How to Ace the ASVAB Verbal Expression Subtest

Word Knowledge and Paragraph Comprehension

The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) has two sections for testing English skills: Word Knowledge (WK), and Paragraph Comprehension (PC). Together, your scores on these two sections make up your Verbal Expression (VE) score.

It is important to earn a high VE score because it factors heavily into your AFQT score and other line scores. AFQT scores determine which branches of the military you can join, and line scores on the other sections of the ASVAB determine which jobs you can apply for.

The first step is to purchase an ASVAB study guide with full-length practice tests, as well as a SAT Vocabulary workbook. Then, make a list of vocabulary words from both sources. Using either a notebook, or a set of index cards, write down 4 things for each word: part of speech, definition, example of the word used in a sentence, and a few related words.

For example, if the word is "prime" used as an adjective, you could write (1) adj, (2) top quality, (3) We had prime seats at the concert, (4) best, choice, superb.

If the word is "prime" as a verb, you would write (1) verb, (2) get something ready for an event, (3) I had to prime the siding before I could paint it, (4) prepare, galvanize, groom. This will greatly improve your score on the Word Knowledge section.

In addition to studying vocab, you should also work on speed with timed practice tests. Aim for answering each question in about 30 seconds, e.g., 20 questions in 10 minutes, or 30 questions in 15 minutes. You will have more time than this on the real ASVAB Word Knowledge section, but building up your speed and accuracy will buy you more time for harder questions.

Next, practice your reading ability for the Paragraph Comprehension. Every ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension question is based on a short passage of 50-100 words. The questions may ask about the main purpose, specific details, what the author implies (but does not explicitly say), or the author's tone. Some passages that describe sequential steps may ask you about the order, or what should come next.

To answer these questions correctly, it is important to read every word carefully. Especially pay attention to words such as "however," "but," "although," and other transition and contrast words.

Here's another good strategy: read the question before you read the paragraph. Reading the question first gives you an idea of what to look for when you read the paragraph. This will keep you more focused during the ASVAB.

As always, practice doing sets of Paragraph Comprehension Questions under timed condition.

The more you study for the ASVAB and Verbal Expression, the higher your scores will be. Always review questions you've answered incorrectly so that you fully understand the right answer.

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