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Cheat Sheet

ASVAB For Dummies

As any professional military commander will tell you, knowing your enemy is the first step in winning a battle. After all, how can you expect to pass the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) if you don’t know what’s on the test? Here are some test-taking tips and key info about ASVAB test formats to help you ace the test, get into the service of your choice, and qualify for your dream job.

The ASVAB Subtests: Paper Version

If you take the ASVAB at a Military Entrance Test (MET) site, you’ll likely take the paper-and-pencil version of the test. The following table outlines the subtests on the paper version of the ASVAB, including information on content, the number of questions, and time limits.

Subtest Questions Time (Minutes) Content
General Science (GS) 25 11 General principles of biological and physical sciences
Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) 30 36 Simple word problems that require simple calculations
Word Knowledge (WK) 35 11 Correct meaning of a word; occasionally antonyms (words with opposite meanings)
Paragraph Comprehension (PC) 15 13 Questions based on several paragraphs (usually a few hundred words) that you read
Mathematics Knowledge (MK) 25 24 High-school math, including algebra and geometry
Electronics Information (EI) 20 9 Electrical principles, basic electronic circuitry, and electronic terminology
Auto & Shop Information (AS) 25 11 Knowledge of automobiles, shop terminology, and tool use
Mechanical Comprehension (MC) 25 19 Basic mechanical and physical principles
Assembling Objects (AO) 25 15 Spatial orientation

The CAT-ASVAB Subtests: Computer Version

If you take the ASVAB at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), you’ll encounter a computerized version of the test called the CAT-ASVAB (where CAT stands for computerized adaptive test). The following table outlines the subtests, number of questions, and time limits on the CAT-ASVAB.

Subtest Questions Time (Minutes) Content
General Science (GS) 16 8 General principles of biological and physical sciences
Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) 16 39 Simple word problems that require simple calculations
Word Knowledge (WK) 16 8 Correct meaning of a word; occasionally antonyms (words with opposite meanings)
Paragraph Comprehension (PC) 11 22 Questions based on several paragraphs (usually a few hundred words) that you read
Mathematics Knowledge (MK) 16 20 High-school math, including algebra and geometry
Electronics Information (EI) 16 8 Electrical principles, basic electronic circuitry, and electronic terminology
Auto Information (AI) 11 7 Knowledge of automobiles, and tool use
Shop Information (SI) 11 6 Knowledge of shop procedures
Mechanical Comprehension (MC) 16 20 Basic mechanical and physical principles
Assembling Objects (AO) 16 16 Spatial orientation

Note: On the CAT-ASVAB, the AI and SI scores are combined for one score.

General ASVAB Test-Taking Tips

When taking the ASVAB, being prepared and knowing how to approach the questions can go a long way. Use the following test-taking tips to improve your ASVAB score:

  • Read the directions carefully.

  • Know what a question is asking you to do before looking at the answer choices.

  • Read all the answer options before selecting one.

  • Skip questions you don’t know and then go back to them if you have time. Note: Skipping questions isn’t an option if you take the computer-based test, which forces you to answer each question before you can move on to the next one.

  • Don’t leave any questions blank. The ASVAB doesn’t penalize you for guessing. On the computer-based ASVAB, you can’t leave any questions blank.

  • If you’re taking the paper-and-pencil test, make sure that you mark each answer on the correct space on your answer sheet.

  • Never change the answer to a question after you move on to another question unless you’re positive the answer’s wrong. This doesn’t apply for the computerized version — after you submit your answer, you can’t change it.

Pointers for Guessing on the ASVAB

No matter how hard you study for the ASVAB, you’ll likely come across a few questions where you don’t have a clue. Guess wisely, and you can score extra points on many ASVAB subtests. If you leave a question blank, you have a 0 percent chance of getting it right, but if you guess, you have at least a 25 percent chance. Here are a few quick pointers on guessing:

  • Eliminate answers that you know are wrong and then guess among the remaining answers. If you eliminate one answer, your chances of getting the question right go up to 33 percent. Eliminate two, and you’re up to 50/50. Here are some tips on narrowing down your choices:

    • Answers that include always or never types of statements are usually wrong.

    • If two answer options have opposite meanings, one of them is probably correct.

    • If two answer options are very close in meaning, neither of them is probably correct.

  • Don’t guess based on the frequency of previous answers. Just because the answer to the last ten questions has been (C) doesn’t mean the next answer can’t be (C), too.

  • If you can’t eliminate any choices, always choose the same letter for your guess. For example, if you have to guess on ten questions, always guess (C). Choosing the same letter every time increases your odds of selecting the right answer for at least one or two of those questions.

ASVAB Reading Comprehension Tips

The Paragraph Comprehension passages on the ASVAB are usually pretty short. These tips can help you better comprehend the ASVAB reading passages and the questions that follow them:

  • Understand what the question wants from you. Does it ask for the main point, specific information, or a conclusion based on the information presented?

  • Reread the paragraph to make sure you answer the question correctly. If you’re a really slow reader, you may not have time to do so. However, if you’re not sure of an answer, quickly read the paragraph again.

  • Look for key vocabulary words. Paragraph Comprehension questions may test your vocabulary. Use the context — the surrounding words — to help you understand the meaning of a word.

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