As every Coast Guard person knows, the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) is a battery of nine multiple-choice-question tests, usually administered at MEPS on a computer but also sometimes administered in a recruiter’s office on paper. One of these tests (the AO or Assembling Objects test) the Coast Guard doesn't use.
Scores from four of the nine tests comprise the AFQT – the Armed Forces Qualification Test – and are used to determine whether you may enter the armed forces. To determine if you are qualified for specific education and training programs (e.g., "A" schools), the Coast Guard also uses scores from three or more of the various ASVAB tests. The scores from individual tests, in various combinations, are called composite scores. (Click here for more information on the required composite scores for each of the Coast Guard's "A" schools.)
Periodically, the version of the ASVAB then in use is removed from service by MEPS and recruiters and replaced by a new version. The paper-and-pencil version of the test that was removed from service is then given to ESOs. ESOs administer these tests for people who are already in the Coast Guard and who want to improve their original pre-enlistment ASVAB scores. The version administered by ESOs is called the Armed Forces Classification Test (AFCT). Essentially, the AFCT and ASVAB are different versions of the same battery of tests.
ASVAB tests are computer-based and are administered before a person enters the armed forces.
AFCT tests are paper-based and are administered to servicemembers.
If your ASVAB composite scores are below the threshold to qualify for a particular education or training program, you may re-take one or more tests which comprise the AFCT. However,
(a) whatever score you receive on the re-test becomes your new official score, even if it's lower than your previous score and
(b) you have to wait six months to re-test on the same test.
The tests currently making up the AFCT are:
You will often hear about a VE (Verbal Ability) score. There is no separate VE test. Rather, your VE score is derived by adding the raw scores from your PC and WK tests, then using a conversion table to get your VE score.
You may also hear people refer to their "ASVAB score". This is inaccurate; there is no single "ASVAB score". Usually people who use this phrase are referring to their AFQT – Armed Forces Qualifying Test – score. The following formula determines your AFQT raw score: AR + MK + (2 x VE). That is, you multiply your VE score by two, and add to it your AR and MK scores. Another table then allows your ESO to convert this number into your AFQT score.
The Coast Guard's current AFCT testing policy allows you to take any number of tests at one sitting. That is, you may take one test or all eight tests in the battery. But you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by taking more than one test per sitting.
AFCT re-testing is available to all uniformed personnel. However, before you request to retake one of the AFCTs be sure you're not only ready to take it, but that you're ready to pass it. These are extremely high-stakes tests: no matter what score you get on the re-test, it becomes your new official score in DirectAccess and you have to wait 6 months to take it again.
We're all looking for shortcuts but when it comes to studying for tests – especially an AFCT test – taking shortcuts will likely mean not studying as thoroughly and as well as you'll need to to raise your test score. Please carefully read the information on studying and test-taking skills elsewhere on this web site before you start studying the subject matter of the test you're re-taking.
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You can also use various on-line resources (sample problems and tests) to refresh your memory and get ready for whichever test(s) you want to re-take. Check out these web sites.
Math (sorted alphabetically)
Multiple Subjects (sorted alphabetically)
Grammar & Composition (About.com)
Another option is to use prep materials for the math and English parts of the GED. Much of what you’ll be tested on in the AFCT (the in-service version of the ASVAB) is covered by the GED tests.
There seems to be a popular belief that if you don’t have the ASVAB scores necessary to qualify for an “A” school all you need to do is request a waiver. This is not the case. Before explaining more about waivers, allow me a brief explanation about the ASVAB scores required to qualify for an “A” school.
In various combinations, the scores from individual tests which make up the ASVAB are called “composite scores.” The senior enlisted personnel in each rating (especially the Force Master Chiefs) decide which ASVAB tests to include in the composite score for each “A” school, what the minimum qualifying composite score will be, and whether you’ll also need to achieve a specific AR, MK, or VE score to qualify.
The purpose of these ASVAB score requirements is to make sure that everyone who attends each of our “A” schools does well in them and doesn’t flunk out. For this reason, these score requirements are the product of much thought and deliberation. For the same reason, waivers are not lightly granted – either by your CO/OIC or by Ms. Mary Norwood (at FC-514), who has the final say on waivers.
Currently, COs and OICs may waive up to five composite score points for worthy non-rates. They may not waive any points on any individual test; only Ms. Norwood (who consults with the applicable Rating Force Master Chief) can do that.
Among the things COs and OICs consider when deciding whether to waive composite score points are:
demonstrated learning ability,
demonstrated aptitude for the chosen rate,
performance on previous attempts at raising ASVAB/AFCT scores,
persistence in attempting to raise ASVAB/AFCT scores,
good conduct, and
adherence to Coast Guard core values.
The bottom line is that when you’re studying for one or more of the tests which make up the AFCT (the version of the ASVAB which personnel already in uniform take), you shouldn’t assume if you get your score up to within five points of the required composite score your CO or OIC will automatically waive those five points. You’ve got to demonstrate to him/her that you’re not only worthy of receiving the waiver but that you’re likely to do well in “A” school despite the fact that – after numerous attempts – you haven’t been able to achieve the required composite score.