The purpose of the DLAB is to test a service member’s capability to learn a language. It gives the military an ability to depict with some certainty whether or not the service member has a better chance of surviving a school like the Defense Language Institute (DLI) or not.
Just because you didn’t score high enough does not mean you can’t learn a language. As a matter of fact, I personally have seen low scoring members do better than high scoring members. However, because the test exists, the military has a means in which they can say they did their best to select the best members for the job.
Let’s look at it from the military’s point of view. To send a soldier/sailor/airmen to DLI is extremely expensive. If the member is attending Chinese or any other Cat 4 language, then they must be there for over a year. That is a year in which they can’t use the member and must pay them to attend a school. Therefore, it is imperative that they attempt to send the right people for the job and must do their best to find some way to depict who has the best chance to succeed in an environment like DLI.
If you are a member applying for the Olmsted Scholarship or to desiring to enter the Foreign Area Officer Program, then your scores can be a way in which the military can compare people from completely two different experiences and backgrounds. If it’s a close call between two candidates, they can always look at the scores and choose the one that has the higher DLAB scores. It might be unfair but it just goes to show how important that DLAB score can be.
So remember, the DLAB isn’t a perfect indicator of whether or not you can learn a language, it just gives the military an ability to determine which candidates are better suited for the rigors of language study and in no means determines you intelligences. Also, keep in mind that you can re-take the test every 6 months. So just test early and test often because the military will use your best score.