Defense Language Aptitude Battery

The Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) is a test used by the United States Department of Defense to test an individual's potential for learning a foreign language. It is used to determine who may pursue training as a military linguist. It consists of 126 multiple-choice questions, and the test is scored out of a possible 176 points. The first half of the test is audio, and the second half is written. The test does not attempt to gauge a person's ability in a language, but rather to determine their ability to learn a language. To qualify to pursue training in a language, one needs a minimum score of 85. However, to be a linguist in the United States Navy, United States Air Force or Marines a score of 100 or better is required for all languages. The languages are broken into tiers, based on their difficulty level for a native English speaker, as determined by the Defense Language Institute.

Language Categories

Category I language: 85 or better
(Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish)

Category II language: 90 or better
(German)

Category III language: 95 or better
(Belarusian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Polish, Russian, Croatian, Slovak, Tagalog, Thai, Turkic, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese)

Category IV language: 100 or better
(Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean)

The various categories also determine the course length of the basic course as taught at DLI, if taught at all.

The DLAB is typically administered to new and prospective recruits at the United States Military Entrance Processing Command sometime after the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is taken but before a final job category (frequently called MOS) is determined. An individual may usually take the DLAB if they score high enough on the ASVAB for linguist training and are interested in doing so. The DLAB is also administered to ROTC cadets while they are still attending college.

Military personnel interested in retraining into a linguist field typically also must pass the DLAB.

In some cases, the DLAB requirement may be waived if proficiency in a foreign language is already demonstrated via the DLPT.

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