The Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery, more commonly referred to as the ASVAB is used by the Air Force primarily for two purposes:
- To determine if you have the mental capability to be successful through basic training and other Air Force training programs.
- To determine your aptitude for learning various Air Force jobs.
The ASVAB comes in two forms: The pencil and paper version, and the computerized version. If you’re taking the test as part of your enlistment process into the Air Force, you’ll most likely take the computerized version during your trip to MEPS.
The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), often mistakenly called the “overall score,” is actually comprised from only four of the ASVAB subtests (Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, and Math Knowledge). The other subtests are used to determine job qualifications. Every career field does in fact require more than just an overall ASVAB qualifying score, which is a 36 if you are a high school senior or have already graduated from High School, or a 65 if you have a GED. The ASVAB is broken down into four main categories (Mechanical, Administrative, General and Electronic), and all enlisted career fields have a minimum score requirement that fall under one or more of these categories. These scores, along with the results of your physical examination, will be reviewed when you undergo job counseling during the enlistment process at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Besides the four main categories, the ASVAB is divided into eight parts (for the high school version) or nine parts (for the production version). The high school version lacks the "Assembling Objects" subtest.
More specific information on the individual subtests and how they count in the four main categories can be found here.
The largest portion of your day at MEPS is taken up by the medical examination. You’ll start by completing a detailed medical history. Your blood and urine will be taken and examined. Your eyes and hearing will be checked. You’ll have to do some stupid-sounding things, such as walking while squatting (this is commonly called the “duck-walk.”)
Medical Standards for enlistment are set by the Department of Defense, not the Air Force. The doctors at MEPS will medically disqualify you if you fail to meet any of the standards. There are two types of disqualification: temporary and permanent. A temporary disqualification means you can’t join right now, but may be able to, at a later time. For example, if you just had an operation the week before. A permanent disqualification means that you failed to meet the published standards, and that won’t change with time.
If you’re permanently disqualified, the Air Force can choose to waive the medical disqualification and enlist you anyway. The commanding officer of the recruiting squadron will determine whether or not a waiver will be submitted. If the commander approves it, the request goes all the way up, winding its way through the command chain, to the top doctor in the entire Air Force (The Air Force Surgeon General). The SG’s office has final approval authority. This process can take several weeks (sometimes several months).