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How Hard is the ASVAB?


The ASVAB or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is a multiple-choice test that determines whether you qualify for enlistment and certain military occupational specialties (MOS).

Each branch of the military has different requirements for ASVAB scores and within each branch, to qualify for a specific MOS, you’ll have to achieve a certain score on certain sections.

So, how hard is the ASVAB? Here, we’re going over the difficulty of the ASVAB, what’s involved, and what you can do to prepare.

How Hard is the ASVAB Test?

If you’re worried about how hard the ASVAB test will be, try to reframe your thinking. Don’t even think about it as a test. Think about it as a tool to help make sure you’re prepared for whichever job you’ll be doing in the military.

The ASVAB is not an IQ test, so it’s not about your intelligence. Instead, it’s more of a comprehension test that you can prepare for. So, as long as you study, there should be nothing to worry about.

You’ll be tested on nine different sections when you take the ASVAB test.

  • General Science (GS)
  • Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)
  • Word Knowledge (WK)
  • Paragraph Comprehension (PC)
  • Mathematics Knowledge (MK)
  • Electronics Information (EI)
  • Automotive and Shop Information (AS)
  • Mechanical Comprehension (MC)
  • Assembling Objects (AO)
  • Verbal Expression (VE) = (WK) + (PC)

This may seem like a lot of information, but you won’t need to ace every single one of these sections in order to get a great job in the military. Again, the test is multiple choice so there are many ways to study and prepare in order to make the ASVAB as painless as possible.

Preparing for the ASVAB

At the end of the day, some people are going to do well on the ASVAB and others aren’t. It’s all about preparation and your results will have a lot to do with how you spend your time studying in the months leading up to the exam.

There are four major reasons why you might find the ASVAB hard:

  • Poor preparation
  • Failure to practice in a conducive test environment
  • Failure to take any practice assessments
  • Failure to work on the appropriate subtests

Let’s explore these factors in a little more detail.

Firstly, poor preparation will lead to poor results. Even if you were a good student in high school and you’re not nervous about the ASVAB, your results will be significantly worse if you fail to prepare.

To maximize your score and make the ASVAB feel like a breeze, you don’t want your first experience with the questions to be on exam day. Familiarize yourself with the ASVAB beforehand and you’ll feel more confident and well… prepared.

When you’re practicing for the ASVAB, you’ll also want to create a conducive test environment that will be similar to how you’ll feel on exam day. This means practicing at a desk or table instead of in bed or on the couch.

Timing yourself and eliminating distractions during your practice tests will help you get in the zone and feel more comfortable when the actual test day comes.

With tons of practice tests available online and through the military, there’s no excuse for not taking an ASVAB practice assessment. Plan to take at least five practice tests before exam day and go over, in detail, the answers you got wrong.

Use these practice tests to organize your study schedule and focus more on the sections that are clearly your weaker points. By taking multiple practice assessments, you’ll be able to clearly see your progression and understand where you made mistakes so you can fix them accordingly.

Finally, you’ll want to talk to your recruiter about which subtests are most important for your desired branch and MOS. This will help you to understand which subtests you’ll need to prepare for most and which ones don’t need as much attention.

You won’t want to waste time studying for a subsection that won’t be taken into consideration for your specific MOS. Especially if you have your heart set on a particular job, this will be important to understand.

How is the ASVAB scored?

To help ease your mind, we’ll go over how the ASVAB is scored. You’ll notice that some sections count for more than others which could help with how you study. Plus, if there’s a smaller section that you’re worried about, you might find that it’s not a deciding factor in your score. So, relax!

Within your ASVAB test scores will be your AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) scores. The formula for computing your AFQT score is:

AR + MK + (VE x2)
Your VE score is your PC and WK scores combined.

As you can see, your verbal score is the most important when it comes to your AFQT so if you’re good with verbal skills, you should still prepare for the math sections, but you can calm down a bit. However, if you’re better at math, you’ll want to prepare a little extra for the verbal sections.

For reference, most people with a high school sophomore or junior level understanding of English and Math will be successful on the AFQT.

From there, each MOS will use a combination of some of the other subtests included in the ASVAB. Again, make sure you’re studying for the right subtests based on the branch and MOS you’re going for.

For example, an Electronics (EL) MOS in the Navy will be scored based on AR + EI + GS + MK. Whereas a Clerical (CL) MOS in the Marine Corps will have a score based on VE + AR + MK.

It should be clear that some MOS in the military require a harder ASVAB test since they require more specific skills in more difficult subjects. But overall, the ASVAB won’t be as hard as you might think it is. As long as you prepare properly, focus on the right subtests, and understand the scoring, you’ll be successful at the ASVAB.

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