CAT ASVAB

cat-asvabThe computerized ASVAB (called the CAT-ASVAB) is a computer aided adaptive test, which means that the ASVAB exam adapts and changes based on your ability level. The computer software technology selects category questions that are suitable for you based on your response accuracy on earlier questions in the test. Since the CAT-ASVAB is targeted and adapted toward your ability level, the CAT-SAVAB is a shorter test than the paper and pencil ASVAB that is administered. You are allowed to complete the CAT-ASVAB at your own pace within the time limits. When you complete a section on the ASVAB exam, you can immediately move on to the next section without waiting for everyone else to move on like you would have to on the paper and pencil ASVAB test. You may leave the test room as soon as you are finished with all of the tests. Although each test has a fixed number of questions and a time limit, most examinees finish the test before the time limit is reached. The average examinee takes about 90 minutes to complete the CAT-ASVAB but you have a total of 154 minutes to complete the test. You are not able to review or change your answers once you have submitted an answer on the CAT-ASVAB. If you are running out of time, it is best to continue trying to answer as best as you can, rather than filling in random guesses for the remaining items, as the CAT-ASVAB has a penalty for guessing.

The military CAT-ASVAB test provided by United States government is an automated test administration system that:

  • displays questions
  • scores and records answers
  • scores ASVAB subtests
  • computes AFQT and composite scores for all the Services
  • logs results and electronically sends the results to the Manpower Information and Retrieval System
  • allows for flexible start times and self-paced responding

cat-asvab-difficulty-selectionHow the CAT-ASVAB Works

In the CAT-ASVAB, you receive an ASVAB test that is tailored toward your abilities. Items are selected for administration from a pool of items. After each item is administered, information is collected and evaluated, and the item best suited for your estimated ability level is selected to be administered next. The way question difficulty is decided in the CAT-ASVAB is if an examinee answers an item incorrectly, an easier question is selected to be presented to the examinee next. Likewise, if an examinee answers a question correctly, then a harder question is selected to be administered next to continue to test the upper limit of their ability. The branching used in the CAT-ASVAB ensures that you will be administered items best suited to your abilities.

CAT ASVAB Format and Time Limits


Test Questions Time Limit
GS 16 Questions 8 Minutes
AR 16 Questions 39 Minutes
WK 16 Questions 8 Minutes
PC 11 Questions 22 Minutes
MK 16 Questions 20 Minutes
EI 16 Questions 8 Minutes
AI 11 Questions 7 Minutes
SI 11 Questions 6 Minutes
MC 16 Questions 20 Minutes
AO 16 Questions 16 Minutes
Total 145 Questions 154 Minutes

Computer Experience

CAT-ASVAB is designed so that no computer experience is needed to take the subtests. Instructions are simple and clear, and the computer keyboard is modified so that only keys needed to answer the test questions are labeled. Applicants have a choice of using either the keyboard or mouse for entering their responses. Before the first subtest, the applicant goes through a sequence of instructions on how to use the computer keyboard and mouse. Applicants who have taken both CAT-ASVAB and P&P-ASVAB report that responding on the computer is preferable to filling out the circles on the answer sheet.

Changing Answers to Questions

Because CAT-ASVAB is adaptive, applicants cannot change the answer to a question once they have gone on to the next question. This is emphasized in the instructions. When asked, most applicants say that not being able to change answers does not bother them, as this is good test taking strategy.

Computer Failure

The CAT-ASVAB software is designed so that if a computer fails, the applicant’s test data is not lost. The applicant can be easily restarted on another computer and will continue testing at the beginning of the subtest he/she was working on when the failure occurred. Subtest timing also starts over.

Test Timing

An applicant can move at his/her own pace through the test session, however each subtest does have a time limit. If an applicant finishes a subtest before the time limit is reached, he/she automatically goes on to the next test. A penalty procedure is applied to all examinees who do not complete the test before time runs out. This is done by scoring the items that were not completed as though they were answered at random. In almost all cases it is not necessary to apply the penalty, as the time constraints are liberal enough that nearly all examinees are able to complete each subtest.

HELP Calls, Instructions, and Subtest Time Limits

The computer keyboard at each testing station has a red “HELP” key. The applicant is instructed to press this key if help is needed, such as needing more scratch paper or another pencil. When the HELP key is pressed, subtest timing stops until the applicant returns to the test questions. Therefore, time spent in HELP does not count against the subtest time limit. This is also true for time spent reading instructions — the time does not count against the subtest time limit.

Unverified Score Report

The CAT-ASVAB system automatically computes and prints a score report for each applicant. This report contains AFQT and standard scores for each subtest, and composite scores for all Service composites. Interpretation of these scores is identical to the interpretation of the P&P-ASVAB scores. For example, a Word Knowledge score of 55 on CAT-ASVAB means exactly the same as a Word Knowledge score of 55 on the P&P-ASVAB.

Screening Tests

Some recruiters choose to prescreen applicants on a test such as the Computerized Adaptive Screening Test (CAST) to determine their likelihood of success on the ASVAB. Screening tests such as CAST predict as well for CAT-ASVAB as they predict for P&P-ASVAB since the CAT-ASVAB measures the same abilities as the P&P-ASVAB, and the CAT-ASVAB scores are equated to the P&P-ASVAB scores.

Advantages of CAT-ASVAB

  • Reduced testing time
  • Immediate scoring
  • Reduced scoring errors
  • Standardized instructions and procedures
  • Increased score accuracy
  • Increased test security
  • Improved military image for recruiting

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