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Dispelling Common Myths About the Advancement Exam

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Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center Public Affairs
PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- The Navy-Wide Advancement Exams are approaching, and if you haven’t already -- it’s time to break out your study material!

Rumors abound around the work center about exams, but how do you know what’s scuttlebutt and what’s righteous gouge?  This article addresses several common myths Sailors often hear about the exams.

Myth number one:  Civilians write advancement exams.

Questions for the Advancement Exams are actually written by Navy chiefs that are selected to participate in the Advancement Exam Readiness Review (AERR) process.  Exam reviews are held at the Navy Advancement Center (NAC), part of the Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center (NETPDC) in Pensacola.  For every rating, a group of chiefs (E7- E9) selected by their Type Commanders, come together for one-to-two weeks to formulate and review a bank of exam questions.  These chiefs serve as Fleet Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and are selected based on their mastery and skill in specified ratings.

The SMEs work with a civilian team leader (NAC staffer) who assists these chiefs in writing questions to confirm each is written properly and in a way Sailors will understand.  The team leaders also assist with formatting, grammar, and the standardization of questions. Exam questions written by the AERR members are always linked to specific references (publication) which are listed in the exam bibliography (BIB) for each rank and rating.

Myth number two: “I scored an 80 on the exam, which means I aced it!”

The Advancement Exam is scored using a system referred to as “norm-referenced scoring.”  This means that your exam score is a numerical representation of how well you did in comparison to your peers who also took the same exam.  Depending on how many questions you answered correctly, your score will be placed on a scale from 20 to 80, with 20 being the lowest score and 80 being the highest.  This number will then be recorded onto your Profile Sheet, which you can access through the Navy Enlisted Advancement System (NEAS) after the exam results are released.

Now, let’s say your profile sheet indicates that you received a score of 80 on the exam.  Because the distribution of scores are all relative to each other, a score of 80 only signifies you had a high score relative to your peers.  It does not mean you answered every question correctly – there’s almost always room for improvement.

Myth number three:  Some test questions are always thrown out.

While there are cases in which certain questions are excluded from the total score of each exam, it’s more of an exception than a rule.  When 75 percent of completed exams are returned and scored, a review of the test questions is conducted for any errors that may have been missed in the exam writing and publication process.  If there are red flags that arise, analysts will check to ensure that the content is still current, the information is relevant, the answer provided is correct, and that the exam question is important to that rating.  If an exam question is deemed inadequate, that question will be excluded from all exams and will not be counted towards the overall score.

“On average, about a dozen questions are discarded for each paygrade, E4 - E7” said Darlene Barrow, Head of the Statistical Analysis branch for the NAC.  “And that is across approximately 80 different ratings.”

It is important to remember that when a question is removed, it does not impact the overall score, since that question is removed for all candidates in that rating.

Myth number four:  Other than the score, how you did on the exam is secret.

Although your overall score is a solid indicator of how you did on the exam, the key to deciphering your overall performance is to take a close look at your profile sheet, which is broken down into sections from the exam.

“For veteran test-takers, the best way to prepare for the exam is to look at your previous exam profile sheet, determine your weak areas, and then compare that with what is listed for the upcoming exam bibliography,” said NETPDC Command Master Chief, Master Chief Electronics Technician, Nuclear Power (SS) Gregory Prichard.  “This allows you to understand what you need to work on and formulate an effective study plan. For first-time test-takers, the BIBs are also the key.”

Prichard added that exam BIBs can be found on the Navy Advancement Center pages on My Navy Portal and are also available through the Navy Credentialing Opportunities Online (Navy COOL) website.  The NAC updates bibliography information as Fleet instructions and manuals change, and it is recommended that candidates check their bibliography a few times prior to the exam administration date to make sure they have the most recent BIBs.

“Bibliographies and their listed references should be a critical part of each Sailor's exam preparation program,” said Prichard.  “When the exams are created, each test question is tied to a specific reference, and the bibliography is a compilation listing of all references used to create that specific exam.  With that in mind, I would recommend Sailors use only the official Navy bibliography sources for studying their references."


To download the bibliographies and an exam-specific topic list for the upcoming cycle, go to the Navy Advancement Center’s My Navy Portal  bibliography page: https://www.mnp.navy.mil/group/navy-advancement-center/bibliographies or the Navy Credentialing Opportunities Online (Navy COOL) website: http://www.cool.navy.mil/usn, under the Find & Select Related Credentials, Enlisted tab.

Individual Sailor profile sheets are available via NEAS - https://prod-neas.ncdc.navy.mil/NEASRpts/Individual.aspx .

You can receive additional information by visiting the Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center website via https://www.public.navy.mil/netc/netpdc/Default.aspx.

NETPDC is located on board NAS Pensacola’s Saufley Field and is home to the Navy Advancement Center, the Voluntary Education Department, and the Resources Management Department.

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