Here is a post from EarthToGreg on airforceots.com.
Source: http://airforceots.com (original link no longer active due to site upgrade)
NOTE: I started this post a month or more ago when I had just completed the AFOQT, but it got really long and I never completed it. However, this forum has been so useful in helping me through the OTS process, that I felt I wanted to give some personal tips related to the AFOQT. The post is long, but there are some true gems awaiting those who get through it. Ok……
I recently got my scores back from the AFOQT and did pretty well, so I figured that I would offer some helpful tips to potential test takers on how they might best prepare for and take the test. I took the test with the intentions of applying non-rated, but I prepared for the rated sections nonetheless. My final scores were as follows:
P:95 / N:99 / AA:98 / V:99 / Q: 94;
ABM: 98 / CSO: 99
FYI, for those wondering how to get their ABM/CSO score, I just recently discovered that they can be found through a different portal than my recruiter gave me to find my other AFOQT scores. You can access your ABM/CSO scores through the PCSM website, along the left hand side (“Check ABM/CSO Scores”, duh), at:
To start, I gathered as many AFOQT/Officer Candidate Test books as I could find. To note, NONE of the current books appear to be updated to the new Form T of the AFOQT. However, most sections are still the same, and the new ones can’t really be studied for anyway (“Situational Judgement”). I’ll comment more on the new sections below.
My biggest suggestion here is to CHECK YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY. I live in a fairly populated area, so my library had all sorts of AFOQT/ASVAB/Officer Candidate Test books. This saved me a ton of $$$ having to purchase these books.The only books I wound up buying on Amazon.com were the Accepted, Inc. AFOQT book (the one with the jet fighter on the front) and a used For Dummies ASVAB guide that I bought for $0.99 + shipping. I’ve since donated the ASVAB book back to my local library, but for now I’m keeping the Accepted, Inc. AFOQT book, because…well, because I like the F-15(?) on the front…
I could go into more detail on one book versus another, but this post is already going to be long enough. I’d say that the Peterson’s Officer Candidate Test book had the most challenging vocab and math sections to review. Obviously, the ASVAB books did not directly translate to the AFOQT, but still provided extra practice questions for the math and verbal sections. I’d say that the ASVAB questions were not generally quite as difficult as AFOQT questions, but sometimes the ASVAB books did a better job of explaining the general math concepts and vocab strategies. Since the recent changes in the AFOQT, the ASVAB books are also a good way to practice the Reading Comprehension. It’s important to note that AFOQT questions all have five possible answers, while ASVAB questions only have four possible answers. This means questions from the AFOQT have 25% more possible answers to choose from than the ASVAB (and 33% more answers to get wrong!).
In regards to the Form T updates, my recruiter only gave me about a week’s heads up that some of the sections would be different. The “General Science” section became “Physical Science”, simply meaning there was less science that I needed to study, and good riddance to the death of the “Hidden Figures” section (and “Rotated Blocks”). The rest of the changes will be discussed below.
Ok, on to what I can comment on about the individual sections…
Verbal Analogies – I’m glad this section was first. I knew that time was going to be my primary enemy on the exam, so I tried to burn through and confidently answer each question as quickly as possible. I remember I had a little bit of time to go back and review my answers from this section, but not a ton of it. This prompted me to make a strong mental note to “kick it up a gear” in terms of trying to go through questions at the highest pace I could handle.
As for studying for VA, I had been smart to read the “How to study for Verbal Analogies” section in each of the study guide books I had. Each book had slightly different advice for how to tackle analogies (generally, some form of “create a sentence in your head that explains the relation between the given analogy, then apply that sentence to the other choices and pick the closest one”. When two choices seem close, try to pick the one that is likely very subtly more sensible or specific. Don’t necessarily fall in love with a particular answer because it ‘thematically’ fits with the given analogy (EX: say the given analogy was boat:ocean, and you want to pick fish:sea (because it has to do with water/ocean), even though plane:air is also available). Yes, fish also move through the sea, but a plane is a form of transportation that is moving through its proper medium (the air). And therefore, likely the correct answer.
The real finesse in this section (i.e., the most difficult questions) will come from understanding how to compare ‘like’ parts of speech (comparing adjectives to other adjectives; not mistakingly comparing an adjective to a verb, adverbs to verbs). EX: say the given analogy is Pedestrian:Walking, with Water:Running and Athlete:Run as possible answers. I believe the closer answer here would be the Water:Running, because both ‘walking’ and ‘running’ are conjugated the same way (sorry, making these examples up as I go along…I don’t have a test prep book in front of me at the moment). Either way, you can see from these two examples how the test makers can find ways to trip you up.
Arithmetic Reasoning – This is where SPEED is of the essence. I must have looked like a madman to my proctor, because I was frantically trying to burn through these questions at the highest reasonable rate that I could handle. I say ‘reasonably’ frantic, because most important of all, YOU DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO WORK THROUGH A QUESTION TWICE. Ask for scratch paper; use it liberally! Try to avoid chicken scratch (“Eek, did I write down a 1 or a 7?!?”) Don’t try to squeeze calculations into an empty corner; instead, ask for more paper. With each question, I clearly scratched down the number to the question I was answering, gave myself plenty of room for laying out the problem, with enough room in case I had to do long division or something. When I finished each question, I quickly penciled a box around the work on the scratch paper, to make sure that I wouldn’t commingle my previous scratch work with the next question. This also made it easier to refer back to a question later, in case I skipped it or wanted to double check an answer.
IMPORTANT: Another use for the scratch paper, and one that can be used on all the sections (not just the math sections), is to quickly scratch down the number of a question that you aren’t 100% certain about. That way, if you have time at the end to review questions, you can quickly refer back to the specific questions that you were less than 100% certain about. On that note, I’d say that if you’re more than 80% certain about an answer, go ahead and answer it on the spot, rather than leave it ‘blank’ and come back to it… you may run out of time to come back! Answer the 80% question with your best guess, immediately mark down the # of the question on the scratch paper, and take a second look at it if you have time to review. Time is your enemy; keep moving! Or, in the words of General George S. Patton, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
Word Knowledge – This section was surprisingly easier than I had anticipated. For word lists and flashcards, I downloaded a couple awesome GRE Test Prep apps by the publisher Magoosh. The apps became my go-to “time killer” phone app in the weeks leading up to the test. The vocab words in the app were grouped into increasing levels of difficulty (1 through 5), with a total of about 1,000 of the most commonly found words on the GRE. I feel like the words on the AFOQT didn’t go much deeper than Level 3. Nevertheless, the toughest word I came across on the actual test was a fairly ‘standard’ word, but it had three different definitions that were hard to choose between. On break, I was discussing the section with another test taker and we both had a laugh about how this seemingly simple word kind of stumped us both.
Math Knowledge – Again, liberally use that scratch paper (ask for an extra fresh sheet before you start!) Beyond the test prep books, my local library also had a book on “mental math”. The book was filled with simple little tricks you can use to quickly crunch numbers. Understanding math as bases of 10 goes a long, long, long way towards quickly guesstimating answers. Once I began to understand some of the most common tips, I swear that I began to notice that the test makers seem to almost PURPOSEFULLY INCLUDE QUESTIONS THAT CAN BE ANSWERED QUICKLY USING BASIC MENTAL MATH TECHNIQUES. $100,000 minus $45,376? Easy. Need to find the factors of a large number, like 17,543,898, so you can begin to divide it? Try a 9 for starters. Well, actually, try 2 first (it’s an even number after all!), then you’ll know to try 9 (that is, if you know the trick that can cue you to whether the number 9 is one of the factors!) I won’t go into the details on how/why these techniques work, but they do, and they’re all well documented in books on the subject (or probably websites, for that matter). I swear, more than anything else, these mental math techniques will help SHAVE MAJOR CHUNKS OF SECONDS off both Quantitative math sections. Oh, and know your basic Pythagorean Triples (3,4,5 / 5,12,13 / 7,24,25 / 8,15,17) and be able to quickly recognize when you’re looking at their accompanying multiples (6,8,10 = 2 x 3,4,5, etc).
Reading Comprehension – I didn’t exactly know how to study for this. I can read. I can comprehend what I’m reading. I won’t go into the details of the actual passages, but they were basically Air Force themed, which made them more interesting to read than your standard SAT reading passages. I actually learned a few things I didn’t know!
The finesse here is being able to distinguish what was just a simple ‘point’ the author was making vs. his overall purpose to a passage. Also, I would quickly glance over the accompanying questions before reading each passage. I then read through the whole prompt WITHOUT trying to “hunt and peck” for the answers. I avoided “hunt and peck” because I wanted to make sure that I completely understood the entirety of the author’s tone and purpose, before picking my final answers. Knowing the questions beforehand will help you leave mental ‘breadcrumbs’ of where/what paragraph a certain statement came from, etc.
I’d say that I definitely erased and changed more answers in this section than any other section (…except the self-description, lol). I usually don’t like to second guess my first instinct, but I had plenty of extra time at the end to come back and review the questions that I was only 80% certain about (again, I used the scratch pad to mark down the answers that I wanted to possibly come back and review).
Situational Judgment Test – This is one of the new sections on the AFOQT, and one that you can’t necessarily study for (although I’d definitely say there are ‘right’/‘right-er’ and ‘wrong’ answers!). Some of the ‘wrong’ answers were almost laughably wrong and easy to eliminate. The proctor made a joke that those with prior military service would probably answer these better than the civilians in the room. I’ve had to manage and lead teams before in the civilian corporate world, so I tried to apply some of those techniques (try to keep the little things off your boss’s plate, but provide guidance if you’re about to run off a cliff; don’t go over people’s heads and avoid having to get the big boss involved, etc).
EX: Are you or a subordinate running behind on a few tasks on your daily to-do list? You and/or your subordinate should probably just stay late that day and finish them up without getting the boss involved. Running weeks behind on a multi-million dollar government contract? Yeah, you probably want to let your boss know where you’re at with that (with supporting information as to why you’re behind.. and how you might fix it, etc). Actually, in some way, the writing passages from the Reading Comprehension section might help a little in guiding your answers on this section.
Overall, I actually wound up a little pressed for time on this section, due to the fact that I’d get stuck trying to decide between which answer was ‘right’ and which one might have been ‘right-er’.
Self-Description Inventory – These don’t really have a right or wrong answers, although they might be testing for consistency (questions often get repeated, but worded in a slightly different way). In the end, I just tried to give honest answers. Some people took a lot longer to complete this section than other people (not sure if they were going back over previous answers to ‘normalize’ their consistency). It’s weird though, you can ask if, “I like dangerous situation” and I will say disagree or strongly disagree, but if you ask if, “I like bungee jumping” or “i like skydiving”, then I’d agree or strongly agree (because I’ve done them and would do them again…). Bungee and skydiving are “calculated risks” that I’m perfectly cool with, but saying that I enjoy “dangerous situations” sounds like you’re asking if I’d like to climb the face of El Capitan without a rope (no thanks!).
Physical Science – I’m glad this section was chopped from General Science down to Physical Science, because it meant not having to learn a lot of biology, physiology and anatomy. Wikipedia describes the physical sciences as: Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Earth Sciences. I’m not sure if chemistry crossed over at all into the DNA realm. This stuff was all rudimentary versions of subjects that I learned in a lot more depth back in high school. I believe the test prep books for the ASVAB also went into these subjects. Read them, read a variety of them. I also watched a few YouTube videos to help me better visualize the elements of electricity (wattage, volts, amps, etc) and how they relate to one another.
UPDATE 27AUG2015: I pulled my Accepted Inc, “AFOQT Study Guide” off the shelf (the one with the jet fighter on the front!) and here is how the Table of Contents broke down the Physical Sciences:
- Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures
- States of Matter
- Periodic Table and Chemical Bonds
- Acids and Bases
- Motion, Thermal Physics, Heat Transfer, and Wave Motion and Magnetism Geology
- Earth’s structure, the Hydrologic Cycle, and Tides Meteorology
- Atmosphere and Clouds Astronomy
- Our Solar System
FYI, DNA/Heredity were categorized under life science, not chemistry, so one can likely assume that there are no longer and DNA questions on the AFOQT. It’s a lot easier to find military prep books with Math and Verbal study sections, so if you need to, you can always try googling the web to gain a surface understanding of the Physical Sciences sections. Even in the prep book, each subsection of the Physical Sciences was only 2-3 pages long at most. The Khan Academy is always a good place to start: https://www.khanacademy.org/science
Table Reading – Ok, everyone says this is the hardest part of the exam, or rather, that you shouldn’t expect to answer all the questions in the allotted time. Also, the prep books out there are notorious for not adequately describing and using the type of table that we used on the actual exam (a simple laminated +/- 20×20 grid that was handed out to all test takers prior to the exam). MODERATORS: You might want erase this part of my answer, if it reveals too much about the exam (or is a violation of test taking rules). What I’m about to reveal is a little tool I figured out on the fly that helped me to answer all the Table Reading questions in the allotted time. Hopefully, I’m not screwing myself over with revealing what I’m about to tell you. I figure though, if you’ve made it this far in my post and/or if you’re a regular user of the airforceots.com website, then maybe you deserve getting a little ‘freebie’ tip. Ok, here goes….
So, the test rules and the proctor specifically said that you CANNOT use a straight edge on the laminated grid they hand you. Fine, not a problem. However, what they DON’T say anything about is whether you can use a straight edge in the test booklet itself. In essence, I folded over piece of scratch paper and used it to cover over the previous questions I had already answered (edged ABOVE the current question I was answering), thus, providing me a better visual cue as to which test question I was currently working on. It’s one thing to look on the grid (without a straight edge, of course) and find that the answer is 73…. Well, when you look back over to the test booklet itself to find out which answer is 73 (i.e. letter A, B, C, D, or E), you’re once again going to see question after question, row after row, of just numbers. So even once you have the answer from the laminated grid, you’re still going to wind up spending another couple of seconds just trying to refocus your eyes back to the test booklet itself to 1) find the question you were working on, and 2) find the correct letter of the numeric answer you got from the grid. I only had to scoot the scratch paper down about every third question in order to maintain the visual cue.
Again, I carefully read the instructions and listened to what the proctor specifically said about not using a straight edge on the grid itself. During the test, I wasn’t being particularly sly about using the scratch paper as a straight edge in the test booklet and the proctor never said anything it. So I guess it was either “all good” or I just got lucky and he didn’t notice. If you’re leery about using this method (and maybe you should be!), you could always ask your proctor about it before the test section begins. Regardless, someone might see it as violating the ‘spirit’ of the no straight edge rule. After all, the (aptly named) first core value of the USAF is: Integrity First. I used this method because I felt it wasn’t in violation of the test rules, and I’m offering the method up for critique in case others see it differently.
Another technique that could work (without the use of any straight edge): If you can search the grid with just one hand (I preferred using two), then it might behoove you to keep a finger on your other hand pointed at that question in the test booklet. Again, trying to reduce the lag time between looking at the grid and having to refocus back over to the test booklet to find the correct letter answer.
Instrument Comprehension – The exam is just like the prep books. The more you can quickly and ‘gutturally’ answer these questions, the better. Be able to quickly recognize the extremes of a full left-turn and a full right-turn. I had a slight moment of terror during the test where I just couldn’t wrap my head around a particular answer and it felt like my brain was about to explode. Took a breath, gave my best answer, and moved on to the next questions (which were a lot easier). I may have just hit a purposefully ‘difficult’ question, or maybe I was starting to feel test fatigue at this point in the day. It seems like they’ll put the most difficult question about 3-5 answers from the finish, so that you’ll either take a best guess and keep moving, or get bogged down and not have time to finish the remaining questions (all of which seemed to be easier).
Block Counting – Similar to Instrument Comprehension, in that I felt that the most difficult set of blocks was purposefully placed a few questions from the end. So either you got bogged down with the hard one or knew enough to just keep moving on to the easier questions at the end. Again, time is your enemy on this section, but RECOUNTING WILL BE YOUR DOOM. I had to take wild guesses at the last set of blocks.
Aviation Information – You’re going to have to find an AFOQT specific test prep book to help you study for this, and even then, the flying information in those books appears to be far from complete compared to the breadth of questions they will ask you. I’m guessing those with private pilot’s licenses will fare much better on this section. Luckily, I had watched a few pilot license videos on YouTube to better understand flight physics (what a chord/camber line is, bernoulli’s principle, etc), as well as videos with information on understanding the various instruments, taxi signs and runway lights. Looking at my score, I swear I must have gotten lucky and guessed correctly on a number of questions, because there were definitely some questions that I simply had zero understanding of what the answer might be (maybe eliminating one or two possible answers). Bottom line, don’t just trust the prep books on this; if you want to do well, you’re going to need to go above and beyond to find a flight training book or spend some time watching YouTube videos on the subject.
Phew, after a month on the back burner, this post is finally done. Remember, all of this stuff is basically 10th grade math and English (and science). As one forum member said, you definitely shouldn’t look at the AFOQT as an ‘intelligence’ test. That being said, since it’s not an ‘intelligence’ test, then good scores should be seen as indicative of your level of commitment towards studying and scoring well on the exam.
Last edited by EarthToGreg on Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:29 am; edited 6 times in total