What is the ASVAB?

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a multiple choice test, administered by the United States Military Entrance Processing Command, used to determine qualification for enlistment in the United States armed forces. It is often offered to American high school students when they are in the 10th, 11th and 12th grade, though anyone eligible for enlistment may take it.


The ASVAB was first introduced in 1968 and was adopted by all branches of the military in 1976. In 2002 it underwent a major revision. In 2004, the test’s percentile ranking scoring system was re-normalized, to ensure that a score of 50% really did represent doing better than exactly 50% of test-takers. ASVAB scoring is based on an Item Response Theory (IRT) model. IRT is a theory that enables test questions and examinee abilities to be placed on the same scale, thereby allowing tests to be tailored to the specific ability level of each examinee and scores to be expressed on the same scale regardless of the combination of items that are taken. Examinees also receive a score on what is called the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). AFQT scores are computed using the Standard Scores from four ASVAB subtests: Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), Mathematics Knowledge (MK), Paragraph Comprehension (PC), and Word Knowledge (WK). AFQT scores are reported as percentiles between 1-99. An AFQT percentile score indicates the percentage of examinees in a reference group that scored at or below that particular score. For current AFQT scores, the reference group is a sample of 18 to 23 year old youth who took the ASVAB as part of a national norming study conducted in 1997. Thus, an AFQT score of 90 indicates that the examinee scored as well as or better than 90% of the nationally-representative sample of 18 to 23 year old youth. An AFQT score of 50 indicates that the examinee scored as well as or better than 50% of the nationally-representative sample.

Standard Scores

The ASVAB currently contains 9 sections:

  • Word Knowledge (WK)
  • Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)
  • Mechanical Comprehension (MC)
  • Automotive and Shop Information (AS)
  • Electronics Information (EI)
  • Mathematics Knowledge (MK)
  • General Science (GS)
  • Paragraph Comprehension (PC)
  • Assembling Objects (AO)

Standards for Enlistment

AFQT required minimum scores as of January 2009 (unless otherwise noted) are as follows:

  • Air Force (AFQT) 55 recently changed from 50 (GED Graduate is 65)
  • Air National Guard (AFQT) 50 (GED Graduate is 50)
  • Coast Guard (AFQT) 50 (GED is 46)
  • Navy (AFQT) 50 (GED is 50)
  • Marines (AFQT) 50
  • Army (AFQT) 50
  • Army National Guard (AFQT) 50

Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT)

An Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score is used to determine basic qualification for enlistment.

AFQT Scores are divided into the following categories:

  • Category I – 93-99
  • Category II – 65-92
  • Category III A – 50-64
  • Category III B – 31-49
  • Category IV A – 21-30
  • Category IV B – 16-20
  • Category IV C – 10-15
  • Category V – 0-9

The formula for computing an AFQT score is: AR + MK + (2 x VE) where VE = PC + WK.

The VE (verbal) score is determined by adding the raw scores from the PC and WK tests (i.e., how many questions the aspiring recruit got right on each) and using a table to get the VE score from that combined PC and WK raw score.

AFQT scores are not raw scores, but rather percentile scores indicating how each examinee performed compared with all other examinees. Thus, someone who receives an AFQT of 55 scored better than 55 percent of all other examinees. Maximum possible score is 99 as a person can do better than 99 percent of those who took the test, but he cannot do better than himself, so the high percentile is 99.

Composite Scores

In addition to the ASVAB’s AFQT, each branch has Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS, specific scores. Combinations of scores from the nine tests are used to determine qualification for a MOS. These combinations are called “aptitude area scores,” “composite scores,” or “line scores.” Each of the five armed services has its own aptitude area scores and sets its own minimum composite scores for each MOS.

Army/Nat. Guard Composite Scores:

  • CL — Clerical — VE+AR+MK
  • CO — Combat Operations — AR+CS+AS+MC
  • EL — Electronics — GS+AR+MK+EI
  • FA — Field Artillery — AR+CS+MK+MC
  • GM — General Maintenance — GS+AS+MK+EI
  • GT — General Technical — VE+AR
  • MM — Mechanical Maintenance — NO+AS+MC+EI
  • OF — Operators and Food — VE+NO+AS+MC
  • SC — Surveillance and Communications — VE+AR+AS+MC
  • ST — Skilled Technical — GS+VE+MK+MC
    • SF – Special Forces – GT+CO

Navy/Coast Guard Line Scores:

  • GT – General Technical – AR+VE
  • EL – Electronics – AR+EI+GS+MK
  • BEE – Basic Electricity and Electronics – AR+GS+2*MK
  • ENG – Engineering – AI+SI+MK
  • MEC – Mechanical Maintenance – AR+AI+SI+MC
  • MEC2 – Mechanical Maintenance 2 – AO+AR+MC
  • NUC – Nuclear Field – AR+MC+MK+VE
  • OPS – Operations Specialist – WK, PC, AR, MK, AO
  • HM – Hospitalcorpsman – GS+MK+VE
  • ADM – Administrative – MK+VE
    • SEALs – GS+MC+EI=165 or VE+MK+MC+CS=220 (minimum for BUD/S)

Air Force Composite Scores:

Goes by Standard AFQT score AR + MK + (2 x VE)

  • G – General: Verbal Expression (WK plus PC) and Arithmetic Reasoning (AR)
  • M – Mechanical: Mechanical Comprehension (MC), General Science (GS) and 2 times Auto & Shop Information (AS)
  • A – Administrative: Numerical Operations * (NO), Coding Speed * (CS), and Verbal Expression (WK plus PC)
  • E – Electrical: Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), Mathematics Knowledge (MK), Electronics Information (EI), and General Science (GS)

Marine Corps Line Scores:

  • CL — Clerical — VE+AR+MK
  • EL — Electronics — GS+AR+MK+EI
  • GT — General Technical — VE+AR
  • MM — Mechanical Maintenance — NO+AS+MC+EI
  • ST — Skilled Technical — GS+VE+MK+MC
    • MARSOC – GT=105

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