Written by Thomas Goering, NCCM USN(RET)
Published: October 8, 2015
Updated: February 25, 2018
I have received a couple of questions recently regarding an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) version I didn’t even know existed – well, actually, it isn’t officially a version of the ASVAB yet, but it looks like it may be in the relatively near future.
The Prescreen Internet Based Computer Adaptive Test (PiCAT) is essentially an at-home version of the ASVAB. The PiCAT has the same nine sections as the ASVAB, but it is not proctored and can be taken from anywhere that has a high-speed Internet connection and a desktop computer – smartphone and tablet use is not recommended.
The use of the PiCAT scores for enlistment purposes is currently in pilot program mode to ensure its viability. Although not yet fully implemented nationwide, The PiCAT is now fully implemented nationwide and is available for, and in use by, all branches of the military. The pilot program will continue until enough data has been accumulated and studied. The pilot program has reached its conclusion.
To be allowed to take the PiCAT, the applicant must have not previously taken the ASVAB. The applicant must be registered to take the test by his or her recruiter, and once registered; the applicant has 72 hours to start the exam. Once the exam is started, it must be completed within 24 hours.
For the PiCAT scores to be allowed for enlistment purposes, a verification test must also be completed. The verification test is a proctored 25-30 minute general question test that is taken either at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), or a Military Entrance Test (MET) site that offers the Internet Computerized Adaptive Test (iCAT). The Verification test questions are NOT the same questions experienced on the PiCAT. The Verification test must be taken within 30 days of completing the PiCAT.
To save confusion, the PiCAT verification test is not the ASVAB Confirmation Test, nor can the PiCAT test trigger a Confirmation Test.
Once/if the current pilot program is approved for full implementation, if the applicant fails to score well enough to verify the PiCAT result, the verification test will automatically begin the CAT-ASVAB or iCAT depending on whether at the MEPS or MET site.
Currently, during the pilot program’s duration, all PiCAT applicants will take the verification test followed by the CAT-ASVAB or iCAT regardless if verified or not (per USAREC Message 15-048, posted September 10, 2015). Now that the pilot program is completed, only 5% of those who pass the Verification Test will automatically start the CAT-ASVAB or iCAT; the reason is to continuing testing the accuracy of the Verification Test. For those who fail to pass the Verification Test, the full CAT-ASVAB or iCAT will automatically follow.
I, personally, do not see the benefit of PiCAT beyond its use as a practice exam for the ASVAB. But, I am sure this pilot will prevail and the PiCAT option will be available for the very small handful of applicants that may use it beyond its practice benefit. To actually officially use the scores, the process may be too cumbersome.
If the benefit is saving a recruiter’s time, the process fails because it certainly does not save the recruiter time; as a matter of fact, it adds steps. As a recruiter, you are still going to give the applicant a pretest in the office to provide some indication how the person will do on the entrance exam. The PiCAT score doesn’t provide an indication how an applicant will do because the applicant could be using a calculator, or a parent, or, well, anyone or thing for that matter. If a recruiter starts projecting applicants based on a test result from a test that was not proctored… well, let’s just say that could never work.
Additionally, the recruiter must register the applicant for the PiCAT, and then make the follow-up calls to ensure the applicant starts and finishes within the mandated periods of time. The applicant can, of course, take the PiCAT at the recruiting station, but then the recruiter is tied up for three hours as the applicant takes the test… what?! And, finally, lets us not forget that the applicant must still go to the MEPS or MET site regardless.
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the need to move to a more virtual world for military recruiting — hopefully, in the future, all an applicant might have to do is walk up to a kiosk and get a retinal scan, and then, poof, a properly fitted uniform can shoot out a dispenser with a plane ticket. But, in the meantime as we make progress towards that goal, let us make sure we are considering the time spent which is so valuable to the Sailor, Marine, Soldier, Airman, or Coast Guardsman who totes that bag each and every day.