The ASVAB test prep that you do can make a big difference in your final ASVAB score. Since most people take the computerized version of the ASVAB, this test prep guide is focused on that option. The computerized version is formally described as a Computer Adaptative Test, but is usually abbreviated as CAT.
There are also a few fundamental principles about the CAT-ASVAB that will be helpful to know as you start preparing. By design, a CAT adapts to the test-taker’s ability, meaning that each question you answer incorrectly or correctly influences the next question you see. When you are given a slightly harder question and you get it wrong, the computer usually offers you an easier question next. When you are given a below-average question and get it correct, the computer usually offers you a harder question next. The computer is essentially using an algorithm to find where you “fall” among typical test-takers. Because of this, a CAT test is very flexible, and question you see early in a section tend to “count more” as they are the basis for the computer’s assessment of your aptitude.
This means you should take a little extra care with the first three or four questions at the start of each section. Double-check each answer before you hit the “confirm” button – a string of correct answers at the front of any section will lead you to harder and harder questions. This is a good sign, and means you’re doing well, so don’t let tough questions make you nervous. Similarly, if you see questions that seem “easy” to you, don’t worry that your score is going down. Just deal with the question directly in front of you. There’s definitely an element of psychology to the ASVAB-CAT! You will not be able to skip questions, so if you find yourself spending too much time on any one question, just log your best guess and move on.
How to Study for the ASVAB
To effectively study for the ASVAB, you need to focus your attention on the sections that count towards your AFQT score: Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Mathematics Knowledge, and Arithmetic Reasoning. You will definitely want to study the additional sections as well, but I’d recommend starting with these four. Here’s the basic strategies to rock each section:
ASVAB Word Knowledge Tips
- Look for context clues. Some of the questions will put the word into a sentence (just like SAT Sentence Completions if you remember those). See if there are any clue words that give you a hint as to what the word might mean. Should it be positive or negative?
- Create flashcards using word groups. It would be too hard and time consuming to memorize the dictionary definition of every word you run across that you don’t know, so “dumb down” the definition into 1-2 general words, such as “happy,” “evil,” “lazy,” “confused,” etc. One one side of the flashcard write the word you don’t know (i.e. “Jeer (verb)”), and then on the back write a simple definition placing he word in a word group (i.e. “be mean”). While “to be mean” isn’t the formal definition for “jeer,” it’s close enough for ASVAB purposes!
ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension Tips
- Read the question first. This way you’ll know exactly what to look for as you read.
- Write down your own answer before reading the answer choices. If you can, come up with your own answer, then use process of elimination to mentally “cross off” the choices that do not match your prediction.
- Find support in the passage. Don’t rely on memory or gut instinct alone. Find support for your choice directly in the passage – there must be evidence to back up the correct answer, otherwise it wouldn’t be a fair question. It’s your job to find it!
ASVAB Math Tips
- Backsolve as much as possible for math questions. The answer choices on the Arithmetic Reasoning section are almost universally numbers, which means you can “test out” each one, even if you don’t know how to solve! While testing 4 choices isn’t as fast as solving for 1 choice, it will prevent you from making careless mistakes on more challenging problems.
- Pick numbers for variables. When you see variables in the questions stem (such as “x”, “m”, “z”, etc.), know that you always have the option to choose your own values for those numbers.
Example: If x has a remainder of 4 when divided by 15, what is the remainder when x is divided by 8?
- This question becomes much easier if we choose a value for x. What’s the easiest number that has 4 leftover after being divided by 15? What about 15 + 4? If x = 19, then it’s easier to see that the remainder when 8 goes into 19 will be 3. The correct answer would be 3.
The Remaining Sections
Because General Science, Electronics Information, Auto and Shop Information, and Mechanical Comprehension test very specific information, you will need to buy an ASVAB review book and read through the chapters that review the tested content. You’ll likely need to do some memorization of basic facts, definitions, and formulas, since this information might be entirely new to you. I would suggest waiting to address these sections until you feel confident in the first four described above, then working on one at a time. For Assembling Objects, no memorization is required, but you will want to practice many problems to build your comfort level and ability to visualize.
How to Pass the ASVAB
The key to passing the ASVAB is to spend plenty of time on ASVAB test prep. Be sure to follow our guidelines listed above that explain how to study for the ASVAB. And you should also buy one of the Best ASVAB Study Guides. Once you get the study guide you should spend a lot time reading through it and working on the practice questions. After that, simply do as many ASVAB Practice Tests as possible. As you work through these problems you will quickly get a sense for the sections that are the most difficult for you. Spend additional time on these sections. And when you get a problem wrong, study those concepts again in your study guide. If you are not learning from your mistakes then you are wasting your time.
Another key to passing the ASVAB is to answer ALL the questions within the allotted time. When you take practice tests for the ASVAB, make sure you set a timer for each section. Check in with it as needed to stay on track. Make sure you select an answer for EVERY question – do not leave any blank!
The ASVAB’s scoring algorithm tends to penalize test-takers who get several questions wrong in a row, so if you find yourself needing to make an educated guess on one question, take a little more time to get the next question correct. This will help improve your score in that section. Since each question has 4 multiple-choice options, you always have a 25% chance of getting a question correct. Since there is no penalty for guessing on the ASVAB, don’t worry if you see a question that you have absolutely no idea how to answer. It is always better to guess, even blindly
Now that you know how to pass the ASVAB, it is time to get started! Start your test prep right now with our free practice questions. Good luck!