Advancement Exam

This past Thursday morning marked my very first Navy advancement exam. What is that, you ask? Well, in the Navy, the main way junior enlisted personnel get promoted is through exams on their specific job. The tests for E-4 through E-6 happen twice a year, and the test to make Chief (E-7) happens once a year. Since I got a meritorious advancement to E-4 out of the school of music, I didn’t have to take the E-4 test. So my first test was the E-5 test, which is what happened this week.

For each level, we are given a “bibliography” of resources that the test will be on. The information is relatively simple…its mostly music theory that I learned in my first year of college!  Additionally, we have to memorize songs that are commonly used in our line of work (Anchors Aweigh, Star Spangled Banner, etc.)  But the test itself is very difficult. One of my colleagues lovingly called it “musical calculus”. Here’s a sample question:

The 4th space of the C baritone clef with a key of C major, the 12th overtone above B, the sounding note of a piccolo playing a written d1, and the mediant of the chord scale for Dmin7, are all notes on which of these chords:

       A. E7(b9)
       B. Emin9
       C. Emin7(b5)
       D. Edim7

Crazy, right?  Times that by 150 questions and the 3 hours they allot for the completion of the exam seems like not enough time.  Granted, not ALL the questions are that crazy, there were some straight forward questions.  But still, I needed almost the entire 3 hours.  And my brain was completely fried by the end.

There are some general military questions, but only 25.  I didn’t even study for that!  I just kind of guessed.  It wasn’t worth the effort for me.

Now, as far as who gets advanced, it can be complicated.  Just because a person does well on the exam doesn’t mean they will get advanced.  There are many other things that give you points toward advancement, like how many times you “pass” the test but don’t advance, how many years you’ve been in your pay grade, awards, evaluations, etc. etc.  For each test cycle, a “quota” is determined for each rate (job) and pay grade.  In other words, they Navy will decide how many personnel they will need in a certain pay grade in each rate.  After all the points have been added up, they will advance the top people until they run out of spots.  So basically since this is my very first exam, my prospects for advancement on this test are slim to none!

It can be frustrating, having to take a test that basically means nothing.  Especially when it is so difficult!  I’m just happy that I don’t have to study this crap for a few months.  My goal is to make E5 within my first enlistment, and hopefully before I transfer to another band…some people in the band have told me it is nearly impossible, but I’ve seen it happen!  And I’m going to prove them wrong.  Either that or get into one of the premiere bands and skip E5 and go directly to E6!

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