Officer Candidate Tests For Dummies®

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Table of Contents

About This Book
Conventions Used in This Book
What You’re Not to Read
Foolish Assumptions
How This Book Is Organized
Part I: An Officer and a Test
Part II: Getting Schooled in English
Part III: Back to School with Math and Science
Part IV: Practice Tests
Part V: The Part of Tens
Icons Used in This Book
Where to Go from Here
Part I: An Officer and a Test
Chapter 1: The Path to Becoming an Officer
Exploring Military Officer Occupations and Opportunities
Combat specialty officers
Engineering, science, and technical officers
Executive, administrative, and managerial officers
Healthcare officers
Human resources officers
Legal services officers
Media and public affairs officers
Protective service officers
Support services officers
Transportation officers
Grasping the Basics of Military Rank
Enlisted personnel
Commissioned and warrant officers
Pay scales and benefits
Officerhood: How Do I Get There from Here?
Taking the fast track with OCS or OTS
Hopping on the college track with the ROTC
Attending and graduating from a military academy
By appointment only: Receiving a direct commission
Investigating Reserve and Guard Opportunities
Checking Out Warrant Officer Opportunities
Chapter 2: The Tests at a Glance
Recognizing the Different Question Types
Studying the verbal ability questions
Becoming acquainted with the math subtests
Understanding what general science covers
Developing a feel for what’s on the Mechanical Comprehension subtest
Tailoring your expectations for the Electronics subtest
Knowing What to Expect on the Different Tests
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery General Technical (ASVAB GT)
Air Force Officer Qualifying Aptitude Test (AFOQT)
Aviation Selection Test Battery Officer Aptitude Rating (ASTB OAR)
Chapter 3: Test-Taking Tips and Techniques
Prepping Prior to Test Day
Focus on your weakest skills
Study regularly and productively
Practice taking tests
Take care of yourself and arrive on time
Pack the right items
Mastering Multiple-Choice Questions
Read and understand the directions
Read and understand the question
Don’t spend too much time on one question
Leverage the power of the process of elimination
If you don’t know, guess
Be careful marking answers (paper test only)
Review answers if time allows (paper test only)
Taking the ASVAB-AFQT
Test version
Strategies and tips for taking the CAT
Retaking the test
Taking the AFOQT
Test version
Retaking the test
Taking the ASTB
Test version
Retaking the test
Part II: Getting Schooled in English
Chapter 4: Building Word Skills
Reading Your Way to an Extensive Vocabulary
Read what interests you
Choose a wide range of subjects
Hunt for contextual clues
Look up new words
Feed your curiosity
Jot down unfamiliar words
Enlist the assistance of vocabulary builders
Play word games
Listen for unfamiliar words, too
Study! Study! Study!
Inferring Meaning from Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes
Stockpiling Synonyms
Developing Meaningful Relationships with Analogies
Fielding the two types of analogy questions
Avoiding the dreaded distracters
Minding your nouns and verbs
Using familiar relationships to your advantage
Chapter 5: Putting Your Word Skills to the Test
Squaring Off with Analogy Questions
Playing The Match Game
Testing your synonym knowledge on the AFOQT
Testing your Word Knowledge on the ASVAB AFQT
Looking at the Correct Answers
Checking your answers to the analogy questions
Checking your answers to the AFOQT Word Knowledge questions
Checking your answers to the ASVAB AFQT Word Knowledge questions
Chapter 6: Building Your Reading Skills
Attention! Being an Active Reader
Basic training for active reading
More reading comprehension tactics
Strategies for answering reading comprehension questions
Using Paragraph Structure to Your Advantage
Getting the gist of it right from the start: Main ideas and main purposes
Picking out supporting details brick by brick
Getting the gist at the end, too
Adjusting to Different Content and Writing Styles
Storytelling passages
Scientific passages
What happened and how: Informative passages
How-to passages: Techniques for technology
Scanning for Gold
Drawing Inferences from a Collection of Facts
Drawing general conclusions
Understanding vocabulary in context
Chapter 7: Testing Your Reading Skills
Deciphering Paragraphs on the ASVAB AFQT
Putting Your Reading Skills to the Test on the ASTB
Checking Your Answers
Checking Paragraph Comprehension answers on the sample ASVAB AFQT
Assessing your reading skills on the ASTB
Part III: Back to School with Math and Science
Chapter 8: Building Your Math Knowledge
Brushing Up on the Basics
Doing basic math with whole numbers and integers
Maintaining order in your operations
Working with prime and composite numbers
Figuring fractions
Taking command of decimals
Keeping Ratios and Percents in Proportion
Preparing proportions
Calculating percentages
Dealing with decimals
Digging Up Roots and Radicals
Simplifying radicals
Adding and subtracting radicals
Multiplying and dividing radicals
Getting Up to Speed with Basic Algebra
First encounters
Solving equations
Calculating slopes of lines on a graph
Get with the systems: Solving systems of equations
Coming to terms with polynomials
Breaking it down by factoring
Squaring off with quadratic equations
Factoring in rational expressions
Shaping Up with Geometry
Talking about lines
Coming ’round the bend: Angles
Exploring the many sides of polygons
Centering on circles
Solid information on volume
Mastering Math That Counts
Counting all the possibilities
Taking a chance on probability
Rising above the average
Chapter 9: Putting Your Math Skills to the Test
AFOQT Mathematics Knowledge
ASVAB Mathematics Knowledge
ASTB Math Skills
Answer Key
Chapter 10: Solving Arithmetic Word Problems
Translating Word Problems into Mathematical Language
Read right to the end
Identify the goal
Collect the pieces of the puzzle
Convert for compatibility if necessary
Choose wisely
Solving Predictable Problems
Determining distance, rate, and time
Figuring tax, tip, and interest
Computing discount and depreciation
Calculating commission
Finding perimeter and area
Feeding the Need for Speed
Deal with the compatible numbers first
Make minor adjustments
Make change
Zero in on numbers
Divide and conquer
Use double digits to your advantage
Master the bowtie
Borrow properly or avoid it improperly
Chapter 11: Testing Your Arithmetic Reasoning Skills
AFOQT Practice Questions
ASVAB Practice Questions
Answers to the AFOQT Practice Questions
Answers to the ASVAB Practice Questions
Chapter 12: Grasping the Specifics of General Science
Exploring the Diversity of Scientific Fields
Looking at life science from A to Z
Elementary, my dear Watson: Chemistry
Exploring energy and matter: Physics
Digging into the earth sciences
Brushing Up on the Metric System
Metric measures
Prefixes and abbreviations
Conversion factors
Temperature scales and conversions
Wrapping Your Brain around the Scientific Method
Cramming Life Science Essentials
Classifying all living things
Everything you wanted to know about cells — and then some
Taking a systemic approach to human anatomy
Getting your fill of nutrition
Cracking Open the Chemistry Kit
Knowing what stuff’s made of
Mixing it up with molecules and compounds
Recognizing the different chemical states
Making sense of the periodic table and atomic notation
Grasping the different types of chemical reactions
Avoiding the chemical burn: Acids and bases
Getting Down to Earth Sciences
Brushing up on earth trivia
Cracking the rocks: Geology
Calming the storm: Meteorology
Taming the motion in the ocean: Oceanography
Exploring the Solar System
Chapter 13: Testing Your General Science Skills
General Science Practice Questions
General Science Answers
Chapter 14: Brushing Up on Mechanics
It’s All About Physics (and Math)
Weighing in on mass
Understanding the fundamentals of force
Putting mass in motion with force
Exploring types of force
Coming to terms with Newton’s laws of motion
Calculating work
Working with the formula for the coefficient of friction
Surviving collision problems
Say Watt? Examining Power and Horsepower
Finding Relief from Pressure Problems
Exploring Different Types of Machines
Show me the benefit: Grasping mechanical advantage
Looking into levers
Ramping up or down with inclined planes
Splitting and cutting with wedges
Easing the load with pulleys
Tapping the mechanical advantage of screws
Improving movement with wheels and axles
Crossing a lever with a gear: Winches
Pumping up with hydraulic jacks
Taking a Spin with Rotational Motion and Forces
Angular velocity
Angular acceleration
Chapter 15: Testing Your Mechanical Comprehension
Checking Out ASVAB or ASTB Mechanical Comprehension Practice Questions
Looking at the Answers
Chapter 16: Making Sense of Electricity
Going with the Flow: Electrical Current
Understanding what makes electricity tick
Recognizing common conductors
Naming common insulators
Cross-breeding with semiconductors
Tackling volts, amperes, and ohms
Investigating a circus of circuits
Working with wattage and kilowatts
Determining your electric bill
Differences exposed: Direct versus alternating current
Exploring the Relationship between Electricity and Magnetism
Brushing up on the basic laws of magnetism
Creating magnetic fields with electricity
Generating electricity with magnets
Converting electrical energy to mechanical energy using electric motors
Surveying the World of Modern Electronics
Chapter 17: Testing Your Electronics Knowledge
ASVAB Electrical Information
Answers and Explanations
Part IV: Practice Tests
Chapter 18: AFOQT Academic Aptitude Practice Test
Answer Sheet
Verbal Analogies
Arithmetic Reasoning
Word Knowledge
Mathematics Knowledge
Chapter 19: AFOQT Academic Aptitude Practice Test: Answers and Explanations
Verbal Analogies Answers
Arithmetic Reasoning Answers
Word Knowledge Answers
Mathematics Knowledge Answers
Answer Key for AFOQT Academic Aptitude Practice Test
Chapter 20: ASTB OAR Practice Test
Answer Sheet
Math Skills
Reading Skills
Mechanical Comprehension
Chapter 21: ASTB OAR Practice Test: Answers and Explanations
Math Skills Answers
Reading Skills Answers
Mechanical Comprehension Answers
Answer Key for ASTB OAR Practice Test
Chapter 22: ASVAB GT Practice Test
Answer Sheet
Arithmetic Reasoning
Word Knowledge
Paragraph Comprehension
Chapter 23: ASVAB GT Practice Test: Answers and Explanations
Arithmetic Reasoning Answers
Word Knowledge Answers
Paragraph Comprehension Answers
Answer Key for ASVAB GT (General Technical) Practice Test
Chapter 24: ASVAB Marine OCS Composite Practice Test
Answer Sheet
General Science
Arithmetic Reasoning
Mathematics Knowledge
Electronics Information
Chapter 25: ASVAB Marine OCS Composite Practice Test: Answers and Explanations
General Science Answers
Arithmetic Reasoning Answers
Mathematics Knowledge Answers
Electronics Information Answers
Answer Key for ASVAB Marine OCS Composite Practice Test
Part V: The Part of Tens
Chapter 26: Ten Strategies for Tackling Multiple-Choice Questions
Follow Directions
Key In on the Goal
Pace Yourself
Answer the Question Yourself, First
Resist Question Obsession
Master the Process of Elimination
Confirm before Answering (Sometimes)
Avoid Common Traps
Guess, If Necessary
Review Answers as the Test and Time Allow
Chapter 27: Ten Ways to Optimize Your Study Time
Know Your Optimum Learning Styles
Focus on the Most Difficult Subjects First
Commit to a Study Routine
Study When You Feel Your Best
Keep Study Time Well Focused
Study Actively
Practice Taking Tests
Team Up with a Study Partner
Expand Your Resources
Make What You Learn a Part of Your Life
Cheat Sheet

Officer Candidate Tests For Dummies®

by Jane R. Burstein and Carolyn C. Wheater
with LTC Richard Dahoney, U.S. Army, Ret.


About the Authors

Jane R. Burstein, MA, has taught high school English for 36 years and has been a tutor and writing consultant for 25 years. She is the coauthor of several CliffsNotes test prep books, and she and Wheater are coauthors of CliffsNotes ASVAB AFQT Cram Plan.

Carolyn C. Wheater teaches middle school and upper school mathematics at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City. Educated at Marymount Manhattan College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she has taught math and computer technology for more than 30 years to students from preschool through college.

Richard Dahoney is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, having served in Korea, Japan, Viet Nam, and numerous locations in the United States. He is now the principal author of disbursing policy guidance for the U.S. Department of Defense, with over 47 years of experience in military financial management. He holds a BA in Business Administration from Rutgers University and an MBA in Comptrollership and Finance from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Authors’ Acknowledgments

Thanks to acquisitions editor Erin Calligan Mooney, who chose us to author this book and ironed out all the preliminary details to make this book possible.

Tim Gallan, our project editor, deserves a loud cheer for serving as a gifted and patient collaborator and editor — shuffling chapters back and forth, shepherding the text and graphics through production, making sure any technical issues were properly resolved, and serving as the unofficial quality control manager. Christine Pingleton and Jessica Smith, copy editors, earn editors of the year awards for ferreting out our typos, misspellings, grammatical errors, and other language foe paws (or is it faux pas?), in addition to assisting Tim as reader advocates. We also tip our collective hat to the production crew for doing such an outstanding job of transforming an enormous hodgepodge of text, equations, and images into such an attractive bound book.

Thanks also to Joe Kraynak who pitched in with his expertise in coordinating our efforts and making everything a little easier for the editorial crew.

And a big thanks to Kent Butcher for contribution to the chapters covering mechanics and electronics. They wouldn’t exist without his work. Kent currently serves as a lieutenant in the Navy at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where he is a project manager for submarine maintenance and modernization.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Senior Project Editor: Tim Gallan

Acquisitions Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Copy Editors: Christine Pingleton, Jessica Smith

Technical Editors: Amy Nicklin, LeAna Richards

Assistant Editor: David Lutton

Editorial Manager: Michelle Hacker

Editorial Assistants: Jennette ElNaggar, Rachelle S. Amick

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Cover Photos: ©

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Nikki Gee

Layout and Graphics: Carl Byers, Carrie A. Cesavice, Mark Pinto, Corrie Socolovitch, Laura Westhuis, Erin Zeltner

Proofreader: Betty Kish

Indexer: Sharon Shock

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

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Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


You’ve set your sites on becoming an officer in the armed forces. Congratulations! Your fellow citizens extend a big thank you as well. Not everyone has the fortitude and confidence to step into a leadership position. To become an officer, however, you need to prove yourself, and one of the first hurdles you must clear is one of the Officer Candidate Tests (OCT) — any of several tests required for admission into Officer Candidate School or Officer Candidate Training.

To do well on the test, you need the knowledge and skills you acquired (or should have acquired) in high school. You must be able to make sense of what you read and pick out key details and ideas from reading passages; prove that you have a solid vocabulary and know how to use it, both in speaking and in writing; be a whiz at basic math, including geometry and algebra; have a firm grasp of general science, including the life sciences, chemistry, and earth sciences; and, depending on the test, have the ability to solve problems related to mechanics and electronics.

Don’t worry. You probably knew a lot of what you need to know on the test at some point in your life. So a refresher course and some practice should be sufficient to tone your brain cells and hone your skills. We’re here to help. This book provides you with everything you need to know along with test-taking strategies and tips for doing your very best when test day rolls around.

About This Book

Officer Candidate Tests For Dummies is for smart, highly motivated individuals like yourself who need to get up to speed in a hurry in a few key subject areas and need to sharpen your skills for test day. We carefully constructed this book to cover the fundamentals you’re most likely to encounter on the test in easily digestible chapters and sections. You don’t even need to read the book from cover to cover. Just flip, skip, and dip into the chapters and sections you need most. Throughout the book, we provide

check.png Lots of how-to guidance explaining how to read effectively, build vocabulary, solve mathematical problems (even word problems), and think logically.

check.png Sample questions that test you along the way so you can develop confidence through practice.

check.png Insight into what’s covered on each OCT subtest.

check.png Strategies and tips for reading and understanding questions and choosing the correct answers most efficiently.

check.png Guidance on how to prepare for test day so you feel less anxious and more confident knowing what to expect.

check.png Several complete, timed practice tests so you gain experience taking tests when the clock’s ticking.

check.png Answers and explanations to identify your weaknesses and learn from your mistakes.

Conventions Used in This Book

Although we don’t like to think of our book as conventional, we follow several conventions throughout to make the information more accessible:

check.png We use italics both to stress important words and to highlight words we define. Spot an unfamiliar word in italics, and you’re almost guaranteed to find its meaning in the next sentence or the one after that.

check.png We use bold text to highlight keywords in bulleted lists, the action parts of numbered steps, and the correct answers in our answer keys.

check.png We use monofont for Web addresses. Keep in mind that some Web addresses may extend to two lines of text. If you use one of these addresses, just type the address exactly as you see it, pretending that the line break isn’t there.

What You’re Not to Read

You may notice some text stuffed into gray boxes. These boxes, which are called sidebars, contain bonus information on topics we thought you might find educational or entertaining (hopefully both). While these sidebars are interesting, you don’t have to read them to do well on the test. So, if you’re short on time, feel free to skip them.

Foolish Assumptions

We assume you’re using this book in preparation for taking one of the OCT: the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT), or the Aviation Selection Test Battery Officer Aptitude Rating (ATSB OAR). If that’s a false assumption, you’re in the wrong class. We also assume that you’re a highly motivated student. You want to learn, you want to do well on the test, and you’re willing to invest the time and effort in gathering information and building the requisite skills. You may have just graduated from high school or college, or you may have been out of school for some time. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you want to learn and succeed.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is divided into five parts to make the information more manageable. For example, if you typically do better in math and science than in English, you probably want to spend more time in Part II brushing up on vocabulary and practicing your reading skills. The following sections function as a road map, briefly describing the contents of each part so you have a clear idea of where you need to go first.

Part I: An Officer and a Test

Part I is basic training. Chapter 1 traces the various paths you may follow from point A to point B — from where you are right now to where you want to be as an officer in the military. Chapter 2 answers the all-important question: What’s on the test? It describes the different OCT, the subtests that comprise the OCT, and the number of questions and amount of time you have to complete each subtest. Finally, in Chapter 3, we reveal numerous test-taking strategies and tips to improve your performance on any standardized test.

Part II: Getting Schooled in English

The chapters in Part II provide guidance on how to strengthen your word skills and tips on how to assess the meaning of words from common roots, prefixes, and suffixes. We also show you how to identify the main idea in a reading passage, pick key facts and figures out of paragraphs, and infer the meaning of what you read from clues within paragraphs. These chapters provide plenty of practice questions so you know exactly what to expect on test day and how to approach the different English sections of the tests.

Part III: Back to School with Math and Science

Part III is what most people consider the geeky part of the book. Here you refresh your memory and sharpen your skills in basic mathematics, geometry, algebra, general sciences, mechanics, and electronics. Basic mathematics covers a lot of ground — everything from whole numbers, fractions, and decimals to roots, radicals, quadratic equations, and geometry. We even help you figure out how to solve those pesky word problems that nobody likes.

This part also covers the general sciences, including biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, human anatomy, and more. We also bring you up to speed in a hurry on the mechanics and electronics portions of the OCT so you have a clear idea of what to expect on the test. We can’t possibly cover everything you may encounter, but we can give you a solid foundation for fielding the most common questions and figuring out the answers to less common ones.

Part IV: Practice Tests

This part features four practice tests:

check.png The Air Force Officers Qualifying Test (AFOQT)

check.png The Aviation Selection Test Battery Officer Aptitude Rating (ASTB OAR)

check.png The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery General Technical (ASVAB GT)

check.png The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Marine Officer Candidate School (ASVAB Marine OCS)

By taking these tests, you discover your strengths and weaknesses, learn how to pace yourself, get a better feel for what’s on the test so you’re better equipped to answer different types of questions, and sharpen your problem-solving skills for test day. Practice is essential in improving memory recall and critical thinking skills, and this part provides plenty of problems to run through.

Part V: The Part of Tens

No For Dummies book would be complete without a Part of Tens. In this quick and easy part, we give you tips for studying well and strategies for dealing with multiple-choice questions. By improving memory retention and knowing how to answer multiple-choice questions more accurately and efficiently, you have the tools you need to achieve peak performance.

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout this book, you’ll notice icons in the margins. These icons flag important information to take note of. Here’s what they mean:

remember.eps This icon highlights the most important information and insights in the book. In short, this material should be read and applied often.

tip.eps Strategy is no substitute for knowledge and skills, but it certainly can help you answer questions faster and with greater accuracy. So when you see this icon, you know you’re staring at one of our tips to improve your performance.

warning_bomb.eps The test is peppered with pitfalls, and we’re here to point them out and steer you clear of them. Look for the Warning icon to spot trouble before it sinks you on the test.

example_gre.eps We believe that the best two ways to learn anything is by viewing and doing — seeing how it’s done and doing it yourself. We use the Example icon to flag these opportunities for you to practice what you’ve learned.

Where to Go from Here

Where to go from here really depends on you. To get the most out of this book, we recommend reading it from cover to cover. However, you may take a different approach, and this book is structured in a way that makes it conducive to a variety of study methods.

For example, you may want to take one of the practice tests in Part IV first, sort of as a diagnostic tool to identify your weak and strong subject areas. You may then focus more of your efforts on chapters related to your weakest subjects. If you choose to take a test as a way to get a baseline of your skills, consider reading Chapter 3 first to improve your performance without having to spend time exploring specific subject areas.

Another option is to warm up with material you already firmly grasp and then work up to more challenging subjects. For example, if you’re confident in your vocabulary and reading skills, start with the chapters in Part II and then work on your weaker areas. Also, if you’re familiar with a given subject area and don’t want to spend a great deal of time reviewing what you already know, consider skimming the chapter for tips and warnings. And be sure to check out the examples to improve your performance without acquiring new knowledge or skills.

Part I

An Officer and a Test

9780470598764 pp0101.eps

In this part . . .

Consider Part I to be your basic training for the Officer Candidate Tests. Here, we show you how to go from Point A to Point B: from where you are right now to the point at which you become a bona fide officer. We bring you up to speed on the tests you’ll be taking so you know what to expect. And we reveal valuable test-taking tips and strategies that’ll pay handsome dividends when test time rolls around.

Don’t get us wrong. You still have a lot of preparation ahead of you before you’re ready to ace the test, but this part sets a solid foundation on which to build your knowledge, skills, and confidence.

By the way, Chapter 1 presents some general information that you’re unlikely to encounter on any of the tests. It does, however, give you an idea of some of the basics you’ll run into in the military environment relating to structure, pay and benefits, and occupational specialties as well as links to more information.