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 fluency in a given 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 95. However, to be a linguist in the Marines
or Air Force
a score of 100 or better is required for all languages. The Marines
will waiver it to 90 for Cat I and Cat II languages. The Air Force
does not currently offer a waiver. The languages are broken into tiers, based on their difficulty level for a native English speaker, as determined by the Defense Language Institute
- Category I language: 85 or better
(Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish)
- Category II language: 90 or better
- 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, as well as incoming cadets for the United States Military Academy.
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.