All About The ASVAB

Joining the military is an excellent plan, but it’s not as simple as just deciding to raise your right hand and sign on the dotted line. If you’ve met with a recruiter, one of the first things he or she will ask you is whether you’ve taken the ASVAB. Before you take the ASVAB, however, learn exactly what it is.


ASVAB stands for Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. In plain English, it’s a multiple choice test, and everyone must take the ASVAB before they enlist in the military. (However, if you’re planning on entering as an officer, you’ll need to take a different test, depending on the branch you’re interested in.)

Who Can Take the ASVAB?

The ASVAB is traditionally taken by high school students when they’re sophomores, juniors or seniors in high school. However, this doesn’t mean that only high school students are eligible to take the ASVAB. Anyone who’s eligible to enlist can choose to take the test. The test is administered at a nearby Military Entrance Processing Station (also called MEPS) or another Military Entrance Test (MET) site.

Additionally, some service members who are hoping to cross-train into another specialty may take the ASVAB again. This is dependent on your branch of service, so go to your base or post Military Personnel office for more information.

Does Taking The ASVAB Mean You Have To Enlist?

This is a common misconception about the ASVAB. Taking it does not mean you need to sign up for the military! Some people choose to take the ASVAB simply to find out what they have a particular aptitude for. In addition to being an entrance test, the ASVAB also helps military recruiters determine what military job would be the best fit. Since many of these jobs have comparable civilian counterparts, ASVAB takers who choose not to enlist can use the results to help them find a civilian career.

What Does The ASVAB Cover?

There are two types of ASVAB tests — computer based or pencil and paper based. The computer based version has a reputation for being more difficult, but only because it’s an adaptive test. This means that no two test takers will have the same two questions in a row. The adaptive test adjusts according to each right answer. For instance, if you answer a question correctly, the next question will automatically become more difficult. Get it wrong and you’ll go to an easier question. The paper test is not adaptive, which means that everyone taking the test receives the questions in the same order.

The ASVAB has nine sections. The sections include:
• Word Knowledge
• Arithmetic Reasoning
• Mechanical Comprehension
• Automotive and Shop Information
• Electronics Information
• Mathematics Knowledge
• General Science
• Paragraph Comprehension
• Assembling Objects

Test takers who are interested in the Navy will also have a section on Coding Speed.

What Do The Scores Mean?

The military branches use a combination of ASVAB scores to determine someone’s Military Occupational Specialty or MOS. People who score highly on a number of different sections may be able to choose their MOS. However, it’s important to have this MOS noted on any enlistment papers. Each military branch will place enlistees depending on its current needs so if you want a particular MOS, make sure that any paperwork that you sign reflects that.

Luckily for potential enlistees, the ASVAB isn’t a test you can pass or fail. While a person who takes the ASVAB must meet minimum score requirements, its main purpose is to place potential enlistees in the correct MOS. This helps ensure that the needs of each branch are met, while maximizing the potential of each and every enlistee.