What Are the Subtests on the AFQT?

By Rod Powers

The AFQT isn’t a stand-alone test. You can’t just walk into a recruiter’s office and say you want to take the AFQT. You have to take the entire ASVAB, which consists of nine separate subtests. Four of those subtests make up the score that’s known as the AFQT score. The AFQT score determines whether you’re qualified to join the service of your choice.

Here are the four subtests that make up your AFQT score:

  • Arithmetic Reasoning: The Arithmetic Reasoning subtest consists of 30 math word problems. The subtest is multiple-choice. On the paper version, you get 36 minutes to correctly solve as many of the 30 problems as you can; on the computerized-adaptive test (the CAT version or CAT-ASVAB), it’s 16 questions in 39 minutes.

  • Word Knowledge: The Word Knowledge subtest is a vocabulary test, plain and simple. You have to find words that are “closest in meaning” to underlined words in the question stem. You have 35 words to define in 11 minutes on the paper version, or 16 questions in 8 minutes on the CAT version.

  • Paragraph Comprehension: The Paragraph Comprehension subtest requires you to read a paragraph and then answer one to four questions about information contained in that paragraph. The paper version has 15 questions in all, and you’re expected to complete the subtest in 13 minutes; the CAT version has 11 questions in 22 minutes.

    Many other standardized tests refer to this type of question as “reading comprehension.” The military likes to do things its own way, so it refers to them as “paragraph comprehension” questions. Different name, same thing.

  • Mathematics Knowledge: This subtest measures your ability to solve high-school level math problems. You have to solve 25 basic math problems in 24 minutes on the paper version or 16 questions in 20 minutes on the CAT version. Like the other subtests of the AFQT, all the questions are multiple-choice.

The AFQT isn’t the only qualifying standard the military uses. You have to meet all the set standards in order to qualify for enlistment, including age, weight, number of dependents, medical history, education level, and criminal history.