Last-Minute Tips for Taking the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam

A sailor reads Navy-Wide Advancement Exam instructions.
A sailor reads instructions to participants of the Navy-wide advancement exam on the mess decks. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zack Guth/U.S. Navy)

So you’ve been studying for months. You’ve dedicated many hours to reading the material every weekend, made flashcards, read the pubs, reread the pubs, quizzed yourself and packed every technical manual you have into your brain.

However, there’s one final thing you need to do before you take the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam: relax.

All of the hard work you’ve put into studying won’t make a difference if you show up to the exam completely exhausted, full of brain fog, starving and overall not mentally prepared to actually apply all of the knowledge you’ve gained.

Here are a few last-minute, self-care steps that are vital to take both the day before and the day of the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam:

Get Some Sleep, Sailor

The first step to showing up ready to demonstrate your knowledge is to make sure that you are well-rested and focused for the exam. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before the test can help your mind focus and recall more information during the actual exam.

Don’t swap your sleep for last-minute cramming. If you’re on duty the night before the test, talk to your chief about taking the night off to prepare for the exam. Study, then go to bed. After all, they’ve been there before, and they want you to get promoted, too. Don’t be afraid to ask for this when you need it.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast

On the morning of the exam, skip the doughnuts, syrup-laden waffles and all of the other sugary breakfast treats from the Galley. Yes, sugar makes you feel more awake at first, but then, unfortunately, the inevitable crash it causes could impact your memory-recall abilities by the middle of the exam.

Some better “brain food” options you should consider eating include: eggs, oatmeal, nuts, yogurt and cheese. These foods can give you that much-needed mental energy and stamina to make it through the morning without crashing or becoming hungry halfway through the test.

Don’t Be Late

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing Naval Station Norfolk’s gates at 0630 in the morning when more than three carriers are in port, you’ll know that traffic can be either painfully unpredictable or predictably painful on a military base. For that reason, leave a little early and arrive at the test with plenty of time to spare. Plus, if you are a last-second crammer, leaving early will allow you to get there a few minutes before the exam begins, allowing you some extra cram time on your phone while you’re waiting to be let inside.

Extra Tips for Zero Hour

At this point, you’re awake, you’re there, and you’re full of energy and knowledge, ready to take the exam. Make sure you’re taking the correct exam, that your bubbles are filled in completely, and that you erase any stray marks on your paper. However, there are still a few things you can do to maximize your performance on the exam:

Scratch Paper: Your Secret Advantage

The Navy gives everyone scratch paper when they take the exam, but unfortunately, not many test-takers use it.

What benefit can scratch paper give? First of all, If your rate utilizes a lot of math, you’ll need that extra writing space to figure out some of the work. Also, scratch paper is a place to regurgitate a host of last-minute information you just stuffed into your brain pre-exam. When the test begins, take a minute or two to write out formulas or other items on the scratch paper that you could have trouble remembering later (such as the things you just memorized via your phone before walking in the door).

During your exam, you could draw a box on your sheet of paper in the corner and write any question number in it that you don’t want to spend too much time on; that way, you can move on and come back to it later (just be careful, and make sure that you are skipping a row on your answer sheet whenever you do this).

You can also ask other sailors about the exam who have taken it a few times. They will tell you that questions in the first half of the exam will often get answered by the content included in other questions later on, so it’s always helpful to skip some, then come back to them later.

Finally, if you’re a hands-on learner, you may better recall a concept by doodling, drawing or writing words related to the question on the scratch paper to help jog your memory. That can be especially useful if you went through the same process while learning the material for the exam.

Compare Question Numbers and Answer Rows Often

It can happen: You skip a question on the exam to come back to later, but you forget to skip the answer-sheet row to accommodate it. Now, 75 questions later, you realize your mistake, and you start to completely panic.

A little prevention can help you to avoid this problem. Make a point to verify your question and answer alignment every 10 questions. That provides you with a little mental break between sets and keeps any potential mistakes from turning into a 120-question, erase-and-remark situation.

Take Your Time

You have three hours to take the exam, so make sure that you use every minute. After all, you have dedicated a lot of time to studying for this test, so don’t cheat yourself out of the opportunity to give everything you’ve got back to it in return.

If you’ve ever rushed through an exam, but then suddenly remember what the answer “should have been” on the way back to your car, you’ll understand that using just a little more time on a test can help you recall more information. Many tests include questions that are related to each other, too, so if you’re stumped on a question early on, another portion of the test may jog your memory later, so don’t worry. Remember not to rush and take your time to go through the exam, question by question, and make sure to give each answer the time it deserves.

Read, Then Read Again

Nothing is more frustrating than thinking you have the right answer, only to find out you answered the wrong question. Did you read that last sentence of the question correctly, or did you read it how you thought it should be read?

When you read a question, don’t rush to answer it on paper. If you know the material, you’ll know the answer before you look at the answer options, which can confirm your understanding. If you aren’t quite sure about your answer, sometimes reading the answer options will jog your memory, or at least help you narrow down the type of answer that the test creators were looking for.

In either case, once you have selected an answer, read the question again just to make sure the answer in your head matches what the test actually asked you. Look out for words and phrases like “not” and “all but which of the following,” which can entirely change what the question could be asking for.

Another thing to look out for is questions that include more than one answer that seems correct. The question could actually be asking, “Which of the following is NOT …” instead of what you first think it says. Overall, just be cautious when answering questions that could be designed to trick you into selecting the wrong answer. Reading the question details is very important for this exam.

Take Notes

Of course, we’re not talking about taking notes during the exam but, rather, after. Every Navy mission has a post-event debrief, and so should your Advancement Exam. You’ve dedicated countless hours to studying for this test, so why not take 30 minutes afterward to help yourself out the next time?

The exam questions are grouped by topic (from your bibliography), and the most important topic has the most questions. This results in having, at first, a lot of questions about the same topic, then there’s an abrupt shift into another topic with slightly fewer questions until all of your topics have been addressed.

After the exam, take a look at the bibliography subtopics for the exam and write down which topics you think you did well on and which topics you wish you had had more time to study. This post-exam debrief is a great way to track how you think you did on the test and help plan for your next study session. Even if you know you did great on the exam, limited quotas and other manning issues could mean a very small percentage of test-takers actually get advanced. Take notes on what topics you did well on, which ones needed work and which books from your bibs could have helped with your “needs work” topics.

After you write all of this down, email these notes to your private email address with a calendar invite to remind yourself of what you need to study after the next set of bibs is officially released.

Learn More About the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam

Need more help with the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam? Check out Bluejacketeer, which gathers and prepares material for your rating with a convenient mobile app and offline study mode so you can learn anywhere.

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