As you may or may not know, you are graded on a numerical scale throughout your entire time spent at Officer Candidates School in Quantico. Out of the total 100 point scale, your academics count for 25%, a true make or break portion of your overall experience at Marine OCS. For a full breakdown of the grading process at Officer Candidates School, check out the official Candidate Regulations. According to the official Marine Officer website,
“You’ll study topics such as land navigation, maneuver tactics and general orders, then apply what you’ve learned during tactical exercises. You’ll also study Marine Corps history, traditions, operations and organization.”
For some candidates, the academics portion comes easy, acting as a cushion for shortcomings in PT or in the leadership grades. For other candidates, the academics at Marine OCS severely brings down their overall grade, even causing some candidates to be kicked out of OCS entirely. So how do you adequately prepare to avoid the terrible fate of failing in academics? Here are a few suggestions that helped me to achieve success academically.
- First off, I’ll say this. The academics portion was the easiest part of OCS for me. I was able to average over a 95% collectively on all of the tests, simply because I found the information interesting, which helped me to retain it well. Many candidates struggled taking tests, simply because they didn’t find the information interesting or enjoyable. Find some entertainment or interest in the material you read and memorizing/learning it will become much easier. For me, studying Marine Corps history, tactics and weapons safety was interesting and motivating because every Marine Officer needs to have that basic knowledge to be successful. Find a driving force to motivate your studying and just do it!
- Study when you have the time! I can’t emphasize this enough. I knew a lot of candidates who procrastinated studying, didn’t study thoroughly, etc. They thought they were saving time by getting extra sleep, writing letters home, whatever the case was. However, when these candidates failed the test (a failing score is below 80), they had to re-take the tests right before we were released for liberty on Saturday. So while some candidates procrastinated and had to re-take the tests on Saturday right before liberty, other candidates that actually worked hard studying were sitting in the squad bay hanging out, cleaning, or practicing the Obstacle course with the physical training instructors (I chose to do this since I had trouble with the college boy roll).
- Study efficiently, take the test efficiently! For some candidates, taking tests was the most stressful time at Marine OCS. For me, it was one of the more relaxing times. When you take tests at Officer Candidates School, you are actually able to SLEEP when you are finished with your test. The time allotted to take exams is usually much longer than the average person needs, so after I completed my exams, I would put my head down and take a nap for 15-20 minutes. I’m not recommending you rush through your tests simply to take a nap because your tired, but if you handle your studying like you should and take the test in an efficient manner, you’ll be able to rest your eyes for a few precious minutes!
- If you fail, don’t give up! If you fail a test at Offficer Candidates School, don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. There are certain tests where the majority of your platoon will fail, so you certainly won’t be the only one. However, when you fail, don’t get down on yourself. Use your shortcomings as motivation for future success and study harder for future exams.