Understanding the ASVAB

Hands typing on keyboard.
Hands typing on keyboard. (Sharon Singleton/U.S. Air Force)

Did you know that there are three versions of the ASVAB? Each one has different benefits. The following will give you some insight into choosing the ASVAB version that best fits your needs.


A popular version is the student ASVAB, referred to by some as the SASVAB, which is used for career exploration for high school and college students. This pen and paper test version is given in an institutional setting such as a high school, college or vocational school. It is approximately three hours and is composed of eight subtests. Test results are sent to your school for you and your counselor to explore careers (this is called a post-test interpretation). You also will be given an interest inventory (Find Your Interests). Your ASVAB test results and "Find Your Interests" are tools for you to explore different occupations, identify a college major and find out about your personality. Your Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score is reflected on your test results and can be used to enlist in any of the military services.


Another version of the ASVAB is given at a MET (military entrance test) site. This test is used solely for enlistment into one of the military services. Test sites are located in different cities of your state; you will need to be referred by a recruiter. This version is somewhat longer, about 3½ hours. Assembling Objects has been added for research purposes for a total of nine subtests. Since it is a pen and paper test, answers can be changed. Completely erase all changes you make; the answer sheet is run through a scanner that is very sensitive to erasures.


The third version of the test is the CAT-ASVAB (computer-adaptive test). This version is taken on a computer and can be taken in as little as 1½ hours. This test is given at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) and is used for enlistment purposes only. This test is self-paced, but once an answer is selected, it cannot be changed. If a correct answer is chosen, you are given a harder question. If an incorrect answer is chosen, an easier question is given. You don't have to know how to use a computer to take the CAT-ASVAB.

Remember, if you don't know the answer, guess. An incorrect answer does not count against you. Answers can be changed on the pen and paper version but not on the CAT-ASVAB. If you are running out of time on a particular subtest, quickly guess at the remaining questions before time runs out. ASVAB scores are good for two years.

It's never too early to start preparing for the ASVAB! Get started by taking free practice tests at ACE the ASVAB.

Barclay J. Brumley served as the ASVAB program manager for 18 years and has worked directly with students on career exploration using the ASVAB. Before that, she was an education counselor for a large military installation, helping soldiers and their families further their formal education. Her career in federal civil service expanded 36 years. As an Army spouse, Brumley accompanied her husband, a retired command sergeant major, on several stateside and overseas assignments.

All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.

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