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Ready to Take the ASVAB? Here’s What to Expect + How to Prepare

Are you interested in joining the military?  Your first step after talking to a recruiter is to take the ASVAB, a screening test that identifies...

take the asvab

Are you interested in joining the military? 

Your first step after talking to a recruiter is to take the ASVAB, a screening test that identifies if you’re eligible to join and potential job opportunities. There’s no skipping over this test if you want to join the military as it’s a mandatory part of the recruiting process.

There’s no physical component to the test as it only tests your aptitude in 10 different areas to determine if you’re eligible to enlist and what jobs would be best for you.

Curious about what to expect when you head in to take the ASVAB? 

Below we share all the details to get you ready for test day. 

What Exactly is the ASVAB?

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery — known as ASVAB for short — is a multiple-choice test that takes about three hours to complete. This test measures which military jobs would be best for you, and it’s used by each military branch to screen every new recruit. 

While it’s not an IQ test, it’s a way for recruiters to figure out which job role you would thrive best in. The test was created by the Department of Defense (DoD) and each specific branch to determine each individual’s mental ability to serve and carry out duties for various roles.

Two ASVAB Versions 

It’s important to note there are actually two versions of the ASVAB test to measure individual strengths and/or military training opportunities. If you’re a high school student, this is particularly important to know so you take the correct one if enlisting is your goal.

Enlistment ASVAB  

If you’re looking to serve, this is the test you will want to take. This can only be taken after speaking with a recruiter. It’s generally hosted at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). There is no charge for this test.


This version of the test, known as ASVAB Career Exploration Program (CEP), is given in high schools, job training centers, and community colleges for free. It helps young students pick a potential career path based on their interests and subject area strengths. This test offers insight into both civilian and enlisted career options.

How is the ASVAB Formatted?

the asvab test
Photo by Alun Thomas

There are 10 subtests in four areas for you to be tested in: math, science/technical, spatial, and verbal. It’s important to remember that eligibility is also not based on score alone. College credits, for example, can help you improve your enlistment chances.

Here’s a look at what you can expect in each of the four testing sections:


  • Arithmetic Reasoning (AR): Math word problems
  • Mathematics Knowledge (MK): Math applications and concepts


  • General Science (GS): Life science, earth and space science, and physical science
  • Electronics Information (EI): Electricity, electronic devices, and systems
  • Auto Information (AI): Automobile technology (AS score part 1)
  • Shop Information (SI)*: Wood and metal shop make up the (AS score part 2)
  • Mechanical Comprehension (MC): Mechanical and physical principles and properties


  • Word Knowledge (WK): Understand definitions of words and synonyms
  • Paragraph Comprehension (PC): Reading comprehension


  • Assembling Objects (AO): Visualizing how objects will appear when assembled

Note: Each section has a time limit and in total is three hours long.

What Testing Format is the ASVAB Given in?

Depending on your recruiting station, the ASVAB may be taken via computer (CAT-ASVAB) or pen and paper (P&P-ASVAB). The CAT-ASVAB test is adaptive — as the test progresses, questions are chosen based on the tester’s ability. During this style of testing, you can’t go back and change answers. 

Most ASVAB testers will take the exam on a computer.

What Do ASVAB Scores Mean?

In addition to your base ASVAB test scores (also known as standard scores), you’re also tested on if you’re eligible to join the military, which is known as the AFQT. 

Many exceptions can be made, so it’s important to speak with your recruiter about the specific requirements for the branch you’re interested in enlisting in. Each job also has a minimum score tied to it, so if you’re aiming for a certain job within a branch, ask your recruiter what the testing expectation is. 

The highest score you can receive is a 99, which means you’ve performed 99% better than other test takers. 


The Armed Services Qualification Test (AFQT) determines if the tester is eligible for enlistment. This score compares your performance to the base population of others who have taken it. 

The AFQT is a combination of four scores: two math and two verbal. Different branches have different minimum qualifications. Additionally, the numbers are different for those with a GED or high school graduates. Minimum scores range from 31-65.

This score is the most important one as it will determine if you can continue the recruitment process. Some branches may also offer advanced enlistment if you have prior college credits, too.

(First column high school diploma, second column GED)

Air Force3665
Coast Guard3650 

Learn more about the ASVAB score breakdown here.

Prepare to Take the ASVAB

Photo by Sgt. Erica Kirsop

Unfortunately, the military doesn’t provide a study guide for taking the ASVAB. That means that recruiters, the Department of Defense (DoD), and other service members can’t endorse specific products. 

To do your best on the exam, here’s what we recommend: 

  • Start studying – You’ll want to brush up on your math, English, and science skills. You can review sample questions here to get an idea of the studying you’ll need to do. There are several online test prep sites and books to help you prepare.
  • Explore your strengths and weaknesses – Focus on improving your weak areas. For example, if you’re not great with general science, invest time studying for that particular subject. 
  • Ask for help – If you’re still in high school, reach out to the guidance department for help preparing. If you’re a high school graduate, find someone else who has taken the exam and hire a tutor, if needed.
  • Get your sleep – Even if you’re nervous, try your best to get a good night’s sleep prior to the test. Feeling rested will keep your mind sharp and focused.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast – Before heading out to the exam, eat a hearty breakfast with protein. This will keep your stomach from grumbling and distracting you while taking the exam. An omelet, oatmeal with nut butter, or a protein shake are all great options.
  • Be on time – If you want to be in the military, you’re going to have to learn to be on time all the time. Start this habit with this exam if you are chronically late. Plan your driving route the night before, and wake up with plenty of time to arrive a little early.

Check out our post on 10 Final ASVAB Test Tips For Success

Want to Join the Military? Take the ASVAB First

You can’t join the military without taking the ASVAB test first. 

Once you take the ASVAB and pass, you’ll have an opportunity to go through the MEPS process prior to heading to basic training. 

The ASVAB is just the first step to getting your military career started. 

As you go through the process, Sandboxx is here for you every step of the way. We’re proud of each and every recruit, and it’s our goal to support you and your family while you serve our country. 

Still unsure if the military is for you? 

Check out our blog for content about the lifestyle you can expect in each branch to get a better idea of what military life is like. From learning how to handle your first PCS move to getting a real-life look into Parris Island basic training, we cover everything you need to know about military life at every stage.  

Have a blog topic idea for us to cover? Let us know in the comments below! 

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