February 26, 2008 at 3:02 AM (Military, Navy) (, , , , , )

The DLAB test is used by the military to measure your aptitude for learning languages. It is not a language test or a grammar test. I took the test about a week ago, and now I am sharing my experience with you.

The contents I can’t tell you, I can give you hints on what to study. Learn the basics of english grammar and their functions. You also have to keep in mind that other languages aren’t going to be the same syntax or grammar rules as english. In fact, there is a nonsense language that they use for the test, and you will need to learn those new rules and apply it to translate basic phrases into english.

Most of the test requires listening to the narrator for the answer choices, a good test taking tip would be to press the button for the choice you think is correct and hold your finger over the other choices and make sure to eliminate the ones you know to be wrong.

You have to be able to identify stress syllables, it will not be in english. A technique I used was to tap my finger on my knuckle for each syllable and identify which one sounds different than the others. Some will be easy to differentiate, some will not.

Next part will be using one or two grammar rules in the made-up language to translate words into english. You will need to listen to the choices and pick the right one. This one is a bit time consuming, I almost ran out of time. I translated the phrase and listen for the right choice. You can only listen to the choices once, so don’t rush and make sure you have the translation in your head.

Next part they give more grammar rules and tell you to translate. Same as the first part, but with different rules. Point of interest would be to study possessive words and the relationship with the possessor. Make sure to take your time and get the word order correct, tricky tricky.

Next part combines all the rules you learned previously and gives you some longer phrases to translate. Keep in mind they won’t be in any particular order, translate each individual word and listen for it closely. This part was the hardest part of the test for me. Make sure you know the grammar rules, and don’t take too much time on any individual one.

That will be a good 2/3rds of the test. Listening to the right choices can be difficult, take a little break between each section and read the instructions carefully. Take your time and you will do fine.

The last part uses pictures to convey abstract ideas and you need to find the pattern for a new nonsense language to pick the correct answer. This part has no listening, but is not really any easier. You will have a guideline of pictures on the top row and a vertical column of pictures in which you must correctly identify the correct translation for. Pretty straightforward, but can be tricky. You just need to find the pattern and you will get it.

 Good Luck.



  1. Kim said,

    Thanks for posting this. By any chance what was your test score? Has to be 100 or more to pass I’m sure. I guess studying adjective and nouns and verbs and grammar rules helps. I’m guessing they’ll have you put the adjective after the noun instead of before it. Thanks for the post the other ones as well!!! I’m still waiting to make weight or body fat% for MEPS. Good luck at DLI.

  2. Ginia said,

    I took the DLAB about 2 years ago and failed it. I got an 80. If I can’t pass the damn thing and I’m the grammar queen! I’m also good with syllables, and where the stress syllable is. Here’s something annoying, the words get longer and longer as you go.

    *EXAMPLE* We all know that the word laundry has 2 syllables and you stress the first syllable.
    BUT: Let’s say something has 12 syllables– WHAT IF THERE’S 2 or 3 STRESSED SYLLABLES??? WHICH ONE DO YOU PICK?! I was so confused…. I don’t know how anyone can do this bullshit! Dammit. I’m going to try to take it again :::sigh::: here we go again… Any tips regarding that? thanks.

  3. Ginia said,

    That’s funny. The second sentence I put up there is a fragment….. That’s what happens when I type w/o thinking. Oh well, you get my point.

  4. Ginia said,

    ONE MORE THING:::: Those pictures at the end can go to hell. It’ll be some silly lady in a hat watering her lawn, and then I have to pick a sentence in a make believe language of what goes witih it, or something like that… it’s been a while, but I remember once I got to that picture section I probably missed every last one of them unless it was a lucky guess.

  5. Daniel said,

    This was very helpful, thank you. Do you have any suggestions for good study material?

  6. turtleberry said,

    I have heard there aren’t any commercial study guides out there, but to prepare you can review your basic english grammar points, make sure you know how they function outside of english. I didn’t actually study at all, but then I got a 102, pretty bad score, but passing.

    DLAB will get you into the rate, it is not at all indicative of how you will do in your language, thats all up to you. My DLAB score is lowest in my class, but I’m riding on a 99 GPA this unit, so just keep in mind you need to work hard, don’t sweat the little things.

  7. Shaun A. Russo said,

    I haven’t bought it yet, I have to wait til the 1st. the women at the education office printed out the information. it’s 20bucks and I think its about 40 pages. anyway thought I should share this info.

    • Michael said,

      what material are you talking about that helped you prepare for the DLAB test?

  8. WarSage said,

    Shaun A. Russo, who do i contact regarding the information you mentioned?

  9. Jason said,

    I took the Dlab in 1996. I made 208 out of 216. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever taken but I’m incredible satisfied I made it through it with the score I did.

  10. WarSage said,

    Jason, which language(s) did you end up learning, if any? Also, why did you need to take the DLAB?

  11. Sam said,

    thanks Shaun A. Russo, I just got my hands on that reference. I took the test 4 years ago and got a 80 something. I’m going to take it again on Mon…

  12. WarSage said,

    U 2 R killing me softly! Where can i get this mythical reference?

  13. sam said,

    his name is a link to the site

  14. WarSage said,

    I had that PDF and then my browser crashed and i lost the link! FWIW, someone has posted that, for free. Either that, or they are using the same cover and include a lot of very awesome information inside it.

  15. alan said,

    So I took the DLAB awhile ago, and I think I may have done fairly well. The score on my file says that I got a 666, soooo I’m pretty sure that something isn’t right. Does anyone know what that means?

  16. Ashley said,

    I am having to take the DLAB soon to get this CTI job I want. I want to learn either Hebrew or Arabic. So I need a 100 or 110 from what I’ve read. I have always had the highest English scores in my class in high school and I was great at vocabulary related stuff, syllables, definitions, synonoyms, antonyms, and the part of speech the words are. I however, am not great at all when it comes to grammar. Actually, I am terrible at grammar. I remember commas and coordinating conjunctions and that is about it.

    What should I focus on in learning this test? Grammar rules all the forms of pronouns, etc. or just the basics like adjectives describe or limit nouns, that kind of thing? I just dont have time to review all the grammar I was suppose to have learned in high school , though that might be necessary. Are we talking the very basics or grammatical structure as it relates to tense, number, punctuation, etc.?

    I really want this job, but I am not confident that I will pass this test.

  17. Key Rack Research said,

    1) Know grammar basics. Syllables.
    2) Know grammar basics II. Nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
    3) Be comfortable listening to foreign words. Suggest watching a movie you have seen several times in a foreign language, which is easy to do with a DVD. Try to understand what they are saying.
    4) Be “in the zone” with visual and analytical problem solving skills. Suggest brain teasers and similar problem games.

    I highly suggest you obtain a copy of the Delta Gear DLAB book mentioned above.

  18. turtleberry said,

    basic grammar and their functions are enough, no need to stress over every grammar point. this test is not to test your knowledge of language or grammar, but your potential to learn. The focus is how well you are able to discern common characteristics of language such as syllables, syntax, grammar, guessing from context, etc.

    Keep in mind even if you ace the test, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will do well in learning languages. On that note, even if you dont do well, it certainly doesn’t mean you will do poorly learning a language. Just keep in mind the passing grade is 100. You can also get a waiver if your DLAB isnt high enough for the CAT of your desired language. Even though you have an idea of what language you want, there are no guarantees for anything unless you have it in your contract. To my knowledge your language is not guaranteed in any branch for initial enlistment. What you will get is a dream sheet of what languages you want, but the big six are Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Persian-Farsi, Russian, and Spanish. Those are pretty much all there is to choose from. Hebrew is hard to get because of limited spaces, so unless you have prior experience or circumstance, you are most likely not going to recieve it.

    One more thing, this above information is explicitly from my own experience, I’m not trying to dissuade or persuade you torwards anything in particular, just sharing my limited experience as a DLI student.

  19. Key Rack Research said,

    A passing grade varies for your intended job. If you are trying to get into Army Special Forces, one grade may be a passing grade, if you are trying to become a linguist, another grade may be acceptable. Be sure to know what your specific job requirement is for the DLAB! However, it should not matter, as you should do your best and try to ace the thing no matter the minimum requirements.

  20. Ashley said,

    I generally worry myself silly and it is usually okay. I really want to learn Arabic or Hebrew. I dont care so much for the other languages but it would be cool to just be able to learn. I am actually wanting to pass the DLAB so I can get this CTI job in the Navy. My test is going to be computerized and not on paper. I checked the webstite that had the Delta Gear DLAB and I was able to look through some parts of the sturdy guide. It wasnt as frightening as I thought it would be.


  21. Key Rack Research said,


    The Delta Gear text is being, or was just, updated to take into account such things as the computerized tests for the DLAB. The previous versions of the Delta Gear text suggest you use scratch paper as a tool to help you through the test, however, the computerized version(s) do not allow paper, pen, or pencil. (or marker, et cetera)

    I passed the test with a 96 my first time through it, placing me, by the standards i was being judged, in Category III. I think a perfect score is 176 or in that range. I believe that it is good to be confident when taking any test, and at the same time to have a healthy understanding of your own mortality. The DLAB is an unusual test for most. I personally believe it is possible to create a simulation of the test, which would probably allow for more people to pass it, however, that would defeat the purpose of the test.

  22. ich said,

    I took my DLAB on the 24th of MAR 09. Did not study at all. Scored 109, so I am good to go for the Army.

    The best advise for everyone:

    Do not listen to those GREAT ideas about studying English grammar. This is stupid! English grammar — this is what confuses you during the test. People start thinking about this made-up language as if it is English. Do not apply any rules except ones you were told for the fake language. Forget that you can speak English! Relax and think outside the box.

    English is my second (oh, maybe the 4th) language. So, I have a general idea of other languages. And guess what? Other languages do not use English grammar. Shocker? 🙂

    Just do what they tell you to do during the test. Relax. Be flexible.

    Good luck.

  23. ich said,

    Language categories by the DLAB scores according to Army:

    95 (passing minimum) (Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish)– cat I

    100 (German) — cat II

    105 (Belorussian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Polish, Russian, Serbian/Croatian, Slovak, Tagalog [Filipino], Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese) — cat III

    110 (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) — cat IV

  24. Andrew said,

    Stumbled upon your blog while doing a search on the daily life of a CTI. I just wanted to say thanks! Your information on the subject is clear and well-spoken while also being some of the only information I’ve managed to find from a CTI himself/herself. Much appreciation!

  25. Heather said,

    ^ I just happened to be doing the same I’m very interested in becoming a Cryptologic Linguist! A question I have though which is better to join for becoming a CL the Navy, Air Force, or Army?

  26. Key Rack Research said,

    @Heather, I suggest you use forums such as this to get feedback from individuals, however, also contact each branch of the military to see who is hiring at present, and what they are willing to offer you.

  27. Ashley said,

    I go to take the DLAB on the 6th.

    Identifying syallables for words not in English sounds daunting to say the least.

    An old English teacher of mine gave me a link to this website for grammar review. There are all sorts of quizzes to take. You need to scroll down the page until you come to the Parts of Speech review.


    For those who’ve already taken the test, I was wondering if the stuff on here is useful for the test?

    I really want this CTI job and I am very nervous about it.


  28. Michael Curtis said,

    hi, im taking the DLAB for the first time
    -I have a very good understanding and can read and write classical and adapted modern latin
    -I have a fair understanding and can speak a small amount of Arabic from teaching it to myseld from home.
    – I would like to think of myself as smart, i scored in the 98th percentile on the ASVAB.
    How can i be expected to fair when it comes time to take my test?

  29. Michael Curtis said,

    myself* sorry

  30. John Whang said,

    Well, you probably didn’t score very high on the language portion of the ASVAB, Micheal–it’s ‘fare’ and not ‘fair’ as you’ve used it. lol

  31. Michael Curtis said,

    that test is really not as bad as i have heard.
    i was kinda worried but i got a 124 and i didn’t find any part of it too hard.
    the study guide from delta gear is helpful for just seeing the way the test is presented. although you do not get to use scratch paper like the guide says you should use.

  32. Jackie said,


    I took the DLAB 6 years ago, and then decided not to do military service, but I can remember some judgments I made about it. I took the test with my best friend, who in school had always been “smarter” than me, but I passed with a high score, and she was disappointed with an 80. It’s not about intelligence. It’s an APTITUDE test, which means they want to see if your brain is wired to have a natural aptitude for languages, which are all different, but have related syntax.

    It’s like any talent…almost anyone can learn something, but the DLAB is a tool to help the military pick out people with a natural aptitude. I never studied, and sort of took the test just to see, and I scored a 112. I had just graduated high school with an average GPA, and sucked at the SAT. It’s not intelligence, it’s aptitude.

    So if you’re trying to gauge how well you will do, look at your history with foreign languages. Are they easy for you to pick up? Can you easily find patterns? Were you exposed at all as a young kid? If you answer yes to those questions, you will probably score fine. If no, then I suggest taking a free language course online and pay attention to rules and patterns of the language. I know there are a lot of free college level french courses. Specifically, you can go to the bbc website and search for French Course.

    Anyway, good luck!

    • Stills said,


      Maybe you’re right. The DLAB is designed to gauge natural ability, but I think it might also help to know basic English grammar. I have never taken the DLAB, but I want to just to see what it is about. Until then I have worked on various linguistic puzzles to estimate how well I could do on the DLAB. I have realized knowing basic English grammar helps to compare and contrast the target language’s grammar with English grammar.

      I’m not sure exactly what qualifies as basic English grammar since basic is a vague quality which can be evaluated on any number of levels. To me, basic English grammar in terms of comments test-takers provided here and elsewhere consists of the common noun (dog, fish, car…), adjective, adverb, pronoun, possessive pronouns, possessive adjectives (his, hers, mine, yours, theirs, ours…), verbs, conjunctions, interjections, and prepositions. All of these items fulfill the function of “parts,” meaning all inter-relate to convey an idea.

      Next on the list of English grammar: sentence patterns or the different combination of the items (and added modifiers). According to a published manual by a professor name Diana Hacker at Prince George’s Community College, most English sentences conform to one of the five patterns: subject/verb/direct object; subject/verb/subject complement; subject/verb/indirect object/ direct object; subject/verb/direct object/ object complement; and subject/verb (whew!).

      Does this pretty much cover the basics? Should I also mind phrases, clauses, and other their variations and functions in a sentence?

  33. Cheryll Anderl said,

    Thx for information.

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