ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension Subtest Format

By Rod Powers

When you get to the Paragraph Comprehension subtest of the ASVAB, you have several passages to read. Most passages are only one paragraph long, and rarely are they longer than two paragraphs. Each passage contains between 50 and 200 words. (Look at it this way: At least you won’t be required to read War and Peace!)

The ASVAB test-makers may ask you to answer only one question about a given reading ­passage, or they may ask you to answer as many as five questions about one passage. Unfortunately, this subtest doesn’t consist of the most interesting passages you’ll ever read. (You won’t find paragraphs from your favorite spy or romance novel here.)

So it’s important that you set your attention span dial to the maximum setting. If you’re taking the paper-and-pencil version of the ASVAB, you have 13 minutes to read the passages and answer 15 questions. On the computer version, you have 22 minutes to answer 11 questions.

In order to understand what you read — which is what the Paragraph Comprehension subtest is all about — you need to develop several abilities:

  • Finding the main idea or argument that the author is making

  • Remembering specific details about the reading

  • Drawing conclusions from what you’ve read

  • Understanding relationships between ideas

  • Paraphrasing or summarizing what you’ve read