Myths About The ASVAB

There are many myths about the ASVAB that are simply not true. Some of the more persistent myths are identified here and dispelled.

Myth: The CAT-ASVAB is harder than the paper-and-pencil (P&P) ASVAB.

The Truth: The CAT-ASVAB may seem harder than the P&P-ASVAB to some applicants because the test is tailored to the ability level of each individual examinee. That is, in the CAT-ASVAB questions are administered that are best suited to each examinee’s ability level, whereas the P&P-ASVAB includes questions that range from very easy to very hard. This doesn’t mean that the P&P ASVAB is easier than the CAT-ASVAB.

Regardless of whether an applicant takes the CAT-ASVAB or the P&P-ASVAB, his/her scores should be very similar. This is because scores are statistically linked across CAT and P&P administrations through a process called equating. Equating studies are conducted for every CAT-ASVAB item pool (and for every paper and pencil ASVAB form) to ensure that scores have the same meaning regardless of which item pool or test form the examinee receives.

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Myth: The P&P-ASVAB is harder than the CAT-ASVAB.

The Truth: The CAT-ASVAB may seem easier than the P&P-ASVAB to some applicants for the same reasons discussed above. Again, because all ASVAB forms are equated, scores have the same meaning regardless of which item pool or test form the examinee receives.

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Myth: Some P&P-ASVAB forms are easier/harder than other P&P-ASVAB forms.

The Truth: Each time a new form of the ASVAB is created, it is equated (i.e., statistically linked) to prior forms to ensure that scores have the same meaning regardless of which test form the examinee receives.

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Myth: The ASVAB test is biased against minorities.

The Truth: Bias occurs when an item or test unfairly favors one group over the other. The ASVAB Testing Program routinely conducts analyses to make sure that items and scores are fair and unbiased. Analyses of ASVAB scores suggest that there is some adverse impact on the ASVAB.
Namely, qualification rates for African-American/Black and Hispanic applicants are less than four-fifths of the qualification rates for Caucasian/White and Non-Hispanic White applicants. These minority groups have lower qualification rates both for entry into the military and enlistment incentives.

The occurrence of adverse impact does not necessarily mean the ASVAB is biased, however. If a test is equally valid for minority and majority groups, then it is not considered to be
biased. A test is equally valid if minority and majority group members with the same test scores have the same performance on an outcome, such as final school grades. Previous research on the ASVAB technical tests has suggested that the tests are equally valid for both males and
females, and African-Americans/Blacks and Caucasians/Whites. Also, the degree of adverse impact observed on the AFQT tests is similar to the adverse impact observed on other high-stakes test batteries with similar
tests. This all suggests that the adverse impact observed in the ASVAB reflects a societal phenomenon, rather than a bias in the test.

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Myth: Some individual items on the ASVAB are biased against minorities.

The Truth: The ASVAB testing program routinely conducts statistical analyses of new test items to ensure that individual items are not biased against minorities. Items displaying evidence of bias are excluded from use on the ASVAB. In addition, sensitivity analyses are conducted on new ASVAB items to guard against including items that might be unintentionally viewed as biased against or insensitive toward a particular group. Experts who are trained to recognize item insensitivity review all new items and identify items with questionable content. Such items are either revised or excluded for use on the ASVAB.

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