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My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 9, 2024

Current Coast Guard Servicewide Exams (SWE) canceled due to errors in test packets

By Kathy Murray MyCG Senior Writer

The Coast Guard has canceled the May 2024 Servicewide Examinations (SWE) due to a printing error that caused some tests to have blank pages and missing questions. New SWE tests will be held as soon as late August, which will push back publication of the enlisted Advancement Eligibility list and first round of advancement cut-offs for Assignment Year 2025 (AY25). 

The announcement was made on Wednesday by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Heath Jones, and Rear Adm. Russell Dash, commander, Personnel Service Center (PSC).  

In videos posted to the MCPOCG’s Instagram, both leaders apologized for what happened and said they understand the frustration of members who will have to retake these tests through no fault of their own. They assured the workforce that every effort is being made to rectify the situation. 

“I know how hard you each need to prepare every single year to get ready for this test. Your ability to compete for advancement and assignments is my top concern,” said Jones.  The annual SWE, along with command input, qualifications, and other factors, is a necessary step for advancement from E-5 to E-8 for most Coast Guard ratings.  

Dash took responsibility for the errors, saying that while the commercial printer made mistakes, the Pay and Personnel Center (PPC) should have conducted proper quality assurance before mailing out the tests. The decision to cancel the current exam was not taken lightly, he added, noting his goal now is to rebuild credibility with the workforce. “You deserve to have a fair and accurate test,” he said. “We will get this right.” 

What happened? 

The first SWEs were administered in Guam Monday evening. After members flipped open their booklets to discover printing errors, command reached out to Headquarters. PPC staff reviewed the extra tests in their vault and found numerous printing errors. Some had 150 questions, others had 100, or 80.  

Initially, the PPC concluded that each of the tests for specific rates/ranks (YN2, SK1, BMC, etc.) were printed with identical errors–the same questions or pages missing. Based on that information, Dash and his team figured that since each cohort of test takers would have the same exam, with the same flaws, tests could continue, and the flaws could be adjusted for in the grading process. The thinking was a slightly imperfect SWE would be better than canceling the test and redoing it months later. 

The backlash from the field was immediate. Members flooded social media with their input. 

The final straw came when PSC started hearing reports that tests weren’t the same within each cohort. Dash says this fundamentally changed his assessment, and he decided to cancel this SWE. 

There will be an administrative investigation to determine what happened, but Dash said his priority is rescheduling the exams. 

“What’s important now,” he said, “is to do what’s right for the workforce.” 

What this means

The Coast Guard will develop and administer completely new tests using the current eligibility list. The new test might be administered as early as August, but PSC will know more once they wade through the challenges involved in developing new tests, printing them, performing quality control, re-shipping, and then administering tests well outside the standard “first week of May” window. 

In the interim: 

  • ESOs and test administrators should NOT shred the test books.  PPC will provide guidance on how to return materials, so its staff can analyze the situation. 
  • PSC will release updates on the new SWE schedule as soon as possible. 
  • PSC will also share updated milestones for the AY25 timeline.  
  • Jones is planning to release more short social media videos in advance of the PSC messages to let members know they’re coming.  

If you have questions, Jones encourages you to reach out to the Gold and Silver badge network. “We will get this right, and we’re going to administer a new test,” he said.  

MyCG will also bring you the latest updates on the new SWEs, so keep an eye out for future articles.