How Many Fail the ASVAB: Understanding the 20% Failure Rate and How to Overcome It

by | Joining the Military | 1 comment

Thinking about joining the military? The ASVAB, or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, is your gateway. It’s a crucial test that determines your eligibility for enlistment and helps identify suitable job roles within the armed forces. But how many actually pass this test on their first try?

You might be surprised to learn that a significant number of applicants don’t make the cut. Understanding the reasons behind these failures can help you better prepare and increase your chances of success. So, let’s jump into the statistics and factors that contribute to ASVAB failures, and discover how you can avoid common pitfalls.

Understanding the ASVAB Test

The ASVAB test plays a crucial role for anyone aspiring to join the military. Many first-time test-takers face challenges, making it vital to grasp the nuances of this exam. Let’s investigate into its purpose and significance.

What Is the ASVAB?

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) measures your aptitude in various domains. Comprising multiple subtests, it evaluates areas like arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, and mechanical comprehension. The ASVAB is administered electronically or via paper, usually lasting about three hours. Each branch of the military, such as the Army and Navy, uses the ASVAB scores to determine qualification and job placement.

Purpose and Importance of the ASVAB

The ASVAB’s primary goal is to assess your strengths and potential for military training. High scores open more career opportunities within the armed forces. It’s not just a test; it’s a gateway to your military future. Performance on the ASVAB influences the types of roles you qualify for, impacting your entire career path. For example, specialized fields like intelligence or engineering require higher scores. Each branch sets its own minimum score requirements, ensuring recruits meet specific standards.

Understanding the ASVAB’s structure and purpose helps you prepare more effectively, increasing your chances of success.

ASVAB Failure Rates

Understanding ASVAB failure rates helps you grasp the challenges many face when pursuing a military career. Considering the high stakes, it’s essential to analyze why some test takers don’t achieve the required scores.

Analyzing Failure Statistics

The ASVAB has an average failure rate of about 20% for first-time test takers. This statistic might seem daunting, but it highlights the test’s difficulty and the level of preparation needed. The test evaluates nine different subjects, so weaknesses in any area can impact your overall performance.

Factors Contributing to High Failure Rates

Several factors contribute to high ASVAB failure rates:

  1. Preparation: Inadequate preparation affects many test takers. Without sufficient study time, understanding the test’s structure, and practicing each section, improving your scores is challenging.
  2. Education Level: Test takers with lower high school GPAs face higher failure rates. They often lack the foundational knowledge needed for topics like arithmetic reasoning and math knowledge.
  3. Test Anxiety: Anxiety leads to poor performance. Understanding and managing stress beforehand improves your focus and confidence during the test.
  4. Time Management: Mismanaging test time results in incomplete sections. Practicing under timed conditions improves this skill.

By addressing these factors, you can significantly increase your chances of succeeding on the ASVAB and securing your desired military role.

Impact of Failing the ASVAB

Failing the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) carries significant implications for prospective military recruits. For many, a failed test can be a major setback, but understanding the consequences and options for retaking the exam can help mitigate the impact.

Consequences for Military Aspirants

A failed ASVAB test primarily hinders your ability to enlist in the military. Since the ASVAB score determines eligibility for various military branches and roles, a low score can limit your opportunities. Also, it affects your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) options, which are based on specific ASVAB scores.

Lower scores may restrict access to specialized roles and advanced training programs, potentially limiting career growth and advancement within the military. Recruiters may also view multiple failed attempts as a lack of preparation or potential, impacting your chances of securing a preferred position.

Retaking the ASVAB: Rules and Opportunities

If you fail the ASVAB, you can retake the exam. The rules for retaking the ASVAB are straightforward: after the first attempt, you must wait 30 days before retesting. If a second retake is necessary, another 30-day wait is required. Subsequent retakes entail a six-month waiting period between attempts.

Preparation is key for improving your score on subsequent attempts. Use available study resources, including ASVAB prep books and online practice tests, to better understand the material. Focus on areas where you scored poorly and consider seeking tutoring or joining study groups for additional support. It’s crucial to manage time effectively and approach each section methodically during the exam.

By understanding the consequences and retest rules, you can better navigate the challenges of the ASVAB and improve your chances of achieving your desired military career.

Improving ASVAB Scores

You know the ASVAB can make or break your military career aspirations. Improving your scores isn’t just about studying but using the right strategies and resources. Let’s jump into some practical steps to help you ace the test.

Preparation Tips and Resources

Preparation is key to smashing the ASVAB. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Study Guides: Use trusted study guides like “ASVAB for Dummies” or Kaplan’s. These resources break down complex topics into manageable bits.
  2. Practice Tests: Regularly take practice tests. They help you get familiar with the format and identify your weak areas. Websites like ASVAB Practice Tests and 4Tests offer free versions.
  3. Online Courses: Enroll in online courses if you need structured guidance. Platforms like Coursera and Khan Academy provide tailored lessons covering all ASVAB sections.
  4. Tutoring: Consider one-on-one tutoring if you’re struggling with specific subjects. Personal tutors can offer targeted help and boost your confidence.
  5. Study Groups: Join a study group. Discussing topics with peers can provide new insights and learning techniques.
  6. Scheduling: Set a study schedule. Consistency and regular study intervals improve information retention.

Engaging with these resources ensures that your preparation is both thorough and diverse, boosting your chances of a higher score on the test.

Success Stories and Case Studies

Hearing from those who’ve been in your shoes can be incredibly motivating. Consider these success stories:

  1. Jane’s Journey: Jane scored low initially due to test anxiety. She joined an online ASVAB prep course, practiced daily, and improved her score by 25 points on the retest. Jane now serves as an avionics technician, a role she once thought unattainable.
  2. Tom’s Turnaround: Tom failed his first ASVAB attempt, largely because he underestimated the math section. He hired a tutor and focused intensely on math problems. Tom passed on his second try and qualified for his desired MOS in cybersecurity.
  3. Melissa’s Method: Melissa balanced a tight work-study schedule. She formed a study group with two friends, and they tackled different subjects each week. With mutual support, Melissa’s ASVAB scores soared, and she secured a position in military intelligence.

These stories show that with the right resources and dedication, you can overcome obstacles and achieve your ASVAB goals.


Achieving a high score on the ASVAB is crucial for your military career and job placement opportunities. While a significant number of first-time test takers fail, this doesn’t have to be your story. By focusing on preparation and utilizing resources like study guides, practice tests, and tutoring, you can improve your chances of success. Remember, dedication and effective time management are key. With the right approach and commitment, you can overcome any obstacles and achieve your desired score.


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