Officer Candidate Tests for Dummies (Book Review)

In the US Military, most of the branches have different qualification tests to become an officer. Officer Candidate Tests for Dummies attempts to prepare the reader to tackle the common elements between all of the tests. You won't find much in this book about the flight and navigation questions you'll see in the Air Force, but all of the English, math, science, mechanical, and electricity questions are all explained here.

On top of that, OCT for Dummies provides tips on how to take tests, best discern word problems, study effectively, and navigate the questions. Not only is this book a resource for those wanting to become an officer, this book is just as good, if not slightly better, than the couple of ASVAB practice books I've read. Since US Army officers take the ASVAB as part of their OCT, a potential enlisted person should read this book as well before taking the ASVAB.

Read more, so I can explain.

The book consists of five parts. The first part covers the basics of being an officer and taking a test. After that, the book dives into test subject matter with a part on English and a part that covers both math and science. The fourth part contains practice versions of the ASVAB and other OCTs. Finally, as with other Dummies books, there is a Part of Tens which contains tips on taking multiple choice tests and study suggestions.

Part 1: Military Officer & Testing Basics

Being an officer is all about being determined to be a leader. If you don't want to be in charge and be responsible, don't become an officer. Officers can choose between lots of specialties, such as: combat specialties (ordnance, infantry, armor), engineering/technical officers, executive/administrative officers, public affairs officers, etc.

OCT for Dummies mentions there are four paths to becoming an officer:

  1. Go to officer school (Officer Candidate School or Officer Training School)
  2. Go through ROTC in college
  3. Graduate from a military academy
  4. Direct commission (doctors/lawyers)

But no matter which path a person takes to become an officer, there are some basic eligibility requirements. The book also explains how warrant officers are different from commissioned officers.

The authors then make an effort to aid the reader in recognizing different question types, such as verbal analogies and arithmetic reasoning (word problems). This introduces the type of info covered in the general science, mechanical comprehension, and electricity portions.

Officer Candidate Tests for Dummies next does a breakdown on what tests are done for each branch. The Air Force has the Air Force Officer Qualifying Aptitude Test (AFOQT). For the US Army, officer candidates take the ASVAB and the score of the General Technical (ASVAB GT) composite is used to determine officer eligibility. A person must score 110 or more in the GT composite, which is comprised of adding together the Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, and Arithmetic Reasoning subtest scores. The Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard have the Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB) along with its Officer Aptitude Rating (OAR) as one of the measurements for determining eligibility for becoming an officer. The Marines and Coast Guard will also use the ASVAB as another measurement. The ASTB is offered as both a pen & paper and a computerized version. Unlike the computerized version of the ASVAB (which adjusts the difficulty based on your answers), the computerized ASTB is exactly the same as the paper version. Computerized scores are available immediately.

The part wraps up with a discussion of test taking tips. There are suggestions on what you can do beforehand to be prepared: focus on weaknesses, study regularly, try multiple practice tests, take care of yourself, and arrive to the testing location on time, if not early. The authors also include tips which will help with the computerized test and the pen and paper one.

Part Two: English

This part starts with an explanation of the importance of a good vocabulary. The authors suggest ways of improving your vocabulary by doing more reading, looking up words in the dictionary, playing word games, as well as creating a study plan.

Officer Candidate Tests for Dummies explains how a lot of English words have Greek origins. It mentions how a person can figure out a word by understanding the various Greek root words along with the prefixes and suffixes which are used to alter the root words.

Next, the authors emphasize the usage of synonyms. They point out numerous synonyms of common words. This segues to a section discussing the analogy questions used on the OCTs. The analogy questions are broken down into two types and a strategy on how to answer each type is provided. This section ends with a sampling of what the ASVAB and AFOQT analogy and word knowledge questions look like. After the questions are pages with the answers and an explanation on why that is the correct answer.

When the authors change to reading skills, they strongly encourage the reader to become an "active reader" by paying attention and being "A.L.E.R.T." (Actively, Listen, Expect, Restate, and Think). Paragraph structure and how to use it to be more efficient in your reading is discussed. Along the way, numerous paragraphs with related questions are offered for examination and help illustrate the skills and techniques that authors are explaining. This chapter finishes with tips on using context and inferring from the content to find answers. As with word knowledge, the reading comprehension chapter features a sample test for the reader; along with the answer key which explains how the reader should have figured out the correct answer.

Part Three: Math & Science

Part Three is as thick as the two previous sections combined. There is a lot covered in this portion. The authors expect the reader to have had some sort of previous knowledge of the material and that the book is merely here to help remind you. With that in mind, subject matter is introduced by the authors, who then provide an example of the new skill and a step-by-step explanation of how to do it. This is done in a building block procedure.

The math section begins with addition/subtraction, builds to multiplication/division, reminds the reader of the "order of operations", and moves into fractions and decimals and adds more building blocks on how to add, subtract, multiply, etc. those fractions and decimals. As these skills build on each other, it becomes obvious when the reader reaches the end of his or her knowledge. This provides you with an opportunity to note what math skills you need to study more and helps give you a gauge on how much further you have to go to cover the depth of arithmetic knowledge required to score well on any of the officer candidate tests. The math portion goes through arithmetic, algebra, and geometry before wrapping up with probability. This, like previous chapters, ends with a practice test with answers and explanations.

Once you master the arithmetic knowledge, you reach what many people would consider hell - the math word problems. The authors immediately try to soothe concerns by providing tips on how to dissect word problems so you can more easily determine exactly what sort of math is required to solve the question. There are five types of word problems mentioned which will nearly always be find on tests:

  1. determining distance, rate, and time
  2. figuring tax, tip, and interest
  3. computing discount and depreciation
  4. calculating commission
  5. finding perimeter and area

You can then do the word problem practice test and see if the authors' tips make doing these types of questions easier for you.

Officer Candidate Tests for Dummies next shifts to trying to briefly mention something about various areas of science. Within the course of 30 pages, the reader will be reminded or learn about animal classification, human anatomy, atoms and molecules, and geology. Main points from each area of scientific study are quickly described and explained. OCT for Dummies moves as swiftly through this info as it did with the math skills. Remember to look at this as an indicator of which subjects you are weak in and do further reading and studying of those subjects later.

Why math and science share a part rather than being two separate parts becomes a bit clearer in the next section about mechanics and physics. It is here that we see how physics attempts to explain how the universe works by use of math. The reader is reintroduced to various aspects of physics and the numerous equations which can be used to determine force, motion, collisions, and more. After physics has laid down a foundation, OCT for Dummies explores how humans have used tools and machines to accomplish tasks while minimizing the physical effort required. Because of the increased complexity, each new bit of knowledge the authors share in this section frequently takes up more than a page. It requires quite a bit of space to describe a mechanism, explain which formulas and equations are needed to figure out the answer, and then walk the reader step-by-step through the process.

Finally, the math and science part concludes with electricity. The book explains terminology, shows symbols and schematics, and explores the math problems related to the subject. As always, there is a practice test at the end.

Part Four: Practice Tests

At the end of the subject areas, there are practice tests on that subject. In Part IV, you will be provided with a mock officer candidate test to serve as prep for the AFOQT, ASTB OAR, and the ASVAB. Each test lists the time allotted for each section, as to encourage the reader to treat the practice test as if it is the real thing. Just like the smaller practice tests, these also include pages with the answers and how that answer was found at the end.

Part Five: The Part of Tens

Every Dummies book has a Part of Tens section, and for Officer Candidate Tests for Dummies, the authors decided to include two items: Ten Strategies for Tackling Multiple Choice Questions and Ten Ways to Optimize Your Study Time. Some of these points were mentioned during the course of the book, but it is also good that these lessons are compiled here for the reader.


I found Officer Candidate Tests for Dummies to be a very well done book to help a person prepare not only for the officer candidate tests, but for the ASVAB in general. The way the book covers the breadth of knowledge and suggest ways to gain depth of knowledge is what stands out to me, in particular. As I was going through this, somewhat uncertain words suddenly regained meaning and bits of info I hadn't thought about since high school immediately jumped back to mind. It was also a bit disheartening when I hit my knowledge wall in physics and electronics. When I was done reading the book, I knew exactly where I needed more studying. There is only one small complaint that I have with Officer Candidate Tests for Dummies. In the science section, it became very common for me to be reading a description about a topic where it kept referring to an image or chart which was on the following page. I wanted to be able to read the description and look at the referenced image without having to flip back and forth. Otherwise, I found this to be a good book for test prep.

Understanding the Candidate Tests for Different Officials

Your preparation assignment tuk to take an official candidate test depends largely on which test you are planning to take. All branches of the US armed forces use the Armed Services of Professional Aptitude (ASVAB) for enlistment, but applicants for officer training take different tests for different branches of the armed forces. Here is a summary of the tests used by each branch.

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