The Air Force ASVAB scores are frequently a subject of confusion and anxiety for the person planning a career in the Air Force. The real meaning of ASVAB scores as they apply to each person's future in this branch of the military is rarely explained fully . There are some unfortunate misapprehensions about what the scores mean and how they affect a person's occupational prospects in the Air Force.
Prospective service members are often recruited from high school or college, the target age ranges being 18–35 in the Army, 18–28 in the Marine Corps, 18–34 in the Navy, 18–39 in the Air Force and 18–27 (up to age 32 if qualified for attending guaranteed "A" school) in the Coast Guard. With the permission of a parent or guardian, applicants can enlist at age 17 and participate in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), in which the applicant is given the opportunity to participate in locally sponsored military activities, which can range from sports to competitions led by recruiters or other military liaisons (each recruiting station's DEP varies).
While considered part of the non-commissioned officer corps by law, senior non-commissioned officers (SNCOs) referred to as chief petty officers in the Navy and Coast Guard, or staff non-commissioned officers in the Marine Corps, perform duties more focused on leadership rather than technical expertise. Promotion to the SNCO ranks, E-7 through E-9 (E-6 through E-9 in the Marine Corps) is highly competitive. Personnel totals at the pay grades of E-8 and E-9 are limited by federal law to 2.5 percent and 1 percent of a service's enlisted force, respectively. SNCOs act as leaders of small units and as staff. Some SNCOs manage programs at headquarters level and a select few wield responsibility at the highest levels of the military structure. Most unit commanders have a SNCO as an enlisted advisor. All SNCOs are expected to mentor junior commissioned officers as well as the enlisted in their duty sections. The typical enlistee can expect to attain SNCO rank after 10 to 16 years of service.
The IRT model underlying ASVAB scoring is the three-parameter logistic (3PL) model. The 3PL model represents the probability that an examinee at a given level of ability will respond correctly to an individual item with given characteristics. Specifically, the item characteristics represented in the 3PL model are difficulty, discrimination (i.e., how well the item discriminates among examinees of differing levels of ability), and guessing (i.e., the likelihood that a very low ability examinee would respond correctly simply by guessing).