How Does a High Score on the AFQT Help Me?

There are minimum AFQT qualifying scores for each service. But you don’t want to be satisfied with making just the minimum. You want to score as high as you possibly can.

The services put great stock in your AFQT score. Not only does a high AFQT score give you a greater chance of enlistment, but it also means you may have access to special treats, such as the following:

  • Enlistment incentives: Depending on current recruiting needs, individual services often tie the AFQT score to enlistment incentives, such as monetary bonuses or education benefits. For example, the Army often requires a minimum AFQT score of 50 to qualify for a bonus or to qualify for the Student Loan Repayment Program and other programs and benefits.

  • Enlistment programs: Most military jobs are tied to individual line scores derived from the entire ASVAB, but certain enlistment programs sometimes require a minimum AFQT score that is significantly higher than the minimum score needed for a regular enlistment. For example, some Navy jobs (such as those in the nuclear field) require a higher AFQT score.

  • Education level: You have to have a high-school diploma in order to join any of the services. The services can, however, take a limited number of GED applicants each year. To qualify with a GED, you must score higher on the AFQT than a qualified high-school diploma holder.

  • Quotas: During times when the services are doing well meeting their recruiting goals, they often get more people who want to join than they have room for. At these times, the services get to pick and choose whom they let join and whom they don’t. Branches commonly raise their AFQT minimum scores temporarily to separate the best-qualified applicants from the rest.

    Sometimes enlistment gets so competitive that the services may require a minimum score of 50 just to be considered. As of this writing, minimum scores for the services tend to rest in the 30s.

  • Waivers: One past study indicated that only four out of ten people who walked into a recruiter’s office were qualified for enlistment. Certain factors — such as criminal history, age, education level, number of dependents, or medical history — made them ineligible. Some of these eligibility criteria can be waived (sometimes with difficulty and processing delays).

    However, when the military grants a waiver, it’s taking a chance on an otherwise ineligible recruit. For example, if you have too many criminal misdeeds in your past and require a waiver to enlist, a service is much more likely to grant the waiver if you score 85 on the AFQT than it is if you score 45.

Enlistment standards, programs, quotas, and incentives change — sometimes on a week-by-week basis, depending on the service’s current recruiting needs. For the latest information, check with a military recruiter or visit USmilitary.about.com.

The AFQT is scored as a percentile. That means, for example, that if you score 70, you’ve scored higher than 70 percent of the thousands of people who’ve taken the test before you. The highest possible score on the AFQT is 99.

The AFQT isn’t a one-shot deal. If you don’t achieve a qualifying score, you can retest. After your first test, you have to wait at least 30 days to take a second test. After the second test, in most cases, you have to wait six months before you can test again.

Keep in mind the age requirements and needs of the service. Although you can retest, getting a qualifying score upfront is the best way to keep your recruiter happy and your training and placement on schedule.

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