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 bypowerpoint 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.