The Definitive Guide to ASVAB Word Knowledge   

   The Word Knowledge section of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests your vocabulary knowledge. On the CAT-ASVAB (computerized version), you will have 16 questions you need to answer in 8 minutes. On the paper version, you will answer 35 questions in 11 minutes. 

The Word Knowledge section of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is one of the four sections used to determine your eligibility for service in the military. It’s not only important to pass this part of the test but score high for many of the jobs throughout the different branches of the military. Here are five definitive things you should know and do to succeed in the Word Knowledge section of the ASVAB:  

  1. Practice Tests
  2. Create a Study Schedule
  3. How to Study for Word Knowledge
  4. Tips and Tricks for English Vocabulary
  5. Jobs Requiring High Word Knowledge Scores-All Branches

Did you struggle in English during high school? Did all the homophones and homonyms confuse you and make you cringe when you saw them? Does the Word Knowledge section of the ASVAB have you worried? This guide will help you study for the ASVAB word knowledge section and give you tips and tricks once you’re taking this section of the test for maximum benefit.   

General Overview of Word Knowledge 

The Definitive Guide to ASVAB Word Knowledge   

If you’re looking to enter military service, scoring high on the ASVAB can be critical to getting placement in the career path of your choice. There are four sections whose combined scores qualify you for military service, and Word Knowledge is one of them. Many people take this exam after high school, so most are fresh out of English class. If you are not, this next section will help you understand what types of word knowledge to review. This part of the test utilizes multiple-choice questions related to these different parts of vocabulary:  

  1. Synonyms and Antonyms. For many of you, this may seem foundational, but knowing the difference between a synonym and antonym can be vital in scoring higher. I always remember synonyms as similar words and antonyms as the opposite. You will be given words and asked to find either the synonym or antonym within the multiple-choice answers.
  2. Homophones and Homonyms. I believe these are usually the trickiest types of words for nearly everybody. The most significant examples being: there, their, and they’re or to, too, and two. Homophones are words that have different spellings and meanings but sound the same. A homonym has multiple meanings based on the context or what is being discussed in the sentence. For example, bark can be something a dog does or what is on a tree.
  3. DefinitionsYou will be asked to find the closest meaning for the given words. In essence, you are finding synonyms. In vocabulary, there are three tiers of words. Tier 1 are everyday words used the most often. Tier 2 words are not as common in everyday language; they are more precise and usually more interesting, like ‘proclivity’ and ‘despondent.’ Tier 3 are vocational specific words, like medical terminology or maybe terms associated with the military. Most of the words you’ll be asked to define will be within the Tier 2 range. 

It’s time to move onto the next step!  Read on to get an idea of how to study and the different things to help you achieve a higher score on Word Knowledge! 

Practice Tests 

In all my guides and advice for taking any high-stakes test, I always tell readers to take a practice test. It is the best thing to help guide you in your studies and give you an idea of strengths and weaknesses. This specific section is no different. Below is an accumulated list of places to find quality practice tests. Remember, you can never take too many leading up to the test day! 

The Definitive Guide to ASVAB Word Knowledge   

To really get a feel for pacing, you should also time yourself a couple of times while taking the practice tests. There’s nothing worse than getting to test day and being unprepared for the time limits.

Create a Study Schedule 

Don’t just create a study schedule for the Word Knowledge section of the test but also the whole ASVAB. Why? Because most of us have jobs or other obligations, and the structure of a set schedule will get us in the habit of studying. If you’re still in school, you may already be doing these things. It’s never a bad idea to review and reflect on the types of organizational approaches that work and have worked for you. This will be especially beneficial when you get into the military and are on a strict schedule. It will also help you practice self-discipline. Here are some tips for making a proper study schedule: 

  1. Calendar. Print out or buy a calendar you can write in. Electronic calendars are fine, but writing helps with memory. If you use an electronic calendar, set reminder alarms. We tend to forget things we type long before we forget something we’ve written by hand. If you’re printing one out, Google Calendar has a print feature for weekly or monthly calendars.
  2. Events. We all have busy schedules outside work and school. If you know there are birthdays, weddings, or other significant events, schedule those first.  
  3. Work and School. Schedule your work or school obligations next, then look at what time you have available for study. 
  4. Schedule Study Time. The areas of struggle on the complete ASVAB practice test need to be scheduled first for study. Then the other sections from there. Total steady study time for the whole experiment should be 2-3 months, if not more. How long you study for the word knowledge section will depend on how you did on the individual practice test. 

A study schedule is an excellent idea for any high-stakes test, but especially the ASVAB if you plan on scoring high for whichever position in the military you have set as your goal. 

Learn more about when you can take the ASVAB here:

Learn what ASVAB scores mean here:

How to Study for the Word Knowledge Section 

Word knowledge and vocabulary are usually considered cumulative. You start learning a language from the time you are born—whichever language that is. If English is not your first language, this section may be a bit more difficult if you have not practiced a lot of the tier 2 words found on the test. Even if English is your first language, you may be more inclined towards other subjects, which will also make this section challenging. Since it is one of the four sections determining your qualifications for military service, you will need to practice no matter what. 

  1. Read. The biggest thing you can do to build vocabulary is read. Anything and everything you can get your hands on in your spare time. Books, magazines, articles on the internet, and newspapers are all excellent source materials. When you read for this purpose, though, take time to focus on some of the vocabularies. Note words down you may not precisely know the definitions and try to see if you can figure those out in context. Or, you can look them up. This purposeful reading will make you more aware of those tier 2 words, versus just skimming them due to not knowing what they mean. 
  2. Review Homophones and Homonyms. These can be the most challenging types of vocabulary to study. Here is a site with a comprehensive list of homophones: Go through the list and mentally ask yourself if you know the differences between words. Note any that you struggle with. Look at this list of different homonyms and see if you can mentally come up with two different definitions: 
  3. Review Synonyms and Antonyms. Thesauruses are wonderful tools. Go to and type in some of the most common tier 1 words like sad, happy, said, and angry. See what pops up. Did you know some of those words? All of them? Only a few? 
  4. Flashcards. Make flashcards from your studies above. The words and vocabulary you struggled with the most. Try using them in a conversation with somebody. Research says you need to hear or use a word a minimum of 17 times to remember it fully. Here are some pre-made flashcards to help your studies: There are different sets on as well if you hunt around.  
  5. Study Guides. Many of the ASVAB study guides out there will have sections devoted entirely to Word Knowledge. The site and ASVAB for Dummies create some of the better study guides out there. There’s also paid for sites that have valuable materials. is one such site and has a 30-day Risk Free Trial. 

However, much studying you do for the Word Knowledge section will give you that much more of a boost to success on the ASVAB. Go forth and study hard! 

Tips and Tricks for English Vocabulary 

The Definitive Guide to ASVAB Word Knowledge   

Remembering vocabulary comes down to use and memory. You can do many things to retain the knowledge needed to be highly successful on the ASVAB, and more specifically, the Word Knowledge section. Our brains have an almost limitless capacity to store knowledge. Many struggle with the recall of information. In other words, taking information out of your memory storage and using it.  Some of these memory tricks you may have heard of, some may be unfamiliar.  

  1. Multiple Senses. When you come to a particularly tricky word, convert it to a picture as well as a word. Memory works best when multiple senses are involved. That’s why when we smell or taste something, we might recall a scene from our childhood. Use this while remembering vocabulary for the test. 
  2. Places. Attach your word to a specific spot. Like the word vociferous. It means loud or noisy. In my head, I would attach it to a sports stadium with thousands of screaming, vociferous fans.
  3. Mnemonic Devices. Attach an acronym or use alliteration to the definition of a word, for example, with vociferous. “Voci” looks like ‘voice’ which can be loud (‘voc’ is a Latin root for ‘call’). Mnemonic devices can help in many different areas of study. 
  4. Roots and Affixes. For words specifically, if you remember just some of the root words and affixes (prefixes, suffixes), you will be able to figure out the definitions for thousands of words. Learning these 50 words with their affixes  helps you be able to define thousands of other words just due to their roots and common affixes. 
  5. Rhymes. Come up with a rhyme if applicable to help you remember the definition. Our memory works best with songs and patterns. The more you can utilize this, the better.  

Don’t forget, the Word Knowledge section of the ASVAB is looking for your knowledge of vocabulary not commonly used. This will take a bit of memory work to apply it to the test—in 8-11 minutes! This takes quick recall. Have definitions down pat. 

In conclusion, the Word Knowledge section of the test can be challenging. Use the above information to increase your score and be successful on the ASVAB! 

Related Questions

How is my Word Knowledge score used for job placement? 

Your Word Knowledge score is combined in each branch of the military with your Paragraph Comprehension score. This score, combined with other scores, will determine which jobs you qualify for. 

How does each branch of the military use Word Knowledge scores? 

Each branch of the military uses combinations of ASVAB scores to determine different minimums for various jobs. Below is a list of how each branch uses the Word Knowledge scores. 

  1. Air Force. The Air Force combines the Word Knowledge (WK) with the Paragraph Comprehension (PC) for a Verbal Reasoning (VR) score. They then combine these with Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) for a General qualification area. They also use the VR score for any Administrative jobs. 
  2. Army. Your Word Knowledge score will affect jobs in Clerical, Combat, General Technical, Operators and Food, Surveillance and Communications, and Skilled Technical. 
  3. Coast Guard. Your Verbal Expression (VE) score is your Word Knowledge and Paragraph Comprehension scores combined. It plays into most jobs in the Coast Guard. 
  4. Marine Corps. Your VE score affects your job choices in the areas of Clerical, General Technical, and Skilled Technical. 
  5. Navy. For a list of combinations requiring a high VE score go to this site: 

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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.