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ASVAB changes will not mean lower standards

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (April 21, 2004) -- The Air Force will adjust the cutoff score used to gauge new recruits taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery in July.

The change -- from 40 to 36 -- does not mean the Air Force is lowering its standards, said Tina Strickland, chief of Air Force testing policy and research integration.

"We don't want people to think we are lowering the standard of quality coming into the Air Force," Ms. Strickland said. "It appears that way because 36 is lower than 40, but it will still be the same quality of applicants we are accepting into the Air Force today."

The change in cutoff is because Department of Defense officials are “renorming” the test, Ms. Strickland said.

Test takers get a raw score -- the number of questions scored correctly. But, Ms. Strickland said, DOD officials are more interested in where the test taker stacks up against a sample, or "normative," group of test takers. A population of 18- to-25-year-olds who took the test in 1980 is currently considered to be the normative group.

The test’s score reported is actually a percentile, or a number indicating how many people the test taker scored higher than, Ms. Strickland said. If a recruit takes the test today and scores an 85 that actually means he did better on the test than 85 percent of the test takers in the 1980 group.

Ms. Strickland said the reason for the renorming is that the applicant population sampled in 1980 is no longer representative of today’s applicants.

"Potential servicemembers in the last 20 years, simply put, have gotten smarter," Ms. Strickland said. "So the scores have shifted."

Beginning July 1, the DOD will renorm the test to reflect that shift. As a result, the same test scored on July 1 would get a slightly lower score than if it was scored June 30.

"You may have gotten the same number of questions right, and your aptitude is the same -- everything is the same actually -- but your score converts to the new score scale," Ms. Strickland said.

"Some people think we are lowering standards because of the renorming, but we are not," Ms. Strickland said. "We will be enlisting the same quality servicemembers on July 1 as … on June 30."

Besides the change in cutoff numbers for enlistees, Air Force officials will change the numbers already in the system for active-duty Airmen.

"To keep everybody consistent, we are going to convert everybody's numbers," Ms. Strickland said. "So your (score) and your maintenance, administrative, general and electronic scores will all be converted to be on the new scale."

Ms. Strickland said the change will go unnoticed by most Airmen.