The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery





Reyna Avila, Victoria Boccanfuso, Shawna Metcalfe



A.  Purpose of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)


The ASVAB is a tool used in educational and vocational settings for counseling and to stimulate interest in jobs and training areas in the Armed Forces. The ASVAB provides counselors and test takers with career guidance. The ASVAB is primarily used to help military recruiters screen and place recruits an area where they will be most successful and productive.


B.  How the Test Was Constructed


The ASVAB has 3 composite scores, which are Academic Ability, Verbal Ability, and Math Ability.  Within these three categories there are 10 subtests. The United States Military Entrance Processing Committee composed the ASVAB. The ASVAB takes approximately 3 hours to complete, 2 and one quarter of which are actual test taking and the rest is instruction-giving time. The ASVAB is a highly standardized test; extra measures were taken to include minority groups in a sample group. The scores on the ASVAB are interpreted as general ability (g) plus (+) interest. The test is administered to adolescents and young adults ranging from ages 16-23 years old in high school, junior college, or those interested in applying for the Armed Forces.


C. Who the test is designed to be used with.


The ASVAB was designed for adolescents and adults grade 10 and over with a specification for high school, junior college and young adults applying to the armed forces.


D. A description of each of the scales of the test.


The ASVAB contains 10 separately timed subtests. There are 8 power subtests (test for which speed of work has no influence on an examinee’s score) and two speeded subtests. The test parts are:

1.      General Science (GS) – includes 25 items that are to be completed in 11 min that measure general knowledge of biological and physical sciences.

2.      Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) – includes 30 items that are to be completed in 36 min and the items are simple word problems with simple calculations.

3.      Word Knowledge (WK) – includes 35 items that are to be completed in 11 min where the applicant must select the correct meaning, or synonym of a given word.

4.      Paragraph Comprehension (PC) – includes 15 items, which are to be completed in 13 min where the applicant must read several paragraphs and then answer the 15 questions on what they just read.

5.      Numerical Operations (NO) – includes 50 items and the applicant is given 3 min in which to answer as many problems involving simple calculations as possible.(speeded)

6.      Coding Speed (CS) – includes 84 items and the applicant has 7 min in which to substitute numeric codes for verbal material.

(i.e.  KEY          Red….2413                    Cat….8262

                 Boy….7285                      Dog….5313


1. boy          2413            7614            7285            9313

2. dog          8262            5313            2413            7614

3. red          7285            2413            8262            7614

7.      Auto and Shop information (AS) – includes 25 items that are to be completed in 11 min an they measure knowledge of automobiles, tools, shop terminology, and shop practices.

8.      Mathematical Knowledge (MK) – includes 25 items that are to be completed in 24 min and measure knowledge of high school level math (algebra, geometry, elementary trigonometry)

9.      Mechanical Comprehension (MC) – includes 25 items to be completed in 19 min and  measures knowledge of basic mechanical and physical principles.

10.  Electronics Information (EI) – includes 20 items that are to be completed in 9 min and measure knowledge of electric principles and electronic terminology.


E.      The data regarding  the reliability and validity of the test.


The reliability of the ASVAB is high.  The estimated reliability is reported as alternate-form reliability coefficients.  The composite scores were found to be highly reliable with coefficients between .93 and .94.  Wheres as subtest scores are somewhat less reliable, with coefficients between .77 and .85.  The ASVAB was also found to be test-retest reliable.

The ASVAB has high validity.  There is a broad range of observed validates.  Validity generalization is a tendency for the more job-specific selector composites to produce slightly higher validates than the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT).   The ASVAB is a valid predictor  of success in military careers.  The composite test scores are significantly correlated with military training grades (.55-.60) and with eventual job performance (.35-.47).  The test scores are also valid for predicting the criterion in one job and  were valid for predicting the criteria in other jobs.  Content validity is established by good test construction methodology and factor analysis and construct validity is demonstrated by correlations  of ASVAB subtests to like sub-tests of the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) (.59-.73 ) and the DAT (.43-.49).  The two speeded sub-tests have a lower validity than that of the two quantitative subtests.  It should also be noted that the ASVAB is not as predictive for civilian jobs.


F.      Information about how the test might be used and how the results should be interpreted.


Both the military and civilians use the ASVAB.  The ASVAB was constructed by the military services to identify eligible high school graduates for possible recruitment (this does not apply to those who are joining the military to become an officer).  Its primary role is the classification of military recruits.  Because there has been a great effort given to the predictive, or criterion-related validity for military jobs, it would be in our best interest to take the results at face value more than that of the civilian career fields.  However, there is some consideration given to the fact that it has been proven that there are significant mean differences between African-Americans, Hispanics, other minority students, and the white population.

The ASVAB also provides information on possible occupational guidance for civilian careers, as mention previously.  The test is administered at high school (upon the high school’s request) and the results given to the counselors.  When interpreting the test-scores it is in the best  interest of the student not to take the scores at face value.  The ASVAB is not as high as a predictor for civilian careers is as it is for military careers.  It is especially crucial to minority students that the counselor takes into account other factors when counseling the student, so as not to limit their potential career choices.


G.     A summary of what several reviewers consider to be the pros and cons of the test.


The test in general is a great test.  It has good reliability and good validity.  It does what it has to do.  It aids in the choices that kids make about their future careers.  The test and all accompanying manuals and booklets are provided free of charge to all participating schools and is reviewed as a the highest level of development for test of its kind.  However there are some cons to the test.  The test is set up so that it is the school that makes the decision to release test information to military recruiters.  This seems to ignore any element of parental consent and places the burden of decision of school officials and may in fact subject the student to unwanted solicitation by military recruiters.  The ASVAB does need more work on obtaining reliability between races.  It has been proven that minorities have a lower mean than whites do.  If the counselor or recruiter does not take this into account it may limit the career options that the student may be qualified for.