Successful Preparation for Successful ASVAB Testing

So you’re thinking about joining the armed services. Well, just like applying to many colleges, there is a test you’re going to need to take in order to set yourself up for success. It’s called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB tests a variety of things, from mechanical aptitude, to vocabulary. It’s a fairly fast paced test, so knowing what to expect and going into the test with a plan is a must. Keep in mind that your ASVAB score may impact your ability not just to get into a certain branch of the service, but to get into your specific desired job in that branch and to move up in that branch when the time comes. Make sure you prepare for this test and do your best! To help you along the way, here are some strategies for your preparation in the math and language portions:

1. Practice timing:
Whatever book or materials you use to study for the ASVAB, make sure that you do at least one or two practices with realistic time constraints so that you know what pressure you’ll be under on test day. Not every practice needs to be timed, sometimes you’ll just be working on getting used to the questions, but doing no timed practice will be a detriment on test day.

2. Brush up on your basic math skills, but know when to estimate:
There are two math sections on the ASVAB. You are not permitted to use a calculator on either section. Make sure you remember how to quickly add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers, decimals, and fractions (you can use a resource like Khan Academy for practice on these skills). However, not every question is going to need to be fully calculated. Since the test is multiple choice, some questions have answers that are far enough apart that a good estimate will be sufficient. In your untimed practice, try selecting an answer option by estimating and then check you’re correct by doing the calculations on a piece of paper. This will help you learn when to estimate and will also be good practice for that long form basic math that you would usually just plug into a calculator.

3. Memorize formulas:
The math sections of the test do require knowledge of a number of math facts. Make sure that you know your basic geometric formulas: how to find the area and circumference of a circle, how to find the areas of a triangle and rectangle, how to find the volumes of a cylinder and box. In addition, make sure you’re comfortable multiplying and dividing with exponents and solving basic equations.

4. Read extensively:
One of the language sections of the ASVAB involves paragraph comprehension. The more you read in your everyday life the easier this will be. Get a book you’ll enjoy from your local library and read a chapter each day. Make sure that as you’re reading you’re stopping after each paragraph to sum up what you just read in your own words. This strengthens comprehension skills.

5. Learn root words:
Another language section of the ASVAB is a vocabulary section. Reading will help with this as will listening to high quality podcasts, and audio books. Anything that exposes you to a few unfamiliar words will be beneficial. Beyond that, however, learning root words can help. Look for materials that will teach you about word families and what common prefixes and suffixes mean. Commit these to memory. It’s much easier to make a good guess as to what “malevolent” means if you know the prefix “mal” means “bad”.

6. Talk to your recruiter:
Ask what score you need and which sections are the most important for the service you want to enter. If you’re hoping to enter into a job that requires no mechanical skills, the mechanical section of the test may not be something to stress about and likewise for other sections. Talking to your recruiter can help you identify where you need to spend most of your preparation time.

If you’d like to work with a tutor on any of the math or language skills tested by the ASVAB, we’re here to help. Please reach out to discuss tutoring options.

Michal Strawn