What to Expect When You Take the ASVAB

Test taker military entrance exams
Taking a test. (Courtesy Ben Mullins)

The U.S. Armed Forces have high standards for enlistment. An important part of a recruiter's job is to screen applicants to ensure they measure up. Even before a recruiter will send you to take the ASVAB, they will ask about your marital status, health, education, drug use and arrest record. It's very important that you answer these questions openly and honestly. Once the recruiter has determined that you are qualified for further processing, you will be scheduled to take the ASVAB. A physical exam also may be conducted at that time. Visit the Military Entrance Processing Command website at www.mepcom.army.mil for more information.

ASVAB testing for applicants is conducted at a Military Entrance Processing Station. The MEPS are a Defense Department joint-service organization staffed with military and civilian professionals. Sixty-five MEPS located across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Click here to learn where the MEPS are located.

If you do not live near a MEPS, the ASVAB can be administered at a satellite location called a military entrance test (MET) site. MET sites often are located in federal government office buildings, National Guard armories or Reserve centers.

You'll need to bring valid identification to be admitted into the ASVAB testing room. Don't be late; you'll be turned away and required to reschedule if you are. Your recruiter may give you a ride to and from the session, but they are not permitted in the testing room.

ASVAB test questions are treated as controlled testing materials. You should neither accept nor give information about specific test questions to other individuals. Applicants who either give or receive information about test questions are subject to severe penalties.

The ASVAB is administered by computer at the MEPS while a paper-and-pencil version is given at most MET sites. Testing procedures will vary, depending on the mode of administration.

Paper and Pencil Administration

As soon as all examinees are checked in and seated, the test administrator will provide some general instructions and pass out the test booklets and answer sheets. Listen carefully and do not proceed unless instructed to do so. The total time required, including administrative tasks and instructions, is 3-4 hours. Each subtest has a fixed number of questions and time limit.

When you complete the items in a subtest, you may review your answers. However, you cannot go back to an earlier subtest, nor proceed to the next subtest until instructed to do so. After the test session, answer sheets are sent to the MEPS to be scanned and scored. This process usually takes a few days. Your recruiter will be notified when your test scores are verified and available. A preliminary Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score usually is calculated by the test administrator and made available to your recruiter immediately after the test session. To find out more about AFQT scores, click here.

Computer Administration

The computer version of the ASVAB, called the CAT-ASVAB, is an adaptive test. This means that the test adapts to the ability level of each individual examinee. Thus, it is possible to administer a shorter test than is used in the paper and pencil administration.

Each examinee completes the CAT-ASVAB at his/her own pace. That is, when you complete a subtest, you immediately can move onto the next subtest without waiting for everyone else in the testing room to finish. Time limits are imposed on each subtest in the CAT-ASVAB, but almost all examinees complete the individual subtests before the time expires. As you take each subtest, the amount of time and number of items remaining for that subtest is displayed in the lower right-hand corner. On average, it takes about 1½ hours to complete the CAT-ASVAB.

All examinees receive training on using the computer keyboard and mouse, answering test questions and obtaining help. In addition, each subtest has specific instructions, plus a practice question.

Unlike the paper and pencil ASVAB, you will not be allowed to review or change an answer once you submit it. Your test scores will be available immediately after the test session. You may leave the test room as soon as you are finished with the entire battery.

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