The Pros and Cons of the Paper Version of the ASVAB

By Angie Papple Johnston

The questions on the paper-and-pencil (P&P) ASVAB are the same as on the computer version. Still, there are differences between the two tests, with the P&P version offering both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with the advantages:

  • You can skip questions that you don’t know the answer to and come back to them later. This option can help when you’re racing against the clock and want to get as many answers right as possible. You can change an answer on the subtest you’re currently working on, but you can’t change an answer on a subtest after the time for that subtest has expired.
  • You may not make any marks in the exam booklet; however, you may make notes on your scratch paper. If you skip a question, you can lightly circle the item number on your answer sheet to remind yourself to go back to it. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you can mentally cross off the answers that seem unlikely or wrong to you and then guess based on the remaining answers. Be sure to erase any stray marks you make on your answer sheet before time is called for that subtest.

Killing trees isn’t the only disadvantage of the paper-based test. Other drawbacks include the following:

  • Harder questions are randomly intermingled with easier questions. This means you can find yourself spending too much time trying to figure out the answer to a question that’s too hard for you and may miss answering some easier questions at the end of the subtest, thereby lowering your overall score.
  • The paper answer sheets are scored by using an optical mark scanning machine. The machine has a conniption when it comes across an incompletely filled-in answer circle or a stray pencil mark and will often stubbornly refuse to give you credit, even if you answered correctly.
  • Getting your scores may seem like it takes forever. The timeline varies; however, your recruiter will have access to your score no later than 72 hours (3 days) after you finish the test (not counting days the MEPS doesn’t work, such as weekend days or holidays).