You’ve decided that a career in a branch of the armed services is part of your future. Taking the ASVAB is, of course, a necessary step in the right direction for securing that future, especially if a particular career path is something you desire.
Should you retake your ASVAB? Depending on the branch you have decided upon and the type of career you would like to pursue within the military determines if you should retake your ASVAB. If you obtain a branch-specific satisfactory score and are not looking at a particular career path, you may choose not to pursue taking the ASVAB past your initial exam. However, if the path you are wanting to follow requires a higher score than what you have already achieved, retaking the exam is something you should consider.
If a career in the United States military is something you can see in your future, this article has been designed to help you navigate the choppy waters of the ASVAB and make the best of all of your endeavors.
How many times can I take my ASVAB?
There is no limit to the number of times you can take the ASVAB. Honestly, you can take and retake the exam until you’re blue in the face if that is what you want to do. There are, however, a few time-related caveats.
How long do I have to wait to retake the ASVAB?
After your initial ASVAB, you must wait thirty days before taking it a second time. If you are still not happy with your scores, you may do a second retake thirty days later. If you still feel as if your scores are lacking, you will have to wait six months before you can re-test. Any tests after the second retake will require a six-month wait before being eligible for the ASVAB.
My retake ASVAB score was lower than my first exam. Will my first exam still be counted?
Unfortunately, your official ASVAB score will always be the score from your most recent ASVAB attempt, regardless of how it measures up to the exam prior. If you do not feel certain that you should retake your exam or if it will be in your best interest to do so, you need to discuss that with your military recruiter or guidance counselor.
How long are my ASVAB scores active?
ASVAB scores are only viable for enlistment purposes for two years after the exam date. So, if you take your ASVAB in May 2021 and a retake exam in June 2021, your scores are still valid for enlistment until June 2023.
What is the ASVAB?
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a timed, multi-aptitude exam created, updated, and maintained by the United States Defense Department (DoD). The exam measures your knowledge in four general domains: verbal (V), science and technical (ST), spatial (S), and math (M). The ASVAB contains specific questions regarding the following:
|Test||Knowledge Base||Competency Domain|
|General Science (GS)||Physical, life, earth, and space science||Science/Technical|
|Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)||Solving basic math word problems||Math|
|Word Knowledge (WK)||Selecting the appropriate meaning of a word based on the context of the word and choose the best synonym for a particular word||Verbal|
|Paragraph Comprehension (PC)||Infer information from written passages||Verbal|
|Mathematics Knowledge (MK)||High school mathematics principles, concepts, and applications||Math|
|Electronics Information (EI)||Electric currents, circuitry, devices, and electronic systems||Science/Technical|
|Auto Information (AI)||Automotive technology, maintenance, and repair||Science/Technical|
|Shop Information (SI)||Wood and metal shop terminology, practices, and common tools||Science/Technical|
|Mechanical Comprehension (MC)||Physical and mechanical principles, structural support, and construction material knowledge||Science/Technical|
|Assembling Objects (AO)||Determining how an object will look will all its parts are combined and spatial relationship ability||Spatial|
There are two different versions of the ASVAB available: the computerized ASVAB (CAT-ASVAB) and the pencil and paper ASVAB (P&P-ASVAB).
What is the CAT-ASVAB?
The computerized ASVAB is an adaptive exam, meaning that the test adapts to your ability level. The software chooses questions based on your responses to earlier sections of the exam; if you answer an item incorrectly, the following question will be easier and if you select the correct answer, a harder question will follow. Each section contains a fixed number of questions and does have a time limit.
|Test||Number of Questions||Time Limit|
|TOTALS:||135 questions||173 minutes|
The CAT-ASVAB is taken at your own pace, which means that you can move from one competency area to the next without waiting for other examinees, however, once a question is answered you may not go back to review your response.
What is the P&P-ASVAB?
The pencil and paper ASVAB is a traditional exam, meaning that all examinees have a test containing the same set of questions that are taken at a set pace. The P&P-ASVAB combines the auto information (AI) and shop information (SI) portions into one referred to as AS (auto and shop). As with the CAT-ASVAB, you will be given a set amount of time to complete each section but will be unable to move forward until instructed to do so.
|Test||Number of Questions||Time Limit|
|TOTALS:||225 questions||149 minutes|
Though the P&P-ASVAB has time limits, you can review and change exam answers in each section before time is up. You cannot, however, return to sections already closed.
Is the CAT-ASVAB harder or easier than the P&P ASVAB?
In short, the answer is no. Neither exam is harder nor easier than the other version. The P&P-ASVAB has both extremely simple and expressly difficult exam questions, although most of the questions are of average difficulty level. The CAT-ASVAB tailors the exam to your ability level, which may make it seem more difficult/easy than its paper and pencil counterpart.
When can I take my ASVAB?
You can take your ASVAB as early as your sophomore year of high school. However, those scores cannot be used to enter into the military, as they are considered invalid for enlistment purposes, regardless of your age on the date of the exam. If you do choose to take your ASVAB through your local high school, you’ll need to be sure that your scores do not expire before your MEPS (military entrance processing stations) processing date.
Where can I take my ASVAB?
This wholly depends on which version of the ASVAB you would like to take. You can test at a nearby high school during a proctored student ASVAB or arrange with a local recruiter to take either a MET (Military Entrance Test)-site ASVAB or CAT-ASVAB.
What do I need to take my ASVAB?
You honestly don’t need much to take your ASVAB. You’ll need:
- A state-issued picture ID
Pencils, scratch paper, test booklets, and answer sheets are provided to you. Pretty easy, ay?
What do my ASVAB scores mean?
So, you took your exam, and now you have your scores. What do they even mean?
The ASVAB Summary Results sheet contains three different score types:
- Career Exploration Scores/Composite Scores: these three scores cover your verbal, mathematics, and science/technical proficiencies and are provided for career path exploration.
- Each of these three scores is a combination of the individual subtests in the ASVAB.
- ASVAB Subtests/Line Scores: you will have a score for each of the individual subtests.
- Military Entrance Score/Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT): This score determines your enlistment eligibility.
Can I fail my ASVAB?
There is no true “pass or fail” score on the ASVAB. The score only reflects your abilities and competencies. Although you cannot technically “ace” the ASVAB, you will want to do the best you can on the exam. By doing your best, you’re ensuring that you will be eligible for the military skill specialty that best suits your abilities and interest. You don’t want to be stuck working on transmissions if you’d rather be a nurse or emergency medical technician (EMT) and vice versa!
Not only is the ASVAB needed to secure the correct career path but is also part of your Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score.
I took my ASVAB, so now I have to take the AFQT?
No, there is not another exam required to enter into the armed forces, the ASVAB is the only one. The AFQT, the Armed Forces Qualification Test, is based on your scores from four sections of the ASVAB: word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning, and mathematics knowledge. The AFQT scores are used to determine your eligibility for enlistment into the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force.
So, if the AFQT isn’t an exam, what is it?
Though there is no technical “pass or fail” for the ASVAB, there is a minimum qualifying score needed to be able to enter into military service. That minimum is your AFQT score. This score predicts your future potential for training in available military careers. Your AFQT score shows how you measure up against other men and women in the 18-23 category.
Your AFQT score is made up of your test results in the following categories:
- Arithmetic reasoning (AR)
- Math knowledge (MK)
- Verbal expression (VE): this score is a combination of your word knowledge (WK) and paragraph comprehension (PC) scores.
Your AFQT score is based on the number of questions you answered correctly compared to others who took the same exam and ranges from one to ninety-nine percent.
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What are the AFQT requirements for each branch?
Each branch has a different requirement for the AFQT. They are:
- National Guard: 31
- Army: 31
- A minimum score of 50 for certain enlistment incentives
- Marine Corps: 32
- Navy: 35
- Air Force: 36
- Coast Guard: 40
My AFQT score is 84. What does that mean?
Your AFQT score represents the percentage of test-takers in a reference group who scored at or below a particular score. If your AFQT score is 84, that means that you scored as well or better than 84% of the representative sample of examinees aged eighteen to twenty-three.
Plus, it means you can enter into any branch of the military that you choose.
If I want to work in a specific field, do I need to focus on specific parts of the ASVAB?
The scores of your subtests help the military determine which career path best fits you. Each branch of the military decides which skills are most important in that branch. Specific jobs also require specified scores for you to be eligible for them. Composite score categories and the subtests used to compute them are:
- Clerical: word knowledge + paragraph comprehension + arithmetic reasoning + mathematics knowledge
- Combat: word knowledge + paragraph comprehension + auto and shop + mechanical comprehension
- Electronics: general science + arithmetic reasoning + mathematics knowledge + electronic information
- Field artillery: arithmetic reasoning + mathematics knowledge + mechanical comprehension
- General maintenance: general science + auto and shop + mathematics knowledge + electronic information
- General technical: word knowledge + paragraph comprehension + arithmetic reasoning
- Mechanical maintenance: auto and shop + mechanical comprehension + electronic information
- Operators and food: word knowledge + paragraph comprehension + auto and shop + mechanical comprehension
- Surveillance and communications: word knowledge + paragraph comprehension + arithmetic reasoning + auto and shop + mechanical comprehension
- Skilled technical: word knowledge + paragraph comprehension + general science + mechanical comprehension + mathematics knowledge
So, if you know that you would like to pursue a career in maintenance, you know that you will need to brush up on your general science knowledge, automotive and shop information, mathematics, and knowledge of electronic components.
If I take the ASVAB, do I have to join a branch of the military?
No, simply taking the ASVAB does not automatically enroll you into the military.
Do I have to take the ASVAB to join the military or can I use my ACT/SAT scores?
Yes, you must take the ASVAB to enter into a branch of the U.S. military. The ASVAB is designed as a predictor of success within the military, whereas ACT/SATs are geared toward assessing readiness for college. Just as you could not substitute your ASVAB scores on a college application, you cannot substitute ACT/SAT scores for your ASVAB.
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.
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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