What Kind of Questions Will You Find on the Mathematics Knowledge Subtest of the ASVAB?

By Rod Powers

On the CAT-ASVAB, the Mathematics Knowledge subtest consists of 16 questions covering the entire array of high-school math, and you have 20 minutes to complete the subtest. (If you’re taking the paper version of the ASVAB, you have to answer 25 questions in 24 minutes.) You don’t necessarily have to rush through each calculation, but set a good pace (about a minute per question).

You have to focus and concentrate to solve each problem quickly and accurately.

The lovely people who make up the rules have dictated you can’t use a calculator for any of the math questions on the ASVAB. When you enter the testing room, you get a pencil and a sheet of scratch paper. The good news is that all the questions on the math subtests of the ASVAB are designed so that you can solve them without electronic calculation.

The Mathematics Knowledge subtest features three types of questions:

  • Direct math: This type of question presents you with a mathematical equation and asks you to solve it.

  • Math law: This type of question asks you a about a mathematical law, rule, term, or concept.

  • Combined: This type of question asks you to use a mathematical law, rule, term, or concept to solve a problem.

Direct math questions

The direct math question is the most common type of question on the Mathematics Knowledge subtest. In a direct math question, you’re presented with an equation and asked to solve it. You see a lot of these.

Solve for x: 2x + 4(2x + 7) = 3(2x + 4).

  • (A)0.75

  • (B)–4

  • (C)1.25

  • (D)–1.25

The correct answer is Choice (B), –4. This is an algebraic equation that you can solve using the rules of algebra:


Math law questions

Sometimes the Mathematics Knowledge subtest asks you a question that doesn’t involve solving a mathematical problem. Instead, you’re expected to answer a question concerning a mathematical concept, math term, rule, or law. You’re not likely to see more than two or three of these kinds of questions on the test, however.

In the expression 432xy + 124xy, the “432” is called the

  • (A)multiplier

  • (B)coefficient

  • (C)matrix

  • (D)prime

The correct answer is Choice (B), coefficient. A coefficient is the number multiplied times a variable or a product of variables or powers of variables in a term.

Combined questions

You may see eight or nine combined questions on the Mathematics Knowledge subtest. These questions require you to use a particular math term, rule, or concept to solve a mathematical problem.

What is the quotient of 4 and 4?

  • (A)8

  • (B)16

  • (C)0

  • (D)1

The right answer is Choice (D), 1. To solve this problem, you need to know that a quotient is the result of a division operation. When you’ve figured that out, you have to perform the operation: 4 ÷ 4 = 1