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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!