How to Improve Your Chances on the General Science Subtest - dummies

How to Improve Your Chances on the General Science Subtest

By Rod Powers

Even if you study hard for the General Science subtest of the ASVAB, chances are you may come across at least a couple of questions that you can’t answer. That’s the nature of this subtest — it pretty much asks you to know all there is to know about the universe. However, you can use several strategies to improve your chances of selecting the correct answer.

Using common sense to make educated guesses

If you don’t know the answer to a question right off the bat, don’t panic. You can often eliminate a few incorrect choices simply by using common sense.

Even if you can’t determine the answer, keep in mind that this subtest doesn’t penalize you for guessing (unless you guess incorrectly on several questions in a row at the end of the subtest when taking the CAT-ASVAB), so guessing makes sense — you have a 25 percent chance of guessing the right answer even if you can’t eliminate any obviously wrong answers. If you can eliminate just one wrong answer, you improve your chances to 33 percent.

Most people don’t have to rush to finish the General Science subtest, but then again, you don’t have much leisure time to stop and think about all the questions at length, either. So if you don’t know the answer to a question right away, do your best to eliminate wrong answers quickly, mark your best guess, and move along.

Try the process of elimination on the following question:

The knee joint is known as a

  • (A) pivot joint.

  • (B) fixed joint.

  • (C) ball-and-socket joint.

  • (D) hinge joint.

Looking at the choices, you can eliminate Choice (B), fixed joint, because your knee isn’t fixed, or not moveable (or if it is, it shouldn’t be). Your skull is an example of a fixed joint, but that’s irrelevant to this question. Is your knee a pivot joint? If you think of something that pivots, you think of it moving in a circular or at least a semi-circular manner.

Your knee doesn’t do that either; therefore, you can safely eliminate Choice (A). A ball-and-socket joint is one that permits limited movement in any direction (your shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint). Your knee doesn’t do that, so you can strike off Choice (C) and choose Choice (D), hinge joint, as the most likely answer. Your knee moves like a door on a hinge.

Now suppose you have a question like this:

The most common gas found in Earth’s atmosphere is

  • (A) oxygen.

  • (B) nitrogen.

  • (C) calcium.

  • (D) helium.

Eliminate Choice (C) because calcium isn’t a gas. You can also cross out Choice (D) because if helium were the most common gas, everyone would be talking in squeaky voices (you know, like after sucking helium from a balloon). Eliminating these two answers leaves you with just two choices, and if you simply guessed, you’d have a 50 percent chance of being right.

Unfortunately, most people would guess that oxygen is the most common gas in Earth’s atmosphere, but they’d be wrong. Nitrogen — Choice (B) — tops the list, making up 78 percent of the atmosphere.

Getting back to your Latin roots

Just when you thought vocabulary study was over, think again. Many scientific words come from Latin or Greek. If you know the meaning of the Latin or Greek word, you can often figure out the meaning of the scientific word. Often, a Latin or Greek root word is used to create a longer, more specific word.

For example, the Latin root homo means human being, and the Greek root homo means same. So Homo sapiens refers to members of the human species, but homogeneous means “of the same kind.” So if you were to run across the word homologous on the General Science subtest, you’d know that it has something to do with humans or with things that are the same.

Take a look at the following example question:

Which of the following instruments might an oceanographer be expected to use?

  • (A) aspirator

  • (B) hydrophone

  • (C) calorimeter

  • (D) centrifuge

Even if you don’t have a clue about what any of these instruments do, if you know that hydro relates to water, you’ve significantly increased your chances of getting the right answer, Choice (B).