Strategies for Tackling Multiple-Choice ASVAB Questions

By Rod Powers

Both the paper-based and the computerized versions of the ASVAB are multiple-choice tests. You choose the correct (or most correct) answer from among the available (usually four) choices. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you tackle the choices:

  • Read the directions carefully. Most ASVAB test proctors agree — the majority of the time when there’s an issue with an applicant’s scores, misreading directions is a prime offender. Each subtest has a paragraph or two describing what the subtest covers and instructions on how to answer the questions.

    If the directions on the Paragraph Comprehension subtest inform you that a paragraph applies to questions 3, 4, and 5 and you misread it as 4, 5, and 6, you’re probably going to get at least one of those questions wrong.

  • Make sure you understand the question. If you don’t understand the question, you’re naturally not going to be able to make the best decision when selecting an answer. Understanding the question requires attention to three particular points:

    • Take special care to read the questions correctly. Most questions ask something like, “Which of the following equals ?” But sometimes, a question may ask, “Which of the following does not equal ?” You can easily skip right over the word not when you’re reading, assume that the answer is 6, and get the question wrong.

    • On the math subtests, be especially careful to read the symbols. When you’re in a hurry, the + sign and the sign can look very similar. And blowing right by a negative sign or another symbol is just as easy.

    • Make sure you understand the terms being used. When a math problem asks you to find the product of two numbers, be sure you know what finding the product means (you have to multiply the two numbers). If you add the two numbers, you arrive at the wrong answer.

  • Take time to review all the answer options. On all the subtests, you almost always select the correct answer from only four possible answer options. On the ASVAB, you’re supposed to choose the answer that is most correct. (Now and then you do the opposite and choose the answer that’s least correct.) Sometimes several answers are reasonably correct for the question at hand, but only one of them is the best answer.

    If you don’t stop to read and review all the answers, you may not choose the one that’s most correct. Or if you review all the answer options, you may realize that you hastily decided on an incorrect answer because you misread it.

    Often, a person reads a question, decides on the answer, glances at the answer options, chooses the option that agrees with his or her answer, marks it on the answer sheet, and then moves on. Although this approach usually works, it can sometimes lead you astray.

  • If you’re taking a paper test, mark the answer carefully. A machine scores the paper-based ASVAB answer sheets. You have to mark the answer clearly so the machine knows which answer you’ve selected. This means carefully filling in the space that represents the correct letter.

    You’ve done this a million times in school, but it’s worth repeating: Don’t use a check mark, don’t circle the answer, and don’t let your mark wander into the next space. If you must erase, make sure all evidence of your prior choice is gone; otherwise, the grading machine may credit you with the wrong choice or disregard your correct answer and give you no credit at all.

    Incorrectly marking the answer sheet — answering Question 11 on the line for Question 12, Question 12 on the line for Question 13, and . . . you get the idea — is a very real possibility. Be especially careful if you skip a question that you’re going to return to later.

    Incorrectly marking the answers can cause a real headache. If you fail to get a qualifying score, the minimum amount of time you must wait before retaking the ASVAB is one month. Even then, your journey to military glory through ASVAB torment may not be over.

    If within six months of a previous test, your retest AFQT score increases by 20 points or more, you’ll be required by MEPCOM regulation to take an additional ASVAB test, called a confirmation test. (Confirmation tests can be taken only at MEPS facilities, by the way.) So if you’re not careful, you’ll be taking three ASVABs when all you really needed to take was one. Sound fun?