PiCAT test vs. ASVAB test: are they the same?

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Written by Fernando Cardona & Eloisa Thomas


If you’re considering enlisting in the military, you probably already know that you need to take the ASVAB test. But have you ever heard of the PiCAT test? Since it’s similar to the ASVAB test, many people confuse them. Today we’ll go over the differences between the PiCAT and the ASVAB tests.

What is the PiCAT test?

The PiCAT test is an electronic version of the ASVAB test to enter the military and score applicants according to their abilities. The word PiCAT stands for “Pending Internet Computerized Adaptive Test”. In this article, we will explain the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of the PiCAT test as an option to complete the military enlistment process.

What are the differences between the PiCAT and the ASVAB test?

In general, the ASVAB is a test that applicants take at the MEPS and MET centers. This test is strictly timed and has a total duration of three hours. This test is also supervised by commissioned officers.

On the other hand, the PiCAT test is self-administered; this means that you can take it on your own from any computer with Internet access. For this reason, applicants have no time limits to complete the PiCAT test, nor are they supervised.

An important difference between the two tests is that the PiCAT has two sections. The first is the unsupervised test that the applicant submits online to get a preliminary score. The second part is the verification test or “V-test” which is shorter, 30 minutes, and is supervised by officers.

Keep in mind that if the verification test confirms the result obtained in the PiCAT test, your preliminary score becomes final. In this case, the PiCAT score will become your official ASVAB score in the enlistment process. However, if you can’t validate your score, you’ll have to take the ASVAB test.

Who can take the PiCAT test?

You need to remember the PiCAT test is only for those applicants who have never taken the ASVAB test. If you’ve already taken the ASVAB and want to improve your official scores, you’ll need to retake the ASVAB following the deadlines provided by the Department of Defense.

How can I access the PiCAT test?

Although the PiCAT test is available anywhere there is an Internet connection, applicants must register before taking it. Keep in mind that if you’re already talking to a recruiter, they’ll tell you where and how you can start your PiCAT session. When this happens, your recruiter will provide you with an access code.

The PiCAT test deadlines

As for the deadlines, normally the recruiter will ask the applicant to take the test within a certain timeframe. Usually, you’ll have to take the PiCAT test within the next 30 days after you receive the code. Remember your code is personal and can’t be transferred to anyone else. Once you begin the test online, you have 48 hours to complete it.

It’s important to remember that the PiCAT score is preliminary. The final score is obtained after presenting the validation test, in person. As of August 2023, the deadline for validating the PiCAT score for official purposes is 45 days. That means you have 45 days after you’ve taken your test to validate your score. If you fail to validate your scores in time or the V-test results do not confirm the preliminary score, there is no penalty. You will just have to take the traditional ASVAB exam.

How does the military prevent cheating if there is no direct control for the PiCAT test?

Although there are no extraordinary measures to prevent people from cheating, the regulations clearly state that you cannot use outside help to solve the exam. While doing your test, you can’t use the Internet or look up the answers on other reference materials.

On the other hand, the PiCAT test also needs in-person validation. The supervised V-test is timed and serves to know whether or not the applicant has the knowledge they showed on the PiCAT test. If your validation results support your original score, then that preliminary score becomes official. If you are not able to validate your PiCAT scores you will have to take a full ASVAB that day.

The PiCAT test: pros and cons

PiCAT test pros

An important aspect that can be used to your advantage is that recruits have the option of letting the PiCAT expire the scores they have obtained in the PiCAT test in favor of the scores they get through the ASVAB.

PiCAT test cons

One of the negative aspects of the PiCAT, that could discourage some candidates, is that after getting a good preliminary score, your verification test might not support the result. this is especially important because I see many applicants publish their preliminary results on social media before actually validating them. Then, if the validation fails, they might feel very frustrated. Because of that, my personal recommendation is using caution when getting your preliminary results.

On the other hand, sometimes the validation test has glitches and you might be forced to do the full ASVAB test instead. These situations can make you feel ripped off. That’s why it’s important to stay open-minded and review the full study material even if you don’t plan to take the ASVAB test.

My final recommendation

In my experience, the PiCAT test can be very useful in preparation for the ASVAB, especially for people who suffer from test anxiety. For them, taking the exam in the comfort and privacy of their own home can make a difference.

On the other hand, if a candidate gets low scores on the PICAT, then they just have to study a little more and take the full ASVAB test. In my FB student group “ASVAB IQ Reviews”, we think that taking the PICAT is a valuable previous opportunity to test whether or not you are ready.

As a teacher, I’ve seen students score better on the full ASVAB test. Don’t doubt yourself! Getting a high score on the ASVAB will always require study and concentration. Because of this, don’t skimp on preparing for this test. It’s your chance to take your future into your own hands!