By Rod Powers

If the military would simply score the subtests of the ASVAB as “number correct,” or even “percent correct,” a recruiter’s life would be much easier. But, the military being the military, it does it the hard way.

The AFQT is often mistakenly called the “overall ASVAB score.” You commonly hear someone say, “I got a 67 on the ASVAB,” or “My ASVAB score was 92.” That’s not correct; it implies that the AFQT is derived from all nine subtests of the ASVAB, and it’s not. The AFQT score is computed from just four of the ASVAB subtests that measure your math and communicative ability.

Understanding raw scores

The military scores each subtest of the ASVAB by using a raw score. A raw score is the total number of points you receive on each subtest of the ASVAB. You don’t see your raw scores on the printout you receive from your recruiter after completing the test.

The recruiter walks you back to the waiting area and retrieves two or three copies of your scores on a printout that includes all your line scores for each branch, your AFQT, and some other information.

You can’t use practice tests to calculate your probable ASVAB scores. ASVAB scores are calculated using raw scores, and raw scores aren’t determined simply from the number of right or wrong answers. On the actual ASVAB, harder questions are worth more points than easier questions.

Computing the verbal expression score

The military uses the verbal expression (VE) score to measure your communicative ability. The score goes toward computing the AFQT score as well as many of the military’s line scores. The military brass determine your VE score by first adding the value of your Word Knowledge (WK) raw score to your Paragraph Comprehension (PC) raw score. The result is then converted to a scaled score ranging from 20 to 62.

Getting the AFQT score formula

To get your AFQT raw score, the computer doubles your VE score and then adds your Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) score and your Mathematics Knowledge (MK) score to it. Here’s the formula:

AFQT raw score = 2VE + AR + MK

You don’t get to see what your AFQT raw score is on your ASVAB score sheet. The computer converts the score into a percentile score.

Normalizing the percentile score

Your AFQT raw score is converted to an AFQT percentile score, ranging from 1 to 99. How does that work? In 1997, the Department of Defense conducted a “Profile of American Youth” study, which examined the AFQT raw scores of a national probability sample of 18- to 23-year-olds who took the ASVAB during that year.

Your AFQT percentile score is derived by comparing your AFQT raw score to those of the approximately 14,000 young people who took part in the study. For example, an AFQT percentile score of 50 means that you scored better than 50 percent of the individuals included in the 1997 study.