OCS in Review: Academics

Although I’m done with OCS, I will be writing a few more posts to help out future candidates. Basically, these are the posts that have been requested, or that I just wish I had to read before OCS.

[Please see the update of this page, which includes real OCS academics for you to study ahead!]

Although much of the time at OCS is spent in classroom time, and academics are 25% of candidates’ final grades, tests are probably one of the easiest challenges to overcome at OCS. Academic failures do send some candidates home, but in my experience leadership and physical fitness send more.

Academics takes a very routine process at OCS, not unlike in the rest of the Marine Corps.  The stages are illustrated here:

Death By Powerpoint

  • Classes are given by enlisted and officers who are knowledgeable in the particular subject with cookie-cutter outline powerpoints.  Sometimes dry, these lessons are one of the enjoyable things about OCS for the optimistic candidate.  I at least kept a good attitude about them throughout.
This Blog's Author (Left) Reading While Awaiting Initial Haircut

This Blog's Author (Left) Reading While Awaiting Initial Haircut


  • All candidates are given a book, called your Knowledge, and expected to study at night and at certain scheduled times of study, which are very helpful.  It merely contains outlines of all the same powerpoints given by the instructors.

Informal discussions in the squad bay

  • Different staff members, including your sergeant instructors will have more informal lessons involving more questions-answer sessions and discussion in the squad bay after a few weeks.  In my opinion, these were very helpful if somewhat long-winded, and you get treated like near-adults sometimes in these discussions.  When the sergeant instructors tell stories of the fleet or their personal experiences, I remember paying rapt attention.  Good training.

Prac Apps

  • Practical application, or Prac Apps, are usually outdoor exercises where you can learn hands-on skills taught first by powerpoint lecture, for example, fireteam and squad tactics, rifle skills, and compass skills taught by more personable instructors than your SIs. For example, the Land Nav staff gives you a few lectures on how to navigate, then the whole company practices using compasses on a smaller outdoor course, then there is a larger course which is the tested grade for Land Nav, for example.
  • Prac Apps are invaluable if you learn better by doing than by hearing, which is my personal style.  Pay attention!

Multiple Choice Tests

  • All tests are conducted in the classroom, multiple choice style using bubble sheets.

Parents "Enjoy" Some Family Day Powerpoint


  • Review ahead of the test, by reading your Knowledge.  An hour or two the night or two before the test is usually sufficient if you have been making use of scheduled study time.
  • Use flash cards and keep them in your pocket for if you’re standing in line anywhere, no one will say it’s wrong to review for a test.  They take academics seriously, and I NEVER saw an SI mess with someone for working on their academics, even in waiting times for other events.
  • Once again, make use of scheduled study time!  Many candidates struggled to stay awake during the study sessions we had; my opinion is that studying hard and focusing during the day allows for more sleep at night.
  • Study extra for the General Military Subject tests, and for any extra large tests.  There was about a 60% failure rate for the first General Military Subjects test–you don’t want that to be you!

19 comments on “OCS in Review: Academics

  1. Chris says:

    This whole blog is great, do you think you will be adding anything about your experiences in TBS?

  2. Probably not. I might do an update or two, though just for human interest sake. The main point of the blog is to help one prepare for OCS. Really, OCS prepares you totally for TBS so there’s not such a big need for it.

  3. Wisconsin Gent says:

    Interesting blog. Please do continue with some about TBS.

  4. Sam says:

    How many people were dropped in your class?

  5. Dave says:

    Is there any place I could buy the “knowledge” book? Or anything else that would allow me to prepare for the academic phase?

  6. Sorry, I can’t find anywhere you can buy the book, but now and then OCS grads will put theirs up on ebay actually. The first week of TBS, you get an OCS review test; you could get a leg up by studying that review information. It’s available on the pdf link below:

    Click to access zero%20week.pdf

    Originally from this page:


  7. John says:

    “following to qualify: SAT score of 1000 or higher, ACT score of 22 or higher, or ASVAB score of 74 or higher.”

    for the SAT’s Does the 1000 include the written essay? or just the Reading and English?

  8. That would be the old SAT, not counting the newer writing section–good question.

  9. Steve Lavoie says:

    Do you know of any Candidates coming from the other services? I am currently an Airman and have been trying to find information on commissioning in the Marine Corps.

  10. John says:

    What would you take SAT, ACT, ASVAB. Believe it or not, I already graduated from college I didn’t have to take the SATs to get in I went to NEIT then transfered to another college were i got my BOS degree.
    My OSO wants me to take the ACT or SATs any suggestions. Funny havent had a Math class in like 5 years… need to brush up… is it really hard to score a 1000 on the SAT or 22 on the ACT? Example, my little brother scored a 1300 on the SAT but that was including the written essay… is that good enough for Marine Corps OCS?

    Also, how long does the OCS application process really take. I had one guy at my OSO station came to the office in Aug and went to OCS in Oct…

  11. fritz says:

    1.Do they have a lot of math in there? 2.BTW do we really need a 4 year college degree? 3.Do they have MATH,SCIENCE and HISTORY in academics?4. What other subjects do they have in academics? 5.Do they just need a college diploma?6.What is the age limit? 7.What if your not an american but a US citizen,can you be accepted? 8.What if you graduate college from other country,do they accept you?

  12. 1. No math at OCS. Some basic math tests before OCS if you want to be a pilot.
    2. Yes, a diploma from a 4 year college.
    3. History of the Marine Corps only–this isn’t general educational classes, it’s about the Marines, how to be a Marine, and military skills.
    4. Navigation, learning about weapons and tactics a little bit, leadership, Marine Corps history and culture, etc.
    5. You have to graduate college, give them a copy of your diploma and GPA.
    6. I don’t think there are hard age limits.
    7. Yes.
    8. Go to MarineOfficer.com, and ask for more information for the last question.

  13. bobby says:

    Is there a high graduating percentage. Like did most people who started finish

  14. Approximately 2/3rds of the males made it through. 82% of the women did NOT make it through, then a majority of them went to Mike Co. at TBS instead of picking up to recover from injuries.

  15. Sir,

    I am a retired Marine Officer and I enjoy your blog. You have a photo on your blog of Marines running in formation that I would like to include on my website that is currently being built. I am the co-author of Count Cadence Count and Count Cadence Count Part II. You may have seen these books at Quantico if you ever went into Bolognese’s. Thanks.

    Semper Fi,

    John Engstrom
    MAJ (LDO) USMC Ret.

  16. Thank you sir, all the photographs on the site of formation running were from OCS’s website so they are public domain. Enjoy, Semper Fi!

  17. LT,

    Outstanding! Thank you so much. I hope to have my website http://www.countcadencecount.com up and running in about two weeks. I’ll keep reading your blog. Best of luck in your Marine Corps career.

    Semper Fi,

    John Engstrom
    MAJ (LDO) USMC Ret.

  18. SRollins says:

    How concerned should I be about my Land Navigation knowledge prior to OCC? I’ve taken a couple of classes recently and try to study the material, but it is an area in which I’m not my most confident. I realize Land Nav. will be tought @ OCS, how difficult was the subect in your opinion?

    Thank you again for taking the time to answer this question. I’m hoping (fingers crossed) for OCC 208 in June!

    Best Regards

  19. SRollins,

    I would not be too worried about Land Nav ahead of time. OCS only teaches the basics: at TBS you will get into quite challenging Land Nav. At OCS they will teach you everything you need to know and have lots of practice for you to do. Summer is harder than Fall, however, due to the increased foliage. So don’t walk too far or fast and miss your point due to the foliage obscuration!

    Good luck

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