The CAT-ASVAB is an automated test administration system that (a) displays questions, (b) scores and records answers, (c) scores ASVAB subtests, (d) computes AFQT and composite scores for all the Services, (e) logs results and electronically sends the results to the Manpower Information and Retrieval System, and (f) allows for flexible start times and self-paced responding.

The CAT-ASVAB subtests measure the same abilities as the paper-and-pencil (P&P) ASVAB subtests. One difference is that the P&P-ASVAB’s Automotive and Shop Information subtest is broken into two separate subtests in CAT-ASVAB. In addition, the tests are adaptive.

With a group-administered P&P test, all examinees answer the same questions in the same order. An adaptive test dynamically tailors questions to the ability level of the individual examinee. All examinees start with a question of medium difficulty. If the examinee answers the question correctly he/she is given a question that is more difficult. If the examinee answers the question incorrectly, he/she is given a question that is easier. This pattern continues until the test is complete. Therefore, the examinee only answers questions that are appropriate for his/her ability level, not wasting time answering questions that are too easy or too difficult.

The adaptive item selection process of the CAT-ASVAB results in higher levels of test-score precision and shorter test lengths than the P&P-ASVAB.

CAT-ASVAB Figure 1

The figure illustrates that shorter test lengths can be achieved on the CAT-ASVAB by tailoring the test to the ability level of each examinee.

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.

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.


Scores from both CAT-ASVAB and P&P-ASVAB are computed using formulas that take into account the difficulty of the questions and the correctness of the answers. As the result of a procedure called “equating,” CAT-ASVAB scores have exactly the same meaning as P&P-ASVAB scores. CAT-ASVAB subtests are not harder or easier than the P&P-ASVAB subtests because the scores are equivalent. Equating test scores is not new. It is the same procedure used in making the different P&P-ASVAB forms equivalent to each other.

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 AFQT Predictor Test (APT) to determine their likelihood of success on the ASVAB. Screening tests such as APT 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

Results of CAT-ASVAB

  • Improved selection and classification of military applicants
  • Reduced personnel attrition