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.

Typically, if an examinee answers an item incorrectly on the CAT-ASVAB, an easier item is selected to be administered next. If an examinee answers an item correctly, then a harder item is selected to be administered next. The item selection process for the CAT-ASVAB is illustrated in the flowchart.

The branching used in the CAT-ASVAB ensures that examinees will be administered items best suited to their abilities. The item selection process is repeated until either the test is completed or time runs out. At the end of the test, a final score is computed from the applicant’s responses.

Time Limits

A penalty procedure is applied to all examinees who do not complete the test before time runs out.

This is done by scoring the items that were not completed 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.

Subtest Time Limit (in minutes) With or Without Tryout Questions
Subtest Number of Scored Questions Number of Possible Tryout Questions Subtest Time Limit Without Tryout Questions Subtest Time Limit With Tryout Questions
General Science (GS) 15 15 10 20
Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) 15 15 55 113
Word Knowledge (WK) 15 15  9 18
Paragraph Comprehension (PC) 10 15 27 75
Mathematics Knowledge (WK) 15 15 23 47
Electronics Information (EI) 15 15  10 21
Auto Information (AI) 10 15   7 18
Shop Information (SI) 10 15   6 17
Mechanical Comprehension (MC) 15 15 22 42
Assembling Objects (AO) 15 15 17 36