Math on the ASVAB

Four individuals taking a testSince On Your Guard has been talking about STEM careers all summer, with mathematics the focus for September, we thought we’d dedicate this week’s post to math on the ASVAB.

ASVAB stands for Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, and all National Guard applicants take the test to help figure out which military occupational specialties best match their academic strengths.

So … are you a whiz with numbers or do your palms turn sweaty at the mere sight of a word problem?

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how you answer that question because, either way, it’s a good idea to do some advanced prep before you take the test.

First, learn what math concepts are included on the test (keep reading for that). And second, practice (you can find tons of free sample problems online or consider purchasing one of the many test prep books on the market).

What’s on the Test?

There are two math sections on the ASVAB: Arithmetic Reasoning and Mathematics Knowledge.

Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) – All the questions on this subtest are word problems. If you take the computer-based test, you will be asked to solve 16 word problems in 39 minutes. If you go to a location and take the pencil and paper version, you will be asked to solve 30 word problems in 36 minutes.

The math concepts being tested in the AR section include:

  • Basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication)
  • Speed/time/distance calculations
  • Percentages
  • Ratio and proportion
  • Interest (simple and compound)
  • Numbers (whole, real, fractions, decimals, and imaginary)

If you are still in high school (or are a recent grad), you’re probably pretty familiar with word problems by now, thanks to the new Common Core curriculum. If not, here are a few tips from McGraw Hill for tackling a word problem:

  • Read the problem all the way to the end before starting any calculations.
  • Look for key words (more than, reduced by, product, divided into equal groups) to learn what mathematical operation(s) to use.
  • List the important information given in the problem and eliminate the unnecessary details that do not help you solve it.
  • Draw pictures and graphics if that helps you to understand what’s being asked.
  • Create an equation from the info you’ve pulled and solve the problem.

Mathematics Knowledge (MK) – This subtest is designed to evaluate your grasp of high school math. If you take the computer-based test, you will have to solve 16 questions in 18 minutes. If you go to a location and take the pencil and paper version, you will solve 25 questions in 24 minutes. Since that’s about a problem per minute, you’ll need to be both accurate and quick.

The math concepts being tested in the MK section are more advanced than the AR section and include:

  • Algebraic equations
  • Geometry concepts, like circumference, angles and area
  • Adding/subtracting fractions with different denominators
  • Prime numbers
  • Factoring
  • Reciprocals
  • Factorials
  • Exponents

That’s it. From all of us at On Your Guard … practice hard and good luck!

P.S. During study breaks, you can learn more about math careers in the Army National Guard  by checking out our STEM Career Guide, visiting our jobs board, and contacting a recruiter.


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