Knowing Which Version of the ASVAB You’re Taking

By Rod Powers

The ASVAB comes in many flavors, depending on where and why you take it. You’d think that after almost 50 years in existence, the test could’ve been whittled down to a single version by now. But don’t get too confused about the different versions. Here are the choices.

Version How You Take It Format Purpose
Student Given to juniors and seniors in high school; it’s
administered through a cooperative program between the Department
of Education and the Department of Defense at high schools across
the United States
Paper Its primary purpose is to provide a tool for guidance
counselors to use when recommending civilian career areas to high
school students (though it can be used for enlistment if taken
within two years of enlistment). For example, if a student scores
high in electronics, the counselor can recommend electronics career
paths. If a student is interested in military service, the
counselor then refers her to the local military recruiting
offices.
Enlistment Given through a military recruiter Usually computer, may be paper This version of the ASVAB is used by all the military branches
for the purpose of enlistment qualification and to determine which
military jobs a recruit can successfully be trained in.
Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) or Enlistment Screening Test
(EST)
Given at the discretion of a military recruiter for a quick
enlistment qualification screening
Computer These mini-ASVABs aren’t qualification tests;
they’re strictly recruiting tools. The EST and CAT contain
questions similar but not identical to questions on the ASVAB. The
tests are used to help estimate an applicant’s probability of
obtaining qualifying ASVAB scores.
Armed Forces Classification Test (AFCT) Given in-house to people already in the military Paper, though the military plans to replace it with a
computerized version soon
At some point during your military career, you may want to
retrain for a different job. If you need higher ASVAB scores to
qualify for such retraining, you can take the AFCT. Except for the
name of the exam, the AFCT is the same as the other versions of the
ASVAB.

For people taking the enlistment version of the test, the vast majority of applicants are processed through a MEPS, where they take the computerized format of the ASVAB (called the CAT-ASVAB, short for computerized-adaptive testing ASVAB), undergo a medical physical, and run through a security screening, many times all in one trip. However, applicants may instead choose to take the paper and pencil (P&P) version, which is generally given by non-MEPS personnel at numerous Mobile Examination Test (MET) sites located throughout the United States.