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Enlisting in the United States Military requires completing an examination called the “Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery”, which is better known by the acronym “ASVAB”. In the military ASVAB test scores are used to determine the personal strengths and knowledge that a candidate has. This helps the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, or Air Force determine which kinds of military job types – known as “Military Occupational Specialties” – that a new enlistee would perform well at.
The ASVAB is a multiple choice examination that is completed over the course of three hours. It is administered by representatives from the United States Federal Government. Those currently in school can often take the examination at their school, or a nearby one. Those that are no longer in school should consult with a local recruiting office in order to determine when and where the test can be taken.
The military ASVAB test covers nine different knowledge areas. As a result, the test is split into different sections that are completed during the 3 hour testing period. Prior to each section, the test administrator will announce the time limit for that section. The nine test areas included on the ASVAB are:
- General Science (GS) – includes topics from live sciences, earth and space sciences, and physical science
- Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) – this section focuses on solving basic arithmetic word problems
- Word Knowledge (WK) – focuses on understanding of words through synonyms
- Paragraph Comprehension (PC) – determines ability to obtain information from written materials
- Mathematics Knowledge (MK) – focuses on knowledge of mathematic concepts and usage thereof
- Electronics Information (EI) – determines knowledge of electrical currents, circuits, devices and systems
- Auto and Shop Information (AS) – focuses on automotive maintenance and repair, as well as wood and metal shop practices
- Mechanical Comprehension (MC) – focuses on knowledge of the principles of mechanical devices, structures, and materials
- Assembling Objects (AO) – determines proficiency at determining spatial relations
Each section of the test is designed in order to determine how well an enlistee would fit into various occupational categories within their respective branch of the military. Each occupation, or MOS, has a differing level of qualifying requirements. For instance, occupations that involve vehicle maintenance would require a higher score on the AS portion of the test compared to occupations that involve electronic systems. As a result, lacking expert proficiency in any particular topic, or even having only a passing familiarity with a particular topic, does not rule out the possibility of taking on fulfilling, interesting MOS assignments.
The nine test categories above determine a person’s Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score – which is the store that most individuals are referring to when they reference their ASVAB score. However, the results of each of the nine sections above are then used to compute different ASVAB score types. These score types are often called “line scores”, and it is these scores that have a predominant impact on which MOS that a test-taker would qualify for. For instance, the Army computes the following set of line scores (abbreviations are from the nine sections listed above):
- Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) – Composed of PC, WK, MK, and AR scores
- Clerical (CL) – Composed of WK, PC, AR, and MK scores
- Combat (CO) – Composed of WK, PC, AS, and MC scores
- Electronics (EL) – Composed of GS, AR, MK, and EI scores
- Field Artillery (FA) – Composed of AR, MK, and MC scores
- General Maintenance (GM) – Composed of GS, AS, MK, and EI scores
- General Technical (GT) – Composed of WK, PC, and AR scores
- Mechanical Maintenance (MM) – Composed of AS, MC, and EI scores
- Operators and Food (OF) – Composed of WK, PC, AS, and MC scores
- Surveillance and Communications (SC) – Composed of WK, PC, AR, AS, and MC scores
- Skilled Technical (ST) – Composed of WK, PC, GS, MC, and MK scores
This is quite different from the line scores that are generated for those individuals that want to enlist in the other military branches. For example, the Navy and Coast Guard’s line score categories are very different from the line score categories used by the Army. The number of possible line scores that an applicant to the Marine Corps can have is much smaller than the number of line scores computed for applicants to the Army, Navy, or Coast Guard. The Air Force is remarkably different, and uses a composite line score system that sorts individuals into only four line score categories.
The minimum AFQT score necessary to enlist differs depending on educational background. This is because persons that complete traditional educational requirements (completing high school successfully, attending college) are the most likely to complete their term of service in its entirety. Ninety percent of all first-time military recruits are required to be high school graduates. People with high school diplomas, college diplomas, or more than 15 hours of college credit must score above 31 for the Army, 25 for the Navy, 36 for the Air Force, 32 for the Marines, and 45 for the Coast Guard. People that have GEDs or other credentials equivalent to a high school diploma must score at least 50 in order to be considered for any branch, except for the Air Force, which requires a score of 65. Note, however, that simply meeting these minimums does not mean that an applicant will necessarily be accepted for enlistment – these are simply mandatory minimums. As a result, those without a high school diploma must depend upon an exceptional AFQT score.
AFQT scores are divided into different categories. The most exceptional category is Category I, which includes scores between 93 and 99. Category 2 includes scores between 65 to 92. Category III is split into two sections, which includes A (50 to 64) and B (31 to 49) respectively. At the present time, Category IV (10 to 30; split into grades A, B and C) scores do not make one eligible for enlistment in any military branch. In addition, any score that falls in Category V (0 to 9) automatically excludes an individual from eligibility for military service, as required by US law.
If you have any questions or comments about an upcoming military ASVAB test, or if you have completed it and want to share some advise please feel free to add your voice in the comments section below.