OCS Questions and Answers

Q: I have a question about the PFT and the CFT. Are the events (like pull-up, 3 mile run and crunches) back to back or is there a rest period in between?

A: I have always gotten enough time to catch my breath, get some water and even do a little quick stretching in between. At OCS, you will have so much time in between events that the worry is muscles cooling too much if it is winter or fall, in my opinion. They take a few minutes to total everyone’s scores and give instructions for the following event. Same for the PFT & CFT.

The Combat Fitness Test (CFT): an awesome, quick workout, day or night

Q: Do you recommend CrossFit also to prepare for Marine Corps OCS?

A: Crossfit is a great workout program and might help some get ready for OCS (hey, better than nothing) but in my opinion, it does not prepare you for most OCS workouts except indirectly. I definitely do not recommend it for everybody. I would say to most people, you need to work on your bodyweight exercises for sure, and need lots of running for starters. After OCS, I highly recommend Crossfit for your general fitness.

The best OCS preparation workouts are OCS workouts.

Q: I was planning to go this summer to OCS. Do you know if the OSO’s really strict on speeding tickets?

A: Speeding tickets aren’t a big deal until you get one during OCS on libo! I had two on my record and no one said anything about them (you should report them to your OSO.)

Q: I know I need a better PFT score. What helped you bring up your pull-ups?

A: What helped me with pull-ups was doing the Armstrong program (click for link.)

I hope all you Crossfitters are doing full dead hang pull ups. No kipping allowed!

I also began incorporating weighted pull ups as I could do 20, 21, 22 reliably. Top Ten Pull Up Strength Builders.

Q: What was the gas chamber experience like?

A: Only enlisted do the gas chamber during boot camp. After OCS (OFFICER Candidate School) comes TBS, The Basic School for new 2nd Lieutenants, and it is there that we do the gas chamber. It sucked, but worrying ahead of time didn’t seem to help at all.

Q: Looking back on your experience, how much “knowledge” did you memorize before going down to OCS? Knowing what you know now, what would you advise others to learn?

A: I memorized a fair amount, but would recommend more.  I failed one test at OCS and had to take it again on the weekend. Memorize everything you can that I have posted on the site!

Q: I am going to OCS on the Bulldog program. I currently have a 279 PFT but am more concerned with keeping up with humps (the farthest we have gone is about 9-10 miles), and improving on the CFT. I’ve been Crossfitting for about a year but your suggestions seem a lot more applicable. My main question is, how often should each of these workouts be done per week?

A: Alex, crossfit is a good workout, but it is not the USMC OCS workouts–these are. Usually, I would say, do these workouts as much as you can. Most non-Marines/non-crossfitters would not have the discipline to be able to match the OCS intensity of them, but perhaps that wouldn’t be your problem.
So give yourself a day or two of rest a week, that’s just my recommendation but if you do get out there and work out 5 days a week, you won’t be sorry. That’s about the frequency we were doing it at OCS.

Also, I had never humped before in my life–they break you into it. First was a 4 miler, then 6, then 9 then 12. Each time I was more confident and ready than the last. If you want to load up a pack and put on your boots and head out to practice, feel free. The preparation will be mostly mental because I assure you, these workouts will strengthen your body enough.

Candidates at OCS perform the side plank. If you’re not doing this ahead of time as part of your workout, prepare for pain.

Q: I plan on becoming an officer, but where do I learn cadences? Or do you learn them at OCS?

A: Excellent question. You will pick some up at OCS but I remember candidates calling cadences on almost our very first runs already.

I highly recommend getting a cd of them or mp3s, and running while memorizing them. That’s what I did and I wished I had learned more ahead of time.
More at Becoming an Officer

Marine Corps Cadences
Put these on your ipod!

Try to memorize 3-4 at a minimum ahead of time, as time allows.

Q: I plateaued at about 10 pull-ups inboard, no matter the program, so I switched to outboard and went from 1 to 9 in only two or three weeks.

My problem, though, is that I got these thick calluses on the balls of my palms, from when the skin get pinched when doing the pull-ups. They hurt and end up decreasing my numbers, no matter whether I use a padded bar or not.

A: Plateauing and the callus pain are common problems, actually both of which I’ve experienced.

Plateauing: if you can do 10 or more pullups, I recommend doing weighted pullups. Read up on the Armstrong Pullup Program Advanced, which incorporates weighted pullups and is designed for someone who’s plateaued like yourself. See how that works for you. It got me from about 18-22 pullups.

Calluses: Padding on the bar never helped me. What did help was using athletic tape and building up a larger, tape-covered bar. I don’t know exactly why, but that felt much nicer on my hands. You can also try chaulk or lifting gloves, which I settled on. I actually ended up getting gel-filled fingerless bike racer gloves (think Lance Armstrong) and using them on my pullups. When you’re doing hundreds a week, it adds up. Good luck, stay consistent in your work!

Get past Pullup Plateau

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

At pickup, a female sergeant instructor screams at a female candidate
A Sergeant Instructor informs a female candidate that statistically speaking, her chances of making it are not good

A: In my class, 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. (the waiting company) at TBS instead of picking up to recover from injuries. These numbers were for fall OCC–they are worse in winter

Q: Do you get time to practice the Obstacle Course to get good at it?

A: You will run it MANY MANY times before the final graded, timed event.  If you are one of the candidates who has a problem on ropes, they will get you special times to practice the rope climb every week.  I think just about no one failed the O Course when I was there–they help you quite a bit.  Not in the most polite manner possible, but they help you.

Q: What are some of the biggest reasons for getting dropped from OCS?

A: There are a host of reasons to leave OCS. I’ll list the ones I’ve seen. In no particular order: sickness or injury (common), lack of physical stamina, poor leadership, academic failure (rare), stupidity (common). Let me explain stupidity. Some candidates drink on their Liberty, or sleep in and fail to show up on time at the end of Liberty.  Some decided to sleep at night instead of do work and preparation for upcoming events. Physical preparation, catching up on sleep ahead of time, and doing what academic work you can ahead of time will cover all your bases. Not being a stupid person and avoiding freak injuries is between you and your Maker.

Q: How to prepare for SULE, LRC or other Leadership Challenges? How to prepare mentally?

A: First, don’t worry about these events. If you have Marine Corps Officer potential, OCS will ably prepare you for each challenge before testing you. Secondly, I don’t want to give an undeserving candidate a huge edge to succeed at OCS, and become an officer just because he got more gouge ahead of time.

If you are a deserving officer, you’ll make it fine with the amount of advice up on the site. Your leadership will be tested appropriately, and I don’t want anyone with poor leadership to succeed just because they “cheated” the system.

A candidate navigates the Quigley in winter

Any other questions?

Just ask them as a comment and they will be answered!


385 thoughts on “OCS Questions and Answers

  1. My son just got dropped from PLC juniors for academic failure… 75 average. He was top in the company for physical fitness and was actually ranked 20 overall in his platoon. What are the chances of him being able to reapply to the program and be accepted? I should mention that he is only 19 and was told many times during his 5 weeks there that he needs to mature.

    1. Jon,
      They should have given him a good idea of his chances to reapply when they dropped him. It’s hard to get into OCS one time now, much less get a chance to reapply after being dropped with those issues, so I would consider myself lucky if I got a second chance after that. If maturity was such an issue, he may not be officer material right now.

  2. Sir,
    I am currently a sophomore in high school and I have wanted to join the Marine Corps as a pilot since I was six. I have family members in the Marine Corps and one who went to OCS in 1998. Has OCS changed much since then from a PT aspect and just in general? Also, I have read that basically anyone with above a 2.0gpa in college and considered in “excellent physical condition” gets into PLC with an air contract, is this true?. Thank You.

  3. To your knowledge, to what extent does age play a factor in selection? I’m 26 currently and will be 27 when my application is sent in, and am curious as to whether my age is a detriment, or if it could be viewed as a positive given my “resume” since graduating college (or if it varies from board to board).

  4. Hello Sir-

    I am a contracted applicant for PLC. My issue is I occasionally get shin splints. My question, and I’m sorry if this has been answered elsewhere on the site, is how often are these 3 to 5 mile runs done? Or about how many miles per week are ran?

    Thank you!

  5. First: This blog is awesome! I don’t think I’ve ever loved Google so much (that’s how I got here).

    So, questions. I am currently a (female) Freshman in high school and, from what I’ve read, have a horrible application outlook. I go to a private school (with cliques), and I’m kind of an unpopular outcast, so even though I run and have good credentials for leaderships spots, I don’t get them because of my social standing. How much will it hurt me if I don’t have any ‘official’ leadership positions on my application?

    My grades are good, I only have Bs in two classes (the rest are As) and I believe I can maintain or improve that through the rest of high school and college. I’m not sure what GPA that is, but does having a higher GPA give you a leg up when applying?

    Does ROTC help your getting into/ability to make it through PLC/OCC?

    Above everything, I want to be a Marine officer and lead to the best of my ability, but I also really, really, really (really) want to get MOS 5803 (military police) at TBS, but I noticed that there generally aren’t many spots open. If, during college, I were to major in Law Enforcement, would that up my chances?

    When do you recommend talking to my local OSO?

    Who are the best people to get your recommendations from?

    Is there anything you suggest bringing to PLC/OCS besides what’s on the packing list?

    To set up an appointment with an OSO, do you just call your local recruiter’s office?

    Do officers still drop out/get dropped during TBS?

    Do candidates still go through MEPS, ASVAB, etc.?

    Do officers/candidates get the same qualifications as enlisted Marines between OCS/PLC and TBS?

    Is there a ‘best way’ to cut down on your 3 mile run time? Mine’s at 27-33 minutes right now and it needs a lot of work.

    Lastly: I’ve told my mother that I plan on joining the Marines, but I don’t think she believes me and I don’t know how to show her that I really mean it. I’m not sure if she’s just in denial or if she actually has that little faith in me, but how can I make her see just how much this means to me?

    I know this is a lot of questions and I’m not sure how many you’ll be able to answer, but thank you for taking the time to read this.

  6. Is the Reserve or Army/Air Guard OCS different than active duty OCS? Are they different in how hard it is to get accepted?

  7. Are nationally accredited schools acceptable for OCS? I’ve seen that regionally accredited schools are accepted, but if this is true I don’t see why a DETC nationally accredited school would not be acceptable. The university I plan on finishing my bachelors degree in is Henley Putnam University; however this school is only nationally accredited and is pursuing a regional accreditation. Do you have any information on this topic? For example: If it is not acceptable now would it become acceptable if while I was working toward my bachelors it achieved regional accreditation?
    Any info would be greatly appreciated.
    Sgt T. J. Payne

  8. I am going to meet my OSO next week for our first meeting. I have read up on what I need to be prepared for and I have done everything I can to be sure I am as prepared as possible and ready to make a good impression. My only question is this- what do you suggest for me to wear as a female? While looking on line I have seen thousands of suggestions all over the place for males- but nothing for females. I have been using your blog to kind of guide my way over the past few months and was hoping you still actively checked here so that I could get some insight! My meeting is Tuesday afternoon! Thanks

      1. Thank you so much for the quick reply! I was worried about coming across as “too feminine” if I wore what I would normally wear to a job interview. I definitely want to set the bar high and leave a good impression!

  9. I’m not sure if you will see this due to how far back this goes, but I am a recent recipient of the NROTC scholarship for Marines. I know I attend OCS the summer before my senior year of college and the summer cruises the summers before then. I was just curious as to what all I need to do these next three years to be the best I can be as a female at OCS. I am a commited college cross country and track runner and I have a 290 PFT, so the physical side im just planning on implementing more rigorous workouts. Other than that, what else should I do preparation wise?

    Thank you for your service.

    1. Belle, great job on your physical fitness! Keep it up!
      Your priority should be to maximize your leadership potential as soon as possible. Get involved in clubs, organizations, start your own business, lead a volunteer group, organize anything. And keep track of your leadership experiences for your resume. Get obsessed about reading and studying leadership. You can grow so much over the next couple years, but it’s all on you. Best of luck.

    1. You’ll be an air contract going through a normal PLC class. If sick or injured, you can get some time to heal/recover at OCS, but if you miss too much training you will get dropped. It usually is with an official recommendation to reapply, but that’s not a guarantee.
      Great idea on the beginner pushup routine. We’ll make one just for OCS soon but in the meantime just do your own research and see what you can come up with!

  10. Hello Sir,

    I am a sophomore at college and am very seriously considering PLC. I’m not currently at the required physical fitness level, but I am already physically fit and I am pretty sure that if I work hard enough at it (I’d have a trainer as well), I can pass that. My SAT was above 1900 and my ACT was above 30. My GPA is about 3.8. I have no criminal record. My biggest concern at this point is passing the interview/screening/mental and moral evaluation. I am secretary/treasurer for a club at college, I help lead a Bible study, and I was an assistant karate instructor in high school (earned my black belt, too), but those are my only leadership qualifications. Do you think that is sufficient leadership? How difficult would it be for a female with my credentials to get accepted at this point? Thank you so much for you time.

    1. Frankly, that’s a very strong position. You have excellent chances if you get your PFT to 295+.
      Consider opportunities of mentorship and coaching when trying to figure out other ways to boost your leadership. Volunteering to mentor incarcerated juveniles, with Big Brothers Big Sisters, or teaching Sunday school can translate very well to leadership potential in the Marines, and will be recognized.
      For the mental aspect, consider interviewing former Marines and immersing yourself in the USMC culture (start with the book list and the videos we recommend). You’ll get there.
      Now push yourself towards a 300 PFT!

  11. I’ve got a question for you about options for reservists. I contracted back in early January for the reserve option and when I contracted, I had completed my undergrad and was job searching. I therefore indicated to my OSO that MOS was a higher priority than location, but lo and behold, about 3 weeks later I received and accepted a job offer. I discussed it with my OSO afterward and he indicated that if I needed to change the contract to indicate that location was the priority, it could be arranged at a later time. I heard back from him yesterday and I will be attending OCS this summer. Do you have any idea if there is any flexibility in that portion of the contract beyond this point? While my OSO indicated yes, I can’t help but hear a faint voice in my ear saying something like “needs of the Corps”. I have no qualms about moving again – I’m ready to meet those needs when and where they arise, but it would be incredibly inconvenient for my civilian employer.

    Additionally, I’m down to about 9 weeks to finish preparing for the course. I asked my OSO yesterday to manufacture an “additional 9 weeks in hell” worth of workouts, but what would your thoughts on that type of time frame? My last PFT was a 275 with 100 crunches, 20 pullups, and a 22:05 3-mile, so obviously copious cardio and that list that is posted above that indicates milestones to pass prior to OCS will be a must and also the OCS type workouts listed (PPPA, Fartlek). Beyond those, any advice would be helpful.


  12. I had a question about weight standards if you show up at OCS overweight and can’t tape out are you sent home? I am not overweight but am 64 in and weight 159 the problem is I have a muscular butt a skinny neck and small waist at 28in but have to be at 26in to tape out and I will def continue trying to lose weight and lifting less but I don’t want to get sent home after the initial weigh in at OCS

  13. Currently on Libo- Class 220:

    A lot has changed from the previous class of 220 due to the new CO of OCS. Among things that have changed: ACADEMICS- The study guides here are great, but you need to study the information in the packet they give you here. Some of it is very detailed. **** FOR CLASS 220- IF YOU FAIL A TEST, THERE ARE NO RE-TAKES*****

    You are capped at 2 essay’s per week. A lot of guys are having to re-write essays because they are not following the instructions provided in the candidate regs you receive upon arrival.

    KNOW THESE REGULATIONS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. You’ll have ample time to read through the regs, and I know it is a stressful time but really read everything in detail. Read everything in detail. Pay attention to detail. Did this candidate mention that attention to detail is important? It is, and you’ll write a few essays on why paying attention to detail is important.

    Selected candidates: Get boots, run in them, toughen your feet and body. This candidate is unsure if the bates lites will be allowed in the future- there are scuttlebutts going around that they won’t be. Run in boots, though.

    Liberty is securing soon, best guys and gals!

  14. I am 15 years of age, and I am very interested in becoming a United States Marine Officer. I am a female, and I am aware of all the negative statistics and news. I feel very strong about this; however, and I would like to prove myself. Do you have any advice for me in preparation or any high school classes that might be offered that I could take? I appreciate your time. This website is a very helpful tool. Thank you.
    God Bless.

  15. Sir,

    First of all, thank you for putting together such a comprehensive resource about USMC OCS – I wish there were similar resources half as comprehensive for the other services. I feel much more well-informed even after an hour on this site.

    I am a 22 year-old recent college graduate exploring the possibility of commissioning as a USMC officer. I hadn’t considered the military as a career until I had the opportunity to work on a team with several retired Marines, both former officers and enlisted last year (and I’m kicking myself now for never having considered NROTC or PLC). Academically, I think I would be a competitive applicant. I have a 3.75+ GPA from a top-tier university, several leadership positions in large student organizations, and professional experience with defense through internships. I interview well, and could probably line up stellar recommendations from a former USMC general officer and a civilian DASD that I worked for.

    Unfortunately, I injured my shoulder in a biking accident a couple of months back. The doc diagnosed me with a torn labrum, which will require arthroscopic surgery next month. The good news is that almost all patients recover from the surgery with full mobility and shoulder strength. The bad news is that the healing process will take up to six months, including 1-2 with my arm in a sling where I’m not even allowed to jog/do core exercises. Physically, having never seriously considered military service until only a few months ago, I was way behind the curve to begin with, and probably would have missed the minimum standards even before the injury. I was particularly bad on pull-ups and upper body strength.

    Since I’m only 22, I’m in no hurry to put in a package and I am not under any financial pressure to join up immediately. I’m fairly certain that I have the will and capability to improve my PFT once my shoulder heals, assuming no complications from the surgery and an aggressive physical therapy regimen. That said, I also don’t want to waste too much time on a pipe dream. Would shoulder surgery automatically disqualify me? What should I tell my surgeon and physical therapists before and after the surgery to minimize my chances of getting medically disqualified later on, especially with regards to the paperwork they record for the surgery? Also, would it be wise to put off talking to an OSO until after I recover, or can I talk to one now? If I need to wait, when should I make initial contact with an OSO? I don’t want to burn any bridges for a future application or make a bad first impression with my shoulder, especially since it will be six months before I can even start training, but I would also prefer to make an introduction sooner rather than later to start the process

    Thank you so much for your help!

    1. I’m not sure if this is still an open question for you or not, being 2 months later but in case you still need it:

      Shoulder injuries are a total absolute mother fucker for USMC. I had a torn labrum maybe 6 years ago, no surgery, just PT. I cannot tell you how long it took to get the waivers for this. I was originally applying for OCS while also talking to enlisted recruiters. I had to go down to Quantico to see the head doc who ran me through tests to recommend that I be eligible for service. Then I had to get BUMED approved. I got rejected for the enlisted side and somehow got approved for the officer side. Obviously anything is possible, it took me so long to get the approval for everything, but shoulder injuries DQ a lot of people from the Marines from who I’ve talked to. It’s case by case though I believe so you’d have to talk to an OSO or see what BUMED says. You’ll automatically need a waiver at least. Let me know if you want to know more.

  16. Sir,

    First off, this thread has been incredibly informative and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed.
    I just completed my third year of college on track to graduate May 2017.
    Current GPA: 3.34, BA History major, x2 Deans List.
    I have completed two internships and am just starting my third. My first internship was with the Navy as is my current, the second being with a think tank. I have roughly 20 hours of volunteer experience under my belt (not a lot, I know. But I will get more).
    I will be able to get 3 good LOR from active and prior service members.

    I am 5’10 and weigh 150lbs, I have always been on the skinny side. My physical fitness is not great as it is (50 push ups, 26 min 3 mile time, 8 pull ups). My goal is to achieve ATLEAST a 290 on the PFT which I know I can do.

    I had shoulder surgery over a year ago and broke my wrist in high school, both injuries are FULLY healed. My OSO assured me waivers on these injuries would not be difficult to attain. I have a tattoo on my back (not huge), and was also informed this waiver would not be difficult to attain. I am planning to go with a ground contract.

    Based on this information, how good are my acceptance chances? The earliest I can apply is March 2017.



    1. Jeff, I went through OCS with a couple hundred guys and they came in between 5’7″ and 6’4″. Most everyone was in extremely good physical condition. If anything, some guys probably came in too muscular and didn’t have enough body fat to endure the program. Having low body fat with high degree of muscular development means your body is ‘needy’ and requires a specific mix of protein/complex carb on a regular schedule. Like another guy wrote earlier: “come in with a little extra body fat because you need to have some to lose… ” Your height and weight aren’t necessarily a problem but if you can get up to 170 lbs that will help you. Your physical fitness MUST be great. Must be stellar. For example, on a relatively flat 3 mile road course in shorts, t-shirt and sneakers – there were probably a dozen guys coming in under 18 minutes. They were the superstars – probably former middle distance runners in school. The vast majority of the rest were 18-21 minutes. The 20% of guys that finished over 21 minutes had a problem in general. Because if a young guy who wants to be a Marine Corps Officer doesn’t have the discipline to get his 3 mile under 21 minutes, probably doesn’t have the discipline to do a lot of other physical and mental tasks required at OCS. The guys that wanted to go Infantry (self-declared at that early stage!) better run in the high-teens if they wanted respect.

    2. Hello Jeff,

      I believe you can get a 290! You got this! I will tell you that I am 5’10 and weigh 139 lbs. My PFT is a 290 (20 pull-ups, 100 sit-ups, 19:45 3-mile on last testing a couple of weeks ago).

      My OSO informed me a few days ago that I was selected for OCS in June 2017.

      Stay motivated!

  17. Question about tattoos. I am a prior enlisted Marine who has completed PLC JRS. Am I allowed to get a tattoo before Seniors without getting kicked from my PLC Contract? I cannot find anything in the order against it.

  18. If you get dropped from the plc program for being young and dumb but made it through sr’s, are you considered prior service in the case you want to enlist?

  19. I am a 29 y/o professional looking into becoming a reserve Marine Officer. Great resume, strong accedemic background, and currently at a 267 PFT and steadily getting better (the run is the only thing I’m not max’ing but it’s improving every week.) how difficult will it be to get an age waiver?

  20. Running is a mental thing, especially the 3 miles. I suck at running. It seems like the first thing you need to work on is endurance. If I were you I’d try to find a running buddy that is in shape enough and can run more than 1 mile. They can push you to keep going. Also know that you can’t just wake up one day and run 3 miles. But definitely go to your OSO. Heck, go run a PFT with your OSO. The first time I ran more than 1 mile straight was in my first PFT. My time sucked, I felt miserable, and I even thought during the last mile “maybe I should give upeople on this whole officer thing”, but I didn’t. I pushed through. Sucky time or not. You just have to get over the hump. The pressure of running a real PFT and my desire to not want to disappoint my OSO kept me running. Once you know that you CAN run three miles, just work on pace. Do interval sprints. The Gunny in my OSO’s office recommended sprinting 200 meters 16 times with about a minute rest in between sprints. Each sprint just run as fast as you can. Once that gets easier start doing 400m 8 times with 2 minutes between sprints. And when that’s easier do 800 m 4 times with 4 minute rests between. Then 1600m 2 times with a 6 minute rest. Eventually you should be hard core running 3200m (roughly 2 miles). You shouldn’t need to run 3 miles every day to work on your PFT score. As long as you know you have the endurance (which you know after running one PFT), just focus on speed work which comes from sprinting. Also note than this speedwork will help you for the 880m sprint that you do for the CFT at OCS.

    Get the mental stuff of 3 miles down, then focus on speed work.

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