Computer vs Paper

The ASVAB is administered by computer at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS), while the paper-and-pencil version is given at most Military Entrance Test (MET) sites. Most candidates take the computerized test. Testing procedures will vary depending on the mode of the test: computer or paper.

Paper-and-Pencil test

As soon as all examinees are checked in and seated, the test administrator will provide general instructions, after which test booklets and answer sheets are handed out. The total time for the test and administration is three to four hours. When you complete the items in a subtest, you may review your answers. You cannot go back to an earlier subtest, nor can you proceed to the next subtest until instructed to do so.

Computer test

The computer version of the ASVAB, called the CAT-ASVAB, is an adaptive test. The test changes according to the ability level of the test taker. Therefore, it is possible to administer a shorter test than is used in the paper-and-pencil version.

Each test taker completes the CAT-ASVAB at his/her own pace. When you complete a subtest, you can immediately move onto the next subtest without waiting for everyone else to finish. There are time limits set on each subtest in the CAT-ASVAB, but almost all test-takers complete the individual subtests before the time runs out.

During each subtest the time and the number of questions remaining are displayed. The time taken to complete the CAT-ASVAB depends on the test taker, with the average time used being about 1½ hours.

Because the computerized test is adaptive, it only uses 145 test questions,while the paper version contains 225.

So what is meant by an adaptive test? Well the test is tailored to each examinee. Items are selected from a pool of questions that range in difficulty from very easy to very hard. After each question has been answered, information is collected and evaluated, and the question best suited for the examinee’s estimated ability level is selected to be next. This adaptive item selection process results in higher levels of test-score precision and shorter test lengths than the paper-and-pencil ASVAB. Typically, if an examinee answers a question incorrectly on the CAT-ASVAB, an easier question is given next; if an examinee answers a question correctly, a more difficult question is given next.

A penalty is applied to all examinees who do not complete the test before time runs out. This is done by scoring the questions that were not answered 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.