Once you get through the first license test, you know what to expect. With anxieties lowered, all you need to focus on in the material. And if you do not feel confident in the performance of your test, never look back once the test is over. I invoked this principle several times when classmates asked me about specific questions on exams that were already done. Triple-check your work: Transpositions of answers can sink an otherwise stellar performance. If you think you failed, count the number of questions you have no idea about (100% wrong), then add those questions you guessed between two choices (66% wrong), and figure out how many you are uncertain about (33% wrong). Add these up, with the proper proportions. When the final results came out, I was surprised by how accurate my metric served me. Call it Sawatzki’s Rule.
Monday was dedicated to Diesel engines, the primary mode of propulsion of merchant ships. The easiest subject was Safety, which I studied for. This was advantageous, as I finished first and had plenty of time to study for the next test, Generals. The toughest exam was Generals, and Electrical was an unexpected blessing. The final two exams were on Steam propulsion, which is present on older vessels, as well as in niche applications such as liquid gas carriers and nuclear ships. The class expected to do well, as much of our classroom instruction focused on elements of steam systems, from turbine design to thermodynamics.
On the final test, I did a full triple-check. This was the end, and there was no need to rush. Most engineering midshipmen pass all tests on the first round, but sometimes it is quite arbitrary who fails a single test. I bided my time by packing my belongings to take home. Lunch was catered from Chipotle, which was enjoyed by all. We were told to report to Wiley Hall at 2pm for the results to be posted, but there was a bit of a delay. During the meanwhile, classmates talked with nervous anticipation, never making plans for next week (so as to avoid a ‘jinx’). Results were posted just a few minutes before 4pm. 85% passed all seven tests the first time, and another 10% had one test to remediate in the next week. My parents had traveled from DC for the bell-ringing ceremony, so the stakes were raised on me passing the first time. Which I did: a low of 79 on Generals, and a high of 100 on Safety.
My mood was a bit subdued, in solidarity with those who were retaking their tests on the following Wednesday. But for those who were truly uncertain about their results, a passing result was cause for immense celebration. To me, ringing the bell was an effort in maintaining old traditions, tethered by my parents’ wish of a solemn event, despite efforts of the Academy’s administration to formalize, and tame, the occasion.
After the bell was rung, and the tassel removed for the sake of peace-and-quiet, the local park was filled with gleeful seniors who earned their stripe. After sunset, the convoy filled the local firemens’ outfit. I had a fine dinner with my family in Roslyn, but upon the advice of my company officer, a 1977 graduate, I made sure to spend time afterwards with my Kings Point family of classmates. With the significant number of seniors beginning their travel on the next day, the celebrations ended fairly early, to the pleasure of the “townies” in Great Neck.