Inside the ASVAB: Arithmetic Reasoning

For many students, the most dreaded section of any test is the math section. On the ASVAB, the math portion is called the “Arithmetic Reasoning” section. This is actually a good indication of the content of the section.

Unlike with the SAT, ACT or even the GED, the math section of this standardized test does not ask about concepts or formulas from high school math topics like geometry and algebraInstead, the questions are focused on completing operations of arithmetic: adding, multiplying, dividing. This means that no calculators are allowed on the test, since all the questions could be solved automatically by a calculator.

There are typically 30 questions on the arithmetic reasoning section of ASVAB, and the test format allows 36 minutes to answer them. Essentially, the challenge of this section will be to do all the problems carefully and correctly in about one minute each. 

The best way to prepare for that is by brushing up on your basic arithmetic. Even though most people learn arithmetic at a young age, we often let our skills slip as we come to rely more and more on calculators. For the ASVAB, it will be a huge advantage to be in the habit of doing these types of problems in your head, or with a pencil and paper, instead of on a calculator.

Look at these example problems below to get an idea of the kind of math you should be practicing:

1. If 1/3 of a 12-foot board is sawed off, how much is left?

(A) 4 feet
(B) 3 feet
(C) 8 feet
(D) 6 feet

2. At a cost of $1.25 per gallon, 15 gallons of gas will cost:

(A) $20.00
(B) $18.75
(C) $12.50
(D) $19.25

3. A student buys a science textbook for $18.00, a math textbook for $14.50, and a dictionary for $9.95. What is the total cost of the books?

(A) $27.95
(B) $42.45
(C) $41.95
(D) $38.50


As you can see, these problems are asking you to do division, multiplication, and addition. You probably already have the knowledge to complete these questions, but you may need to work on your speed.