Some changes to the Coast Guard rating exam will integrate new ways of testing and training new enlisting members. The changes will take effect to rating qualifications and tests.
Job-specific qualifications are getting more in depth and will be tracked on an online database.
Tests will still be given on paper, but will be managed and updated electronically. A second major change in the testing procedure will enable coast guardsmen to use their books to help them utilize the same material that their jobs will enforce.
The changes will follow a yearlong review.
“We’ve had paper-based correspondence courses since 1927 in the Coast Guard,” said Lt. Cmdr. Bill Gibbons, a performance consultant at Force Readiness Command. “It’s remained largely unchanged, paper-based correspondence courses. We weren’t taking advantage of the full range of technology that’s out there to support our enlisted workforce.”
Four ratings have transferred to the new system: marine science technician, aviation electronics technician, aviation survival technician and aviation machinery technician. The next rating to switch will be operations specialist.
Advancement is a multistep process in the Coast Guard. Before taking the servicewide examination, a Coast Guardsman must first complete enlisted performance qualifications — a set of tasks and knowledge akin to the personnel qualification standards used in the Navy — and then pass an end-of-course test.
Under the new system, enlisted performance qualifications will be replaced by rating performance qualifications specific to that rate. Once those are completed, there’s a rating advancement test that evaluates your understanding of that material.
“The RAT tests the knowledge that’s required to perform the RPQs,” Gibbons explained.
If you pass that, then you get a “rating competency.” Take the case of a second class boatswain’s mate: He has to have a BM1 competency code — completed the RPQs, passed the RAT — to be eligible for the first class servicewide test.
The overhaul may help more Coast Guardsmen pass the tests, Gibbons said. “Our test-passing rates will probably go up because we’re testing practical application through the use of references.”
The Navy is paying attention to the Coast Guard’s advancement changes. “The Navy Advancement Center is actively working with our Air Force and Coast Guard counterparts to leverage best practices in the administration of norm-referenced examinations,” Lt. Cmdr. James LeViness, an official with Naval Education and Training Command, wrote.
As a way to make sure everyone who has accomplished a task has met the same standards, the RPQ now lists every condition required. “It gives what’s the task, what’s the condition, you know, what’s the job-well-done look like, what are conditions under which the task has to be performed.
It also lists the reference for the task and the major steps required, and has instructions for the supervisor about what to look for.
Members of one of the first ratings to convert, marine science technician, must have their competency code by Feb. 1 so they can take the servicewide exam in May.
Supervisors won’t be signing qual sheets anymore. Instead, they’ll log into a training management tool online and “validate” that the trainee completed a task and met all the criteria.
Because it’s all electronic, a command can track an individual’s qualification progress, down to what was completed and when.
One big change is that the test will be open book. The test is designed to measure your ability to do a job. So if you use references on the job, you can use them on the test.
“The RAT will be comprised of questions that are absolutely essential to know in order to perform the tasks that are associated with the core requirements of your rating,” Gibbons said.
he tests will continue to be proctored, with a time limit based on the number of questions. For now, the questions will remain multiple choice, the easiest format for printed exams. The new format allows developers to use 22 different question formats, including short answer, matching items and essay, and it can use video, graphics and pictures. The order of questions can be made random.
The tests will be available for some ratings through the Coast Guard portal. But the more sea-intensive ratings, such as OS, will take paper tests as long as underway Internet connectivity is limited.
Even though tests may not be taken via computer, the test bank is now electronic. Managers can add or change questions on tests without having to update the entire test, a chore that had prevented timely updates and left questions about old or obsolete systems.