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Release No: 085-04
February 06, 2004

Defense Department Updates ASVAB Norms

The Department of Defense announced today that new norms for the enlistment test, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), will be implemented this summer. The ASVAB is a multiple aptitude test battery originally designed to predict training and job performance in military occupations. Since its introduction in 1948, the enlistment test norms have been updated three times.

The updated ASVAB will reflect more current norms based on the 1997 Profile of American Youth, a national probability sample of 18 to 23 year olds in 1997. Implementation of these norms will allow DoD to compare the cognitive ability levels of today's military applicants and recruits with those of contemporary youth.

Effective July 1, new ASVAB norms will be implemented with two goals: to represent accurately the aptitude of those enlisting in the military and to treat all applicants fairly. This includes all those who take the test prior to July 1 and have valid test scores; they will be grandfathered under an appropriate transition policy.

An individual ASVAB test score by itself has no inherent meaning. Test scores of military applicants are compared with the scores of a representative sample weighted to reflect all recruitment-age men and women. Consequently, enlistment decisions are based on the relative performance of the applicant compared with the youth population from which the applicant was recruited.

These reference group scores are called norms. The current ASVAB norms were developed in 1980, and no longer accurately reflect the aptitude of todays youth. Over the past 20 years, aptitude levels in the United States have increased. Scores on educational achievement tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are up; high school and college attendance rates have increased; youth demographics have shifted; and the country has experienced an explosion in technology development and application. Consequently, the 1980 norms are no longer representative of American youth.

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