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What Can I Expect From the ASVAB Arithmetic Reasoning Subtest?

The Arithmetic Reasoning subtest is the second subtest on the ASVAB, right after the General Science subtest. Therefore, it’s the first subtest you encounter on the ASVAB that affects your AFQT score.

The Arithmetic Reasoning subtest asks you to read a word problem, determine what the question is asking, solve the problem with mathematics, and select the correct answer. (Then you have to repeat the process numerous times.) Most of the problems look like this:

Jane walks 5 miles to work each morning and 5 miles home each evening. How many miles does Jane walk in a day?

  • (A)6 miles

  • (B)8 miles

  • (C)7 miles

  • (D)10 miles

Hopefully, you picked Choice (D), 10 miles! That was an easy question just to get you warmed up. Unfortunately, the questions the military writes are a bit tougher.

You have 39 minutes to answer 16 questions for the CAT-ASVAB (computerized version); if you happen to take the paper test, you must answer 30 questions in 36 minutes (makes sense, doesn’t it?).

You see a mixture of hard questions, medium questions, and easy questions on this subtest. The hard ones are worth more points than the medium ones, which are worth more points than the easy ones. If you’re taking the CAT-ASVAB, the computer automatically selects the question difficulty based on how you answered the previous question. If you’re really good at math word problems, you may only see hard questions!

The test administrator supplies you with scratch paper so you can work out some of the problems on paper, if necessary. Those dirty rats who make up the rules don’t allow the use of calculators on the ASVAB. All you’re allowed is your brain, your trusty No. 2 pencil, and a piece of scratch paper. If you’re lucky, they may let you sneak in your thinking cap.

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