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.