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ASVAB AFQT For Dummies®, 3rd Edition with Online Practice

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to www.dummies.com and search for “ASVAB AFQT For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.

Introduction

Because you’re reading this book, there’s a very good chance that you’re interested in joining the U.S. military. I say that because the military recruiting commands are the only people in the entire world who care about the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score. The AFQT score is derived from four of the nine Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) subtests. It’s used to determine your overall qualification to join the military branch of your choice.

Perhaps you’ve read the best-selling ASVAB For Dummies (Wiley), or some other ASVAB prep book, and you want more practice so you can achieve the highest possible AFQT score. Maybe you’ve already taken the ASVAB, you want to retest for a higher AFQT score, and you’re looking for an advantage. In any case, you’ve chosen the right book!

The ASVAB has two purposes: First, it’s designed to tell the military whether you can cut it within its ranks. It’s also designed to show the military where you’ll shine as a service member. Four subtests of the ASVAB (Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Mathematics Knowledge, and Arithmetic Reasoning) make up the AFQT. The same four subtests, plus the remaining five subtests, are used to determine the fields in which you’re eligible to work. (There’s no such thing as an Army astronaut. I’ve checked.)

Long gone are the days when someone could just walk into a recruiter’s office and get into the military as long as he had a pulse. Today’s all-volunteer military members are the cream of the crop. For example, did you know that under current regulations, you need a minimum of a high school education to join and that no more than 10 percent of all recruits can have a GED or other high-school equivalency certificate?

Something else you may not know: The military services can’t just grow to whatever size they want. Like any other government agency, they have a budget, and they have to operate within that budget. Every year, when Congress passes the annual Defense Authorization Act, it tells each military branch how many members it’s allowed to have at any given time. By law, the services can’t go over the size mandated by congressional leaders (who hold the military purse strings).

Did you also know that of every ten people who walk into a military recruiter’s office, only about three are allowed to enlist? Sure, some are disqualified because of medical history or criminal history, but many are turned away because their AFQT scores are too low or because other qualified applicants have higher AFQT scores.

Today’s military is high-tech. Even the “common” infantry soldier has to learn how to use and maintain complicated electronic gadgets to survive on the battlefield. The services use the AFQT to determine whether someone is “trainable” in the high-tech military.

About This Book

Full-disclosure doctrine requires me to inform you that much of the information in this book can be found in ASVAB For Dummies. The AFQT is, after all, part of the ASVAB, and I wouldn’t cheat you by putting part of the information in one book and part of the information in another.

So why should you spend some of your hard-earned money on this book, particularly if you’ve already bought ASVAB For Dummies? Because here you find expanded, more-detailed information about the AFQT and the four subtests that make up the AFQT score. If you’re worried about your AFQT score, this book will help you get the highest score you can.

Even if you’re not worried about your AFQT score, this book contains four — count ’em, four! — additional practice tests for the four most important subtests of the ASVAB. Extra practice is never a bad thing, as my high-school volleyball coach would say.

As you read through this book, you’ll see a couple of special conventions:

  • Whenever I use a new term, I italicize the term and define it nearby, often in parentheses.
  • I put web addresses in monofont so you can easily distinguish them from the surrounding text.

When this book was printed, some web addresses may have needed to break across two lines of text. If that happened, rest assured that I haven’t put in any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. So when using one of these web addresses, just type in exactly what you see in this book, pretending the line break doesn’t exist (or simply click the link if you’re reading an e-book).

This book has a few sidebars (shaded boxes) sprinkled throughout. They’re full of interesting information about topics described in those chapters, but you don’t have to read them if you don’t want to; they don’t contain anything you must know about the AFQT, so if you’re in a hurry, you can skip them. You can also skip anything marked with a Technical Stuff icon. Those tidbits are nonessential, too.

Foolish Assumptions

While writing this book, I made a few assumptions about you — namely, who you are and why you picked up this book. I assume the following:

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout this book you find icons — little pictures in the margins — that help you use the material in this book to your best advantage. Here’s a rundown of what they mean:

tip The Tip icon alerts you to helpful hints regarding the subject at hand. Tips can help you save time and score higher on the AFQT.

remember The Remember icon highlights important information you should read carefully.

warning The Warning icon flags information that may prove hazardous to your plans of acing the AFQT. Often, this icon accompanies common mistakes people make when taking the test or qualifying for enlistment. Pay special attention to the Warning icon so you don’t fall into a trap on the test.

example The Example icon points out sample questions that appear in the review chapters.

technicalstuff The Technical Stuff icon points out information that’s interesting, enlightening, or in-depth but that isn’t necessary for you to read. You don’t need this information to maximize your AFQT score, but knowing it may make you a better-informed test-taker — or at least help you impress your friends!

Beyond the Book

In addition to the book you’re reading right now, be sure to check out the free online Cheat Sheet for details on the AFQT scores you need to enlist in each branch of the military and some pointers on how to achieve a high score on the two math subtests. To get this Cheat Sheet, simply go to www.dummies.com and type “ASVAB AFQT” in the Search box.

The online practice that comes free with this book contains the four AFQT practice tests included in the book, plus four additional AFQT exams. The beauty of the online tests is that you can customize your online practice to focus on the areas that give you the most trouble. So if you need help with Paragraph Comprehension questions or Arithmetic Reasoning problems, just select those question types online and start practicing. Or if you’re short on time but want to get a mixed bag of a limited number of questions, you can specify the number of questions you want to practice. Whether you practice a few hundred questions in one sitting or a couple dozen, and whether you focus on a few types of questions or practice every type, the online program keeps track of the questions you get right and wrong so you can monitor your progress and spend time studying exactly what you need.

To gain access to the online practice, all you have to do is register. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Find your PIN access code.
    • Print book users: If you purchased a hard copy of this book, turn to the inside front cover to find your PIN.
    • E-book users: If you purchased this book as an e-book, you can get your PIN by registering your e-book at dummies.com/go/getaccess. Go to this website, find your book and click it, and answer the validation questions to verify your purchase. Then you’ll receive an email with your PIN.
  2. Go to Dummies.com and click Activate Now.
  3. Find your product (ASVAB AFQT For Dummies, 3rd Edition) and then follow the on-screen prompts to activate your PIN.

Now you’re ready to go! You can come back to the program as often as you want — simply log in with the username and password you created during your initial login. No need to enter the access code a second time.

Tip: If you have trouble with your PIN or can’t find it, contact Wiley Product Technical Support at 877-762-2974 or go to https://hub.wiley.com/community/support/dummies.

Your registration is good for one year from the day you activate your PIN. After that time frame has passed, you can renew your registration for a fee. The website gives you all the details about how to do so.

Where to Go from Here

You don’t have to read this book from cover to cover in order to maximize your AFQT score. If you decide to skip around, look over the table of contents and choose which topics you’re interested in studying.

You may already know that you’ll ace the Paragraph Comprehension subtest, so you want to brush up on word problems. If so, head to Chapters 11 and 12.

You may want to jump straight to Chapter 13 and take the first AFQT practice exam — that way, you can get an idea of which subjects you need to study more. Early on in your reading of the book, check out Chapter 2, which provides invaluable information regarding how the AFQT score is computed and how the score applies to military enlistment.

No matter where you start, I wish you all the best in your future military endeavors. I love every minute of being in the military, and I’m confident that you’ll enjoy your time with us, too.

Part 1

Getting Started with the ASVAB AFQT

IN THIS PART …

Get an overview of the ASVAB AFQT, how it’s scored, and how to prepare for it.

Check out the differences between the paper and computerized tests, find out what your score means, and get details on the possibility of retaking the test.

Create a study plan to maximize your time between now and test day.

Figure out what study strategy works best for you, take advantage of study tips, and prepare yourself for test day.

Chapter 1

Examining the AFQT

IN THIS CHAPTER

check Dissecting the AFQT

check Checking out the advantages of a high AFQT score

check Setting up a study plan

check Using the practice tests correctly

If you’re thinking about joining the U.S. military, your AFQT score may well be the most important score you achieve on any military test. Sure, it also helps determine which military jobs you’re offered or whether you get promoted, but what good are those if you can’t get into the military in the first place? You need a qualifying score on the AFQT, or you won’t be allowed to enlist. You could be a young Rambo in the making, in perfect health and able to run 3 miles in 3 minutes, and none of that would matter if you didn’t have a qualifying AFQT score.

The services have years and years of research to back up their policy of using the AFQT score as an enlistment qualification. Dozens of studies have shown that an individual’s AFQT score is one of the most significant factors in determining whether a recruit will make it through basic training and his or her first enlistment period. It costs the military about $55,935 to process a new recruit for enlistment and send that person through basic training (and that’s not even including the cost of additional job-specific schooling after you’ve graduated), so you can see why the services want to maximize their chances of getting their money’s worth.

Thankfully, with a little review, there’s absolutely no reason that you shouldn’t be able to score well on the AFQT. The score is, after all, composed of four areas that you studied intensely during your high-school years: basic math, math word problems, vocabulary, and reading. That’s where ASVAB AFQT For Dummies, 3rd Edition, comes in. Other test-prep books, such as ASVAB For Dummies (Wiley), try to prepare you for the entire Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and may be a great addition to your review, but this book is specifically designed to help you boost the most important ASVAB score of all: the AFQT score.

Getting a Close-Up View of the AFQT

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. (Turn to Chapter 2 for the minimum qualifying scores for each service.)

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

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

Reaping the Benefits of Getting the Highest Possible Score

Chapter 2 gives you the minimum AFQT qualifying scores for each service. But you don’t want to be satisfied with making just the minimum. You want to score as high as possible.

The services put great stock in your AFQT score. Not only does a high AFQT score give you a greater chance of enlistment, but it also means you may have access to special incentives, such as the following:

warning Enlistment standards, programs, quotas, and incentives change — sometimes on a week-by-week basis, depending on the service’s current recruiting needs. For the latest information, check with a military recruiter.

The AFQT is scored as a percentile. That means, for example, that if you score 70, you’ve scored as well as or higher than 70 percent of the people whose knowledge yours was measured against. The highest possible score on the AFQT is 99.

tip The AFQT isn’t a one-shot deal. If you don’t achieve a qualifying score, you can retest. After your first test, you have to wait at least 30 days to take a second test. After the second test, in most cases, you have to wait six months before you can test again. Keep in mind the age requirements and needs of the service. Although you can retest, getting a qualifying score upfront is the best way to keep your recruiter happy and your training and placement on schedule.

Establishing a Study Program

If you’re not planning to make a study plan, you should plan again. A study plan is essential if you want to score well on the AFQT, so check out the guidelines in Chapter 3. You can adjust the schedule based on how much time you have left before you take the ASVAB.

I can’t give you one best way to prepare a study plan. Each person has his or her own learning preferences; what works for you might not work for your best friend. Some people learn better by hearing information, while others like a visual approach — and still others need to put their hands on learning materials to get a good mental grasp on the information.

When you’re studying for the ASVAB, you most likely won’t put too much emphasis on learning new information. It’s more of a review of what you already know, which means you have the freedom to find study techniques that help you remember best — until you’ve taken the test and left MEPS with your shiny new enlistment contract, that is.

Try to figure out what type of learner you are before developing a plan of study. Chapter 4 can help with this process and give you some tips about what to include in your study plan based on your learning style.

warning Most people don’t look forward to sitting down for a study session. Because of that, they try to make studying more enjoyable by spending time on the subjects they already know. After all, studying familiar information is much easier than learning something new. Try not to fall into this trap! If you’re already an avid reader, you probably don’t need to spend much of your time improving your reading comprehension skills. You’re already going to ace that portion of the AFQT, right? Instead, spend most of your time boning up on the areas where you need improvement, such as math and math word problems.

tip Try to dedicate one to two hours per day to your AFQT studies. Pick a time and place where nobody will interrupt you. Having your dad yell at you to cut the grass probably won’t be beneficial to your study session. Also, turn off your cellphone. Is that call as important as your future military career? You won’t be allowed to use your phone in basic training anyway, so this is a good time to get into the habit of letting it go for a while.

Guessing Smart

All the questions on the ASVAB are multiple-choice with four possible answers. That means that if you narrow down the possible correct answers by eliminating at least one incorrect answer, you’ll boost your chances at scoring higher on the test.

Of course, you can increase these odds immensely by studying. But the chances are good that no matter how much time you put into advanced study, you’ll come across at least one question on the test that leaves you scratching your head.

tip You can improve your odds of guessing correctly by guessing smart. Chapter 4 includes tips and techniques about smart guessing in general. Flip to Chapter 6 for tips on intelligent guessing for the Word Knowledge subtest, to Chapter 8 for techniques you can use on the Paragraph Comprehension subtest, to Chapter 10 for Mathematics Knowledge subtest guessing plans, and to Chapter 12 to discover how to make intelligent guesses on the Arithmetic Knowledge subtest.

Using the Practice Exams to Your Advantage

This book includes four full-length AFQT practice exams, with questions that are very similar to the ones you see on the ASVAB subtests that make up the AFQT score. The practice exams included in this book can help increase your confidence and ensure that you’re ready to take the actual ASVAB, but you have to use them correctly.

I’ll let you in on a little not-so-secret secret: No ASVAB or AFQT preparation book includes the exact same questions as what you’ll find on the actual test. Not only would that be unethical, but it would probably also result in several federal law-enforcement agents knocking on the author’s door — not my idea of a good time. Actual ASVAB test questions are controlled items; that means that the military keeps them to itself, and people can get into heaps of trouble for sharing them. If you see any questions on the actual ASVAB or AFQT that are the same as the ones you find in this book (or any other preparation guide), it’s pure coincidence.

tip Just because the practice exams don’t include the same questions you see on the AFQT doesn’t mean that the practice exams aren’t valuable — just use them the way they were designed to be used:

You may find your recruiter trying to rush you to take the ASVAB and medical exam so he can get you signed up quickly. Recruiters live and die off their recruiting goals. Make sure you don’t let the recruiter schedule your exam until you’re sure you’re ready to take the test.

tip The mini-AFQT computerized test (see Chapter 2) that recruiters have in their offices is a pretty good indicator of whether you’re ready for the real test. Usually, people’s AFQT scores are within five or six points of what the mini-AFQT predicts.

remember Although you can’t equate scores on the practice exam with actual AFQT scores (because of the method of scoring the AFQT; see Chapter 2), shoot for a minimum of 80 percent on each subtest, keeping in mind that the practice exams in this book mimic the paper version of the test. When you’re taking the practice tests in this book, here’s what you need to make a B grade:

Chapter 2

Facing the AFQT Head-On

IN THIS CHAPTER

check Considering computer versus paper tests

check Understanding how the AFQT is scored

check Knowing what score you need to enlist

check Taking the test again to get a better score

Everyone looking to enlist in the U.S. military has to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB consists of nine separately timed subtests, which the military primarily uses to determine your aptitude to learn various military jobs.

Four of the ASVAB subtests are used to compute the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score. This score determines whether you’re qualified to join the military service of your choice.Each branch of military service has its own minimum AFQT score standards. Your AFQT score tells the military what your chances are of making it successfully through your enlistment period. The services have conducted countless studies over the years, and the results are clear: The higher your AFQT score, the greater the chances that you’ll successfully complete your enlistment contract.

As you can imagine, the AFQT score is very important to the military recruiting commands. If you have a high AFQT score, you can expect your recruiter to be wining and dining you, offering you all kinds of enlistment incentives, and telling all his coworkers that you’re his very best friend. On the other hand, if your AFQT score is below the minimum standards set by that service, you can expect your recruiter to say, “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” If you have a qualifying AFQT score that’s mediocre, you can probably still enlist, but you’ll most likely miss out on many enlistment goodies, such as enlistment bonuses. (Maybe you’ll get a free T-shirt.)

In this chapter, I explain which of the four ASVAB subtests are used to compute your AFQT score and how the military calculates the score. I also tell you the minimum qualifying AFQT scores for each service branch and explain how you can request a retest if your score is too low.

Looking at the Big ASVAB Picture

Depending on where and why you take the test, you may encounter two different versions of the ASVAB: the computerized version and the pencil-and-paper version.

The computerized version of the ASVAB (CAT-ASVAB) contains nine separately timed subtests. On the CAT-ASVAB, Auto Information and Shop Information are separated into two different tests, whereas they’re combined on the paper version. In Table 2-1, I outline the nine ASVAB subtests in the order that you take them; the bolded subtests are used to calculate the AFQT score.

TABLE 2-1 Details about the ASVAB Subtests

Subtest

Questions/Time (CAT-ASVAB)

Questions/Time (Paper Version)

Content

General Science

16 questions, 8 minutes

25 questions, 11 minutes

General principles of biological and physical sciences

Arithmetic Reasoning

16 questions, 39 minutes

30 questions, 36 minutes

Math word problems

Word Knowledge

16 questions, 8 minutes

35 questions, 11 minutes

Correct meaning of a word and best synonym or antonym for a given word

Paragraph Comprehension

11 questions, 22 minutes

15 questions, 13 minutes

Questions based on paragraphs (usually a few hundred words) that you read

Mathematics Knowledge

16 questions, 20 minutes

25 questions, 24 minutes

High school math

Electronics Information

16 questions, 8 minutes

20 questions, 9 minutes

Electricity and electronic principles and terminology

Mechanical Comprehension

16 questions, 20 minutes

25 questions, 19 minutes

Basic mechanical and physical principles

Auto and Shop Information

11 Auto Information questions, 7 minutes; 11 Shop Information questions, 6 minutes

25 questions, 11 minutes

Knowledge of automobiles, shop terminology, and tool use

Assembling Objects

16 questions, 16 minutes

25 questions, 15 minutes

Spatial orientation

You can’t take just the four AFQT subtests of the ASVAB. You have to take all nine subtests in order to get a qualifying AFQT score. The military isn’t set up to give partial ASVAB tests. For example, if you take the ASVAB and get line scores that qualify you for the military job you want but your AFQT score is too low to join, you have to retake the entire ASVAB — not just the four subtests that make up the AFQT — to get a higher AFQT score.

remember During the initial enlistment process, your service branch determines your military job or enlistment program based on the minimum line scores it has established. Line scores are computed from the various subtests of the ASVAB. If you get an appropriate score in the appropriate areas, you can get the job you want — as long as that job is available and you meet other qualification factors.

The computerized ASVAB (CAT-ASVAB)

Nobody really cares about the AFQT score except the military — and it cares a lot! Because you’re reading this book, I’m willing to bet that you’re interested in joining the military. And if you’re interested in joining the military, you’ll most likely take the computerized version of the ASVAB. That’s because most people taking the ASVAB for the purpose of joining the military take it at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), and all these places use the computerized test.

The computerized version of the ASVAB — called the CAT-ASVAB (CAT stands for Computerized Adaptive Testing) — has the same questions as the paper version. The CAT-ASVAB adapts the questions it offers you based on your level of proficiency. (That’s why it’s called adaptive.) The first test question is of average difficulty. If you answer this question correctly, the next question is more difficult. If you answer the first question incorrectly, the computer gives you an easier question. (By contrast, on the pencil-and-paper ASVAB, easy, medium, and hard questions are presented randomly.) On the ASVAB, harder questions are worth more points than easier questions are, so you want to get to them sooner to maximize your score.

Pros of taking the CAT-ASVAB

Maybe it’s because most people are more comfortable in front of a computer than they are with paper and pencil, but military recruiters have noted that among applicants who’ve taken both the paper-based version and the computerized version of the ASVAB, recruits tend to score slightly higher on the computerized version of the test.

When you take the CAT-ASVAB, the computer automatically calculates and prints your standard scores for each subtest and your line scores for each service branch. (If you’re interested in line scores, which are used for military job-classification purposes, you may want to pick up a copy of ASVAB For Dummies [Wiley].) This machine is a pretty smart cookie; it also calculates your AFQT score on the spot. With the computerized version, you usually know whether you qualify for military enlistment on the same day you take the test and, if so, which jobs you qualify for.

Cons of taking the CAT-ASVAB

Unlike the pencil-and-paper version, you can’t skip questions or change your answers after you enter them on the CAT-ASVAB. This restriction can make taking the test harder for some people. Instead of being able to go through and immediately answer all the questions you’re sure of and then come back to the questions that require you to do some head scratching, you have to answer each question as it comes. Also, judging how much time to spend on a difficult question before guessing and moving on can be tough. Finally, if you have a few minutes at the end of the test, you can’t go back and check to make sure you marked the correct answer to each question.

The pencil-and-paper test

Most people who take the pencil-and-paper version of the ASVAB do so under the ASVAB Career Exploration Program, a cooperative program between the Department of Education and the Department of Defense at high schools all across the United States. Although the results of this version can be used for military enlistment purposes (if taken within two years of enlistment), its primary purpose is to serve as a tool for guidance counselors to use when recommending possible careers to high school students.

You can also take the pencil-and-paper version for purposes of enlistment through a recruiter, but that’s not done very often these days. In unusual circumstances, when it’s impractical for an applicant to travel to a MEPS location, recruiters can make arrangements for applicants to take the pencil-and-paper version at a Military Entrance Test (MET) site.

technicalstuff Another version of the ASVAB is the Armed Forces Classification Test (AFCT). This version is used by folks already in the military who want to improve their ASVAB scores for the purposes of retraining for a different military job. Except for the name of the exam, the AFCT is exactly the same as the other versions of the ASVAB.

Pros of taking the paper-and-pencil test

The paper-based test allows you to skip questions that you don’t know the answer to and come back to them later. You can’t do that on the CAT-ASVAB. This option can be a real 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.

Cons of taking the paper-and-pencil test

On the pencil-and-paper version, harder questions are intermingled with easier questions, so you may find yourself spending too much time trying to figure out the answer to a question that’s too hard for you, and you may miss answering some easier questions at the end of the subtest because you ran out of time. The result: Your overall score will be lower.

The paper answer sheets are scored by an optical scanning machine. The machine has a conniption when it comes across an incompletely filled-in answer circle or stray pencil marks and will often stubbornly refuse to give you credit for these questions, even if you answered correctly.