Top 7 Differences Between Ranger School and the Special Forces Qualification Course

There’s no doubt about it—both courses are hard and have their own distinctive levels of major suck. But here are 7 differences laid out by someone who experienced both.

Basically: Ranger school is to university, as the “Q” Course is to grad school. As is said in the video (shared below), “Both are hard, but in different ways.” Or, “Both sucked, but sucked differently…Ranger school is more painful for food and sleep.”

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Ranger school is 61 days, broken into three phases (Benning, Mountain, and Flordia phases).

You never get weekends off at Ranger School. The best you can hope for is an 8 hour pass in between phases, to go re-up on gear that you need, and/or get a haircut.

The Special Qualification Course, or “Q Course” is 12-18 months long and is broken int o 6 phases:

  1. Selection
  2. Small Unit Tactics
  3. MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)
  4. “Robin Sage”, or Unconventional Warfare
  5. SERE (pronounced “sear”; Survival Evasion Resistance Escape) training
  6. Language


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Ranger school typically has a graduation rate, on average, of about 50%-64%.

Q Course is approximately 18%.


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In Ranger school, you get to eat with only a spoon, and you are generally given 5 minutes to sit and eat, or only enough time for a slow walk from the serving area to the exit. You do not get to pick and choose.

In the field, you get two MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) a day.

You’re in a constant caloric deficit. Everyone loses weight.

For the Q Course, you eat in training facilities, you can eat heartily and as much as you want. When on patrol, the team decides how much to take (generally 1-2 MREs).


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Both Ranger School and the Special Qualification Course are exercises in sleep deprivation.

At Ranger school, training is, on average, 20 hours a day.

Q Course, you get a guaranteed 4-6 hours of sleep. During the academic phases, you can get as much as you want. However, during the patrol phases you get almost none.


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In Ranger school, rucks generally weigh between 45-60 pounds, but with the sleep and food deprivation, they feel much heavier.

Q Course rucks weigh an average of 47—but that doesn’t include water weight, which is around 8 lbs. The maximum weight you might carry is 87 lbs.


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Ranger School has an average of 5km-20km, but, like the weight of the rucks, they can seem much longer due to the lack of sleep and food.

During the Q Course, the patrols average between 10km-20km.


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Ranger school has high expectations for patrol standards as there’s a need for you to show you have a strong understanding of how to operate under a variety of conditions (time of day, location, weather, etc.)

At the Q Course, the standards are much higher—essentially a need for near-perfect, textbook operations.

Want more first-hand info?

Check out this awesome video.


QUESTION: Can you tell me what kind of equipment an Army Ranger carries? I want to train as close as I can to the real thing before I enlist. My goal is to be a Ranger.

ANSWER: Yes–check out this article, Army Ranger Equipment List.

QUESTION: I’m trying to break in new boots, but my feet are giving me hell. How can I get my boots to be more comfortable?

ANSWER: Check out this article: 5 Tips to Break in Your Boots.



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