Taking the DLAB Test

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Ah… the dreaded DLAB. This test is touted as one of the hardest tests you will ever take, and that may be true. If you score an 80 or higher on your ASVAB, your recruiter will push you to take this test. Let’s just say, in any military branch, if you qualify, you will take it. That’s because the DLAB is a test that determines your ability to learn a new language.

This test determines if you are qualified for the most envied job in the military – the linguist – otherwise known as a language translator. They make bank in the civilian world and are well-respected in the military, and it’s one of the hardest jobs to get. It requires a top secret security clearance and an aptitude for awesomeness. Everyone wants this job. The military as a whole is almost ALWAYS short on people who can do the job. That’s because it’s difficult. Even if you make it to the tech school, the dropout rate is high.

How to Take the DLAB test

So how does the military decide if you would be a candidate for learning a foreign language? How can they test this? Easy. Create a fake language and see if a person can learn parts and articles and phrases of it through listening and reading – mostly through listening.

The DLAB consists of four sections. Most involve headsets and listening hard. Even though it is multiple choice, if you suck at fast memory, you will fail this test. I scored something like a 107, which is qualifying for the job, but not in the Air Force branch. I was so excited that I qualified, and then my Air Force liaisons shut me down. You have to score at least a 110 to qualify in the Air Force. Bummer.

I’m actually glad I didn’t get it now because I know I would have hated the two year tech school that comes with it, and because my score was so low, I would have only been eligible to learn easy languages, like Spanish and French – not the hard ones like Mandarin and Russian.

Here’s what I can tell you.

    • Do not stress yourself out over this test. It will only hurt you. Be calm, relax, and forget about it.
    • If you’re great at English grammar, you’ll do okay. If you suck at it, study your parts of speech etc.
    • There is no way to study, but if you’re good at memory games and recitation, you’ll do well.
    • The test consists of a made-up language based on English. They’ll throw a sentence out in front of you and expect you to choose the correct translation based on what they’ve told you.

That’s the test. It’s simple. If you’re an auditory learner, you’re going to do great! If you suck at listening and comprehension, you probably won’t make a great score.

That’s all I can tell you. Just go out there and do your best. Be excited you scored high-enough on your ASVAB to qualify for the DLAB! And remember that if you don’t get the linguist job, it’s not a big deal. A high score on the ASVAB can open you up to several amazing jobs. I’m in the Electronic aptitude area and qualify for some killer AFSCs. I ain’t even mad that I didn’t qualify.

Just do your best and don’t stress. Let me know if you have any questions.

P.S. Knowing a foreign language already won’t help you on the test, though it could help you get a linguist job in that language. It’s a complicated process, but if you know Russian or an Arabic language, talk to your recruiter and see how that typically works.

One thought on “Taking the DLAB Test

  1. Wow! This was really interesting to me. In a way, it reminds me of a lot of the high-stakes tests that I have to prep my students for – there’s no real way to study, but they have to have certain skillsets/abilities to do well. 107 sounds like an amazing score to me.

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