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Book Review: The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to THE ASVAB by Laura Stradley and Robin Kavanagh

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If your plans include enlisting in the United States military, one of the things you can look forward to is taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery tests. I have no intention of joining the military. The military has no intention of letting me in. Despite this agreement, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to THE ASVAB, a book of strategies designed to improve the test-taker’s performance.

Written by Laura Stradley and Robin Kavanagh, and faithful to the upbeat style of The Idiot’s Guide series, The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to THE ASVAB is a self-help book on two fronts. It is a guide to the ASVAB itself, explaining both the reasons each test is given and the types of questions included, and it is very supportive in a you-can-do-it way. If enlisting, should you get this book? I think so. You might also be interested  if you are attending any sort of school that tests things other than your patience. The test-taking tips are valuable to those preparing for the SAT’s, ACT’s, PSAT’s, algebra mid-terms, or any multiple-choice test.

The opening chapters give information about recruiting and enlisting, and details about the types of tests that are included in the ASVAB and the venues in which they may be taken. Surprise! — this stuff is pretty interesting. The authors’ buoyant style draws the reader into what could have been a dry discussion of technicalities. Whatever you do, don’t skip Chapter +Three, “Strategies for Success.” That chapter alone makes the book worth the price to anyone who has to go the multiple-choice route.

The reason to read this book, however, is to do well on the ASVAB. Chapters are devoted to each type of test, including Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Word Problems, Math Knowledge, General Science, Electronics, Auto/Shop, Mechanical Comprehension, and Assembling Objects. For me it’s a start-off-strong-end-up-happy-I’m-too-old-for-the-military experience. Refreshing what you may have learned in school, Stradley and Kavanagh give strong introductions to the purpose of each test and simplified lessons on the things the candidate should know, such as Latin roots and math terms. Finally, there are test questions with both answers and explanations of the correct choices.

Geeks love tests. Geeks are the ones who don’t suffer from test-anxiety, have six number-two pencils, and finish first. It’s true, I’m a geek. I enjoy picking up old math books and attacking the problems or working on grammar assignments in any Warriner’s that I can get my hands on. In The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to THE ASVAB, there are an adequate number of sample questions, but I would have loved more (only in my “good” subjects, though). Again, the purpose of this book is not to give answers to test questions, but to help the reader do as well as possible on the test scores. Scores will determine if you will get into the military at all, and, once in, what you will be doing and how far you will be going. To better prepare for the test questions, Google “asvab test questions,” and take it from there. I did learn a lot: I’ll never be drafted, my excellent math problem-solving abilities are based on voodoo, and despite English, Math, and Science abilities/knowledge, I’m an idiot. Actually, I already knew those things, but I found much of the information to be worthy of note.

To quote the authors, “Life is a lot like a science experiment; after enough trial and error, we start to learn what works and what doesn’t.” For test-takers, the preparation and tips offered in this book work. Some techniques may be familiar; all are useful. 

Bottom line: Would I buy this book? Yes. Although I don’t know anyone who is currently planning a military career, I think it would be very helpful to any student who wants to be better equipped for test-taking or suffers from test-anxiety.

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