By Rod Powers

Technically, you can’t fail the ASVAB — it’s not a pass/fail test but instead a tool the military uses to measure your potential for learning military duties and military occupations. But realistically, each of the branches has established minimum Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) scores to qualify for enlistment and minimum line scores to qualify for certain military jobs.

If you avoid these mistakes, you can improve your chances of qualifying for enlistment and getting the military job of your dreams.

Choosing not to study at all

Many people think that they don’t need to study for the ASVAB. They assume that because they studied many of the subjects in high school, they’ll do fine even if they just wing it.

This train of thought isn’t true. Why wouldn’t you study? At the very least, brushing up on vocabulary and math concepts definitely helps you score higher on the ASVAB. Using a calculator is a no-no on the ASVAB, so you may want to revisit some math tricks for doing calculations by hand. Auto, Shop, and Mechanical Comprehension aren’t required high school courses, so these subjects may be completely new to you and require additional attention.

Failing to realize how scores are used

The military powers that be use the nine subtests on the ASVAB to determine which military jobs you qualify for. If you don’t know how the scores are used, you can’t decide which parts of the exam are most important for you to study.

Studying for unnecessary subtests

If you don’t want to be a mechanic in the military, why would you study for the Auto & Shop Information subtest? You should be spending your time on the math and vocabulary review, because the math and vocabulary subtests of the ASVAB are used to compute the all-important AFQT score, which determines whether you can join the military branch of your choice.

It’s easier to study subject areas that you find easy or have an interest in, but if you’re already an electronics whiz, don’t waste your time studying a subject area that you’re already going to ace. Spend your time studying subject areas that you aren’t quite so confident of.

Losing focus

The ASVAB is tiring. You have to take nine subtests that cover some really diverse subjects. You have about three hours to complete the actual test, so if you lose focus while you’re taking the test, time has a tendency of slipping away, and you may not get to all the questions. It’s hard, but stay focused on the task at hand throughout the whole test. It’ll be over soon.

Here are some tips that can help you maintain focus:

  • Arrive at the test location with time to spare.
  • Leave your baggage at the door.
  • Concentrate on one subtest at a time.
  • Take a few moments to relax and refocus between subtests.

Panicking over time

Yes, you have only a limited time to take the test, but don’t worry about it. The more you panic, the more likely you are to make mistakes. Just work at a steady pace, and you’ll do fine.

Don’t spend too much time on any single question. If you’re drawing a blank, make a guess and move on. Keep your eye on the time remaining, but don’t panic over it.

Deciding not to check the answers

You should always double-check your answers before you commit to them — you don’t want to be tripped up by silly mistakes. Don’t mark your answer and then check your work. Check your work first.

Do not second-guess yourself. Just check for accuracy. Be sure to mark your answer sheet correctly, too, verifying that the number of the question matches the number on your answer sheet. Getting just one question off can mess up the rest of the answer sheet.

Making wild guesses or not guessing at all

Take the time to eliminate answers you know are incorrect before choosing among the remaining answer options. And here’s the number one rule: Don’t leave any blank spaces. In most cases, guessing if you have to is the way to go — at least you have a higher chance at getting the right answer, as opposed to a 0 percent chance if you leave the answer blank. If you can eliminate answers you know are wrong before guessing, you increase your chances of answering correctly even more.

If you’re running out of time at the end of a subtest while taking the CAT-ASVAB, be careful about guessing your way through the last questions. If you have too many wrong answers at the end of a subtest, you may be penalized for mismanaging your time, and that can negatively affect your score.

Changing answers

After you double-check your math, decide that Choice (C) is correct, and mark it on the answer sheet, don’t change your answer on the paper version of the ASVAB! You’re almost certain to change a right answer to a wrong one when you play that game. Plus, you can drive yourself crazy by second-guessing your decision. Mark the answer and move on.

Memorizing the practice test questions

Don’t waste your time trying to memorize practice questions. It is almost guaranteed that you won’t see any of the practice questions on any study guide on the actual ASVAB. Military test materials are highly controlled items, and no author of an ASVAB preparation book has access to them. In fact, military members and military civilian employees who disclose actual ASVAB test questions or answers can go to jail.

Just use practice questions as a measurement tool of which subject areas you should spend your time concentrating on.

Misunderstanding the problem

Make sure that you know what the question wants from you and then give the question what it wants. If the problem asks for the sum of two numbers, don’t multiply the numbers. Don’t mistake a division sign for an addition sign. By familiarizing yourself with the types of questions on the ASVAB, you’ll be able to zero in on what you’re supposed to do a lot more quickly.