Category Archives: About the ASVAB Test

ASVAB Score GT (General Technical)

The General Technical or GT score is one of the most important line scores computed from your results on the ASVAB test.  It’s determined by adding your Verbal Expression (VE) and Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) scores together and is used by all five branches of the military (it’s the “G” in the Air Force MAGE).

It’s doubly important because the scores that make up the GT are also three of the scores that make up your overall AFQT score which qualifies you for enlistment.  (VE = Work Knowledge (WK) + Paragraph Comprehension (PC)).

Also important to note is that, despite the name, the General Technical score doesn’t include your scores on any of the technical or mechanical subtests so it’s not necessary to have any particular technical knowledge to get a high ASVAB GT score.

To prepare for the subtests that make up the GT score, concentrate on taking practice tests in verbal expression, arithmetic reasoning, and paragraph comprehension.

ASVAB Minimum Score Changes

I’ve had several inquiries about changes to the minimum AFQT and line scores necessary to enlist and/or qualify for certain jobs in the military.  Their assumption was that these minimum scores hold true in all occasions and at all times which isn’t the case.

The numbers provided by the military and republished on this web site are guidelines only and are subject to change at any time.  The documentation of these changes lags well behind the actual changes so it’s important to check with your recruiter to determine the exact minimums in place at the time you’re going to take your ASVAB test.

Minimum scores for the Reserves and National Guard also change and are typically much higher than those for active duty military.

Why do the ASVAB minimum scores change?

Due to budgetary and logistics constraints, the military only has so many openings within a given time period.  That includes openings for enlistment and openings in the various jobs each service branch offers.

If the military were a commercial business they could just stop accepting applicants but, for various reasons (legal and otherwise) that I won’t get into here, not accepting applicants even for a short period of time isn’t an option.

When a service branch is near a cap on enlistment or job openings they need a quick and easy way to reduce the number of people who are eligible for enlistment or who qualify for training in those jobs.  To do this they raise the minimum AFQT or line scores necessary to enlist or to qualify for those jobs.

Because these scores may change frequently, they don’t bother to update the official documented minimum scores with every change and rely on recruiters to inform applicants of the most up-to-date minimum scores.

Currently, the minimum AFQT score necessary to enlist is now higher than the minimums for most service branches (again – consult your recruiter for specific details).  This just underscores the need to prepare effectively for the ASVAB test – it’s only getting harder to get the branch and job you want with low to average scores.

What’s a Good Score?

I get this question a lot so I thought I would address it here:

What’s a good score on the ASVAB?

There are really two answers to that question – what score will get you into the service branch of your choice and what score will qualify you for the military job training that you want.

First, what most people call their “ASVAB” score is actually their “AFQT” score and that score is what determines if you qualify to enlist in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard.

Each service branch has a different minimum score but most fall in the lower 30s for high school graduates and at 50 for applicants with a GED.  (Note that GED applicants who’ve earned 15 college credits qualify to enlist at the high school graduate minimum).

So, the first answer is that a good ASVAB score is the minimum AFQT score or around 35.

But, just getting in and getting the job you want are two very different things.  A better measure of an ASVAB good score is the line score(s) that will qualify you for the job you want.

Each service branch has a different set of line scores and different ASVAB subtests that make up those line scores so you’ll need to do some research to discover exactly which subtests you’ll need to do well on to earn that job.  (Find out the minimum scores for military jobs.)

Therefore, a good score on the ASVAB is high enough on the AFQT subtests to qualify to enlist and high enough on the other subtests that make up the line scores you need to earn your military branch and job choice.

Not an easy answer but since when has the military been easy!

ASVAB Test Format

There are several versions of the ASVAB and the version you take depends on where and why the test was administered:

  • Institutional Version
    Taken in high school, this version can be used for military enlistment purposes if taken within two years of enlistment but its primary purpose is to assist school guidance counselors in identifying possible civilian career areas.
  • Production Version
    Taken through a military recruiter and used for enlistment qualification and to determine which military jobs an applicant can potentially be trained in.  This test is available in paper (ASVAB) and computerized (CAT-ASVAB) versions and is typically administered through a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).
  • Enlistment Screening Test (EST)
    A smaller version of the full ASVAB test taken in a recruiter’s office to estimate the applicant’s chances of earning a qualifying score on the full version of the ASVAB.  Also used to identify areas of weakness to guide applicant study time.
  • Armed Forces Classification Test (AFCT)
    Given to active military personnel who are considering retraining for another job.  If a higher score is needed for the new job the ASVAB must be retaken.

Test Format

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) contains eight (paper version) or nine (computerized version) separately timed subtests.  (The Assembling Objects (AO) subtest isn’t on the paper version of the ASVAB.)

Subtest Questions Time (Minutes) Content
General Science (GS) 25 11 Knowledge of general principles of physical and biological sciences.
Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) 30 36 Ability to solve arithmetic word problems that require simple calculations.
Word Knowledge (WK) 35 11 Ability to select the correct meaning of a word and identify synonyms and antonyms.
Paragraph Comprehension (PC) 15 13 Ability to comprehend information from several paragraphs that you read (a few hundred words).
Auto & Shop Information (AS) 25 11 Knowledge of automobiles, shop terminology and practices, and tools.
Mathematics Knowledge (MK) 25 24 Knowledge of high school math including algebra and geometry.
Mechanical Comprehension (MC) 25 19 Knowledge of basic mechanical and physical principles including the
ability to visualize how illustrated objects work
Electronics Information (EI) 20 9 Knowledge of electrical principles, basic electronic circuitry, and electronic terminology.
Assembling Objects (AO) 16 15 Measures spatial orientation.

Of these subtests, four (Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge) are used to compute your AFQT score while the remaining five serve only to determine qualifications for certain types of jobs within your branch of the military.

So, if you know that the job you want in the military doesn’t require Electronics or Auto & Shop knowledge you can save a lot of time studying by simply ignoring those areas. Doing poorly in areas unrelated to your potential job won’t hurt your overall qualifications.

Remember that the AFQT subtests are important for all job types so be sure to devote enough study time to mastering them.

ASVAB Questions Format

The questions on the ASVAB test are divided into nine sections called “subtests”. Each ASVAB subtest measures a certain aptitude and is used to both qualify you for enlistment in the military branch of your choice and to indicate how easily you could be trained for the job of your choice.

There are two primary versions of the test – the paper (ASVAB) version and the computerized (CAT-ASVAB) version.  Both of these tests have ASVAB questions in multiple choice format.  You’ll likely be taking the computerized version which has the same questions as the paper version (with the exception that it adds an additional subtest) but the question format and presentation are different in each version.

Both tests group the questions by these subtests and you’ll take the test for each subtest independently with a time limit for each subtest.  After you finish a subtest you won’t be able to go back and change the answers you gave on that subtest.

Pros & Cons of the Paper ASVAB Test

The main advantage of taking the paper version of the test is that you can skip questions that you don’t know the answer to and come back to them later. You can come back to questions and change an answer on the subtest you’re currently working on but can’t go back to a previously finished subtest to change an answer.

A good test taking technique for the paper version of the ASVAB test is to go through the test and answer all the questions you definitely know the answer to leaving those you’re unsure of until last.  This ensures that you get credit for the most right answers without running out of time on the test.

A disadvantage of the paper test is that the questions are randomly distributed between easy and hard so if you’re not following the above test taking advice you could find yourself spending too much time on the harder questions and run out of time – potentially not getting to the easier questions near the end of the test.

Finally, the paper test must be scored using an optical scanning machine.  Not only can these machines be confused by partially filled-in answers and stray pencil marks it could take a few weeks for the military to process your test and get you your grade.

Pros & Cons of the Computerized CAT-ASVAB Test

The CAT-ASVAB test has the same questions as the paper ASVAB test but those questions aren’t presented in the same fixed order.  It’s an adaptive test which means the questions are ordered based on how well you answer previous questions.

For example, the first ASVAB question may be of average difficulty and, if you answer correctly, you’ll then get a question that’s a little bit harder.  If you miss the first question the next question will be a little bit easier.  You still end up getting the same questions as every other applicant they’re just ordered to help you score better on the test. Recruits who take both the paper and computerized versions of the test tend to score higher on the CAT-ASVAB.

The primary disadvantage of the computerized ASVAB test is that you can’t skip a question you don’t know the answer to and come back to it later.  You also can’t go back and check your answers if you finish before the time limit.  It can also be difficult to gauge your progress through the test and manage your time properly because you don’t have a test booklet in front of you.

Advantages of the CAT-ASVAB include:

  1. Accuracy
    It’s impossible to get marked down for incompletely filled-in answers or stray pencil marks like in the paper version.
  2. Ordering of the Questions
    Because harder questions are worth more points on the test, answering earlier questions correctly brings up the harder questions right away.  This maximizes your test score by ensuring you’ve already answered the most valuable questions in case you run out of time on a subtest.
  3. Test is Scored Immediately
    You get your line scores and your AFQT score right away.  No waiting for weeks to know if you’re qualified for enlistment or for the service or job you’re hoping for.