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What is the AFQT?

By S. Reynolds
Updated May 17, 2024
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AFQT is an abbreviation for the Armed Forces Qualification Test. Individuals who want to enter any of the military branches must first take this test. There are several components to this exam, and test takers get one overall score in addition to the four individual scores. Each military branch has a minimum acceptance score: Air Force recruits must have a 55, Army recruits need a 31, and Coast Guard recruits require a 45.

The AFQT test is usually taken by high school students, but anyone who is interested in enlisting can take the exam. The four sections of the exam include math, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge and paragraph comprehension. Test takers receive a percentile score, which ranges from one to 99. For example, an individual who scores a 99 in any subject area is more knowledgeable in that subject than 99 percent of other test takers.

In order to find out the overall score, one should add together the paragraph comprehension score and the word knowledge score and multiply that number by two. The resulting number should be added to the arithmetic reasoning score and the mathematics knowledge score. That answer is the overall score.

Test scores are separated into categories. There are eight categories in which a recruit might be placed. The top categories are for high scoring individuals. Someone who receives an AFQT score of zero to nine will not be granted admission into a military branch, and someone who scores in the bottom seventh category will not have many choices for a military job. Someone who scores very high on the exam will have more choices for a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).

In addition to taking the exam, a potential military recruit needs to have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma® (GED®). The Air Force strongly prefers high school graduates over GED® holders, but the Army allows more GED® recruits than any other branch. In fact, less than half a percent of Air Force enlistees have a GED® as opposed to a high school diploma. Those that do have a GED® have very high scores on the AFQT. About 15 percent of new Army recruits enter with a GED®.

Test scores are only one component of a recruit's application. He or she must have completed high school, be at least 17, and score well on the testing and interviewing portions. The military recruiter will weigh all of these factors to decide if the applicant is eligible for enlistment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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