Just as it sounds, in the Paragraph Comprehension subtest of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery you will be reading paragraphs and then demonstrating your comprehension of those paragraphs by answering questions.

This test is part of your Armed Forces Qualification Test score and is also used to determine qualification for a number of military jobs. In other words, this is a very important part of the ASVAB and you should strive to do as good as you can on it.

On the paper-and-pencil version of the real ASVAB, you will need to answer 15 questions in 13 minutes when you come to this section. If you take the CAT-ASVAB, you will need to answer 11 questions in 22 minutes in this particular section.

What the Test Covers

The Paragraph Comprehension Subtest of the ASVAB measures your ability to read a paragraph and understand what you’ve just read. In this section you will read various passages and then be required to answer questions about those passages.

For example, you may have to read a passage detailing how a baseball team scored the winning run in the ninth inning of their game. After reading the passage, you may have to answer:

  • Who scored the winning run?
  • How did the player score?
  • What was the score of the game entering the ninth inning?

The Test Questions

There are four types of questions on this subtest. They are:

Detail-Oriented Questions

In these questions, you will be required to read a paragraph and then identify specific details contained within it.

Purpose Identification Questions

In these questions, you are required to read a paragraph and then determine its overall purpose.

Single Word Meaning Questions

In these questions, you will be required to determine the meaning of a specific word based off how it is used in the paragraph that you read.

Reader Inference Questions

In these questions, you will be required to read a paragraph and then use the information you just read to infer what the author wanted to convey.

What to Expect

On this subtest, most passages are one paragraph long and rarely are they over two paragraphs long.

You will be required to read the paragraph and then answer either one or multiple questions.

The passages are not the most interesting of reads so you’ll want to be sure to stay focused so that you can easily remember the details of what you read, instead of having to constantly waste time by going back and rereading the full paragraph.

To do well on this subtest you will need to be able to do all of the following:

  • Find the main idea of a paragraph
  • Remember specific details of what you just read
  • Draw conclusions from what you just read

Summarize what you just read

Here are some practice questions:

Paragraph to read:

Enforcement action investigations are carried out by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, which was established in 1972 and is currently staffed primarily by attorneys and accountants. The Division is headquartered in Washington, D.C., but there are also 11 regional offices. While theoretically the regional offices would investigate companies within their region, in actual practice the regional boundaries are often ignored.

Question to answer:

The SEC’s Division of Enforcement is primarily made up of people in what professions?

Paragraph to read:

In a civil enforcement action filed in a United States District Court, the Commission can obtain a court order enjoining an individual from further violations of the securities laws, disgorgement of any money obtained from the illegal conduct, and in some circumstances, civil penalties.

Question to answer:

What does enjoining mean in the previous paragraph?

Paragraph to read:

If it normally takes 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight for your skin to start turning red, an SPF of 20 would mean that if you put that sunscreen on it should prevent your skin from getting burned for a period 20 times longer than that original time period – which in this instance would mean around 6.6 hours.

Question to answer:

How much longer does it take skin to burn when wearing SPF 20 sunscreen?

Paragraph to read:

UVA penetrates into the skin more deeply where it destroys collagen and elastin and can lead to skin cancer. Collagen and elastin are connective tissues within the skin that help keep it smooth and tight. Without these tissues your skin can become loose, saggy and wrinkled.

Question to answer:

What are collagen and elastin?

Please note – on the ASVAB you will be given four possible answers to each question and you will be asked to choose the best one.

Test Taking Tips

One of the biggest advantages of the Paragraph Comprehension test is that you can look back at the paragraph to answer the questions. This means you don’t have to memorize anything. You can just look back and find the necessary information in the paragraph. Just be sure to read the paragraph first in case it contains any tricky language that may cause you to incorrectly use the information presented.

Additional test taking tips:

  • Don’t look for exact language when answering a question, often you will need to infer the information from what is presented.
  • When answering purpose identification questions, try to put yourself in the head of the author. Ask yourself what was he really trying to say here?
  • When answering single word meaning questions, don’t just read the sentence with the word in it. Also, look at the sentences before and after that sentence as they can dramatically change the meaning.

Preparing for the Test

The best way to prepare for this subtest is to read, read, read.

Read paragraphs and then stop and ask yourself what the author was really saying. Pull out dates and other important information.

Another way to prepare for the test is to take our Paragraph Comprehension practice test which contains questions similar to those contained on the real ASVAB.

These questions will give you a good idea of what to expect on the test and will let you know what you need to work on.

The test will also prepare you for the actual experience of sitting for the real ASVAB. Helping you build your confidence and feel more relaxed when you take the ASVAB.

Recommended ASVAB Study Guides

Using the right ASVAB study guide is essential to ensure the best possible outcome when preparing for the exam.


ASVAB Study Guide

ASVAB for Dummies

Kaplan ASVAB Prep Plus 

Mometrix ASVAB Secrets

Barron's ASVAB Flashcards

Practice Tests


Online Videos