By Rod Powers

A good score on the AFQT can only help you. The U.S. military enlists around 265,000 new troops each and every year, counting the active and reserve components. And those men and women earned a qualifying score on the AFQT.

Take your time

Don’t cram. Study after study has shown that it doesn’t work. For example, a 2007 study conducted by University of South Florida psychologist Doug Rohrer determined that last-minute studying reduces retention of material and may hinder the learning process.

Make a study plan

You need a plan when studying for the AFQT. To lay out your plan, try making a timeline of how much time you have between now and the test. Make a schedule of days and opportunities during the week you can commit study time.

Use the practice exams to your advantage

You won’t see the same questions on the ASVAB on any ASVAB/AFQT preparation guide. The best you will find are practice questions that are very similar to the ones you’ll see on the ASVAB.

Take a test before you set up your study plan to determine which areas of the AFQT you need to spend the most time on. Take another test as a progress check after a week or two of study. Take a practice exam about a week before you’re scheduled to take the actual ASVAB to see which subjects need a little extra attention.

Take a final practice exam a day or two before the ASVAB to make sure you’re ready.

Memorize basic math formulas

As a minimum, you should know these for the Arithmetic Reasoning and Mathematics Knowledge subtests:

  • Perimeter of a square: p = 4s, where s = one side of the square

  • Area of a square: a = s2

  • Diagonal of a square:

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  • Perimeter of a rectangle: p = 2l + 2w, where l = the length and w = the width of the rectangle

  • Area of a rectangle: a = lw

  • Diagonal of a rectangle:

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  • Perimeter of a triangle: p = s1 + s2 + s3, where s = the length of each side of the triangle

  • Area of a triangle: a = 1/2bh, where b = the length of the triangle’s base and h = the height of the triangle

  • Radius of a circle: r = 1/2d, where d = the diameter of the circle

  • Diameter of a circle: d = 2r

  • Circumference of a circle: c = 2πr

  • Area of a circle: a = πr2

  • Volume of a cube: v = s3, where s = the length of one side of the cube

  • Volume of a rectangular box: v = lwh, where l = the length, w = the width, and h = the height of the box

  • Volume of a cylinder: v = πr2h, where r = the radius of the cylinder and h = the height of the cylinder

  • Surface area of a cube: SA = 6s2

  • Surface area of a rectangular box: SA = 2lw + 2wh + 2lh

  • Distance formula: d = rt, where d = distance, r = rate, and t = time

  • Interest formula: I = Prt, where I = interest, P = principal, r = rate, and t = time

Memorize the math order of operations

When a math problem asks you to perform more than one operation, you need to perform the operations in the set-in-stone correct order:

  1. Start with calculations in brackets or parentheses.

    When you have nested parentheses or brackets, do the inner ones first and work your way out.

  2. Work on terms with exponents and roots.

  3. Do all the multiplication and division, in order from left to right.

  4. Finish up with addition and subtraction, also in order from left to right.

Boost your vocabulary

The Word Knowledge subtest is nothing more than a vocabulary test. This subtest contains questions that usually ask you to find the word that is “closest in meaning” to a given word. You may also have to find the antonym, or opposite, of a given word. The more words you know, the better you’ll do on this subtest.

Comprehend what you read

To do well on the Paragraph Comprehension subtest, you must be able to read a paragraph, understand the information, and then correctly answer questions about the material. Generally, paragraph comprehension questions fall into four categories: inferring the main point or idea, analyzing the data, finding specific information, and identifying vocabulary in context.

Arrive at the test site refreshed and prepared

Don’t let the recruiter schedule you to take the ASVAB until you’re sure you’re ready. Give yourself a head start against the fatigue factor by arriving well rested and motivated. Get a good night’s sleep on the night before the test. Try to eat a light meal or snack just before the test, along with drinking enough water. Hunger or thirst should not be a distraction.

You may have to wait for up to six months for a retest.

Watch the clock

Work at a steady pace. If you’re taking the computerized version of the ASVAB (CAT-ASVAB), you’ll see a counter on the screen, counting down the time remaining on the subtest. If you’re taking the paper version of the ASVAB, a clock will be clearly visible on the wall, and the test proctor will post the start and stop time of the subtest.

If you’re drawing a blank, make a guess and move on.

Guess smart

Know how to use the process of elimination. If you’re stuck on a question, try to eliminate any answers that you know to be wrong instead of making a wild guess. If you can eliminate even one wrong answer, you increase your chances of guessing the right answer from one in four to one in three. If you can eliminate two wrong answers, your chances increase to 50/50.