Understanding the Big Four on the ASVAB: Your AFQT Scores - dummies

Understanding the Big Four on the ASVAB: Your AFQT Scores

By Rod Powers

The ASVAB doesn’t have an overall score. When you hear someone say, “I got an 80 on my ASVAB,” that person is talking about the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score, not an overall ASVAB score. The AFQT score determines whether you even qualify to enlist in the military, and only four of the subtests are used to compute it:

  • Word Knowledge (WK)

  • Paragraph Comprehension (PC)

  • Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)

  • Mathematics Knowledge (MK)

Doing well on some of the other subtests is a personal choice type of issue. Some of the subtests are used only to determine the jobs you qualify for.

Figure out which areas to focus on based on your career goals. If you’re not interested in a job requiring a score on the Mechanical Comprehension subtest, you don’t need to worry about doing well on that subtest. If you don’t need to worry about mechanics, don’t bother preparing for that section. Spend the time on Word Knowledge or Arithmetic Reasoning.

Keep in mind, though, if you aren’t sure about your options, it’s best to study all sections and take the practice tests, focusing on all areas of the ASVAB. Doing well on each subtest will broaden your available job choices.

Calculating the AFQT score

The military brass (or at least its computers) determines your AFQT score through a very particular process:

  1. Add the value of your Word Knowledge score to your Paragraph Comprehension score.

  2. Convert the result of Step 1 to a scaled score, ranging from 20 to 62.

    This score is known as your Verbal Expression or VE score.

  3. To get your raw AFQT score, double your VE score and then add your Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) score and your Mathematics Knowledge (MK) score to it.

    The basic equation looks like this:

    Raw AFQT Score = 2VE + AR + MK

  4. Convert your raw score to a percentile score, which basically compares your results to the results of thousands of other ASVAB test-takers.

    For example, a score of 50 means that you scored better than 50 percent of the individuals the military is comparing you to.

Looking at AFQT score requirements for enlistment

AFQT scores are grouped into five main categories based on the percentile score ranges. Categories III and IV are divided into subgroups because the services sometimes use this chart for internal tracking purposes, enlistment limits, and enlistment incentives. Based on your scores, the military decides how trainable you may be to perform jobs in the service.

Category Percentile Score Trainability
I 93–99 Outstanding
II 65–92 Excellent
III A 50–64 Above average
III B 31–49 Average
IV A 16–30 Below average
IV B 10–15 Not trainable
V 0–9 Not trainable

The U.S. 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. Even so, if you’re Category IV, your chances of enlistment are small and mostly limited to the Army National Guard.

Depending on whether you have a high school diploma or a GED, the military has different AFQT score requirements.

Branch of Service Minimum AFQT Score with High School Diploma Minimum AFQT Score with GED Special Circumstances
U.S. Air Force 36 65 In very rare cases, if the applicant possesses special skills
(such as speaking a foreign language), the score of 36 can be
waived to 31. The Air Force allows less than 1 percent of its
enlistees each year to have a GED instead of a high school
diploma.
Army 31 31 Occasionally, the Army approves waivers for folks with scores
below 31. However, high enlistment rates and downsizing make it
more competitive to get in as the Army becomes more and more
selective.
Coast Guard 40 50 A waiver is possible if a recruit’s ASVAB line scores
qualify him or her for a specific job and the recruit is willing to
enlist in that job. Very few people (about 5 percent) each year are
allowed to enlist with a GED.
Marine Corps 32 50 Between 5 and 10 percent of recruits can enlist with a
GED.
Navy 31 50 From 5 to 10 percent of recruits can enlist with a GED. Those
with a GED must also be at least 19 and show a proven work
history.

The Navy has been known to raise its minimum AFQT requirements to 50 for females when it receives too many female applicants. Because of the limited number of females that it can house on ships, the Navy restricts the number of women who can enlist each year.

Checking out the military’s AFQT requirements for special programs

Achieving the minimum required AFQT score established by an individual branch gets your foot in the door, but the higher you score, the better. For example, if you need a medical or criminal history waiver in order to enlist, the military personnel who make those decisions are more likely to take a chance on you if they think you’re a pretty smart cookie.

Individual branches of the military tie many special enlistment programs to minimum AFQT scores:

  • Army: The Army requires a minimum AFQT score of 50 to qualify for most of its incentive programs, such as a monetary enlistment bonus, the college-loan repayment program, and the Army College Fund.

  • Marine Corps: Like the Army, the Marine Corps requires a minimum AFQT score of 50 for most of its incentive programs, including the Geographic Area of Choice Program, the Marine Corps College Fund, and enlistment bonuses.

  • Navy: Applicants who want to participate in the Navy College Fund or college loan repayment program need to achieve a minimum score of 50.

Enlistment programs are subject to change without notice. Your recruiter should be able to give you the most up-to-date information. Or visit the U.S. Military website.