Is the ASVAB Hard?

Is the ASVAB hard? If you’re concerned about the difficulty level of the ASVAB, remember that like any standardized tests, the ASVAB is not testing your IQ. The exam is simply attempting to gauge your preparedness for specific jobs in the military. Think of it as a tool, not a test: by taking it, you’ll learn what fields and potential jobs you already have a good aptitude for.

Sections of the ASVAB are used to determine your AFQT, or Armed Forces Qualification Test. Luckily, the AFQT is only determined by your scores on the Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge sections of the ASVAB, so if you’re nervous about the fact-heavy sections such as Electronics Information or Mechanical Comprehension, don’t be! The truth is, most high school sophomores and juniors have already learned enough to do well on the Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge sections simply from their English and Math classes, so you probably have a lot of these skills already.

How to Calculate AFQT Score

  • AFQT Score = 2 X (Word Knowledge score + Paragraph Comprehension score) + Arithmetic Reasoning score + Mathematic Reasoning score

Notice that the Word Knowledge and Paragraph Comprehension scores are counted twice! The actual ASVAB does not have a total cumulative score (although you will receive a score in each section), so when people discuss “ASVAB scores” they are usually referring to the AFQT score. Army recruits must score at least a 31, Marine Corps recruits at least a 32, Navy recruits at least a 35, and Air Force and Coast Guard recruits at least a 36.

How Hard is the ASVAB?

Now that you understand how the scoring works, you can see that the ASVAB is actually not that hard! Nine sections may seem like a lot, but since the AFQT score is the most important factor to determine your acceptance into a particular branch of the military, you really can focus your ASVAB test prep on these four sections: Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematic Reasoning. You may have to memorize some word definitions and review some old math formulas and rules, but you can do well on these sections simply by practicing and reviewing your incorrect questions.

Plan to take at least 5-6 ASVAB practice tests before your exam date, and thoroughly examine each incorrect answer. Ask yourself: what can I do next time to get a similar question correct? Learn how to actively read each short paragraph and come up with your own pre-phrased answer before looking at the answer choices. The ASVAB is an extremely coachable exam, and your score will rapidly increase the more familiar you are with the tested format and content.

While most people take the CAT (computer adaptive) version of the ASVAB, the pen and paper version may be slightly easier or harder depending on your comfort-level with taking tests on computers. The bad thing about the pen and paper version is that it’s a longer test with more questions (225 total questions compared to 145 on the CAT version), however you can skip around within each section, crossing off answer choices directly in the test booklet. Unless you feel very nervous about the CAT, I’d recommend skipping the pen-and-paper version. The good news about the CAT is that your exam is scored immediately, so you’ll know how you did as soon as you finish.