How to Read ASVAB Scores: What Does Yours Mean? 

There is no overall score for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) portion of the ASVAB is the primary requirement and does have one minimum qualifying score for each branch of the military enlistment. The rest of the sub-sections are used to determine job placement within each branch of the military.  

Each branch of the military has different ASVAB score requirements to qualify for job placement. The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score on the ASVAB is used to determine enlistment qualifications and utilizes the scores from Word Knowledge, Math Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, and Arithmetic Reasoning. The exam’s remaining sub-section scores are combined in different formulas to determine job strengths within each military branch. To understand better what these scores mean, you will need to look at the following: 

  1. Calculating AFQT Scores 
  2. AFQT Requirements by Branch 
  3. AFQT Requirements for Special Programs 
  4. ASVAB Scores by Branch 

You’ve taken the ASVAB, now what do you do with all the scores? What do all the acronyms mean? The scorecard can be challenging to read, but the following article will give you a breakdown of what your scores mean and what each branch of the military is looking for. 

Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Overview 

The ASVAB was created to test your strengths. Some people often think it is to check your IQ, but that isn’t the case. When you receive your scorecard after taking the test, several things will become apparent. One, there are a lot of acronyms (the government loves their abbreviations), and two, there are different types of scores represented. These scores indicate different things and include:  

  1. Your raw score 
  2. Standard or Line Score 
  3. Composite Score 
  4. Percentile Score  

You may be wondering what these scores mean. Remember, the scores for Word Knowledge (WK), Paragraph Comprehension (PC), Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), and Math Knowledge (MK) are all used towards your Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). All branches of the military use these scores for enlistment purposes. The remaining subtests are used to test your strengths for job placement. 

Now let’s see what these scores will tell you. 

Raw Score 

How to Read ASVAB Scores: What Does Yours Mean? 

Raw scores are the total points received on each subtest. These scores won’t be on your ASVAB scorecard but are used to calculate scores on the sub-tests. Though you won’t see these, it is essential to know where your other scores are derived. An interesting fact to consider is that raw scores aren’t determined solely from right or wrong answers. Harder questions are given more points than easier questions. So if you’re trying to keep track during practice tests, keep this in mind. 

Standard Score 

Now we’re getting into the trickier part of understanding the score-reading. Standard scores don’t follow the bell-curve rule. This means they aren’t based on a scale of 1-100, with people mostly scoring into the 70th percentile and above range. It means they convert your raw score based on a standard distribution with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10. What does this mean? If you remember from high school math, a mean is an average. So the average score on the ASVAB would be 50. A standard deviation is how spread out the numbers are; in this case, it would be within 10 points. On the ASVAB, most people score between 30-70 with 50 as average and anything above 60 as above-average. You’ll find Standard Scores on your ASVAB scorecard. 

Composite or Line Score 

These are also on your ASVAB scorecard. They are broken down by each branch of the military. Each branch has a different formula when determining your composite score. A composite score is an average of your scores on different subtests, all taken from your raw scores.  

Percentile Scores 

Percentile scores compare your scores on a scale of 1-99 with other people who have taken this exam. For example, if you score into the 80 percentile, you did better than 80% of the other people on that portion of the exam. On the AFQT, your score will be presented as a percentile. 

Here are the meanings of the different acronyms on your ASVAB scorecard you may see: 

  1. General Science (GS)
  2. Mechanical Comprehension (MC)
  3. Auto and Shop Information (AS)
  4. Electronics Information (EI)
  5. Assembling Objects (AO) 
  6. Math Knowledge (MK)* 
  7. Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)* 
  8. Word Knowledge (WK)* 
  9. Paragraph Comprehension (PC)* 

*Scores used on the AFQT 

Calculating AFQT Scores 

How to Read ASVAB Scores: What Does Yours Mean? 

The AFQT is the big score, which lets you know whether you even qualify to enlist. The four qualifying parts on the ASVAB are Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Math Knowledge. You will need to study and or review these four areas for sure as you prepare for the ASVAB if you’re looking to enlist. This is how they calculate your AFQT score: 

  1. They add your Word Knowledge and Paragraph Comprehension scores together. 
  2. Convert that score to a Standard Score known as your Verbal Expression (VE). 
  3. They then determine your raw score by doubling your Verbal Expression score, then adding your Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) and Math Knowledge (MK) scores.  
  4. The basic formula for this is AFQT Raw Score = 2(WK + PC) + AR + MK. 
  5. Then, this is all converted to a percentile score, comparing how you did with all the other ASVAB test-takers. A good score would put you in the 50th percentile or above. 

AFQT Score Requirements  

Each of the different branches of the military has different AFQT score requirements to be able to enlist. All branches use percentile scores to be placed into one of five categories. So your AFQT score is critical. It will determine trainability placements, incentives later on, and internal tracking of personnel. Look at the following to see where you stand: 

  1. Category 1 places you in the Outstanding trainability category. You will need to be in the 93-99 percentile range. 
  2. Category 2 places you in the Excellent Trainability category. You will need to be in the 65-92 percentile range. 
  3. Category 3A places you in the Above Average Trainability category. You will need to be in the 50-64 percentile range. 
  4. Category 3B places you in the Average Trainability category. You will need to be in the 31-49 percentile range. 
  5. Category 4 places you in the Below Average Trainability category. You will need to be in the 10-30 percentile range. 
  6. Category 5 states that you are not trainable if you score in the 9th percentile and below. 

The US Congress has placed limits on how many of some categories can be enlisted. For example, 60% of people enlisted need to come from the first three categories. Also, nobody in Category 5 can be enlisted and no more than 4% of Category 4. There is also a 10% limit on how many non-high school diploma recruits can become enlisted.  

Wondering how to study for the ASVAB? Check out this article:

AFQT Score Requirements by Branch

Different branches of the military require different minimum scores. If you want to enlist in a specific branch, please look at the following score limitations to get an idea of what AFQT score you will need: 

  1. Air Force: A minimum score of 36 on the AFQT if you have a high school diploma. If you have a GED or equivalent, that score increases to 60. On rare occasions, like you have a particular skill or speak a second language, the minimum score could be waived. The Air Force only takes around 1% of recruits with a GED or equivalent. 
  2. Army: A minimum score of 31 on the AFQT if you have a high school diploma. If you have a GED or equivalent, that score increases to 50. Depending on recruitment quotas, these score minimum may be waived (but not if you are in a Category 5). 
  3. Coast Guard: A minimum score of 36 on the AFQT if you have a high school diploma. It varies if you have a GED or equivalent, though only around 5% are enlisted without a high school diploma specifically. One exception is if you score very well on other job portions of the ASVAB. Then the recruiter may put in a waiver. 
  4. Marine Corps: A minimum score of 31 on the AFQT if you have a high school diploma. It increases to 50 if you have a GED or equivalent. One added caveat is if you have a GED or equivalent, you also need to have 15 college credits before being able to enlist. 
  5. Navy: A minimum score of 31 on the AFQT if you have a high school diploma. It increases to 50 if you have a GED or equivalent. One added caveat is if you have a GED or equivalent, you also need to have 15 college credits before being able to enlist. 

Be sure to know the requirements before taking the full ASVAB, so you know what you need to study.

Looking for some study tips? Check this out: https://civilservicehq.com/the-5-best-apps-to-study-for-asvab/ 

How to Read ASVAB Scores: What Does Yours Mean? 

AFQT Requirements for Special Programs 

To many people, enlistment bonuses and having college paid for once you’re out of the military are significant incentives. To receive some of these special programs, you will need to score higher than 50 on the AFQT portion of the ASVAB. What does this mean for some of the military branches? 

  1. Army: The Army has enlistment bonuses, college-repayment options, and the Army College Fund. To qualify for these incentives, you will need to have a minimum qualifying score of 50. 
  2. Marine Corps: The Marines have an added incentive than those listed above in the Geographic Area of Choice Program. They also have the Marine College Fund and enlistment bonus, all requiring a score of 50 on the AFQT. 
  3. Navy: The Navy College Fund and College Repayment fund require a score of 50 on the AFQT. 

Remember to ask your recruiter the different score requirements for Special Programs. They can sometimes change without notice, and if you’re looking for something specific, you’ll need this information beforehand. 

ASVAB Scores by Branch 

We’ve covered the AFQT, the most crucial part of the ASVAB, but what about the rest of the test? What do you need to know about the remaining parts that could determine your job placement within your military branch of choice? The scorecard will list each area of specialty that a particular branch is looking for using acronyms. 

  1. Air Force: When you look at the ASVAB scores on the Air Force portion, it will list the scores for Mechanical (M), Administrative (A), General (G), and Electronic (E). It has over 120 jobs for enlisted recruits to choose from. To find a job you may be interested in, and what score you will need in which area, please go to www.airforce.com for a complete list. 
  2. Army: The different test codes or acronyms you could see as composite scores are Clerical (CL), Combat (CO), Electronics (EL), Field Artillery (FA), General Technical (GT), Mechanical Maintenance (MM), Operators and Food (OF), Surveillance and Communications (SC), and Skilled Technical (ST). For the scores necessary for the over 150 enlisted jobs, go to https://www.goarmy.com/. 
  3. Navy/Coast Guard: The Navy and Coast guard composite scores use some of the same codes, though the Navy calculates their scores for each of their 80 enlisted jobs with different formulas. For more information, go to www.navy.com and  www.gocoastguard.com for more information on positions in the Coast Guard. 
  4. Marine Corps: The Marines use similar line codes on the ASVAB scorecard as the Army. Those codes are Mechanical Maintenance (MM), General Technical (GT), Electronics (EL), Verbal Expression (VE), Clerical (CL). The Marines have 140 jobs for enlisted recruits. To see the descriptions and scores needed, go to www.marines.com 

Related Questions 

How long does it take to get the ASVAB scores?  

It takes 2-3 weeks if you take the exam at a high school. If you take them at MEPS, you may get them immediately. In either case, you can access scores through a recruiter. 

 What is the next step after taking the ASVAB? 

Usually, after completing the ASVAB, you will want to talk to a recruiter in the military branch you’re enlisting in for your next steps. If you’ve already spoken to a recruiter before taking the ASVAB, this will be your next step. 

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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.