By Josh Page, CFI
You’re excited to begin flight training, even booked a few lessons. You bought books and all the supplies your CFI recommended. Nothing’s going to hold back... well nothing, that is, except for your FAA Knowledge Test. This is consistently one of the biggest hurdles aspiring pilots face as they work toward earning their private pilot certificate. I mean who doesn’t love to fly, right? That part’s a dream. But to get your head down into a textbook and prepare for a multiple-choice test on all things aerodynamics, FAA regulations, weather, performance charts, etc. isn’t exactly the Maverick we imagined ourselves to be after watching Top Gun.
Relax. I think by the end of this article you’re going to feel better about that test!
If you’re on this exciting aviation journey, it’s probably because you love aviation. So here’s an important key right off the bat: Let what got you into aviation be what propels you through the more monotonous and tedious parts of this great journey.
Here’s a few tips for you as you prep for your FAA knowledge test:
1. Find a ground school that works for you.
If you’re going to study for the written test, you’re going to need a good ground school that can help prepare you for the test. Ground schools are typically interactive apps where you can watch videos to better understand difficult concepts, work through problems, and take practice tests geared to help you amp up for the real test. There are so many reputable ground schools available and many of them offer a free trial so that you can see if it works for you. When you
score higher on a practice test, most of the ground schools will provide you an endorsement to take the test. Think of this as the ticket to get in. You can’t just walk in off the street and take the FAA knowledge test. Either your CFI gives you the endorsement, which means more classroom time with him or her — or you complete a ground school and receive the endorsement through them. Looking for the more cost-effective route? Get a ground school. Your CFI can then help with the knowledge areas you still struggle to comprehend.
2. Start studying yesterday.
Don’t wait until you fly solo for the first time or are nearing the finish line before you start studying. Some would even argue that it’s more beneficial and cost-effective to start studying before taking flight lessons so that you can go into your lessons with a foundational understanding already formed. I would recommend taking 1 hour a day, 5 days a week to study. This will help information to not fade out of your memory and will allow it to get a good footing in your mind. Get creative with your study habits: Find a good coffee shop, use flash cards as you walk around a lake, find good study guides.
3. YouTube University!
You’ve probably found that you can learn just about anything on YouTube these days. This absolutely applies to aviation. YouTube is an excellent tool for preparing for the FAA knowledge test. Like many of you, I’m a very visual learner and I found some of the concepts in preparing for my written test to be very dry and difficult to understand. Reading how lift is generated, for example, went way over my heard. But the moment I was able to find a video on YouTube that animated it for me, the lightbulb went off in my mind. I might as well have been named Bernoulli. I was able to answer those questions with no problem. I actually understood the concept.
4. Study with friends
Before pilots fly for an airline, much of their training journey is spent studying with classmates to better understand the material and role-play different scenarios. There is tremendous benefit in studying with others. We help each other to see different sides of difficult concepts. We absorb information differently and you’ll find that while one friend is really strong on aerodynamics, you might be really strong on performance charts. Now you’re able to help each other! Don’t have any friends in aviation? Oh, you will soon. Just hang around your flight school and meet people who are also starting their training. Ask your flight instructor if they have any students they can connect you with.
5. Get er’ done!
Set a deadline for yourself and get this test done. You don’t want to get down to the end of your flight training and find that you still haven’t taken your written test. I’ve worked with several students who didn’t enjoy studying and really dragged their feet in preparing for the test. They fulfilled all their hour requirements, flew like pros, and could be signed off for a checkride any day, but they STILL had not taken their written test. This only costs them more money and further delays the joy of receiving their private pilot certificate.
You can do this! Find a ground school that works for you, a quiet place where you can study, some buddies you can prepare with, and set a deadline. You’ll have this thing done in no time and you‘ll feel much more ready for your checkride. Cheers!
By Josh Page, CFI
Northstar Aviation References brings you the Pre-Tabbed ASA FAR/AIM, DIY tabs for your FAR/AIM and other pilot resources so that you can more easily study the regulations that form the foundation of your flying career or hobby. Have any questions? Check out our FAQs page or contact us. Check out other blog posts here.