Close-up of man filling out paperwork
Close-up of man filling out paperwork

The U.S. military frequently uses standardized testing to evaluate the intelligence and aptitude of new applicants. As a whole, the military offers five main tests to new recruits, although not everyone needs to take each one. The type of tests applicants take varies depending on which branch they join, their method of joining (either enlisting or commissioning) or the type of career field they seek to enter.

History of Military Testing

The United States began military testing as early as World War I. In 1917, the Army introduced two standardized tests to evaluate the mental aptitude of its soldiers -- the Army Alpha and Army Beta tests. By World War II, the Army and the Marine Corps were using the Army General Classification Test, while the Navy was using the Navy General Classification Test to evaluate its recruits and place them in jobs fitting their qualifications. In 1950, each branch of the military began using a single, unified test -- the Armed Forces Qualification Test. The use of this test continued until 1972 when the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery phased it out. ASVAB is still in use by all branches of the military.

Purpose of Testing

The military uses intelligence testing to evaluate the mental aptitude of recruits. Scores on the ASVAB, which is administered to every new enlistee, help determine what job an applicant can apply to serve in. For example, an enlistee wanting to serve as an avionics specialist in the Air Force would need higher scores than an enlistee looking to serve in base services.

Types of Tests

The military uses five tests to evaluate applicants. The ASVAB is administered to all enlistees (and officer candidates in the Army) in all branches and serves as a general aptitude test that evaluates an applicant's strengths and weaknesses and well as general intelligence. The Air Force Officer Qualifying Test, used solely by the Air Force, is an intelligence test for potential commissioned officers. The Air Force also uses a separate test, the Test of Basic Aviation Skills, to evaluate the qualifications of pilot applicants. The Navy's Aviation Selection Test Battery evaluates aviation candidates in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, while the Army uses the Alternate Flight Aptitude Selection Test.

Test Features

In general, military intelligence tests evaluate a wide variety of subjects -- from mechanical knowledge to verbal and mathematical ability. The ASVAB, for instance, tests applicants on eight separate subjects, ranging from auto and shop information and general science knowledge to electrical aptitude and paragraph comprehension. Tests such as the TBAS, the AFAST and the ASTB, meanwhile, tend to focus on subjects related more to spacial orientation and flight aptitude in order to better evaluate aviation candidates.

Benefits of Testing

The main benefit of military intelligence testing is that it provides the ability to evaluate new recruits and place them in a career field that better fits their expertise and knowledge. For example, an Army recruit with high verbal and arithmetic scores and a low auto and shop score on the ASVAB would fit better in a clerical job than in an auto maintenance job. Tests such as the ATSB, TBAS and AFAST, meanwhile, help the military to screen pilot candidates for qualities that would indicate a high probability for success in flight school and avoid wasting money on training unqualified aviation candidates.