questions in a similar testing format.
PiCAT, which stands for Pre-screening internet-delivered Computer Adaptive Test, is done on the test taker’s own time at home or on any computer where the test taker can work without interruptions.
The recruiter will review the results of the test, and if the test taker decides to enlist, a follow-up exam (see below) is administered to verify the results of the first test.
How is the PiCAT Test Different?
The PiCAT is identical to the ASVAB, with the exception that it is not proctored or timed. You take this test at home without supervision.
Cheating on the PiCAT test is a common question. How does the military prevent cheating in such cases where there is no direct monitoring for at-home testing?
While there are no extraordinary measures taken to prevent people from cheating, there are test rules which state clearly that no outside assistance may be used to solve problems during the test, such as internet resources or reference materials.
But taking the PiCAT exam at home does not entirely rely on the honor system. Your recruiter will administer a 20-minute exam to verify the results of the PiCAT test. That follow-up exam is supervised. If the results of the follow-up test support the results of the PiCAT test, your at-home scores will replace the ASVAB results.
PiCAT makes such a big difference for many recruits who may suffer from test anxiety, and who would prefer to endure a three-hour long exam in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
Some recruits may not be allowed to use PiCAT if they have taken the ASVAB at a Military Entrance Processing Station, or if they have taken the student ASVAB, the recruit is not eligible for PiCAT.
If you sat for ASVAB previously and were not happy with your scores, you will need to discuss retesting options with your recruiter, but you will not have access to PiCAT under DoD policy at the time of this writing.
Preparing to Take PiCAT
If you aren’t sure how to prepare for PiCAT testing, it’s best to talk with a recruiter. There are many online prepparation guides for both ASVAB and PiCAT, and it is a good idea to review such study guides.
Some “Ace the ASVAB” type third-party sellers (and those offering PiCAT equivalents) want you to believe that simply reading the study guides can help you get higher scores. Don’t forget to review algebra, geometry, or mathematical story problems, known subject areas some recruits struggle to solve.
You will want to practice solving sample problems in any area you don’t feel confident in, especially math and reading comprehension.
Where You May Take PiCAT Tests
PiCAT testing is available anywhere there is a reliable internet connection. However access to test materials is controlled, so your recruiter will have to tell you how to log on, where to log on, and provide required passwords about account setup.
Test Subjects and Knowledge Areas
PiCAT is essentially a take-home ASVAB that evaluates the test taker 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
The results are interpreted in different ways depending on the branch of service. The Army breaks down the scores into a set of skill areas that help recruiters determine the new enlistee’s career field. Those skill areas include, as described on the U.S. Army official site:
- Armed Forces Qualification Test
- Field artillery
- General maintenance
- General technical
- Mechanical maintenance
- Operators and food
- Surveillance and communications
- Skilled technical
Deadlines for Testing and Completion
Under the rules in effect at the time of this writing, once your recruiter has provided you with your access code, you will be required to begin taking PiCAT within 72 hours, and you will have 24 hours from the time the test starts to complete it.
“Instant review” of PiCAT test results by the scoring authority (which may be your recruiter) is possible. If you are anxious to see the results of PiCAT quickly, it’s best not to complete the test on a weekend day when your scores may not be available to you until the next duty day.
PiCAT Retest Policy
Traditionally, retesting to improve ASVAB scores has been permitted, but this is administered on a case-by-case basis with your recruiter.
It’s possible to score lower in some areas on the test and higher in others in such a way that eligibility for specific career fields may be questionable without retaking the test to get a higher score in a needed skill area.
Retaking PiCAT may be permitted for technical reasons, test compromise, or other issues. Don’t expect a one-size-fits-all policy in this area. It’s best to arrive for your PiCAT test prepared to move forward with the enlistment process rather than expecting to retake the test “just in case.”
When PiCAT Scores are Low
Recruits have the option of rejecting the scores they earned on the PiCAT in favor of scores received from the full, proctored ASVAB. You will need to discuss this option with your recruiter to learn what is possible with that branch of service, and what is currently allowed under the most recent regulatory updates.
After PiCAT, What Next?
As mentioned at the start of this article, PiCAT testing does require a shorter verification test for the results of the take-home test to count as official ASVAB scores.
This verification is a short, proctored test that lasts 20 minutes to half an hour. Depending on circumstances, recruits may be required to take this verification test at a Military Entrance Processing Station.
Some recruits may have a 30-day deadline to take the follow-up test, usually in the case of delayed enlistment or other circumstances that keep the recruit from going to a Military Entrance Processing Station soon.
Those who do not take the verification test are required to take the full, proctored ASVAB. Additionally, those who do not pass the verification test are also required to take a full ASVAB test.
Validity of Your Test Scores
Once you take PiCAT, your score is official for five years.
PiCAT Test Language Options
There are no foreign-language options for PiCAT. The test is administered in English.
PiCAT Test Availability
To take the Pre-screening internet-delivered Computer Adaptive Test you will need to coordinate with a military recruiter, who will provide you with the necessary access codes and other instructions.
No recruit should schedule testing without study and test-prep time. Your recruiter may be able to recommend study resources, and there are ASVAB/PiCAT test prep materials for sale online.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News.
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