Title page image

2017/2018 ASVAB For Dummies® with Online Practice

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to and search for “2017/2018 ASVAB For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.


If you’re reading this book, there’s a good chance that you want to join the United States military. Perhaps it’s been your lifelong dream to drive a tank, fire a machine gun, or blow things up (legally). Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to cook for 2,000 people at a time. Possibly you were attracted to the military because of education and training opportunities, the chance of travel, or huge enlistment bonuses. In any event, by now you’ve discovered that you can’t just walk into a recruiter’s office and say, “Hey, I’m here. Sign me up!” These days, you have to pass the ASVAB.

The ASVAB (short for Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) is unlike any test you’ve ever taken. It covers standard academic areas, such as math and English, but it also measures your knowledge of mechanics, electronics, science, and assembling objects.

The good news is that you need to do well on some of the subtests but not necessarily all of them. The order of importance of the subtests depends on your career goals. In this book, you find out what you need to know to do well on all the subtests and then get the info to determine which subtests are important to you. I include charts and tables to help you figure out the subtest scores that individual military jobs require. You can use this information to ace the subtests that make up the ASVAB and determine which subtests are important for your military-career goals.

About This Book

The paper enlistment version of the ASVAB and the computer version of the test have nine subtests, each of which is covered in its own chapter in this book. This book shows you what to expect on each subtest, offers strategies for studying each subject area, gives you test-taking (and guessing) tips, and provides three full-length sample tests that help you determine your strengths and weaknesses. These sample tests also help you prepare mentally for taking the real test — you can use them to get in the zone. I’ve thrown in two extra tests that cover the four most important subtests of the ASVAB that make up the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) score at no extra cost.

Although much of the material covered on the ASVAB is taught in practically every high school in the country, you may have slept through part of the info or performed a major brain-dump as soon as the ink was dry on your report card. So you also get a basic review of the relevant subject areas to help refresh your memory, as well as some pointers on where to find more information if you need it.

Foolish Assumptions

While writing and revising 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 that help you use the material in this book. Here’s a rundown of what they mean to you:

tip This icon alerts you to helpful hints regarding the ASVAB. Tips can help you save time and avoid frustration.

remember This icon reminds you of important information you should read carefully.

warning This icon flags actions and ideas that may prove hazardous to your plans of conquering the ASVAB. Often, this icon accompanies common mistakes or misconceptions people have about the ASVAB or questions on the test.

technicalstuff This icon points out information that is interesting, enlightening, or in-depth but that isn’t necessary for you to read.

example This icon points out sample test questions that appear in review chapters.

Beyond the Book

In addition to the material you're reading right now, this product also comes with a free, access-anywhere Cheat Sheet. No, this isn't something you can put under your shirt and sneak into the test room on the big day. This Cheat Sheet gives you quick pointers about what you need to know before taking the ASVAB. You find out how many questions are on the test and how much time you have for each subtest. You also find general test-taking tips, pointers for guessing, and some advice on answering the dreaded Paragraph Comprehension questions. To get this Cheat Sheet, simply go to and search for “2017/2018 ASVAB For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.

The online practice that comes free with this book contains all the practice ASVAB tests that appear in the book, as well as three additional computerized ASVAB-style tests. The tests have a timer, so you can choose to take the tests like you would take the real ASVAB. You can also find 300 flashcards to improve your vocabulary.

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 ebook at Go to this website, find your book and click it, and answer the validation questions to verify your purchase. Then you’ll receive an e-mail with your PIN.
  2. Go to and click Activate Now.
  3. Find your product (2017/2018 ASVAB For Dummies with Online Practice) 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 on 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

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 to score well. I suggest that you begin with Chapters 1 and 2. That way, you can get a feel for how the ASVAB is organized (along with the most up-to-date changes on the test) and which subtests may be important for the military service branch and job of your choice. This plan of attack helps you set up logical and effective goals to maximize your study efforts.

You may want to start by taking one of the practice tests in Part 5. By using this method, you can discover which subjects you’re strong in and which subjects you could spend a little more time reviewing. If you choose this technique, you can use the other practice tests to measure your progress after reading through and studying the subject chapters.

If you’re taking the ASVAB for the purpose of enlisting in the U.S. military, you may want to skip entire chapters, depending on your career goals. For example, if the military careers you’re interested in don’t require a score on the General Science subtest, you may want to spend less time studying that topic and concentrate your study time on chapters focusing on knowledge or skills that are required for your particular job choices.

I wish you luck on taking this test, and if you want to join the military, I hope your journey is successful!

Part 1

Getting Started with the ASVAB


Get the details about what topics are covered on the ASVAB, how your score is calculated, and the policies on retaking the test if you didn’t do so well on your first try.

Check out how line scores relate to military jobs and how each branch of the military computes those scores.

Review test-taking strategies and get some last-minute preparation tips.

Chapter 1

Putting the ASVAB under a Microscope


check Checking out the different versions of the ASVAB

check Figuring out what each subtest covers

check Computing the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score

check Taking the ASVAB again

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) consists of nine individual tests (ten for Navy applicants who test at a Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS) that cover subjects ranging from general science principles to vocabulary. Your ASVAB test results determine whether you qualify for military service and, if so, which jobs you qualify for. The ASVAB isn’t an IQ test. The military isn’t trying to figure out how smart you are. The ASVAB specifically measures your ability to be trained to do a specific job.

The famous Chinese general Sun Tzu said, “Know your enemy.” To develop an effective plan of study (check out Appendix B) and score well on the ASVAB, it’s important to understand how the ASVAB is organized and how the military uses the scores from the subtests. This chapter describes the different versions of the ASVAB, the organization of the subtests, how the AFQT score is calculated, and the various service policies for retaking the ASVAB.

Knowing Which Version You’re Taking

The ASVAB comes in four versions, depending on where and why you take it. You’d think that after almost 50 years in existence, the test could’ve been whittled down to a single version by now. But don’t get too confused about the different versions. Table 1-1 boils down the choices.

TABLE 1-1 Versions of the ASVAB


How You Take It




Given to juniors and seniors in high school; it’s administered through a cooperative program between the Department of Education and the Department of Defense at high schools across the United States


Its primary purpose is to provide a tool for guidance counselors to use when recommending civilian career areas to high school students (though it can be used for enlistment if taken within two years of enlistment). For example, if a student scores high in electronics, the counselor can recommend electronics career paths. If a student is interested in military service, the counselor then refers her to the local military recruiting offices.


Given through a military recruiter at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) or at a satellite testing site

Usually computer, may be paper

This version of the ASVAB is used by all the military branches for the purpose of enlistment qualification and to determine which military jobs a recruit can successfully be trained in.

Enlistment Screening Test (EST)

Given at the discretion of a military recruiter for a quick enlistment qualification screening


These mini-ASVABs aren’t qualification tests; they’re strictly recruiting and screening tools. The EST contains questions similar but not identical to questions on the ASVAB. The test is used to help estimate an applicant’s probability of obtaining qualifying ASVAB scores.

Armed Forces Classification Test (AFCT)

Given at installation educational centers to people already in the military through the Defense Manpower Data Center


At some point during your military career, you may want to retrain for a different job. If you need higher ASVAB scores to qualify for such retraining, you can take the AFCT. The AFCT is essentially the same as the other versions of the ASVAB.

For people taking the enlistment version of the test, the vast majority of applicants are processed through a MEPS, where they take the computerized format of the ASVAB (called the CAT-ASVAB, short for computerized-adaptive testing ASVAB), undergo a medical physical, and run through a security screening, many times all in one trip. The paper-and-pencil (P&P) version is most often given in high school and, rarely, at Mobile Examination Test (MET) sites located throughout the United States. Most MET sites use computers to administer the test.

Mapping Out the ASVAB Subtests

The computerized format of the ASVAB contains ten separately timed subtests, with the Auto & Shop Information subtest split in two. The paper format of the test has nine subtests. The two formats differ in the number of questions in each subtest and the amount of time you have for each one. Table 1-2 outlines the ASVAB subtests in the order that you take them in the enlistment (computerized or paper) and student (paper only) versions of the test; you can also see which chapters to turn to when you want to review that content.

TABLE 1-2 The ASVAB Subtests in Order


Questions/Time (CAT-ASVAB)

Questions/Time (Paper Version)



General Science (GS)

16 questions, 8 minutes

25 questions, 11 minutes

General principles of biological and physical sciences

Chapter 8

Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)

16 questions, 39 minutes

30 questions, 36 minutes

Word problems involving high school math concepts that require calculations

Chapter 7

Word Knowledge (WK)

16 questions, 8 minutes

35 questions, 11 minutes

Correct meaning of a word; occasionally antonyms (words with opposite meanings)

Chapter 4

Paragraph Comprehension (PC)

11 questions, 22 minutes

15 questions, 13 minutes

Questions based on passages (usually a couple hundred words) that you read

Chapter 5

Mathematics Knowledge (MK)

16 questions, 20 minutes

25 questions, 24 minutes

High school math, including algebra and geometry

Chapter 6

Electronics Information (EI)

16 questions, 8 minutes

20 questions, 9 minutes

Electrical principles, basic electronic circuitry, and electronic terminology

Chapter 11

Auto & Shop Information (AS)

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

25 questions, 11 minutes

Knowledge of automobiles, shop terminology, and tool use

Chapter 9

Mechanical Comprehension (MC)

16 questions, 20 minutes

25 questions, 19 minutes

Basic mechanical and physical principles

Chapter 10

Assembling Objects (AO)*

16 questions, 15 minutes

25 questions, 15 minutes

Spatial orientation

Chapter 12

* The Assembling Objects subtest isn’t part of the student version of the test.

Deciphering ASVAB Scores

The Department of Defense is an official U.S. Government agency, so (of course) it can’t keep things simple. When you receive your ASVAB score results, you don’t see just one score; you see several. Figure 1-1 shows an example of an ASVAB score card used by high school guidance counselors (for people who take the student version — see “Knowing Which Version You’re Taking” for details).


© John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

FIGURE 1-1: A sample ASVAB score card used by high school guidance counselors.

Figure 1-2 depicts an example of an ASVAB score card used for military enlistment purposes.


© John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

FIGURE 1-2: A sample ASVAB score card used for military enlistment purposes.

So what do all these different scores actually mean? Check out the following sections to find out.

Defining all the scores

When you take a test in high school, you usually receive a score that’s pretty easy to understand — A, B, C, D, or F. (If you do really well, the teacher may even draw a smiley face on the top of the page.) If only your ASVAB scores were as easy to understand.

In the following list, you see how your ASVAB test scores result in several different kinds of scores:

  • Raw score: This score is the total number of points you receive on each subtest of the ASVAB. Although you don’t see your raw scores on the ASVAB score cards, they’re used to calculate the other scores.

    warning You can’t use the practice tests in this book (or any other ASVAB study guide) to calculate your probable ASVAB score. ASVAB scores are calculated by 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.

  • Standard scores: The various subtests of the ASVAB are reported on the score cards as standard scores. A standard score is calculated by converting your raw score based on a standard distribution of scores with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10.

    warning Don’t confuse a standard score with the graded-on-a-curve score you may have seen on school tests — where the scores range from 1 to 100 with the majority of students scoring between 70 and 100. With standard scores, the majority score is between 30 and 70. That means that a standard score of 50 is an average score and that a score of 60 is an above-average score.

  • Percentile scores: These scores range from 1 to 99. They express how well you did in comparison with another group called the norm. On the student version’s score card, the norm is fellow students in your same grade (except for the AFQT score).

    On the enlistment and student score cards, the AFQT score is presented as a percentile with the score normed using the 1997 Profile of American Youth, a national probability sample of 18- to 23-year-olds who took the ASVAB in 1997. For example, if you receive a percentile score of 72, you can say you scored as well as or better than 72 out of 100 of the norm group who took the test. (And by the way, this statistic from 1997 isn’t a typo. The ASVAB was last “re-normed” in 2004, and the sample group used for the norm was those folks who took the test in 1997.)

  • Composite scores (line scores): Composite scores are individually computed by each service branch. Each branch has its own particular system when compiling various standard scores into individual composite scores. These scores are used by the different branches to determine job qualifications. Find out much more about this in Chapter 2.

Understanding the big four: Your AFQT scores

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)

Each job in the military requires a certain combination of line scores, from the infantry to jobs in the medical field. The other subtests are used only to determine the jobs you qualify for. (See Chapter 2 for information on how the military uses the individual subtests.)

tip Figure out which areas to focus on based on your career goals. If you’re not interested in a job that requires a great score on the Mechanical Comprehension subtest, you don’t need to invest a lot of time studying for it. As you’re preparing for the ASVAB, remember to plan your study time wisely. If you don’t need to worry about the Assembling Objects subtest, don’t bother with that chapter in this book. Spend the time on Word Knowledge or Arithmetic Reasoning. Keep in mind, though, if you don’t have a desired job or aren’t sure about your options, it’s best to study this book and take the practice tests, focusing on all areas of the ASVAB. Doing well on each subtest will broaden your available job choices and make you a more desirable candidate.

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 as well as or 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 in Table 1-3. 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.

TABLE 1-3 AFQT Scores and Trainability


Percentile Score










Above average






Below average



Not trainable



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 passing score on your state’s approved high school equivalency test (such as the GED), the military has different AFQT score requirements. Check out Table 1-4.

TABLE 1-4 AFQT Score Requirements

Branch of Service

Minimum AFQT Score with High School Diploma

Minimum AFQT Score with High School Equivalency Test Certificate

Special Circumstances

U.S. Air Force



In very rare cases, if the applicant possesses special skills (such as speaking a foreign language that the Air Force considers critical), the minimum AFQT score can be waived. The Air Force allows less than 1 percent of its enlistees each year to have a high school equivalency test certificate instead of a high school diploma.




Occasionally, the Army approves waivers for folks with high school equivalency test certificates and AFQT 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



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 high school equivalency certificate.

Marine Corps



Between 5 and 10 percent of recruits can enlist with a high school equivalency certificate.




From 5 to 10 percent of recruits can enlist with a high school equivalency certificate. Those with this type of certificate must also be at least 19 and show a proven work history.

The minimum scores required in each branch can — and do — change periodically because the military has different needs at different times. For example, at the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Army accepted recruits with GEDs who scored 31 on the AFQT.

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 than they would if you barely made the minimum qualifying score.

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.

remember Enlistment programs are subject to change without notice based on the current recruiting needs of the service. Your recruiter should be able to give you the most up-to-date information.

tip If you don’t know which kind of job you want to do in the military, the ASVAB helps you and the military determine your potential ability for different types of jobs. If you’re in this situation, review all the chapters in this book, brushing up on the basic principles of everything from science to electronics, but focus on the four subtests that enable you to qualify for enlistment: Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge. Following this plan ensures a relatively accurate appraisal of your aptitude for various military jobs.

Do-Over: Retaking the ASVAB

An AFQT score of less than 10 is a failing score, but no branch of the service accepts that low of a score anyway. Therefore, you can fail to achieve a score high enough to enlist in the service branch you want, even if you pass the ASVAB. This means you need to work on one (or more) of the four core areas: Mathematics Knowledge, Arithmetic Reasoning, Paragraph Comprehension, and Word Knowledge. Parts 2 and 3 of this book are specifically designed to help you improve your scores on these four subtests.

When you’re sure you’re ready, you can apply (through your recruiter) to take the ASVAB. After you take the ASVAB for the first time (taking the ASVAB in high school does count for retest purposes), you can retake the test after one month. After the first retest, you must again wait one month to test again. From that point on, you must wait at least six months before taking the ASVAB again.

You can’t retake the ASVAB on a whim or whenever you simply feel like it. Each of the services has its own rules concerning whether it allows a retest, and I explain them in the following sections.

remember ASVAB test results are valid for two years, as long as you aren’t in the military. In most cases, after you join the military, your ASVAB scores remain valid as long as you’re in. In other words, except in a few cases, you can use your enlistment ASVAB scores to qualify for retraining years later.

U.S. Army retest policy

The Army allows a retest in one of the following instances:

  • The applicant’s previous ASVAB test has expired.
  • The applicant failed to achieve an AFQT score high enough to qualify for enlistment.
  • Unusual circumstances occur, such as if an applicant, through no fault of his own, is unable to complete the test.

remember Army recruiters aren’t authorized to have applicants retested for the sole purpose of increasing aptitude area scores to meet standards prescribed for enlistment options or programs.

U.S. Air Force retest policy

For the U.S. Air Force, the intent of retesting is for an applicant to improve the last ASVAB scores so the enlistment options increase. Before any retest is administered, the recruiting flight chief must interview the applicant in person or by telephone and then give approval for the retest.

Here are a few other policies to remember:

  • The Air Force doesn’t allow retesting for applicants after they’ve enlisted in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).
  • Current policy allows retesting of applicants who aren’t holding a job/aptitude area reservation and/or who aren’t in DEP but already have qualifying test scores.
  • Retesting is authorized when the applicant’s current line scores (mechanical, administrative, general, and electronic) limit the ability to match an Air Force skill with his or her qualifications.

U.S. Navy retest policy

The Navy allows retesting of applicants

  • Whose previous ASVAB tests have expired
  • Who fail to achieve a qualifying AFQT score for enlistment in the Navy

In most cases, individuals in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) can’t retest.

U.S. Marine Corps retest policy

The Marine Corps authorizes a retest if the applicant’s previous test has expired. Otherwise, recruiters can request a retest if the initial scores don’t appear to reflect the applicant’s true capability, considering the applicant’s education, training, and experience.

remember For the Marine Corps, the retest can’t be requested solely because the applicant’s initial test scores didn’t meet the standards prescribed for enlistment options or programs.

U.S. Coast Guard retest policy

For Coast Guard enlistments, six months must have elapsed since an applicant’s last test before he or she may retest solely for the purpose of raising scores to qualify for a particular enlistment option.

The Coast Guard Recruiting Center may authorize retesting after one calendar month has passed from an initial ASVAB test if substantial reason exists to believe the initial test scores or subtest scores don’t reflect an applicant’s education, training, or experience.