Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)

Armed Services Vocational Aptitude BatteryThe Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is the most widely used multiple-aptitude test battery in the United States. CAT-ASVAB, the computer-adapted version of the ASVAB, is administered to all applicants to the U.S. armed services. Over one-quarter of all high school students eventually take the paper-and-pencil ASVAB through participation in the ASVAB Career Exploration Program.

The ASVAB consists of eight subtests (General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning [AR], Word Knowledge [WK], Paragraph Comprehension [PC], Auto & Shop Information, Mathematics Knowledge [MK], Mechanical Comprehension, and Electronics Information), which provide a broad and comprehensive view of the aptitude domain. The Armed Forces Qualification Test, a measure of intelligence (g), consists of the combination of AR, MK, WK, and PC. Norms are based on a nationally representative sample of individuals who participated in the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97), sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Defense. The paper-and-pencil and CAT versions of the ASVAB are psychometrically equivalent to each other.

The ASVAB is one of the most well-respected and well-researched tests in modern history. Literally hundreds of studies have demonstrated its substantial psychometric and statistical characteristics, its ability to predict success both in military and in civilian occupations, and its strong relationships with other aptitude and achievement tests and measures. Extensive research demonstrates that the ASVAB is a valid predictor of success in military training, first-term attrition, and job performance in military occupations. Similarly, extensive national studies have also demonstrated the test’s ability to predict success in a wide array of civilian occupations. Virtually all published reviews of the ASVAB agree that it represents the state of the art for aptitude and achievement testing. Psychometrically speaking, the ASVAB is probably the most technically advanced and sophisticated test battery in the world.

ASVAB Career Exploration Program

Started in 1968, the ASVAB program provides a comprehensive vocational assessment package at no cost to participating schools or to their students. Funded entirely by the Department of Defense, this comprehensive program contains the Interest-Finder, a measure of career interests, the ASVAB, and a number of exercises that help students identify and investigate occupations for which they show both interest and ability. The ASVAB program fulfills two major purposes. First, it provides age and developmentally appropriate materials to support high school and postsecondary educational and career counseling. Second, the program is useful to the military services by helping to identify interested students who meet the qualifications for entrance into the U.S. armed forces.

The ASVAB program was designed to meet the career development needs of twenty-first-century high school students in two ways. First, relevant occupational information from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) was incorporated into the ASVAB program. Second, three broad skill areas, verbal skills, math skills, and science and technical skills, are used in the occupational search process. Because of its skill-based occupational linkage, the ASVAB program presents a full spectrum of career opportunities to all students, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or ability level.

Relying on the ASVAB’s well-established capacity to assess the ability to learn new skills and predict success in a wide variety of jobs, the program views students’ ASVAB scores as snapshots of their knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) in the verbal, math, and science and technical skills domains. ASVAB-based KSAs have been linked to equivalent O*NET importance-based KSAs through expert judgment. Based on this linkage, students can compare their current skills profiles (i.e., verbal skills, math skills, and science and technical skills) with the corresponding skill-importance profiles for more than 400 occupations in the O*NET database. This approach is particularly helpful for students with differing levels of skills in these three areas, and it provides a flexible approach to career exploration.

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  1. Baker, H. E. 2002. “Reducing Adolescent Career Indecision: The ASVAB Career Exploration Program.” Career Development Quarterly 50:359-370.
  2. S. Department of Defense. 1999. Technical Manual for the ASVAB 18/19 Career Exploration Program. Seaside, CA: Defense Manpower Data Center.
  3. S. Department of Defense. 2002. The ASVAB Career Exploration Program Counselor Manual. Seaside, CA: Defense Manpower Data Center.