Thousands of sailors could miss out on their chance to advance this fall if they fail to meet a looming deadline.

That’s because by Sept. 1, most enlisted sailors on active duty who want to compete for advancement must have passed an new online military knowledge exam.

But when June ended, there were about 18,000 procrastinators, a figure that also includes reservists.

In early 2018, Navy officials warned sailors that they would be required to pass a new online test featuring 100 questions about professional military knowledge before they could move on to the exams that covered information about their ratings.

It’s called the Professional Military knowledge Eligibility Examination, “PMK-EE” for short, and sailors must get 80 percent of the questions in five test topic areas right or the process starts over.

Passing the PMK-EE is mandatory for advancement up to chief.

“Candidates must still meet all other eligibility requirements,” Cmdr. James Stockman, spokesman for the Naval Education and Training Command, told Navy Times.

That includes being recommended by your command for advancement and having the requisite time in rate or a commanding officer’s waiver. Some exams also require security clearances.

The exam went online in December through the “My Navy Portal” site but a common access card was required to take it.

Officials last week gave sailors the ability to download an app to take the test on handheld smart devices.

Unlike rating exams that are given on set dates twice annually for petty officers and once for chiefs, this exam can be taken whenever a sailor wants to try to pass it.

For sailors seeking to advance into the petty officer pay grades seeking to reach E-4 through E-6, Sept. 1 is the deadline for having a passing grade noted in their electronic records.

For petty officers first class sailors hoping to become chiefs, these sailors on active duty must complete the tests before Jan. 1 or they will miss the next annual board that selects chiefs.

For reservists vying to become petty officers or chiefs, their records must show completion of the exam by Feb. 1.

“ In order to be eligible for advancement, sailors must successfully complete the PMK-EE by the first day of the Navy-wide advancement exam administration month, which in this case is this September," said Chief of Naval Personnel spokesman Lt.j.g. Stuart Phillips.

"Really, for the fall advancement cycle they should plan to have their PMK requirement completed by the end of August. So, sailors taking the fall advancement exam still have time and they have multiple paths to complete their PMK-EE. “

Over the past two years, the average number of active, reserve and reserve full-time support sailors taking advancement exams during the two annual test dates hovered around 90,000.

Naval Education and Training Command officials indicated that by the end of June only about 72,000 active and reserve sailors between E-3 and E-5 had completed the military knowledge test.

The completion gap is wider for those seeking to pin on chief petty officer anchors.

Each year, roughly 30,000 active and reserve sailors take a rating knowledge exam to qualify for the chief’s board. At the end of June, however, only 14,200 petty officer first class sailors had completed the military knowledge prerequisite test.

For stragglers, there’s still time to meet the deadline — and with the new smart device apps you don’t even have to complete the entire exam in one sitting.

Download them from the Navy App Locker or through the Apple App or Google Play Store.

A CAC isn’t necessary to install the app.

When you download it, you’ll see that the test is broken into five topics: Career Information; Leadership and Character; Naval Heritage; Professional Conduct; and Seamanship.

Each topic contains 10 to 30 questions and can be taken separately, although there’s a time limit to complete each section.

When you complete a topic, the app grades your performance.

There are study materials available on the app. If you fail a topic, you can study more and retake that portion of the test. The app will calculate a final score once all the topics are completed.

Then you must enter information from your CAC and the app will note in your electronic training jacket that you’ve met the requirement.

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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