ABCs of the ASVAB

Paragraph Comprehension Sample Questions

US Navy 110728-N-UE944-014 Ensign Ramon Vazquez assists Seaman Maan Palad during the ship's Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andrew Wiskow/Public Domain

The Paragraph Comprehension subtest of the ASVAB consists of 15 multiple choice questions, which must be answered in 13 minutes. Below are a few sample questions which are very similar to the actual questions you'll see on the ASVAB:

1. A bar code consists of a printed series of wide, vertical lines that represent a numerical code. The Universal Product Code (UPC) is the standard bar-code format that lists the manufacturer’s identification number and a product identification number.

An optical scanner can read the bar code and the attached computer can match the product number with a list in its database.

According to this passage, a bar code

(A) is the same thing as a UPC.
(B) is an optical scanner.
(C) is put on products to discourage forgery.
(D) represents a numerical code.

2. Alexander Hamilton established the first Bank of the United States in 1791. Its purpose was to help finance industrial expansion. However, many politicians opposed national banks. Because of this opposition, the bank was closed in 1811.

According to this passage:

(A) Politicians opposed industrial expansion.
(B) The Bank of the United States was one of many national banks established in the 18th century.
(C) The purpose of the bank was to finance industrial expansion.
(D) The bank closed in 1811 owing to a lack of customers.

3. Scientists believe that a black hole is created when a supernova from a large star collapses on itself.

This collapse causes a gravitational field that grows more and more intense until nothing can escape from its pull, not even light. It is thought that the universe may end as a black hole.

According to this passage:

(A) A black hole emits light.
(B) A supernova is a black hole.
(C) The gravitational field of a black hole allows nothing to escape.
(D) The universe was created by a black hole.

4. The supply-and-demand theory of economics states that, when people want a product (demand) and the product is scarce (supply), the price of the product will go up; when people don’t want a product or when the product is plentiful, the price will go down.

According to this passage:

(A) Supply and demand are always constant.
(B) The price of a product can change depending on supply and demand.
(C) Demand drives the price of a product down.
(D) People lose interest in scarce products.

5. The Panama Canal is a ship canal that cuts through the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Although several foreign companies tried to build the canal throughout the 19th century, none were successful. After the U.S. helped Panama revolt against Colombia, the U.S. was given rights to the land the canal would occupy. The U.S. government finished the canal in 1914.

According to this passage:

(A) Panama and Colombia fought a war over the Panama Canal.
(B) The U.S. was given rights to the canal land.
(C) Foreign companies built the canal before the U.S. stepped in.
(D) Panama built the canal in 1914.


1. (D) 2. (C) 3. (C) 4. (B) 5. (B)

For more practice questions, you may wish to pick up a copy of my books, ASVAB for Dummies, and ASVAB AFQT for Dummies (available in December 2009).

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