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How to Ace the ASVAB

Updated on February 24, 2016
USAF Firefighter
USAF Firefighter

You're here for the ASVAB, right?

** Happy Story: I heard from a military recruiter friend* that he had instructed the recruiters under his command to share this lens as a resource for the young men and women who were preparing to take the ASVAB. It's exciting for me to know that the information here is helpful and I appreciate my friend's kind vote of confidence.



I've been there, and the fact that you've come to this page tells me that you're there right now. You are preparing yourself to take the the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

More commonly known by its acronym, ASVAB, this test is not just your ticket into the military -- it's required for enlistment -- but it will also determine whether you get the job of your dreams or your nightmares.

The bottom line is that you want to do as well as you can on the ASVAB so you start your military career off on the right foot (pun intended -- you almost always start off on your LEFT foot!).

Explore all the way to the bottom of this page, and then please take a moment to share your thoughts, ideas, tips, or whatever floats your boat.

As an important side-note, the military is in a shrinking mode right now and every branch is being much more selective than they've been for decades. The ASVAB is taking on increased importance, but even more critical is that you live as a citizen of character so you can avoid negative information in your recruitment package.

While the military used to look past character issues -- e.g., arrests, failure to graduate high school, behavioral problems, traffic citations, drug experimentation, certain tattoos, negative affiliations (i.e., gangs), etc. -- they are not nearly as lenient now as they were even just a few years ago. I've seen some wonderful young people denied enlistment because they chose to behave foolishly. Don't let this happen to you.

Read this piece at for more information.

Bottom line: Do the right thing and don't expect the military to be your "way out" if you've messed up your life.

Oh, and do your friends a big favor a share this page with those who are going to take the ASVAB -- or any other standardized test, for that matter!

Finally, don't forget to LIKE this page, VOTE in the poll, and leave a COMMENT. I welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Thank you!


*I chose not to share my friend's name or military branch because military members avoid endorsing products and services to ensure they do not engage in any conflicts of interest.


[Image courtesy of US Navy Photographer Specialist 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright]

What is the ASVAB? What are its component parts?

First of all, it's important to understand that the ASVAB is NOT an IQ test. It's nothing like that, in fact.

The ASVAB is more important than any IQ test because it either helps or hinders you from joining the military and getting the job you want.

The ASVAB is designed to do two main things.

First, it determines your aptitude -- i.e., your natural abilities, competencies, and talents -- to enlist. Your results in four critical sub-areas -- known as the Armed Forces Qualification Test, or AFQT -- will show whether or not you have the basic abilities to learn how to be a Soldier, Airman, Sailor, or Marine.

The following areas count toward your score on the AFQT:

1. Arithmetic Reasoning

- 30 questions / 36 minutes

- Simple word problems

2. Word Knowledge

- 35 questions / 11 minutes

- Word meanings and occasional antonyms

3. Paragraph Comprehension

- 15 questions / 13 minutes

- Questions based on paragraphs you will read

4. Mathematics Knowledge

- 25 questions / 24 minutes

- High-school math, including algebra and geometry

Second, the ASVAB helps determine the job for which you are best suited by testing you in the following areas:

1. General Science

- 25 questions / 11 minutes

- General biological and physical sciences

2. Electronics Information

- 20 questions / 9 minutes

- Basic principles of electricity, circuits, and terminology

3. Auto and Shop Information

- 25 questions / 11 minutes

- Knowledge of automobiles, automotive tools, and terminology

4. Mechanical Comprehension

- 25 questions / 19 minutes

- Basic mechanical and physical principles

5. Assembling Objects

- 25 questions / 15 minutes

- Spatial orientation

Your performance in these areas will give you flexibility in your choice of career field, rather than having the military cram you into an arena you wouldn't choose for yourself.

Ask yourself, "Would I rather pound the ground or crew a spy plane, dig ditches and live in trenches or fly satellites from inside a climate controlled room?" Then, let your honest response to the question determine how much effort you want to put into this important test.

[Image: USAF Firefighter, courtesy DMA]

Why should I care? - Preparing for the ASVAB is a lot of work. Why does it matter? What's in it for me?

Application for Employment
Application for Employment

In addition to being your ticket into a military career, the ASVAB provides other benefits, some of which aren't even related to joining the military.

First, preparing for and taking the ASVAB is a great way to practice for other similar tests. The more familiar you are with general testing practices and how you react to the stress of testing, the better you will perform on other measurements. It would not be a stretch to assume your SAT and ACT scores will get a boost if you participate in the ASVAB in a meaningful way. When it comes to college admissions,

Additionally, some employers and college admissions professionals are interested in the ASVAB scores of their applicants. Imagine how being able to highlight your high ASVAB scores on an application or during an interview would boost your confidence and desirability.

Finally, you can never go wrong devoting yourself to the gathering of fresh knowledge. The act of preparing is, in and of itself, a healthy endeavor -- mentally, physiologically, and emotionally.

So, whether you are interested in a military career or not, preparing for and taking the ASVAB will provide lasting benefits.

[Image: "Application for Employment" by Phasinphoto at]

Recommended ASVAB Prep Resources - Resources to help you get ready and score your highest possible score...

I don't want you to overload yourself with a bunch of unnecessary -- and frequently overly expensive -- gimmicks, so here are my top recommendations for what to buy, rent, or borrow.

I am comfortable recommending each of these, but it's a good idea for you to check them out at Amazon or your local bookstore (buy at Amazon, though, as their prices are almost always unbeatable!) to see which will match your particular style and study habits.

Finally, it's a good idea -- if you aren't on too short a timeline -- to work your way through at least two of these books. This extra effort will help you excel on the ASVAB.

ASVAB For Dummies, Premier Plus (with Free Online Practice Tests)
ASVAB For Dummies, Premier Plus (with Free Online Practice Tests)

Hey! Nobody is calling you a dummy. Here's the deal -- I am a huge fan of the "For Dummies" books, and I've used them to become a quick expert in a lot of arenas. This one even provides access to FREE online practice tests, and the more practice you get, the better your score will be and the more choices you'll have.

Kaplan ASVAB
Kaplan ASVAB

Kaplan is a must have for your ASVAB preparation. Frequently updated and professionally presented, Kaplan will help you prepare well and give you the confidence you need to excel on the ASVAB. Highlights include: three full-length practice tests, key vocabulary, math concepts review, test-taking strategies, and much more!

McGraw-Hill's ASVAB, 3rd Edition: Strategies + 4 Practice Tests
McGraw-Hill's ASVAB, 3rd Edition: Strategies + 4 Practice Tests

You can't go wrong with McGraw-Hill professional test prep books, and their ASVAB prep edition is no exception. With four full-length practice tests, in-depth reviews of all tested subjects, test-taking strategies, and more, this comprehensive work is certain to help you conquer the ASVAB.

Barron's ASVAB Flash Cards: Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
Barron's ASVAB Flash Cards: Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery

I've recommended flash cards for decades and required all my Air Force officer trainees to use them during the Basic Officer Training course. While you can create your own flash cards based on your own research, you will never create a more comprehensive set than the ones provided by Barron's. Couple these flash cards with Barron's ASVAB, 10th Edition, and you will be unstoppable on test day!


What Branch Are You Pursuing? - It's time to show your colors! Feel free to click the "Add a Comment" button below the poll and explain your selection...

What do you want to be?

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How to prepare for the ASVAB - Plan your work and work your plan!

  • Take as many practice tests as you can. These are available in most of the resources I recommended above and online. The more you take, the more comfortable and confident you'll be on test day. Confidence adds points!
  • Rest up! Get lots of sleep, not just the night before the test, but for at least a few days before that. A rested body will achieve greater success.
  • Don't cram! If you don't know your stuff by the day before the test, you aren't going to gain anything by trying stuff information in at the last minute. Cramming will only confuse you and cause stress. Finish your study plan -- you have a plan, right? -- at least a couple days before the test.
  • Eat a healthy dinner the night before the test, and then don't ruin your good nutrition by eating an unhealthy breakfast. Two simple considerations: (1) Protein is your friend, and (2) Sugar is your enemy. You do not want to crash halfway through the ASVAB!

What to expect on testing day and how to attack the ASVAB - Preparation is your key to success!

  • Expect some level of stress and deal with it in a calm manner. You know your stuff. You're prepared as much as you can be, so don't let stress get the best of you.
  • Expect a crowd. You will likely be in a crowded room, so arrive early (this is a good way to reduce stress, by the way), walk in like you own the joint, grab a seat that looks comfortable, sit down, and relax.
  • Listen to, read, and carefully comply with all instructions. This is serious business, so you don't want to miss anything or break any of the rules.
  • Before you begin the test, confront any residual nervousness by taking a few deep cleansing breaths. It's simple, really. Just inhale through your nose for about 3 seconds, hold that breath for about 12 seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for about 6 seconds. Repeat this a few times and you'll be surprised at how relaxed you will be.


  • Ask questions
  • Follow instructions
  • Read each question and know what it's asking BEFORE reading any of the possible answers
  • Read all possible answers before selecting one
  • Mark an answer for EVERY question -- there is no penalty for guessing and if you fail to respond you are guaranteeing yourself that you'll miss that question
  • Make sure you mark the correct space on the answer sheet
  • If you don't know the answer, then mark your best guess and return to the question later

Do NOT...

  • Take too long or get bogged down on any one question -- keep moving forward
  • Talk to your neighbors
  • Assume you know what the question is -- read it to understand it
  • Change any answer unless you are absolutely, positively, beyond a shadow of doubt sure that you marked the wrong answer -- your gut reactions and first responses are almost always correct; trust yourself
  • Let your mind wander
  • Pay attention to or get distracted by others who are either ahead of or behind you in the test
  • Allow nervousness to paralyze you

Related Offers on eBay

Once people have taken the ASVAB, they sometimes offer their preparation materials on eBay.

It's worth checking, but please make sure you avoid ASVAB prep tools that are out of date. The test does undergo periodic updates, so it pays to check what you find on eBay against the most recent versions. You can find the most current versions by checking ASVAB or Google.

Khan Academy's SAT Prep Will Help

The Khan Academy has partnered with the College Board -- creators of the SAT -- to offer FREE, world-class test preparation for the SAT.

While not directly related to the ASVAB, I assure you that those who take advantage of the Khan/College Board materials will improve their performance on the ASVAB.

Watch the video below, and then head to Khan Academy SAT Prep to jump into one of the best FREE test preparation opportunities you'll find.

Watch this video to learn about the partnership between Khan Academy and the College Board.

Images of Military Life - What it's like to serve...

Click thumbnail to view full-size
USAF Firefighters (USAF Photo/Roland Balik)US Army Golden Knights (photo Air Force and US Army Educators of Ethiopian Defense Command and Staff College (US Army Photo/Rick Scavetta)US Army HMMWVS (US Army Photo/SSGT Andrew Porch)USAF C-17 Airdrop Training (USAF Photo/SrA Jesse Lopez)Marines (USMC Photo/Lance Cpl. Cedric R. Haller II)US Navy Blue Angels (US Navy Photo/Specialist 1st Class Michael Lindsey)USMC MV-22 Osprey in Gulf of Aden (US Navy Photo/Seaman Jesse Hyatt)USMC Cpl Rogers in CH-53E (US Navy Photo/Christian Senyk)USMC AV-8B and LCAC (US Navy Photo/Michael Lieberknecht)US Navy Jumpers (US Navy Photo/Adam D. Wainwright)
USAF Firefighters (USAF Photo/Roland Balik)
USAF Firefighters (USAF Photo/Roland Balik)
US Army Golden Knights (photo
US Army Golden Knights (photo
US Air Force and US Army Educators of Ethiopian Defense Command and Staff College (US Army Photo/Rick Scavetta)
US Air Force and US Army Educators of Ethiopian Defense Command and Staff College (US Army Photo/Rick Scavetta)
US Army HMMWVS (US Army Photo/SSGT Andrew Porch)
US Army HMMWVS (US Army Photo/SSGT Andrew Porch)
USAF C-17 Airdrop Training (USAF Photo/SrA Jesse Lopez)
USAF C-17 Airdrop Training (USAF Photo/SrA Jesse Lopez)
Marines (USMC Photo/Lance Cpl. Cedric R. Haller II)
Marines (USMC Photo/Lance Cpl. Cedric R. Haller II)
US Navy Blue Angels (US Navy Photo/Specialist 1st Class Michael Lindsey)
US Navy Blue Angels (US Navy Photo/Specialist 1st Class Michael Lindsey)
USMC MV-22 Osprey in Gulf of Aden (US Navy Photo/Seaman Jesse Hyatt)
USMC MV-22 Osprey in Gulf of Aden (US Navy Photo/Seaman Jesse Hyatt)
USMC Cpl Rogers in CH-53E (US Navy Photo/Christian Senyk)
USMC Cpl Rogers in CH-53E (US Navy Photo/Christian Senyk)
USMC AV-8B and LCAC (US Navy Photo/Michael Lieberknecht)
USMC AV-8B and LCAC (US Navy Photo/Michael Lieberknecht)
US Navy Jumpers (US Navy Photo/Adam D. Wainwright)
US Navy Jumpers (US Navy Photo/Adam D. Wainwright)

More test-taking tips - How to make an educated guess

Sometimes you just plain don't know the answer to a question. It happens to the best of us.

Don't panic and don't surrender!

There are things you can do to increase your chances of providing the right response even if you know nothing about the subject matter.

Try these techniques and watch your test scores rise!

  • Eliminate obvious wrong answers -- by doing so, you can increase your chances of guessing the right answer by up to 50 percent!
  • Consider that answers that contain "always" and "never" are usually wrong
  • If two options have opposite meanings, then one of those options is probably correct
  • Do NOT guess based on the frequency of answers -- i.e., don't guess B just because you think the poor B has been neglected
  • If you simply cannot eliminate any possible choices and you have absolutely no idea what to even guess, then choose the same letter every time you encounter that situation -- determine before you start the test that you will select the same answer for every question for which you are clueless (e.g., I will always pick C and will never pick any other option)

Even MORE test-taking tips - Reading to understand

You can learn a lot from the context of a sentence or phrase. Sometimes small nuances will tell big stories, even when you're unfamiliar with the subject.

Here are a few reading comprehension tips.

  • Make sure you understand what the question is really asking -- e.g., is it asking for the main point, a rational conclusion, or specific information
  • Read -- or re-read -- the paragraph with precision before looking to the answers
  • Look carefully for key words, both in the question and the possible responses
  • Use context to help you understand unfamiliar terms, phrases, or concepts

* Have you taken the ASVAB? What worked? What didn't work?

* Are you preparing for the ASVAB now? How's it going? Do you have a favorite study tool, book, or buddy?

What are your ASVAB prep tips? - Leave a tip or take a tip!

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    • Guy E Wood profile imageAUTHOR

      Guy E Wood 

      4 years ago from USA

      @Guy E Wood: Hah! Make that "Sam" and please forgive my botched spelling of esmonaco :-)

    • Guy E Wood profile imageAUTHOR

      Guy E Wood 

      4 years ago from USA

      @esmonaco: Thanks for the vote of confidence, esmoncaco!


    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      4 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Wow, If I were going to take this test or any test I would sure want you as my study guide. Very nice job here with great information and sources!!

    • Guy E Wood profile imageAUTHOR

      Guy E Wood 

      4 years ago from USA

      @RobertConnorIII: Thanks, rconnor111. I am fan of photos, but those that deal with military subjects are particularly appealing. Good day to you and the girls! --Guy

    • RobertConnorIII profile image

      Robert Connor 

      4 years ago from Michigan

      Nice lens and great military pics!

    • Guy E Wood profile imageAUTHOR

      Guy E Wood 

      4 years ago from USA

      @Merrci: Thank you, Merrci! I appreciate you stopping by.



    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Well done lens with so much information! I don't have anyone ready for this, but appreciate how you put it all together! Great lens.

    • Guy E Wood profile imageAUTHOR

      Guy E Wood 

      4 years ago from USA

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Susan52!

      For those who desire a military enlistment, the ASVAB is where it all starts. How a person does on this one measurement can affect their entire career, both in the military and once they've left the service.

      Thank you for raising two defenders!



    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Speaking from the viewpoint of a mom of two veterans, you've done a really good job with this guide. As with any test, those who prepare are going to end up making a higher score and that's certainly important going into any military career. One of my sons, through military and college, always chose test prep materials based on the reviews on Amazon and I think that's a wonderful idea. Your choices are an excellent place to start. Thanks for advising others and thank you for your service!


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