The Federal Aviation Administration examination is a necessary step towards receiving your private pilot license in the U.S, and for many aspiring pilots, the written test is the biggest source of their anxiety.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With a rigorous study program and a lot of dedication and hard work, you can pass your written examination with flying colors.
In this article, we’ll be discussing some of the best ways to ensure you’re prepared for your FAA written test, and we’ve also answered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the test.
So, how do you study for the FAA written test?
Choose a learning style that suits you
This is really important, yet many people skip this step. The bottom line is, we all learn differently, and using a learning style that doesn’t suit your needs and preferences could be the reason why you’re struggling to absorb information.
65% of people are visual learners, however, most of us benefit from a combination of learning styles. Figure out what works best for you, whether it’s flashcards, watching videos, spider diagrams, or recording and listening back to audio.
If you’re not quite sure what works for you, try a combination of techniques at first to find out, or alternatively, take a quick online test.
Once you’ve figured out the most effective learning strategy for you, stick to it, and don’t be tempted to change it just because you see someone else doing something
different. We’re all different, and one learning style will help one person ace a test, but won’t work at all for another.
Choose an effective study technique
Some of us work best by memorizing the private pilot questions and answers by heart, but this is usually limited to those with extremely strong memories.
Don’t be put off if you can’t do this, it’s not necessary, and there are numerous other techniques to help you effectively study and absorb information.
This technique is usually performed using flashcards. It works on the premise that
newly introduced and more difficult flashcards are shown more frequently, while older and less difficult flashcards are revealed less frequently.
This technique exploits the psychological spacing effect, and the use of spaced repetition has been proven to increase the rate of learning.
Active recall is another effective method of learning and this is great practice for your written exam. With this method, you ask yourself questions as a way of testing yourself, which prompts you to think about the concepts on your own.
Quite often, you think you don’t know the answer to something but you actually do - it’s just hidden away in your mind. Testing yourself allows you to draw out this information, and that’s exactly what you’ll need to do in the exam.
There is a range of resources to use for your study sessions, you can make your own flashcards, or even use the following websites to do this for you:
Some people also benefit from using different colored pens and bold colors to help them link ideas together and organize their information.
This works well if you’re a visual learner, and these kinds of learners also respond well to putting information up on their walls where they can see it daily.
Invest in quality private pilot ground training
Your aeronautical knowledge isn’t just for passing an exam, it’s going to be fundamental to your safe flying of an aircraft.
Therefore, you need to be able to do more than just recite facts - you need the background knowledge, context, and experience to fully understand the content. This is why your FAA examiner will also quiz you on your knowledge during the oral exam.
One of the most obvious ways of ensuring you have a robust and thorough knowledge of the material is to invest in the best ground training you can find.
You’ll find that many of the top flying schools offer extensive classroom-based courses, but they come with a high price tag. A great alternative can be an online ground school, which can be just as effective with the use of online resources and video content.
Whether you study online or offline, an understanding of the basics of aerodynamics, weather systems, and navigation - among other subjects - is essential ahead of your FAA written test.
Create a study plan and stick to it
Planning ensures that you cover all the material in time for your test, and it can also help you pencil in time to revisit any topics you’re not confident with.
If you have already scheduled your test, you can draw up a clear plan of how to organize and maximize your time for studying.
It’s a good idea to do the following:
- Determine how much time you have until your test and how much time you can allocate to studying each day
- Figure out how long it will take you to cover the material and leave time for revision of weak spots
- When you set a date for your test, ensure it leaves you with plenty of time to fully cover the material
- Create a schedule and pencil in your daily study sessions
- Stick to your study schedule and try to never miss a day, but also ensure to give yourself breaks in between
When preparing for an examination, it’s a good idea to set goals so that you have something to work towards, as well as the end goal of sitting - and hopefully passing - your written test.
Work backward from the test date and set goals for yourself so you know what you need to achieve each day and week that you’re studying. This will not only help you organize your study, but it will increase your motivation levels and give you something to work towards every time you study.
It’ll feel good ticking off a checklist every time you meet your goal!
Practice, practice, practice
The FAA written test is multiple-choice, so you can use past examination papers to help you prepare for the exam.
These are available on the PSI database and will help you get a better idea of what to expect. Time yourself while you take the test and practice it under exam conditions. Don’t forget not to rush, read the questions carefully and think before you answer.
Take inspiration from others
When you’re starting out with your study program, it can be a great idea to take inspiration from others who have passed the exam. There are a wealth of resources available at your fingertips - from YouTube videos to blogs.
Find out how other aspiring pilots organized their study regime and how they found the actual test. What did they find difficult, or what didn’t they expect? Exploring these will make you more prepared for the test.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you take the FAA knowledge test online?
No, you can’t.
Usually, the knowledge tests are held in test centers at flight schools and fixed-base operators (FBOs). However, you can find test center locations, practice exams, and frequently asked questions on the PSI website, as well as schedule your test.
How long is the FAA written test?
The FAA written test has a time limit of 2 hours and 30 minutes.
How many questions are on the FAA commercial written exam?
The FAA Commercial Pilot exam contains 100 questions that are chosen from a database containing over 1000 questions.
Most of the questions in the FAA Commercial test database are shared with the Private Pilot written test, along with some additional questions.
How many questions are on the FAA instrument exam?
The FAA instrument written exam contains 60 multiple-choice questions.
How many questions are on the FAA private pilot exam?
There are also 60 questions on the FAA private pilot exam, and each one gives a choice of 3 potential answers.
How much is the FAA knowledge test?
The price varies depending on the location you take the test in, though test fees generally fall between $140 to $165, with the average test center charging $150.
Is the FAA written exam hard?
Most aspiring pilots get nervous at the prospect of the FAA written exam, however, statistics show a high pass rate for the test.
Nearly 91% of test-takers pass the Private Pilot Airplane (PAR) knowledge test, and this is with an impressive average score of 84, according to the latest FAA statistics from 2019.
The exam would only be hard if you’ve failed to study effectively for it. Leave plenty of time to plan your study, ensure you cover all of the topics before the test, and revisit any weak spots before the test date. If you’re prepared, there’s no reason why the written exam would be hard for you.
The FAA written test can seem like a daunting task, but as we outlined above, the test has a high pass rate, and there’s no reason why you can’t successfully pass your written exam.
On the night before your exam, don’t be tempted to cram - this is rarely effective, and will only increase your stress levels. Instead, take it easy. Have a long bath or do something relaxing, eat a good meal, and make sure you get plenty of sleep.
The last thing you want is to feel tired during the exam, as this will only negatively affect your ability to recall information and concentrate.
Study hard, make sure you have an organized and goal-oriented study regime and practice, practice, practice.