Advancement to pay grades E-5 through E-9 is accomplished by way of a Servicewide Exam (SWE) for each rating. Their results are just one of a number of factors used to determine where you stand on your rate's advancement list. The purpose of the SWE is to rank everyone in each rating to determine in what order they should be advanced to the next higher pay grade when openings occur.
While EOCTs test only information related to the next higher rating, the SWE tests all information personnel in your rate are required to have mastered all the way from E-2 through the next pay grade higher than yours. Thus, an E-5 SWE will test material all E-2s, E-3s, E-4s, and E-5s in a given rate are supposed to know. An E-9 SWE will test material all E-2s, E-3s, E-4s, E-5s, E-6s, E-7s, E-8s, and E-9s in a specific rate are supposed to know.
01 February (for the May exams)
01 July (for the October/Reserve exams)
01 August (for the November exams).
If you’ve met all the qualifications (as laid out on your Personal Data Extract or PDE) by the applicable date above, PPC will automatically send a SWE for you to the ESO at the examination board listed on your PDE. You do not have to (and cannot) request a SWE.
First Tuesday in May: E-5 (morning), E-7 (afternoon).
Thursday after the first Tuesday in May: E-6 (morning), E-8 & E-9 (afternoon).
Third Saturday in October: Reservists of all pay grades
First Thursday of November: E-5 (morning), E-6 (afternoon).
Each SWE has a total of 150 questions. The number of questions related to one's rating and related to military subjects (E-PME information) varies by pay grade. Examinees are allowed 3½ hours in which to take the test.
Questions regarding advancement requirements and changes to your PDE should be directed to the Advancement branch at PPC (PPC-DG-ADV@uscg.mil). Before you contact PPC, though read the message announcing next SWE.
First, be aware that the role of your ESO in the SWE process is extremely limited. All s/he does is verify people have completed their RPQs before taking an EOCT (or Performance Requirements, before taking an E-PME AQE). If your ESO is also designated as the unit's SWE Officer, s/he will administer SWE exams also. But that's it.
Unfortunately, there's no CG-wide policy spelling out how completion of RPQs and E-PME Performance Requirements is to be verified and entered into DirectAccess. That being the case, each unit is left to shift for itself.
At TraCen Cape May, the ESO/SWE Officer sends out an e-mail (not long after the SWE eligibility cut-off date) saying, essentially, that everyone who expects to take a SWE at TraCen Cape May must have provided to the YNC in charge of the SPO (via their supervisors) verification that they have completed their RPQs and E-PME Performance Requirements for the next higher pay grade.
That is, you show your shop supervisor that you've completed both the RPQs for the next higher pay grade in your rate and the E-PME Performance Requirements for the next higher pay grade. Your shop supervisor will then send an e-mail to the SPO YNC saying that s/he's verified those RPQs and Performance Requirements. Other units may have different procedures.
All eligibility information (e.g., time in grade, time in service, sea time, CO's recommendation, completion of RPQs and E-PME Performance Requirements, whatever) is recorded in DirectAccess.
PPC (in Topeka) will pull all that data together into a document called a PDE (Personal Data Extract) which determines whether a SWE will or won't be sent to your Servicewide Exam Board. The PDE is published in DirectAccess within a couple of days after the SWE eligibility cut-off date.
It's your responsibility to verify that everything on the PDE is accurate – including the Servicewide Exam Board.
For example, if you know you're going to be away on leave or TAD on the SWE date, and want to take the SWE, it's up to you to ensure that PPC knows (via a PDE correction) where you'll be taking the SWE. That way, it can send your exam directly to that unit. See "Forwarding SWEs to Another Unit" below.
If you find any errors on the PDE, it's your responsibility to bring them to the attention of SPO personnel before the PDE verification deadline.
If you don't follow up after reporting an error, and then don't receive a SWE, the argument "I told my YN!" won't work. It's YOUR responsibility to ensure the PDE shows "Eligible" before the verification deadline.
Your Personal Data Extract (PDE) is posted, in electronic form, on DirectAccess (Self Service). The info on the PDE determines whether you are eligible to take a servicewide exam (SWE) and where you’ll take your SWE. PPC will automatically send your exam to the unit list as your exam board on your PDE.
You are responsible to bring any errors on your PDE to the attention of PPC before the PDE verification deadline. The deadlines are:
01 April (for the May SWE),
01 September (for the October SWE), and
01 October (for the November SWE).
This includes having your SWE sent to another command.
PPC will automatically send your exam to the unit listed as your "Examination Board" on your PDE. If you know you won’t – for any reason – be at the command listed on the PDE (your “Examination Board”), here’s what you do.
find a unit you know you’ll be geographically near on your SWE date,
contact the ESO at that unit and ask if it’s OK to take your SWE there,
assuming the ESO says “yes”, ask for the unit’s OPFAC number,
let PPC know that the “Examination Board” name and OPFAC on your PDE need to be changed and provide the info you got from the unit at which you plan to take the SWE.
If you change the "Examination Board" info on your PDE and later find out you won’t be able to take your exam there after all, or at the scheduled date and time, let your ESO know ASAP.
And if, after the PDE verification deadline, you find out you won't be able to take your SWE at the Examination Board listed on your PDE follow the steps in bullets above. However, instead of notifying PPC to have your PDE changed, ask your ESO to have your SWE forwarded to the unit where you plan to take it. You'll also need to provide your ESO with the delivery address and phone number.
Substitute exams are authorized only for emergencies over which you have no control.
Regular leave (even if you scheduled a Caribbean cruise six months ago) is not an emergency. A wedding – even your own – is not an emergency.
For more information on just which circumstances justify requesting a substitute exam, see Article 3.B.3. of the Enlisted Accessions, Evaluations, and Advancements Manual.
Studying for the SWE is different from studying for an EOCT and should begin a minimum of three months before you take the exam. In addition to what you read below, check out the Studying & Test-Taking Skills page.
The first difference between a SWE and an EOCT is that you’re responsible for all information (practical and book-learning) applicable to the pay grade you’re shooting for and all pay grades lower than that. Those of you who’ve never taken a SWE – and those who haven’t done so well on previous SWEs – should try this method for preparing for it.
The main thing to keep in mind is that the questions on the SWE are drawn from information and practices that underlie the RPQs (Rating Performance Qualifications, colloquially known as quals or pracs) and the E-PME Performance Requirements.
The RPQs are available via the Learning Management System on the CGPortal. (In the "Course Catalog" select "Enlisted Advancement" and find your rate.)
The RPQ record (CG-RPQS-____) is the official document for annotating completion of enlisted qualifications for advancement eligibility. Once you've got them signed, they're signed for all time. But you're still responsible for RPQs created or changed after you got yours signed off, so you will want to have the most recent version available.
The information and practices underlying your RPQs are laid out in detail in the references listed in the RPQs (or, if your rating hasn't completely transitioned to the RPQ system, in your Professional Qualifications Guide (PQG). Enlisted Professional Military Education information is all in the E-PME Study Guides. Unlike an EOCT or AQE, the SWE tests you on information and performance requirements for the pay grade you’re testing for, your present pay grade, and all lower pay grades.
Rather than looking at the whole huge list of RPQs and E-PME Performance Requirements, categorize them by subject. The keys are to
break down what seems to be an overwhelming job into smaller do-able jobs and
spread out those smaller jobs over a long enough period that you will finish before your SWE date.
Your SWE study preparation should begin a minimum of three months before you take the exam. Listed below are some tips you should consider implementing:
Create a good study environment for yourself. Set aside a time and place that will be conducive to good studying.
Form study groups and assign specific RPQs to each member and exchange notes or let each member give a presentation on his/her specific RPQ. Then have that person ask questions of all the other group members related to his/her assigned RPQ.
As you’re researching an RPQ, make index cards for yourself. Write a question on one side of the card and the correct answer on the other.
Create audio tapes with questions and answers. Listening to the tape may help you remember.
If you have a computer, create a study program using information you have gathered from the RPQs.
Consider printing out your RPQs and E-PME requirements and using scissors to physically cut out each subject. You can then paste each to a separate file folder, inside of which are your notes on each item relating to that subject. Or paste them to individual 8½ x 11 pieces of light card board, which you put into a binder along with pages of notes, sections from your PQG, etc.
Check out the Studying & Test-taking Skills page of this web site for more ideas on how to study for and take the SWE.