The DLAB consists of 126 multiple choice questions. Applicable service policies require that each candidate for attendance at the Defense Language Institute be a high school graduate. For admission to a Basic Language Program, the following minimum DLAB scores are required:
- 85 for a Category I language (Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish)
- 90 for a Category II language (German)
- 95 for a Category III language (Belorussian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Polish, Russian, Serbian/Croatian, Slovak, Tagalog [Filipino], Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese)
- 100 for a Category IV language (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean)
Individual services or agencies may demand higher qualifying scores, at their discretion. For example, the Air Force and Marine Corps require a minimum score of 100 on the DLAB for all languages, although the Marine Corps will waiver it to a 90 for Cat I and II languages. The Air Force is not currently approving waivers.
The highest possible score on the DLAB is 176.
Individuals who fail to achieve a qualifying score on the DLAB can apply to re-test after six months. Requests for re-tests by individuals who have already made a minimum qualifying score are approved only based on documented military necessity, and must be approved by the appropriate commander (ie, recruiting squadron commander).
Taking the Test
The test is divided into two major segments (one audio and one visual).
Audio Segment: The first part of the audio segment tests your ability to recognize stress patterns in words. The narrator on the audio tape will pronounce four words. One of the words pronounced will have a different different stress pattern. Your task is to indicate (on your answer sheet) the word which is stressed differently from the rest.
For example, the narrator would state "A - Navy......B - Army.......C - Burger......D - Replace, stressing the second syllable in the word, "Replace").
The next part of the audio segment begins to introduce rules to a modified English language (created for the sole purpose of the test). You may be told that the rules of this language consist of all nouns preceded by verbs, and nouns and verbs will always end in the same vowel sound. You would then translate a given English phrase into a phrase compatible with the modified language.
For example, you may be shown the phrase "The dog Runs," followed by four choices: A-"Runsie, The dogie;" B-"The dogie runsie;" C-"Runie the dogo;" D-"The dogo runa." Of course, "A" would be the correct answer because the verb precedes the noun and both end in the same vowel sound.
The test will then proceed over several sections, in each section adding a few more made-up rules, covering areas such as how to express possession, or how to express a noun acting on another noun with a verb.
The audio Segment finally climaxes by combining all of the introduced rules and presenting entire sentences or long phrases for your deciphering pleasure.
Jake took the DLAB and score a 138. He offers the following advice concerning the audio portion of the test:
A few times when the speaker was giving the answers I would hear theright one, but by the time he finished, I had forgotten which letterit was. It helped to put a little dot inside theone I thought was right as he was speaking. It also helped to close my eyes while he was reading and listen for keywords.
Visual Segment: The tape is turned off, and all of the rules you studied so hard for on the Audio Segment are no longer applicable. In the visual segment, you will be presented (in your test booklet) pictures combined with words or phrases that (hopefully) will give you -- after some contemplation -- a basic understanding of this gibberish on the test page.
For instance, on one page might have a picture of a parachute at the top. Underneath the parachute there might be something like "paca." Then there might be a picture of a man. The man might be labeled "tanner." Then there might be a picture of a man parachuting which would read "tannerpaca." Then a picture of a man flying in an airplane which might read "tannerpaci."
From that, one can deduct a number of rules of the gibberish language, which you would then apply to the additional pictures on that page of the test booklet.
Unlike the first segment (audio), however, you will then turn the page on your test booklet to see a set of completely unrelated pictures, words and rules.
This same pattern will be completed until the end of the test, at which time you may take a deep sigh of relief, then go home and punch your recruiter in the nose for telling you that the test was "easy."
(Disclaimer. Please do not really punch your recruiter in the nose, as -- in many cases -- this will delay your enlistment.)