Does the ASVAB Change Every Year? 

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, or ASVAB for short, is a standardized aptitude test used by all branches of the armed services to sort out new recruits as far as initial acceptance into a service branch and their ensuing career placement in the military.  The test has been used for over 50 years but has seen some major changes along the way. 

No, the ASVAB does not change every year.  However, it goes through revisions periodically that result in improvements and scoring and ranking for the test takers.  Revisions have resulted in three formats of the ASVAB currently available to test takers. 

History of the ASVAB 

Since the early 1900s, the branches of the armed services have used some type of aptitude test to classify and qualify their new recruits.  Initially, it was dependent on each branch to develop and implement their own tests for new recruits to take.  While this was successful, there was a need for standardization across all branches of the military, and in 1950 the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). 

As new methods and technologies became available, the Department of Defense knew it needed a way to classify recruits and ensure that their investment in this recruits military education would be a wise investment and that the recruit would serve well in his chosen role.  For over 100 years, the United States military branches have worked to do this successfully. 

The AFQT was the first test utilized by all branches of the armed service.  It served in this function until 1973, when the Air Force switched to the ASVAB, followed shortly by the other branches.  By 1976 all branches had switched to the ASVAB, and the AFQT remained as part of the scoring process for the test.  The ASVAB had its roots in student testing. 

When introduced in 1968, the ASVAB was part of the Department of Defense’s Armed Services Student Testing program.  It was first used during the Vietnam War era and was offered to high school students as a way to begin gauging specific knowledge and abilities in core fields with the end goal of assigning test-takers areas of interest and abilities in certain careers. 

While the ASVAB at this time did not serve as a recruitment tool, the Department of Defense kept and compiled all the data and it wasn’t long before the data was shared with recruiters who might seek out high schoolers who scored high on the exam. 

The ASVAB has survived several major revisions and additions over the years, but it still remains an integral part of the Student Testing Program and is currently offered in over half the high schools in the United States, and over 40 million people have taken the test since its inception.  The Department of Defense maintains the ASVAB and oversees any changes to the testing program. 

Major Changes Over the Years 

Does the ASVAB Change Every Year? 

As mentioned above, the ASVAB was first used in the Student Testing Program. By design, the initial ASVAB format, while serving as a recruitment tool for the armed services, would specifically highlight career areas of interest for high school students.  

As the armed services quickly realized the ASVAB was also a favorable tool for accessing their possible recruits and enlistees, and one by one they began to use it for that purpose.  Within 8 years, all branches used it which resulted in some additional changes. 

The first revision occurred in 1976, followed by a second one in 1980.  In 1990 the Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) was introduced which allowed for computer-based testing at certain locations that sped up test times and offered adaptive testing for the first time. 

When was the ASVAB Last Updated? 

In 2002, the last major revision occurred for the ASVAB testing program.  The result of that revision is the same test that is used today.  The revision included the removal of a few subtest areas and the introduction of some new ones.  The final product was put into effect for the CAT ASVAB right away. 

The 2002 Paper and Pencil (P&P ASVAB) revision was released the next year.  In 2004 there was a minor adjustment to the scoring system to more accurately reflect the percentile ranking process.  Since then the ASVAB has remained unchanged.  

Like many assessment tools, over time the ASVAB saw many changes based on changes and current needs of society.  For example, the initial ASVAB included a subtest on tool knowledge.  That was removed after the first revision and the current test includes technology-based questions that would not have been possible in the first tests. 

Current Formats of the ASVAB 


Does the ASVAB Change Every Year? 

Currently, there are 3 formats of the ASVAB commonly available: the ASVAB Career Exploration Program (ASVAB CEP), The Computer Adaptive Test ASVAB (CAT ASVAB), and the Paper and Pencil ASVAB (P&P ASVAB).  There is a new format that is available known as the iCAT ASVAB, which is an internet-based CAT ASVAB test and can be taken in certain circumstances where traveling to testing locations is too difficult.   

Each of these formats targets a specific audience or demographic.  The Department of Defense has spent a lot of time developing these formats in order to maximize the efficiency of the overall ASVAB testing program and has perfected the process of finding the best military career paths for its recruits. 

The first format is the ASVAB used for career exploration by high school students and some college students, commonly referred to as the ASVAB CEP.  This is the remnant of the original ASVAB with its focus still on career exploration for teens and young adults.  The Department of Defense partners with schools to offer the test to aid in developing career paths for high school students. 

The schools provide the proctors and facilities for taking the test.  The test is timed, and students have 9 subtest categories with a set amount of questions in each subtest.  Those 9 subtests are General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Electronics Information, Auto and Shop Information, Mechanical Comprehension, and Assembling Objects. 

After the results are scored, the ASVAB CEP reveals areas of interest-based on the answers to the questions.  The career possibilities cover an extremely large spectrum of possible job interests.  Many schools use this as a tool to help the students find a focus for their career path and in turn their high school education track. 

The results also return the standardized Armed Forces Qualifying Test Score or AFQT Score.  This score is a combination of 4 primary subtest scores and is used by those wishing to join the military to qualify for different branches of the military.  Those who take the ASVAB CEP can use the test results for 2 years should they wish to join the military. 

What do ASVAB scores mean? Find out here:


The Paper and Pencil ASVAB is offered to those considering a career in the armed services.  It is like the ASVAB CEP, except it does not return areas of interest or any of the other ASVAB CEP career guidance results.  The purpose of this test is to quite simply qualify recruits for the armed services and assign them a career path based on their scores. 

Taking the P&P ASVAB, usually referred to as the ASVAB, is slowly becoming less available as more testing locations are switching over to computer-based testing.  However, there are still many places offering this timed test.  It is a written test where the test taker can go back and review and change answers. 

This test must be scheduled via a recruiter.  Taking the test does not commit you to enlist.  The recruiter will schedule the test for you at a Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS, or a Military Entrance Test Site, or METS.  The test is scored off-site and the final results are sent later to your recruiter. 

Once finished and scored, the test reveals an AFQT Score which will enable the recruit to enter any branch of the armed services for which they qualify.   


Does the ASVAB Change Every Year? 

The Computer Adaptive Test introduced originally in 1990 is a format of the ASVAB offered on a computer.  The computer can analyze the answers and adapt future questions to the knowledge level of the test taker.

The result is a shorter test that can focus more on the level of knowledge of the taker.  In this version, once you answer a question, it is final.  You can not go back and review and make changes to your answers.   

There is a slight difference in the subtests in which the CAT ASVAB separates out the Auto and Shop Information.  The scores are returned immediately with the CAT ASVAB, and the score result is formatted in the same way as the results from the P&P ASVAB.  

Despite the adaptive nature of this test, there is no marked difference in score between the P&P ASVAB and the CAT ASVAB.  The advantage of the CAT ASVAB is the adaptive nature of the test questions and the computer-based aspect of it allowing paperless testing, immediate scoring, and considerably shorter test-taking time frame. 

What Military Careers are Available? 

When the ASVAB is scored, the combination of subtest scores and high and low scores in certain content areas returns multiple options for military career choices.  The military then takes these scores and converts them into suggested occupations. 

The Military uses the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) system to realize career possibilities based on ASVAB test scores.  While some branches have unique careers specific to their individual operations, the ASVAB is universal enough that it can still effectively categorize results and assign recruits a MOS where they can find success. 

There are breakdowns available that show how the subtests combine to move candidates to certain areas of career development.  Despite this information being available, it is almost impossible to cheat the ASVAB to get the desired result.  Your best bet is to answer accurately and honestly. 

If once the scoring is completed, you do not score high enough to be placed in a career path that you desired, it is possible to apply for a variance.  If granted, the variance will allow you to serve in a role that you received a lower score in which would usually eliminate you from that career path. 

The military is also looking at the Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System (TAPAS) as a supplement to the ASVAB.  The TAPAS looks at the motivation and potential unrealized potential of a recruit.  The TAPAS has been offered in certain settings for about a decade.  And a high TAPAS score is one-way variances are considered, even in cases where the recruit may not have even have scored high enough to join the military. 

Related Questions

Is the ASVAB Different for each Branch of Service? 

There is only one ASVAB used by all 5 branches of the armed services.  Each branch has its own minimum scores necessary to join that branch, but all the questions and results are standardized across all branches of service.   

The AFQT Score is scored on a 1-100 scale.  The minimum scores for acceptance into each branch are as follows:  Air Force36, Army-31, Coast Guard-40, Marines-32, and Navy-35.  Each branch has slight variances in the scoring for exceptions such as reservists and test-takers with GEDs, so some additional research may be necessary if you fall into any of those categories.

Can you study for the ASVAB? 

Since the ASVAB is a test of knowledge, you can successfully study for it to improve your scores.  Practice tests are available, and study guides can also be found that will help prepare you for the test.  You can take the test multiple times, so if you do not get the scores you were hoping for, you can study and take it again. 

While working to improve your score, keep in mind that when you enlist, your most recent test score will be the score that is used for your entrance and placement in the military, so be sure to keep that in mind if you look at taking multiple tests. 

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To learn more on how to pass the ASVAB exam click here!

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.