ASVAB Scores: Everything You Need To Know

Acronym soup: What the ASVAB and AFQT mean for you

The ASVAB, perhaps you sat in a crowded cafeteria during your junior or senior year in high school and took the test merely to get out of class, or maybe you are preparing to go through a recruiter and sign up for a four, six, or 8 year stint in the armed forces. In either case, your ASVAB and AFQT score will determine what job or jobs you will qualify for in the US Military.

What is the ASVAB?
The ASVAB is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. That whole mess of words is government speak for a test and assessment of your skills, and it will determine your MOS for the Marine Corps and the Army, your Rate in the Navy, or your AFSC in the Air Force.

  • MOS – Military Occupational Specialty
  • Ratings – The term used for your job in the Navy or Coast Guard
  • AFSC – Air Force Specialty Code

So before you run off to an Air Force recruiter and ask them about an MOS and look a little foolish, remember that each branch has a slightly different term for their jobs.

Sectioned Off
Each section of the ASVAB encompasses a different part of the battery, and grades you on different skills.

ASVAB Score Range
Understanding the ASVAB s core range is to understand standard deviations. The highest score on the ASVAB is a 99 and the lowest score is a one. Scores are based on the mean of all examinees. This is to say that a score of 50 would account for an average score. Each increment of 10 represents a single standard deviation from the mean score. So, for example, a score of 80 would be three standard deviations better than the mean while a score of 30 would be two standard deviations lower than the mean score.
The ASVAB measures your knowledge and ability in ten different areas. It is not an IQ test, but the ASVAB does help the various branches of the military assess which jobs you are best suited to perform. The AFQT, or the Armed Forces Qualification Test, is a portion inside the ASVAB that is computed to determine your AFQT Score.
AFQT CategoryScore Range

Focus on the AFQT
The AFQT is the basic skill assessment and consists of:

  • Paragraph Comprehension
  • Word Knowledge
  • Mathematics Knowledge
  • Arithmetic Reasoning

These sections are used specifically to decide if the test taker is fit for military duty. Mathematics Knowledge and Arithmetic Reasoning are closely related and are of heavy focus on any of the technical jobs in each branch.

Aim high and the doors will open
As a general rule of thumb, anything over an 85 on the ASVAB will qualify you for nearly any position in the armed forces. But there are slight breakdowns within each score. For example, in order to qualify for Surveillance and Communications (SC) in the Army, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, Auto & Shop and Mechanical Comprehension all require high marks. Though scoring an 85 or above would guarantee you scored in a high enough percentile to qualify for SC.

Branch Requirements
Each branch of the service has a minimum score set for entry. The higher your score the better chance you have of not only enlisting in your chosen branch, but also garnering the position you want. The minimum AFQT scores for entry into each branch, with a high school diploma, are as follows:

  • Air Force – 36
  • Army & National Guard – 31
  • Coast Guard – 40
  • Marine Corps – 32
  • Navy – 35

Without a high school diploma and holding a GED only you’ll need the following scores-

  • Air Force – 65
  • Coast Guard – 40
  • Army & National Guard – 31
  • Marine Corps – 50
  • Navy – 50

Don’t be fooled by the appearance of the low numbers, the algorithm that computes the AFQT is very sophisticated. Just because your ASVAB score is 40 doesn’t mean that you only got 40% of the questions correct, it could simply mean that you lack strength in one area, but succeed with high praise in another. Your ASVAB score is only a means by which you are categorized for available positions, it is by no means a measure of intelligence.

This is a battery of tests that demands your full attention, since it will determine the course of your military career. Your ASVAB score is a direct reflection of what you put into it. As they say in the military: “You get out of it what you put into it.”