How to Make Sense of AFQT Minimum Qualifying Scores
The primary purpose of the AFQT percentile score is to determine whether you qualify for the military service of your choice. Each of the branches has its own priorities, so they all have different minimum qualifying scores.
Consider the AFQT tier categories
AFQT scores are grouped into five categories based on percentile score ranges. People who score in Categories I and II tend to be above average in trainability; those in Category III, average; those in Category IV, below average; and those in Category V, markedly below average.
If your AFQT percentile score falls into Category I, all the military services want you — very badly. They also want you if your score falls into Category II or Category IIIA.
If your score falls into Category IIIB, you may or may not be able to enlist, depending in large part on how the branch is currently doing on making its recruiting goals.
Congress has directed that the military can’t accept Category V recruits or more than 4 percent of recruits from Category IV. If you’re in Category IV, you must have a high-school diploma to be eligible for enlistment; you can’t do it with a GED. Even so, if your score falls into Category IV, your chances of enlistment are very small.
Making the military cut
Each of the services has established minimum AFQT qualification scores within its respective recruiting regulations. Keep in mind that minimum scores change instantly depending on the needs of the services at that given time, so getting a high score is your best bet in order to remain competitive:
Army (including Army National Guard and Army Reserves): The Army requires a minimum AFQT score of 31 for those with a high-school diploma and 50 for those with a GED. At times when the Army is experiencing high recruiting and reenlistment rates, it has been known to temporarily increase its qualifying AFQT score minimum to as high as 50.
Air Force (including Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves): Air Force recruits must score at least 36 points on the AFQT to qualify for enlistment. In actuality, the vast majority (over 70 percent) of those accepted for an Air Force enlistment score 50 or above. For those who have a GED rather than a high-school diploma, the minimum is 65.
You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to enlist in the Air Force without a high-school diploma. Only about 0.5 percent of all Air Force enlistments each year are GED holders.
Navy: Navy recruits must score at least 35 on the AFQT to qualify for enlistment. For GED holders, the minimum score is 50.
Navy Reserves: The Navy is the only branch for which the requirements for the Reserves are different from the requirements for the branch itself. The Navy Reserves requires a minimum score of 31 on the AFQT for those with a high-school diploma and 50 for those with a GED.
Marine Corps (including Marine Corps Reserves): Marine Corps recruits must score at least 32. Very few exceptions are made (about 1 percent) for some otherwise exceptionally qualified recruits with scores as low as 25. Candidates with a GED must score a minimum of 50 on the AFQT to be considered. The Marine Corps limits GED enlistments to no more than 5 percent per year.
Coast Guard (including Coast Guard Reserves): The Coast Guard requires a minimum of 40 points on the AFQT. A waiver is possible for applicants with prior service if their ASVAB line scores qualify them for a specific job and they’re willing to enlist in that job. For the very few people (less than 5 percent) who are allowed to enlist with a GED, the minimum AFQT score is 50.
Just because you’ve met the minimum qualifying score for the service of your choice, that’s no guarantee of enlistment. During good recruiting times, a branch commonly gets more qualified applicants than it has slots for. During these times, the military has to pick and choose which applicants to accept and which ones to turn away. Quite often, it does so based on AFQT scores.
Also, enlistment incentives such as enlistment bonuses and college funds (educational assistance) are often tied to minimum AFQT scores. As with quotas, this situation is subject to change at any time based on the service’s current recruiting needs.