Aptitude Test Helps Students Find Strengths
By Meghan Vittrup
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 26, 2008 High school can be a challenging and sometimes daunting time for many teenagers who find themselves trapped between childhood and adulthood. But a program that uses the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery could help teens find their strengths and help them set goals for their future.
The Defense Department created the ASVAB Career Exploration Program as a tool to help students figure out their strengths and better understand themselves while also motivating them and helping them plan their future.
The ASVAB program provides tools, including the test battery and interest inventory developed by the Defense Department to help high school and post-secondary students across the nation learn more about career exploration and planning, according to the program’s Web site.
The ASVAB consists of eight tests that measure strengths in mathematics and in verbal, science and technical skills. The results of the interest inventory and the academic and vocational parts of the test will help students identify suitable career options and identify their strengths, officials said.
Many students, families, and school administrators think the ASVAB is a test for students interested only in military careers, but that’s not the case, a Pentagon official said.
“Parents as well as many teachers misunderstand the program and think that it’s only focused on the military, when, in fact, it isn’t,” said Jane Arabian, assistant director for enlistment standards for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “The ASVAB Career Exploration Program links to something called ‘O-net’, which is sponsored by the Department of Labor, and it has all sorts of information about occupations and careers.
“It would be wonderful if parents had a better sense of what the ASVAB Career Exploration Program has to offer,” she added.
Although the ASVAB does have the ability to help students interested in pursuing military careers, it is not a strictly military test, and taking the test does not mean a student will be enlisting or pursuing a military career, Arabian said. The ASVAB test and Career Exploration Program are independent of Junior ROTC and ROTC programs found in many schools, she noted.
She also pointed out that although recruiters use the ASVAB, they do not administer the test. In fact, she said, officials try to keep recruiters away from the test as much as possible.
“We try to keep recruiters at arm’s length from the test, because we are very careful about compromising the contents of the ASVAB,” Arabian said. “The primary proctor for the test is a contracted person that we provide from the office of personnel management.”
When a student takes the ASVAB, the results are not automatically sent to a military recruiter, Arabian said, though sending the scores to a recruiter is an option the student can choose.
“The Career Exploration Program is a step removed from the actual recruit program,” Arabian explained. “Certainly, recruiters can use the ASVAB scores that students have, and if that student is interested in the military, can talk about military opportunities and money for college and the new GI bill and whatever incentives they’re offering. But there is no requirement or commitment on the part of the student to even talk to the recruiter after they’ve participated in the ASVAB or CEP.”
According to the ASVAB program Web site, last year about 14,000 schools administered the ASVAB test, and about 600,000 students took the test. Only about 9 percent of the students who take the test decide to enlist in the military based upon their ASVAB scores, Arabian said.
“The vast majority of students who participate have no intention of going into the military,” she said. “Approximately two-thirds of students who participate in the program will say that they are going to college, or they’re going to a junior college or vocational program; the military is not in their plans, necessarily.”
The ASVAB program Web site says two-thirds of the students who participated in the ASVAB program found it to be useful, helping them find career options they had not considered.
“This program will offer something to every student,” Arabian said. “I think it will help the student identify the skills they need to improve in high school, depending on what they elect to do after they graduate, but it’s really designed to be a useful program for students of all skill levels.”