If you made it to this article it’s probably because you have decided you want to join the military, and you want to weigh out all your options before going through the enlistment process. One of the requirements for joining the military is to pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) which is an entry-level exam that tests you in ten different subjects. However, there are more options when it comes to studying for the exam another great option is the Pre-screening internet-delivered Computer Adaptive Test (PiCAT) which can be quite beneficial for some candidates.
The truth is there is not much of a difference between the PiCAT and ASVAB. When it comes to the tests the formatting is still the same, however unlike the ASVAB exam the PiCAT is not proctored and can be taken at home, also the PiCAT is not timed.
Although the thought of taking an exam at home sounds like a great experience, it’s best to weigh your options properly, since there are a few slight differences that can determine whether or not you should take the PiCAT. By the end of this article, you will be able to make a decision on whether to take the ASVAB or PiCAT and begin your journey towards enlistment.
The Importance of These Exams
Before you decide on which exam you want to take it is important that you understand the importance of these exams, as they will determine if you will be able to move forward with the next steps towards your journey to enter the armed services. A full understanding of the differences between the two exams will allow you to make your decision effectively and allow you with enough time to prepare so that you can maximize your results. Therefore, before you take your exam it is important that you take the time out to study properly so that you can pass your exam on your first chance. Remember the higher the score the better the job you’ll receive when you are in the military.
The ASVAB exam is always taken in person and it is taken at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), on the day of the exam you will be escorted by your recruiter to MEPS to take the exam. This exam is the most common exam taken by aspiring military members. The ASVAB tests applicants in ten different areas including:
- General Science: This portion of the exam tests you on your knowledge of sciences such as physical and biological science.
- Arithmetic Reasoning: For this portion of the test you will be examined on your mathematical word problem-solving.
- Word Knowledge: For this portion of the exam you will be tested on your vocabulary skills and ability to use word context.
- Paragraph Comprehension: You will be tested on your reading skills and the ability to take information from the paragraphs provided and apply that information properly.
- Mathematics Knowledge: This will consist of High School level math problems.
- Electronics Information: Knowledge of electricity and electronics will be tested in this part of the exam.
- Auto Information: Automobile technology knowledge will be tested in this section.
- Shop Information: Knowledge of tools and shop terms will be tested in this section of the exam.
- Mechanical Comprehension: Principles of mechanics will be put to the test.
- Assembling Objects: Your ability to determine the assembly of an object will be put to the test in this section.
Although the topics of the exam seem quite intimidating, there’s no need to worry the questions are all entry-level. It is advised that you take several practice exams to ensure you get a passing score, there are a variety of study guides available online and on Amazon. Preparation for the exam will ensure that you get a high score, which can ultimately determine which kind of job you are eligible for in the military, remember the higher the score the better the job will be.
In terms of scoring it is important to note that for the ASVAB a passing score will vary on which branch of the military you plan on joining. Below is a list of the minimum passing grade for the ASVAB for each branch of the military:
- Air Force: 36 points
- Army: 31 points
- Marine Corps: 32 points
- Navy: 35 points
- Coast Guard: 40 points
The questions on the exam are all multiple choice and each section has about 10-16 questions per section, and each section is timed. This exam is timed and will take approximately 3 hours to fully complete. Applicants have stated before that the exam can be a bit challenging but with proper preparation, they were able to pass the test.
There are two forms to taking this test; it can either be administered through standard pencil and paper, or it can be a computerized exam. There are a few differences between the form in which the exam is taken. If your exam is administered through regular pencil and paper you will still be timed, however, in each section, you will be able to review your answers before time is up for the section. You CANNOT go back to a previous section to review your answers once you have finished. Once the exam is completed your exam will be sent for processing, and you will receive your results in a few days.
The computerized exam is slightly different and there is a slight advantage to taking it. For this format you will be able to take the exam through a computer, however, you will not be able to go back and review your answers. One advantage of taking the exam through the computer is that you will get your results immediately after. In both scenarios, if you fail the exam you will need to wait thirty days to take the exam again.
This test is a great alternative for some people. Although there are many similarities between the PiCAT and the ASVAB there is still one big difference, and that is that the PiCAT can be taken at home. Unlike the ASVAB the PiCAT is not proctored, however just because it is not proctored does not mean that there is no honor system, scores will be verified by your recruiter.
Aside from the PiCAT being taken from home, and without supervision, it still has the same material that is included in the ASVAB; therefore, preparation would still be the same. The test itself is not timed so you will not have the pressure of having to work against the clock. When you and your recruiter come to the decision that you want to take the PiCAT exam then he or she will give you a code for you to take the exam at home. It is important that for this exam you have a stable internet connection to avoid any issues during the exam.
Once the applicant has passed the PiCAT exam they will take the proctored verification exam which is about 25-30 minutes long. As mentioned before just because the exam is taken at home does not mean that there is no honor system and the verification exam will allow your recruiter to determine if the exam was taken honestly. You will have 30 days from when you take your PiCAT to take your verification exam.
A Few Things to Consider
Before you go to your recruiter’s office, there are a few things that you should take into consideration. If you do decide to take the PiCAT exam there is a 5% chance that the recruiter may ask you to take a full proctored ASVAB exam, this will allow for them to confirm if their testing system is working properly. For the applicants that fail the PiCAT exam on the first try, they will be asked to take the full proctored ASVAB exam, if passed then the score will be used for their record.
Another important thing to note is that the PiCAT can only be administered if the applicant has not taken the ASVAB exam before. If you believe that you meet the basic requirements to take the PiCAT exam, and are comfortable with the structure of the exam then you can reach out to your recruiter, and they can get you set up so that you can take the exam.
PiCAT or ASVAB
You may be wondering to yourself which exam would be the best fit for you. The truth is this all depends on you and your timeline. Some people are more inclined to move forward with the process as quickly as possible, in cases like this it is probably best to take the ASVAB exam, a passing grade will automatically take you to the next step in the application process. However, if you are looking to take the exam in the comfort of your own home and do not want to feel pressured about the time constraints then the PiCAT is the perfect exam for you.
What Happens Next?
What happens next will depend on which exam you take and the format of the exam that you were administered. If you do end up passing the exam and are invited to continue the enlistment process, then the process will be the same no matter which exam you took.
In most cases when you take the exam at MEPS you will automatically be sent to conduct your physical exam that same day. The physical examination will consist of a hearing test, vision test, urine, blood, and drug test, basically anything that would be done at a doctor’s visit. Additionally, you will be asked to do small exercises to test your flexibility, strength, and stamina. If you are a female recruit you will be asked to do a pregnancy test and will be accompanied by a female when the exam is conducted.
Choose Your Military Job
This is probably the fun part of the enlistment process. If all goes well with your exams then you will be able to choose your military job that same day, and which branch you are looking to enlist in. The job you qualify for will completely depend on your test scores from your exams.
It’s Time to Enlist
This will be the most sentimental part of the entire process and by far the most important part of the entire process. At this point, you will meet with a member of the military and review your military contract and job duties, once you have reviewed everything you will be asked to sign and take your oath. After this oath, you will officially be able to call yourself a recruit and prepare yourself for basic training.
Check out this article for study tips: https://civilservicehq.com/how-long-to-study-for-asvab-the-study-schedule-that-works/
Making a decision to join the military takes a lot of thought and consideration. The same thought process should also be applied when deciding which exam, you should take. This may be one of the most important exams of your life, and it is important that you are well prepared, and have an idea of which exam you should take. By reading this article you have already made the first steps in the decision-making process, in terms of researching the differences for each exam, now it’s time to sit down with your recruiter and go over your options.
Congratulations on making this decision, and best of luck on your exam!
Do I need to complete the PiCAT in a certain amount of time?
Although the PiCAT does not have timed sections, you will have 24 hours to complete the exam once you have begun.
What happens if I fail the PiCAT exam?
There is a possibility that you can take the PiCAT, however, this depends entirely on the conversation you have with your recruiter, in some cases, they may require you to take the ASVAB exam.
How long will my test scores be valid?
It is important to have an understanding of how long your test score is valid, in the event that you have to put your enlistment process on pause. Your PiCAT score is kept on record for five years, and your ASVAB score is valid for two years.
To learn more on how to pass the ASVAB exam click here!
Interested to learn more about the civil service? Check out our free guide here: https://civilservicehq.com/
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.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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