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6 Reasons the ASVAB Test is Hard

Before joining the military, there are specific steps to take, and one of those steps is taking the ASVAB test. Therefore, the first question many potential recruits have is how hard is the ASVAB.

The ASVAB test is a standardized test that tests your knowledge over a set of topics.

Also, the ASVAB is an aptitude test that predicts your success in specific military jobs.

Furthermore, the scores themselves determine if you are eligible for entry into the military.

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#1. The Test is VERY Long

How hard is the ASVAB

The ASVAB has several different subtests, and each has its time limit.

Also, there are two different versions of the test, depending on where you take the ASVAB.

If you take the ASVAB at a Military Entrance Processing (MEPs) center, you take the computer version of the test, which is adaptive to how you answer the questions.

If you take the test at an approved Military Entrance Test (MET) site, you will likelytake the test on paper.

Timing of ASVAB at MEPs

Here are the testing sections and time limits broken down by subtest if you take the computerized version.

  • General Science – 15 questions in 10 minutes
  • Word Knowledge – 15 questions in 9 minutes
  • Arithmetic – 15 questions in 55 minutes
  • Paragraph Comprehension – 10 questions in 27 minutes
  • Electronics Information – 15 questions in 10 minutes
  • Mathematics Knowledge – 15 questions in 24 minutes
  • Auto Information – 10 questions in 7 minutes
  • Mechanical Comprehension – 15 questions in 22 minutes
  • Assembling Objects – 15 questions in 17 minutes
  • Shop Information – 10 questions in 6 minutes

In total, this is 135 questions in 187 minutes or just over three hours long.

However, there are optional practice questions that add time to the computerized test.

Timing of ASVAB at MET

If you take the test paper and pencil, there are still time limits for the subtests, but the timing is different.

  • General Science – 25 questions in 11 minutes
  • Word Knowledge – 35 questions in 11 minutes
  • Arithmetic – 30 questions in 36 minutes
  • Paragraph Comprehension – 15 questions in 13 minutes
  • Electronics Information – 20 questions in 9 minutes
  • Mathematics Knowledge – 25 questions in 24 minutes
  • Auto Information – 25 questions in 11 minutes
  • Mechanical Comprehension – 25 questions in 19 minutes
  • Assembling Objects – 25 questions in 15 minutes

The entire paper and pencil ASVAB test is 225 questions in 149 minutes, which is just under three hours.

Related ArticleCan You Retake The ASVAB?

#2. The ASVAB is Stressful

Many find the ASVAB stressful because so much rides on the scores.

For instance, part of the test is the AFQT, which determines if you can serve in the Armed Forces at all.

If you do not pass that portion of the test, you are disqualified and need to retest.

Also, you may have a job in mind when you enter the military.

However, most jobs have minimum expectations for scores on the ASVAB if you want consideration.

If you are not prepared and do poorly, you can test yourself out of career options.

Plus, because some careers are competitive, the minimum may not be enough.

In some cases, you can retest, but there are limits on reasons to take the ASVAB a second time.

#3. It Takes A Lot Of Studying

The ASVAB test is challenging because of how much work goes into passing the exam.

Many students take the test in high school, so the skills are likely fresh in their minds.

However, not everyone is up on their skills, even if they take it right out of high school.

The ASVAB measures knowledge in specific areas, and it also determines your aptitude for military jobs.

Areas of study include arithmetic, knowledge of mathematics and equations, paragraph and word comprehension, mechanical skills and understanding, and science.

Many test takers have a goal in mind and want a high score because of their career plans and need to plan in advance to study multiple subjects.

Related ArticleGT Score Explained (and how to raise it)

#4. You Must Wait to Retest

U.S. Sailors taking an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) preparation class

When you take the ASVAB test, it is possible not to score high enough to qualify for service or the job you want.

Also, retaking the ASVAB is not always possible.

ASVAB test scores are good for two years if you are not in the military.

Once you join the military, you can retake the ASVAB to improve your score to qualify for your dream job. However, you’ll have to check with your base education center. It usually requires a request through your chain of command.

Before enlisting, if you take the ASVAB test and aren’t happy with your score, you can retake it after 30 days.

If, after the retest, you do not like your score, you must wait six months before a third attempt.

However, the military branches have their own rules for retesting.

The Army does not allow retesting to raise the score to qualify for enlistment bonuses.

Although, you can retest if you fail to meet the minimum expectations for enlistment.

The Air Force will not allow retesting for this in the Delayed Entry Program because a job is on hold for you already.

On the other hand, retesting is allowed when the score does not match an available Air Force job.

The Navy follows closely with the Air Force with retesting except for those in the Delayed Entry Program who make low AFQT scores.

In that case, potential recruits take a class to help them perform better on the retake.

The Marines only allow retests if the recruiter believes the score does not reflect the actual capabilities of a potential recruit.

The Coast Guard is more lenient as they allow retesting after a waiting period to raise scores.

#5. Measure of Aptitude

While the ASVAB test’s design tests your general knowledge over a large area of topics, it is also an aptitude test. 

An aptitude test measures different skills and scores compared to other people taking the test.

The Department of Defense developed the ASVAB test to help reveal candidates’ likelihood of performing well and meeting challenges in specific military jobs. 

Therefore, if you are wondering how hard is the ASVAB, factoring in the aptitude portion of the test, know that it is challenging.

Related ArticleAFQT Explained: 5 Tricks To Get The Best Score Possible

#6. The ASVAB Has More than One Score 

Another factor contributing to the difficulty of the ASVAB is the fact the scores can open or close doors for a servicemember’s career.

For example, part of the scores contributes to the AFQT, which determines if you can serve in the military at all.

Also, the ASVAB has several subtests that earn their own score, which works together to create line scores.

Line scores are combinations of subtest scores that determine if you are eligible for certain jobs. 

For instance, if you want to be a soldier in the Army and you want a combat-related job, the Army will look at your combat line score.

The combat line score looks at the scores for word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mechanical comprehension, and auto and shop. 

On the other hand, if you hope for something clerical, the important scores are arithmetic reasoning, mathematics knowledge, word knowledge, and paragraph comprehension. 

Therefore, the higher you score in all areas, the higher likelihood you have a choice of jobs, which makes the ASVAB seem harder and more stressful.

So What Can I Do To ACE It?

If you’ve been struggling to get a good score on the ASVAB, we highly recommend you check out these 10 ASVAB study guides.

They’re the most effective study guides on the market and will help you get the best score possible.


Those hoping to join the Armed Forces often wonder how hard is the ASVAB. The ASVAB test reveals a lot about a potential recruit.

The scores determine if a recruit is eligible for the military. Also, it tests your knowledge as well as your aptitude for specific jobs. 

Furthermore, the test is long whether you take it on the computer or on paper.

Also, the test involves a lot of studying and tends to create some stress.

However, taking the ASVAB and earning a successful score is worth the worry because it is the first step towards a new career in the military. 


See Also

Navy ASTB-E Study Guide

SIFT Test Prep Tips

AFOQT: 7 Tips To Help You Score High

ASVAB Scores for Air Force Jobs

Rob V.
Latest posts by Rob V. (see all)
How Hard Is The ASVAB

How Hard Is The ASVAB

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Learn more about why the ASVAB test is hard, including how long the test is, why it's stressful, waiting to retest, and much more.

Originally posted on 04/24/21

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