ASVAB Test Preparation for ASVAB Power Practice Study Guide (page 5)
Taking the ASVAB can be tough. It demands a lot of preparation if you want to achieve a top score. Whether you get into the military depends on how well you do on the AFQT portion of the exam. The LearningExpress Test Preparation System, developed exclusively for Learning- Express by leading test experts, gives you the discipline and attitude you need to be a winner.
Fact: Taking the ASVAB isn't easy, and neither is getting ready for it. However, there are all sorts of pitfalls that can prevent you from doing your best on this all-important exam. Here are some obstacles that can stand in the way of your success:
- being unfamiliar with the format of the exam
- being paralyzed by test anxiety
- leaving your preparation until the last minute
- not preparing at all!
- not knowing vital test-taking skills: how to pace yourself through the exam, how to use the process of elimination, and when to guess
- not being in tip-top mental and physical shape
- messing up on test day by arriving late at the test site, having to work on an empty stomach, or shivering through the exam because the room is cold
What is the common denominator in all these test-taking pitfalls? One word: control. Who is in control, you or the exam?
Here is some good news: The LearningExpress Test Preparation System puts you in control. In just nine easy-to-follow steps, you will learn everything you need to know to make sure that you are in charge of your preparation and your performance on the exam. Other test takers may let the test get the better of them; other test takers may be unprepared or out of shape, but not you. You will have taken all the steps you need to take to get a high score on the ASVAB.
Here's how the LearningExpress Test Preparation System works: Nine easy steps lead you through everything you need to know and do to get ready to master your exam. Each of the steps listed here includes both reading about the step and one or more activities. It's important that you do the activities along with the reading, or you won't be getting the full benefit of the system. Each step tells you approximately how much time that step will take you to complete.
We estimate that working through the entire system will take you approximately three hours, though it's perfectly fine if you work faster or slower than the time estimates assume. If you can take a whole afternoon or evening, you can work through the whole LearningExpress Test Preparation System in one sitting. Otherwise, you can break it up, and do just one or two steps a day for the next several days. It's up to you—remember, you are in control.
Step 1: Get Information
Time to complete: 30 minutes
Knowledge is power. The first step in the Learning- Express Test Preparation System is finding out everything you can about the ASVAB. Once you have your information, the next steps in the LearningExpress Test Preparation System will show you what to do about it.
Part A: Straight Talk about the ASVAB
Basically, the United States military invented the whole idea of standardized testing, starting around the time of World War I. The Department of Defense wanted to make sure that its recruits were trainable—not that they already knew the skills they needed to serve in the armed forces, but that they could learn them.
The ASVAB started as an intelligence test, but now it is a test of specific aptitudes and abilities. While some of these aptitudes, such as reading and math problem-solving skills, are important in almost any job, others, such as electronics or automotive principles, are quite specialized. These more specialized subtests don't count toward your Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT) score, which determines your eligibility to enlist in the military. Only the four subtests covered in this book count toward the AFQT score.
It's important for you to realize that your score on the ASVAB does not determine what kind of person you are. There are all kinds of things a written exam like this can't test: whether you can follow orders, whether you can become part of a unit that works together to accomplish a task, and so on. Those kinds of things are hard to evaluate, while a test is easy to evaluate.
This is not to say that the exam is not important! Your chances of getting into the military still depend on your getting a good score on the subtests of the ASVAB core. And that's why you're here—using the LearningExpress Test Preparation System to achieve control over the exam.
Step 2: Conquer Test Anxiety
Time to complete: 20 minutes
Activity: Take the Test Stress Test
Having complete information about the exam is the first step in getting control of the exam. Next, you have to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to test success: test anxiety. Test anxiety not only impairs your performance on the exam itself; but also keeps you from preparing! In Step 2, you will learn stress management techniques that will help you succeed on your exam. Learn these strategies now, and practice them as you work through the exams in this book, so they will be second nature to you by exam day.
Combating Test Anxiety
The first thing you need to know is that a little test anxiety is a good thing. Everyone gets nervous before a big exam—and if that nervousness motivates you to prepare thoroughly, so much the better. It's said that Sir Laurence Olivier, one of the foremost British actors of the twentieth century, felt ill before every performance. His stage fright didn't impair his performance; in fact, it probably gave him a little extra edge—just the kind of edge you need to do well, whether on a stage or in an examination room.
Stress Management before the Test
If you feel your level of anxiety getting the best of you in the weeks before the test, here is what you need to do to bring the level down again:
- Get prepared. There is nothing like knowing what to expect and being prepared for it to put you in control of test anxiety. That's why you're reading this book. Use it faithfully, and remind yourself that you are better prepared than most of the people taking the test.
- Practice self-confidence. A positive attitude is a great way to combat test anxiety. This is no time to be humble or shy. Stand in front of the mirror and say to your reflection, "I'm prepared. I'm full of self-confidence. I'm going to ace this test. I know I can do it." Say it into a tape recorder and play it back once a day. If you hear it often enough, you will believe it.
- Fight negative messages. Every time someone starts telling you how hard the exam is or how it's almost impossible to get a high score, start telling them your self-confidence messages. Don't listen to the negative messages. Turn on your tape recorder and listen to your self-confidence messages.
- Visualize. Imagine yourself reporting for duty on your first day as a military trainee. Think of yourself wearing your uniform and learning skills you will use for the rest of your life. Visualizing success can help make it happen—and it reminds you of why you are doing all this work in preparing for the exam.
- Exercise. Physical activity helps calm your body down and focus your mind. Besides, being in good physical shape can actually help you do well on the exam. Go for a run, lift weights, go swimming— and do it regularly.
Stress Management on Test Day
There are several ways you can bring down your level of test anxiety on test day. They will work best if you practice them in the weeks before the test, so you know which ones work best for you.
- Deep breathing. Take a deep breath while you count to five. Hold it for a count of one, then let it out on a count of five. Repeat several times.
- Move your body. Try rolling your head in a circle. Rotate your shoulders. Shake your hands from the wrist. Many people find these movements very relaxing.
- Visualize again. Think of the place where you are most relaxed: lying on a beach in the sun, walking through the park, or whatever. Now close your eyes and imagine you are actually there. If you practice in advance, you will find that you only need a few seconds of this exercise to experience a significant increase in your sense of well-being.
When anxiety threatens to overwhelm you right there during the exam, there are still things you can do to manage the stress level:
- Repeat your self-confidence messages. You should have them memorized by now. Say them silently to yourself, and believe them!
- Visualize one more time. This time, visualize yourself moving smoothly and quickly through the test answering every question right and finishing just before time is up. Like most visualization techniques, this one works best if you have practiced it ahead of time.
- Find an easy question. Skim over the test until you find an easy question, and answer it. Getting even one question finished gets you into the test-taking groove.
- Take a mental break. Everyone loses concentration once in a while during a long test. It's normal, so you shouldn't worry about it. Instead, accept what has happened. Say to yourself, "Hey, I lost it there for a minute. My brain is taking a break." Put down your pencil, close your eyes, and do some deep breathing for a few seconds. Then you're ready to go back to work.
Try these techniques ahead of time, and see if they work for you!
Step 3: Make a Plan
Time to complete: 50 minutes
Activity: Construct a study plan
Maybe the most important thing you can do to get control of yourself and your exam is to make a study plan. Too many people fail to prepare simply because they fail to plan. Spending hours on the day before the exam poring over sample test questions not only raises your level of test anxiety, it also is simply no substitute for careful preparation and practice over time.
Even more important than making a plan is making a commitment. You can't improve your skills in the areas tested on the ASVAB overnight. You have to set aside some time every day for study and practice. Try for at least 30 minutes a day. Thirty minutes daily will do you much more good than two hours on Saturday.
Don't put off your study until the day before the exam. Start now. Twenty minutes a day, with an hour or more on weekends, can make a big difference in your score.
Step 4: Learn to Manage Your Time
Time to complete: 10 minutes to read, many hours of practice!
Activities: Practice these strategies as you take the sample tests in this book
Each of the subtests of the ASVAB is timed separately. Most allow you enough time to complete the section, though none allows a lot of extra time. You should use your time wisely to avoid making errors. Here are some general tips for the whole exam.
- Listen carefully to directions. By the time you get to the exam, you should know how all the subtests work, but listen just in case something has changed.
- Pace yourself. Glance at your watch every few minutes, and compare the time to how far you have gotten in the subtest. When one-quarter of the time has elapsed, you should be a quarter of the way through the subtest, and so on. If you're falling behind, pick up the pace a bit.
- Keep moving. Don't waste time on one question. If you don't know the answer, skip the question and move on. Circle the number of the question in your test booklet in case you have time to come back to it later.
- Keep track of your place on the answer sheet. If you skip a question, make sure you skip on the answer sheet, too. Check yourself every 5–10 questions to make sure the question number and the answer sheet number are still the same.
- Don't rush. Though you should keep moving, rushing won't help. Try to keep calm and work methodically and quickly.
Step 5: Learn to Use the Process of Elimination
Time to complete: 20 minutes
Activity: Complete worksheet on Using the Process of Elimination
After time management, your next most important tool for taking control of your exam is using the process of elimination wisely. It's standard test-taking wisdom that you should always read all the answer choices before choosing your answer. This helps you find the right answer by eliminating wrong answer choices. And, sure enough, that standard wisdom applies to your exam, too.
You should always use the process of elimination on tough questions, even if the right answer jumps out at you. Sometimes the answer that jumps out isn't right after all. You should always proceed through the answer choices in order. You can start with answer choice a and eliminate any choices that are clearly incorrect.
Let's say you're facing a vocabulary question like this:
"Biology uses a binomial system of classification." In this sentence, the word binomial most nearly means
- understanding the law.
- having two names.
- scientifically sound.
- having a double meaning.
If you happen to know what binomial means, of course, you don't need to use the process of elimination, but let's assume you don't. So, you look at the answer choices. "Understanding the law" sure doesn't sound very likely for something having to do with biology. So you eliminate choice a—and now you only have three answer choices to deal with. Mark an X next to choice a so you never have to read it again.
Now, move on to the other answer choices. If you know that the prefix bi- means two, as in bicycle, you will flag answer b as a possible answer. Put a check mark beside it, meaning "good answer, I might use this one."
Choice c, "scientifically sound," is a possibility. At least it's about science, not law. It could work here, though when you think about it, having a "scientifically sound" classification system in a scientific field is kind of redundant. You remember the bi- in binomial, and probably continue to like answer b better. But you're not sure, so you put a question mark next to c, meaning "well, maybe."
Now, choice d, "having a double meaning." You're still keeping in mind that bi- means two, so this one looks possible at first. But then you look again at the sentence the word belongs in, and you think, "Why would biology want a system of classification that has two meanings? That wouldn't work very well!" If you're really taken with the idea that bi- means two, you might put a question mark here. But if you're feeling a little more confident, you'll put an X. You have already got a better answer picked out.
Now your question looks like this:
"Biology uses a binomial system of classification." In this sentence, the word binomial most nearly means
X a. understanding the law.
b. having two names.
? c. scientifically sound.
? d. having a double meaning.
You've got just one checkmark for a good answer. If you're pressed for time, you should simply mark answer b on your answer sheet. If you have the time to be extra careful, you could compare your checkmark answer to your question-mark answers to make sure that it's better. (It is: the binomial system in biology is the one that gives a two-part genus and species name like homo sapiens.)
It's good to have a system for marking good, bad, and maybe answers. Here's one recommendation:
X = bad
? = maybe
If you don't like these marks, devise your own system. Just make sure you do it long before test day—while you're working through the practice exams in this book—so you won't have to worry about it during the test.
Even when you think you are absolutely clueless about a question, you can often use the process of elimination to get rid of one answer choice. If so, you are better prepared to make an educated guess, as you will see in Step 6. More often, the process of elimination allows you to get down to only two possibly right answers. Then, you're in a strong position to guess. And sometimes, even though you don't know the right answer, you find it simply by getting rid of the wrong ones, as you did in the preceding example.
Try using your powers of elimination on the questions in the worksheet Using the Process of Elimination beginning on page 32. The answer explanations show one possible way you might use the process to arrive at the right answer.
The process of elimination is your tool for the next step, which is knowing when to guess.
Step 6: Know When to Guess
Time to complete: 20 minutes
Activity: Complete worksheet on Your Guessing Ability
Armed with the process of elimination, you are ready to take control of one of the big questions in test taking: Should I guess? The first and main answer is Yes. Some exams have what is called a "guessing penalty," in which a fraction of your wrong answers is subtracted from your right answers—but the ASVAB isn't one of them. The number of questions you answer correctly yields your raw score. So you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by guessing.
The more complicated answer to the question "Should I guess?" depends on you—your personality and your "guessing intuition." There are two things you need to know about yourself before you go into the exam:
- Are you a risk taker?
- Are you a good guesser?
You will have to decide about your risk-taking quotient on your own. To find out if you're a good guesser, complete the worksheet "Your Guessing Ability" that begins on this page. Frankly, even if you're a play-it-safe person with lousy intuition, you are still safe in guessing every time. The best thing would be to overcome your anxieties and go ahead and mark an answer. But you may want to have a sense of how good your intuition is before you go into the exam.
Step 7: Reach Your Peak Performance Zone
Time to complete: 10 minutes to read; weeks to complete
Activity: Complete the Physical Preparation Checklist
To get ready for a challenge like a big exam, you have to take control of your physical, as well as your mental, state. Exercise, proper diet, and rest will ensure that your body works with, rather than against, your mind on test day, as well as during your preparation.
If you don't already have a regular exercise program going, the time during which you are preparing for an exam is actually an excellent time to start one. You will have to be pretty fit to make it through the first weeks of basic training anyway. And if you're already keeping fit—or trying to get that way—don't let the pressure of preparing for an exam fool you into quitting now. Exercise helps reduce stress by pumping wonderful good-feeling hormones called endorphins into your system. It also increases the oxygen supply throughout your body, including your brain, so you will be at peak performance on test day.
A half hour of vigorous activity—enough to raise a sweat—every day should be your aim. If you are really pressed for time, every other day is OK. Choose an activity you like and get out there and do it. Jogging with a friend always makes the time go faster, or take a radio.
But don't overdo it. You don't want to exhaust yourself. Moderation is the key.
First of all, cut out the junk. Go easy on caffeine and nicotine, and eliminate alcohol and any other drugs from your system at least two weeks before the exam. Promise yourself a treat the night after the exam, if need be.
What your body needs for peak performance is simply a balanced diet. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with protein and carbohydrates. Foods that are high in lecithin (an amino acid), such as fish and beans, are especially good brain foods.
The night before the exam, you might carbo-load the way athletes do before a contest. Eat a big plate of spaghetti, rice and beans, or whatever your favorite carbohydrate is.
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