I often get questions related to language training, so I thought I would start from the beginning with the DLAB (Defense Language Aptitude Battery) test.

The DLAB will be one of the deciding factors on whether or not you qualify for a language dependent MOS (military occupational specialty) like human intelligence and signal intelligence (Note: 35P cryptologic linguist need to take the DLAB and 35N signal analyst does not). The other deciding factors are your ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) score and your ability to obtain a top secret security clearance. The minimum DLAB score to qualify for a language dependent MOS is 95. Once you pass that first DLAB hurdle, you are on step closer to becoming MOS-Qualified.

The DLAB Score Categories

The DLAB scores are broken down into categories, which is based on the difficulty of the languages. The harder the language is to learn, the higher the score is needed. Most of the languages that do not use a latin alphabet all require a higher score. If you had your heart set on being a Chinese linguist and you score a 95, you will more than likely be sent to DLI (Defense Language Institute) to learn Spanish. Note: the min. score used to be 85 but was increased to 95 several years ago. Here are the four categories:

  • (DLAB Score 95) CAT I – French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian
  • (DLAB Score 100) CAT II – German
  • (DLAB Score 105) CAT III – Dari, Urdu, Farsi, Punjabi, Tagalog, Thai, Croatian, Russian, Turkish
  • (DLAB Score 110) CAT IV – Arabic, Pashto, Levantine, Chinese, Japanese, Korean

What is it like to take the DLAB?

During the test you will be evaluated on your ability to learn and understand the grammar rules of a fake language. You are given a test with approximately 120+ multiple choice questions broken down into two sections: audio and visual. You will be given grammar rules for the made up language and based on those rules you will answer the questions. For example: nouns will end in an “a” sound and verbs end in an “e” sound, you could then be given sentences and made to pick out the nouns and the verbs. I over simplified it but you get the idea.

Tips for taking the DLAB

  • Learn the basics of English grammar and the components of a sentence.
  • Try to sit away from the door and other distractions. Make sure your headphones are loud and work properly. The audio part can be the hardest and if you are focusing on other things in the room or sitting next to a noisy person, you will miss quite a bit of the test. The test will not repeat the questions or answer choices.
  • If you find out too late that you are sitting next to a noisy person, pause the test, raise your hand, and a proctor will help you.
  • There are plenty of study guides out there, pick one that you like and use it. There are people out there that say you can’t study for a fake language, but you can study grammar and sentence structure, which the study guides offer.
  • Take a foreign language in high school or college. Learning how to pick out the components of a sentence is key to acing the DLAB. Learning a foreign language helps you pick out patterns.

If you didn’t pass the DLAB, you can take it again in six months. If you don’t pass, you could get reclassed to a different MOS, so prepare yourself for that. Have a solid second MOS choice if you cannot wait to retake the test. Once you do pass the DLAB, you will be sent to DLI to learn your assigned language. You will be assigned a language based on your DLAB score and usually the needs of the military. The harder the language, the longer the course. Don’t worry DLI is in Monterey , CA.

Image courtesy of US Army