Armed Forces Aptitude Tests
Updated 18 October 2021
If you are hoping for a career in the US Military, Air Force, US Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard or as a helicopter pilot, read on for the key assessment tests used to select suitable candidates.
Often given to high school students to help them choose a path in the military, all individuals that wish to enlist in the military must take and pass this exam.
The ASVAB has been used for more than 45 years, with the current version in place for the last decade.
Four parts of this test are used for the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (see below) which will assess candidates for entry into the United States Military.
The additional parts of this test apply to specialist and bonus positions within the military.
What to Expect When You Take the ASVAB
When you decide to take the test, you will likely work with a military recruiter to schedule a time and location for the test to be administered.
On the test itself, you will find nine sections consisting of 225 questions that you will need to complete in 2.5 hours, although each section is timed separately.
The timings listed below are for the digital version of the test.
The nine sections consist of:
General Science – You will be tested on your understanding of basic scientific principles. You have 8 minutes to answer 15 questions.
Word Knowledge – A vocabulary test consisting of 15 questions in 8 minutes.
Paragraph Comprehension – You will need to read some sentences and understand what they are about. You will have 22 minutes to answer 10 questions.
Mathematics Knowledge – You will be tested on 15 simple mathematic problems in 20 minutes.
Electronics Information – Covers things like voltage, amps, circuits and more. You will have 8 minutes to answer 15 questions.
Automotive and Shop Information – Analyzes your ability to work on engines, use tools and more. You will have 7 minutes to answer 10 questions.
Assembling Objects – You will be asked 15 spatial ability type questions in 40 minutes.
All of the questions on this test are multiple-choice and you will want to keep an eye on the clock during the testing process to ensure that you are not falling behind schedule.
While you don’t want to rush through the questions, it is best to keep up a good pace and stay focused at all times.
How You Will Be Scored
Those who are serious about a prospective career in the military will want to do well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
Each branch of the military has a different threshold for acceptance so you will want to achieve the highest score possible to allow you the greatest choice when deciding which branch of the military you want to join.
ASVAB scores are presented as percentile scores; in other words, you will be given a percentage that represents how you compare to other test-takers. If you finish in the 90th percentile, you have outperformed 90% of past candidates.
If you are hoping to enroll in any branch of the military and are preparing to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, good preparation and study will be the key to your success.
Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT)
The Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT) is a subsection of the larger Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery that we covered above.
Four sections of the ASVAB combine to make up the score that you will receive on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test, sometimes called the Military Entrance Score.
The score you receive on the AFQT will determine if you are eligible to enlist for the military, what branches you are eligible for and what training you might receive once you have enlisted.
All entrants to the military take this exam and it is most often given to high school juniors and seniors who are considering the armed forces as a career after graduation.
What to Expect When You Take the AFQT
The four sections from the ASVAB that are used to make up the Armed Forces Qualifying Test are as follows:
Word Knowledge – Tests your vocabulary. These questions will test if you know the meaning of specific words and synonyms.
Paragraph Comprehension – The Paragraph Comprehension section asks you to read sections of material and obtain information from those sections.
Arithmetic Reasoning – The Arithmetic Reasoning portion presents arithmetic word problems for you to think through. These problems only require basic math skills to solve.
Mathematics Knowledge – The final section is Mathematics Knowledge and it deals with high school mathematics principles. This section is more advanced and will probably require some study time to refresh your knowledge.
While there are five more sections that make up the whole of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, these are the four sections you will need to focus on if you are wanting to simply gain entry into the armed forces.
The test is multiple-choice.
Each branch of the military has its own minimum requirement for entry so this is worth bearing in mind when taking the test:
- Army – 31
- Navy – 35
- Air Force – 36
- Marines – 32
- Coast Guard – 40
Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT)
The Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) is a requirement for any individual entering the Air Force in any capacity.
For those wanting to become a commissioned officer or gain entry into some post-commission officer training programs, a good score on the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test is essential.
What to Expect When You Take the AFOQT
The test is comprised of 12 subtests and lasts for approximately 3.5 hours. The test is multiple-choice.
Verbal Analogies – This measures how a candidate understands the relationship between words
Arithmetic Reasoning – Basic math word problems.
Word Knowledge – You will be asked to demonstrate your knowledge of word meanings.
Math Knowledge – Measures basic high school level maths principles.
Reading Comprehension – You will need to read a passage of text and answer questions on it.
Situational Judgement – You will be asked questions on situations commonly faced in the Air Force.
Self-Description Inventory – Personality test, not graded on the test.
Physical Science – How you understand physics principles.
Table Reading – You will be asked to answer questions on graph coordinates.
Instrument Comprehension – This test relates to using aircraft instruments whilst flying.
Block Counting – Counting 3D blocks to test spatial awareness.
Aviation Information –General questions on airplane mechanics and aviation.
After the test has been scored, the scores are broken down into five unique categories for reporting:
- Academic Aptitude
There is no pass/fail score associated with this test. Instead, scores are compared to others in your peer group.
The test results will be used to allocate positions within the Air Force that match the candidate’s skills.
The scores you received on the portions of the test most applicable to the program you are applying to will be given the greatest importance in the evaluation process.
You can only take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test twice (while it is possible to apply for a waiver to take the test a third or fourth time, those waivers are usually only granted in special situations).
Alternate Flight Aptitude Selection Test
The Alternate Flight Aptitude Selection Test (AFAST) is used to select suitable candidates to be helicopter pilots in the Army.
There is a specific set of skills and personality characteristics that are required of helicopter pilots and those skills are examined during the test.
Some of the attributes desired in an army helicopter pilot include leadership skills, coordination, motivation and more.
What to Expect When You Take the AFAST
The AFAST is made up of seven subtests and around 200 questions.
The seven subsections of the test represent a cross-section of various areas of knowledge that are crucial to success as a helicopter pilot:
Background Information – You will need to fill out a form about your history and experience.
Instrument Comprehension Test – Evaluates your ability to read and interpret simple helicopter gauges.
Complex Movements Test – Reviews your talent for judging distance and imaging movements.
General Helicopter Knowledge Test – Twenty questions regarding the basic physics of helicopter flight.
The Cyclic Orientation Test – Examines how comfortable you are with the movements of the cyclic and the corresponding response from the helicopter.
Self-Description – Questions about what you like to do, your interests and more.
If your results meet or exceed the established cut score, you will be able to advance in the screening process.
Should your final score fall below that line, you will be excluded from consideration for flight training programs.
After failing to meet the cut score, you will have to wait at least six months before taking the test again.
If you fail a second time, you will be eliminated from consideration for helicopter flight training in the Army.
Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB)
The US Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard all use the Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB) as part of the criteria for gaining acceptance into officer aviation programs.
Because aviation training and practice are so expensive and time-consuming, applicants have to be carefully screened.
Positions within these programs are highly desirable and competition can be fierce.
What to Expect When You Take the ASTB
Six subtests make up the Aviation Selection Test Battery. In all, the ASTB takes approximately two and a half hours.
Math Skills Test – 30 questions. Some of the questions are basic but a few move into more complex areas of mathematics.
Reading Comprehension – 27 questions testing your reading skills.
Mechanical Comprehension – Examines mechanical aptitude over a variety of subjects with 30 total questions. The level of knowledge needed for this test can be compared to a high school physics course, with things like pressure, volume, velocity, engines, gears, and more being tested.
Aviation and Nautical Information Test – 30 questions. Aviation history, nautical terms, aerodynamics, flight rules and more are covered in this section. A general study of aviation from commonly available sources will help to prepare for this portion of the test.
Aviation Supplemental Test – 34 questions. This section may contain topics from other parts of the test to delve further into areas that were covered previously.
The scores from each of these sections will be used to calculate an overall score.
There are three versions of the test, all of them feature the same number of questions, time limit and topics.
A total of three attempts at the Aviation Selection Test Battery can be taken.
Each attempt has to be on a different version of the test so that no one version is taken more than once.
After the first attempt, you must wait at least 30 days before attempting the test again.
If a third attempt is needed, 90 days must pass before retaking.
How to Prepare for Armed Forces Tests
As with any test, good preparation is the key to finishing with a good score and increasing your chances of being accepted into the armed forces.
Working through sample questions and studying for the more technical parts of the tests will help you perform your best.
To prepare for the verbal tests, read a variety of non-fiction writing, including newspapers and online articles.
Reading regularly will help to sharpen your comprehension skills.
Take some time to practice your basic arithmetic skills and do so without a calculator.
An understanding of physics and mechanical concepts is key for aviation tests. Make sure you know your stuff.
Take as many practice tests as you can before you sit the actual test. Sample questions are great because they emulate real test conditions and will help you identify the areas that would benefit from further study.