How to Study for the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam

Sailors take the Navy Wide Advancement Exam
Sailors take the Navy Wide Advancement Exam on Naval Air Station Sigonella. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Josh Coté/U.S. Navy)

There are several different kinds of studying methods when it comes to preparing for the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam. Each learner should determine which method works best for them and incorporate those methods into their study routine.

Read and Remember

This is studying at its most basic level. To “read and remember,” a learner merely sits down and reads the study material line by line, trying to absorb the information. For highly technical texts, this may require reading the material several times.

While studying via this method, you should frequently and honestly ask yourself, “Do I understand what they’re talking about?” If the answer to this is ever “no,” make sure to go back a few paragraphs or pages and read them again until you understand the concepts they are presenting.

While this method is great for learning new concepts, it also takes quite some time, and it may cause you to spend time reading some material that you already understand. To remedy this, please consider skimming the material first to identify which sections you need to focus on the most instead of doing a “front-to-back” reading. Doing so can save you a lot of time.

Scan and Highlight

Whether you have the material physically printed out or you are reading it online, you can always highlight certain areas of the text that contain information you are trying to remember and master.

As you scan through or read material with a highlighter (or mouse) in your hand, you can visually mark those pieces of information that you want to revisit or that contain “key knowledge” from the text in a bright color so that you can easily identify them throughout your study session. This method is also helpful for those who study effectively by using flashcards, as the highlighting helps them to visually identify key concepts that can later be included in the cards themselves.


This “old staple” study method can absolutely come in handy while preparing for the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam. Studying with flashcards provides a convenient way to capture both a difficult concept or term and the associated explanation that either defines it or goes along with it.

Flashcards work best when you use them more often, as the repeated exposure to their information helps to reinforce the material in your brain. They’re also very easy to use when you have just a few minutes to squeeze in some studying during your busy day (after all, you can take them everywhere!). Handwritten flashcards can also offer learning opportunities twice, once when physically writing the information down (which is great for learners who retain information better through writing) and again when the material is being read or reviewed while studying.

On-the-Job Training

For experiential learners, this study method is the way to go. On-the-job training or learning by doing assists learners who prefer a more “hands-on” approach to help retain information. This learning style can be reinforced by reading material both before and after a “hands-on” activity that incorporates the same information.

While learning this way, it is very important that you have an experienced operator training you and that all concepts are learned “by the book.” That's because the questions on your Navy-Wide Advancement Exam are written based on “the book” itself. You can also use the reference material in conjunction with the “hands-on” activity, which can be exceptionally useful with both the start-up and shut-down procedures or even other step-by-step guides.

Listening to Audio

Listening to audio versions of material can also help with the retention of information, but it is important to understand that there are limitations when it comes to solely listening to information. While having the learning material read aloud to you may help you recognize certain phrases or terms, it may not help you fully understand the material; instead, you may only just recognize it on a surface level.

If you are going to listen to audio material, make sure you really focus on the information it presents by paying close attention to the audio and actively listening to it. Be careful, though, because it is easy to get distracted from audio. For example, while you can listen to new material while cleaning during sweepers, merely having the audio playing while engaged in other physical or mental activities isn’t really “studying.” In short, make sure to pay active attention to the audio while it’s playing, and you can greatly benefit from this auditory type of learning.

Taking Practice Quizzes

Taking quizzes is a great way to see whether you’ve really learned the material after practicing various kinds of study methods. We have all walked away from a study session thinking, “I know this,” and then we bomb some questions to which we really thought we knew the answers.

Instead of viewing a scored quiz as an overall assessment of your knowledge, be sure to look at anything that is less than a perfect score as an “area to improve” with more study. However, if you’re consistently getting great scores on quizzes over a specific type of content, then it’s time to move on to a new area of study. After all, when study time is limited, you’re better off studying what you don’t know instead of what you do know.

Also, you should probably not create your own study quizzes. A valuable part of learning is word association, and spending the time and mental energy to come up with incorrect answers for a quiz (what the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam calls “distractors”) could potentially cause some word association with the wrong information to occur. Overall, it is best to use quizzes made by others, as it both mirrors how the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam will be presented, and it also prevents accidental negative word associations.

Which Study Method Is Best?

Ultimately, the learner solely determines which study method works best for them. If you know which kind of studying works best for you, then keep using it.

If your favorite method isn’t working for a specific subject, or if the material just isn’t sticking in your mind, try varying how you study that specific method a few different ways. Sometimes attacking the same subject from multiple angles can help it finally “click” in your brain. With limited time to study due to operational commitments, such as watch and other duties, it is vital that you find a way to incorporate your learning style into your everyday life in order to maximize your overall studying experience.

Learn More About the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam

Need more help with the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam? Check out Bluejacketeer, which gathers and prepares material for your rating with a convenient mobile app and offline study mode so you can learn anywhere.

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