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ASVAB AFQT For Dummies
By Rod Powers
John Wiley & SonsCopyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
All rights reserved.
Examining the AFQT
In This Chapter
* Dissecting the AFQT
* Checking out the advantages of a high AFQT score
* Setting up a study plan
* Utilizing the practice tests correctly
If you're thinking about joining the U.S. military, your AFQT score may well be the most important score you achieve on any military test. Sure, other tests determine which military jobs you may get or whether you get promoted, but what good are those if you can't get into the military in the first place? You need a qualifying score on the AFQT, or your plans for enlistment may be compromised. You could be a young Rambo in the making, in perfect health, able to run three miles in three minutes, and it wouldn't matter if you didn't have a qualifying AFQT score.
The services have years and years of research to back up their policy of using the AFQT score as qualifications for enlistment. Study after study has shown that an individual's AFQT score is the single most significant factor in determining whether a recruit will make it through basic training and the first enlistment period. It costs the military more than $50,000 to process a new recruit for enlistment and send that person through basic training (and that's not even including the cost of additional specialized schooling after you've graduated), so you can see why the services want to maximize their chances of getting their money's worth.
Thankfully, with a little review, there's absolutely no reason that you shouldn't be able to score well on the AFQT. The score is, after all, composed of four areas that you studied intensely during your high-school years: basic math, math word problems, vocabulary, and reading. That's where ASVAB AFQT For Dummies, 2nd Edition, comes in. Other test-prep books, such as my ASVAB For Dummies (Wiley), try to prepare you for the entire Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and may be a great addition to your review, but this book is specifically designed to help you boost the most important ASVAB score of all: the AFQT score.
Getting a Close-Up View of the AFQT
The AFQT isn't a stand-alone test. You can't just walk into a recruiter's office and say you want to take the AFQT. You have to take the entire ASVAB, which consists of nine separate subtests. Four of those subtests make up the score that's known as the AFQT score. The AFQT score determines whether you're qualified to join the service of your choice. (Turn to Chapter 2 for the minimum qualifying scores for each service.)
Here are the four subtests that make up your AFQT score:
[check] Arithmetic Reasoning: The Arithmetic Reasoning subtest consists of 30 math word problems. The subtest is multiple-choice. On the paper version, you get 36 minutes to correctly solve as many of the 30 problems as you can; on the computerized-adaptive test (the CAT version or CAT-ASVAB), it's 16 questions in 39 minutes. Chapter 10 leads you step-by-step through solving math word problems. Take a look at Chapter 11 for some tips on doing well on this subtest.
[check] Word Knowledge: The Word Knowledge subtest is a vocabulary test, plain and simple. You have to find words that are "closest in meaning" to underlined words in the question stem. You have 35 words to define in 11 minutes on the paper version, or 16 questions in 8 minutes on the CAT version. You can boost your vocabulary knowledge by following the advice in Chapter 4 and get an idea of what the subtest is all about in Chapter 5.
[check] Paragraph Comprehension: The Paragraph Comprehension subtest requires you to read a paragraph and then answer one to four questions about information contained in that paragraph. The paper version has 15 questions in all, and you're expected to complete the subtest in 13 minutes; the CAT version has 11 questions in 22 minutes. Chapter 6 can help you improve your reading comprehension skills, and you can get a little practice with the Paragraph Comprehension subtest in Chapter 7. (Note: Many other standardized tests refer to this type of question as "reading comprehension." The military likes to do things its own way, so it refers to them as "paragraph comprehension" questions. Different name, same thing.)
[check] Mathematics Knowledge: This subtest measures your ability to solve high-school level math problems. You have to solve 25 basic math problems in 24 minutes on the paper version or 16 questions in 20 minutes on the CAT version. Like the other subtests of the AFQT, all the questions are multiple-choice. To make sure your math skills measure up, see Chapter 8. Chapter 9 gives you an idea about the test format, as well as a little added math practice.
The AFQT isn't the only qualifying standard the military uses. You have to meet all the set standards in order to qualify for enlistment, including age, weight, number of dependents, medical history, education level, and criminal history.
Reaping the Benefits of Getting the Highest Possible Score
Chapter 2 gives you the minimum AFQT qualifying scores for each service. But you don't want to be satisfied with making just the minimum. You want to score as high as possible.
The services put great stock in your AFQT score. Not only does a high AFQT score give you a greater chance of enlistment, but it also means you may have access to special treats, such as the following:
[check] Enlistment incentives: Depending on current recruiting needs, individual services often tie the AFQT score to enlistment incentives, such as monetary bonuses or education benefits. For example, the Army often requires a minimum AFQT score of 50 to qualify for a bonus or to qualify for the Student Loan Repayment Program and other programs and benefits.
[check] Enlistment programs: Most military jobs are tied to individual line scores derived from the entire ASVAB, but certain enlistment programs sometimes require a minimum AFQT score that is significantly higher than the minimum score needed for a regular enlistment. For example, some Navy jobs (such as those in the nuclear field) require a higher AFQT score.
[check] Education level: You have to have a high-school diploma in order to join any of the services. The services can, however, take a limited number of GED applicants each year. To qualify with a GED, you must score higher on the AFQT than a qualified high-school diploma holder.
[check] Quotas: During times when the services are doing well meeting their recruiting goals, they often get more people who want to join than they have room for. At these times, the services get to pick and choose whom they let join and whom they don't. Branches commonly raise their AFQT minimum scores temporarily to separate the best-qualified applicants from the rest. Sometimes enlistment gets so competitive that the services may require a minimum score of 50 just to be considered. As of this writing, minimum scores for the services tend to rest in the 30s.
[check] Waivers: One past study indicated that only four out of ten people who walked into a recruiter's office were qualified for enlistment. Certain factors — such as criminal history, age, education level, number of dependents, or medical history — made them ineligible. Some of these eligibility criteria can be waived (sometimes with difficulty and processing delays). However, when the military grants a waiver, it's taking a chance on an otherwise ineligible recruit. For example, if you have too many criminal misdeeds in your past and require a waiver to enlist, a service is much more likely to grant the waiver if you score 85 on the AFQT than it is if you score 45.
Enlistment standards, programs, quotas, and incentives change — sometimes on a week- byweek basis, depending on the service's current recruiting needs. For the latest information, check with a military recruiter or visit http://usmilitary.about.com.
The AFQT is scored as a percentile. That means, for example, that if you score 70, you've scored higher than 70 percent of the thousands of people who've taken the test before you. The highest possible score on the AFQT is 99.
The AFQT isn't a one-shot deal. If you don't achieve a qualifying score, you can retest. After your first test, you have to wait at least 30 days to take a second test. After the second test, in most cases, you have to wait six months before you can test again. Keep in mind the age requirements and needs of the service. Although you can retest, getting a qualifying score upfront is the best way to keep your recruiter happy and your training and placement on schedule.
Establishing a Study Program
If you're not planning to make a study plan, you should plan again. A study plan is essential if you want to score well on the AFQT.
I can't give you one best way to prepare a study plan. Each person has different ways of studying and learning that work the best for him. Still, people generally fall into one of three categories:
[check] Auditory learners: These people learn best by hearing something. They do really well in lecture classes, and they love listening to audiobooks.
[check] Visual learners: These folks prefer to learn by seeing something. They would rather read a book or look at a diagram.
[check] Tactile learners: These people get the best results by doing something. Instead of listening to an explanation or reading an instruction manual, they need to do it in order to learn it.
Try to figure out what type of learner you are before developing a plan of study. Chapter 2 can help with this process and give you some tips about what to include in your study plan based on your own individual learning style.
Most people don't look forward to sitting down for a study session. Because of that, they try to make study more enjoyable by spending time on the subjects they're already good at. After all, studying familiar information is much easier than learning something new. Try not to fall into this trap! If you're already an avid reader, you probably don't need to spend much of your time improving your reading comprehension skills. You're already going to ace that portion of the AFQT, right? Instead, spend most of your time boning up on the areas where you need improvement, such as math and math word problems.
Try to dedicate one to two hours per day to your AFQT studies. Pick a time and place where you won't be interrupted. Having your dad yell at you to cut the grass probably won't be beneficial to your study session. Also, turn off your cellphone. Is that call as important as your future military career? You won't be allowed to use your cellphone in basic training anyway, so this is a good time to get into the practice of not texting your BFF that OMG, J4I, UBD is making me AAK.
Having raised twin daughters, I happen to be an expert on this texting stuff. Your BFF is your "best friend forever." And "OMG, J4I, UBD is making me AAK" translates to "Oh my God, just for info, user brain damage is making me asleep at the keyboard."
All the questions on the ASVAB/AFQT are multiple-choice with four possible answers. That means if you answer eeny-meeny-miny-mo, by the law of averages, you'd get one-fourth of the questions right.
Of course, you can increase these odds immensely by studying. But the chances are good that no matter how much time you put into advanced study, you'll come across at least one question on the test that leaves you scratching your head.
When this happens, you can improve your odds of guessing correctly by guessing smart. Chapter 3 includes tips and techniques about smart guessing in general. Flip to Chapter 5 for tips on intelligent guessing for the Word Knowledge subtest, Chapter 7 for techniques you can use on the Paragraph Comprehension subtest, Chapter 9 for Mathematics Knowledge subtest guessing plans, and Chapter 11 to discover how to make intelligent guesses on the Arithmetic Knowledge subtest.
Using the Practice Exams to Your Advantage
This book includes four full-length AFQT practice exams, with questions that are very similar to the ones you see on the ASVAB subtests that comprise the AFQT score. The practice exams included in this book can help increase your confidence and ensure that you're ready to take the actual ASVAB, but you have to use them correctly.
When I wrote my first book, ASVAB For Dummies, many readers contacted me. Some were disappointed that the practice tests included in the book weren't the exact same as the questions they found on the actual ASVAB. I'll let you in on a little not-so-secret secret: No ASVAB or AFQT preparation book includes the exact same questions as what you find on the actual test. Not only would that be unethical, but it would probably also result in several federal law-enforcement agents knocking on the author's door — not my idea of a good time. Actual ASVAB test questions are controlled items; that means that the military keeps them to itself. If you see any questions on the actual ASVAB or AFQT that are the exact same as the ones you find in this book (or any other preparation guide), it's pure coincidence.
However, just because the practice exams don't include the exact same questions that you see on the AFQT doesn't mean that the practice exams aren't valuable — just use them the way they were designed to be used:
[check] Practice Exam 1: The first practice test is intended as an initial assessment tool. Take this test before you set up your study plan. You can use the results of Practice Exam 1 to determine which areas of the AFQT you need to spend the most time on.
[check] Practice Exam 2: Use this test as a progress check after a week or two of study. Adjust your study plan accordingly.
[check] Practice Exam 3: Take this practice exam about a week before you're scheduled to take the actual ASVAB. Use the results to determine which AFQT subjects need a little extra attention.
[check] Practice Exam 4: Take the final practice exam a day or two before the ASVAB to make sure you're ready and to boost your confidence. If you don't score well, you may want to consider asking your recruiter to reschedule your ASVAB test for a later date to give you more time to study.
You may find your recruiter trying to rush you to take the ASVAB and medical exam so he can get you signed up quickly. Recruiters live and die off their recruiting goals. Make sure you don't let the recruiter schedule your exam until you're sure you're ready to take the test.
The mini-AFQT computerized test (see Chapter 2 ) that recruiters have in their offices is a pretty good indicator of whether you're ready for the real test. Usually, people's AFQT scores are within five or six points of what the mini-AFQT predicts.
Although you can't equate scores on the practice exam with actual AFQT scores (because of the method of scoring the AFQT; see Chapter 2 ), shoot for a minimum of 80 percent on each subtest, keeping in mind whether your practice test mimics the paper version, the computerized version, or a random number of questions replicating the question type:
[check] Arithmetic Reasoning: For the paper version, this subtest has 30 questions. If you miss more than 6 on a practice exam, you should dedicate more study time to solving math problems. For the CAT-ASVAB, you have 16 questions. If you miss more than 3, you should concentrate on improving this score.
[check] Word Knowledge: The Word Knowledge subtest has 35 questions on the paper version. You need to focus more attention on this area if you miss more than 7 questions. You must complete 16 questions on the computer version, so you should study more if you miss more than 3 questions.
[check] Paragraph Comprehension: If you miss more than 3 of the 15 Paragraph Comprehension questions on the paper version or 2 out of 11 on the CAT version, dedicate more study time to your reading skills.
[check] Mathematics Knowledge: Missing more than 5 questions on this 25-question subtest indicates you need further study. Concentrate on your math skills if you miss more than 3 on a CAT-ASVAB practice test.
Excerpted from ASVAB AFQT For Dummies by Rod Powers. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons.
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