Enlisting Not as Easy as You May Think -- Students Struggle to Pass Aptitude Test

Eva LaVoie barely missed passing the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) with a score of 45. She needed 50 to get into the U.S. Air Force. She doesn't plan on having that happen again.

Now armed with study guides and knowledge of what the test is like, LaVoie, 23, expects to gain at least five points when she next takes the test required to join the military.

She has a few ideas about why she didn't do so well on her previous ASVAB: It could have been the math she forgot more than five years ago when she graduated from high shool, or perhaps it was because she was nervous and rushing through the problems too fast.

"I studied for awhile," LaVoie said of the December test. "But I must have studied the completely wrong stuff because it wasn't exactly what I expected."

A high failure rate

According to a recently released study from The Education Trust, one in four students wanting to enlist in the military did not get the minimum score needed on the exam, in order to qualify to join any branch. The exam assesses basic math, science, and reading skills in a series of 8-10 timed tests.

High school graduates that have not been adequately prepared to serve in the military can be given guidance through resources such as 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to the ASVAB.' The guide is packed with easy test prep advice and strategies.

Robin Kavanagh, one of the authors, says more than 600,000 high school students take the test, which is also used as a career development tool. "Pretty much the whole thing is a great big analytical test," Kavanagh told AOL Jobs.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to The ASVABThe military uses the math and verbal test scores for admittance, but other areas such as mechanical comprehension and shop skills are gauged to determine what type of jobs the recruit is eligible for, Kavanagh said.

"The scores themselves don't really mean a lot after entrance to the military, unless you want to change jobs," she continued.

Different requirements

Each military branch has its own score minimums, with the Coast Guard having the highest requirements. The test is meant for recent high school graduates or people with a few years of college, and not for people changing careers.

Kavanagh compares the ASVAB to taking the SAT, although the math section is a little easier on the ASVAB because it doesn't test more advanced math concepts such as trigonometry and calculus.

LaVoie, who lives in Missoula, Mont., and works full time in sales, said the math was the most difficult of the tests for her, but the one she plans to study for the most. The test can be taken as soon as 30 days after the first test, followed by 30 days for the next test, and six months in order to take it again after the third time.

LaVoie said she hopes to join the Air Force and become a public health nurse or work in personnel. "No matter what people tell you, you don't know what to expect because everyone tests differently."

A few test tips

Here are some tips from the 'Idiot's' book for taking the ASVAB:

  • It's a multiple-choice test, so read each question carefully before deciding what a likely answer is.
  • Pay close attention to questions that have the word "not" in them. They ask you to do the reverse of what you normally would on a question. For example, instead of searching for the one answer choice that the question content supports, you'd be looking at three answer choices that the question backs up and one that doesn't fit. That one is your answer.
  • After reading the question, your first instinct may be to go right to the answer choices. Instead, take a minute to jot down your own answer to the question. This will help ensure that your answer makes sense to you and that you remember it once you look at the answer choices.
  • The process of elimination is your best friend with the ASVAB. It makes more sense to look for answers that are wrong simply because there are more of them.
  • You have nothing to lose by guessing because you're not penalized for wrong answers -- you simply don't get credit for them. Try to eliminate answers that you know are wrong to increase the chances of guessing at the right answer.
  • Avoid extremes or absolutes. ASVAB test writers like to keep things neutral, so avoid answers that are too far to one side. Watch out for these words: never, always, furious, enraged, or overjoyed.

Next:Top 10 Paying Jobs for Former Military Members
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