Top Tips to Help You Pass Your FAA Knowledge Test

Top Tips to Help You Pass Your FAA Knowledge Test

By Leslie Caubble, CFI/IGI

The FAA knowledge test is a huge milestone in your journey to becoming a pilot. Passing the knowledge test is also a common source of stress during flight training, especially for Private Pilot students. It’s your first FAA knowledge test, so there’s a natural fear of the unknown.

Here’s some good news: in 2023 the pass rate for the Private Pilot knowledge test was 90.3% with an average score of 82.05%. Just to be clear, these students didn’t simply walk through the door and pass without a fair amount of studying, preparation, and a few test-taking strategies. 

The amount of information covered on a FAA Knowledge Test can be overwhelming and stressful. The following tips will help you not only prepare for your next knowledge test, but implementing this well-rounded study approach will help you approach your test day with confidence and boost your chance at a high score.



Approach your test preparation strategy with the attitude of learn first, then study. You are building a comprehensive foundation of knowledge that will not only help you pass the written test but prepare you to pass your checkride and be a safer pilot. Expose yourself to the subjects you’ll be tested on, learn the general concepts, then study for the test itself. There’s a big difference between learning the material and just memorizing answers. 



There are many great ground study programs accessible online, allowing you to learn the material on your own schedule and at the convenience of home. A ground school will teach you the basics, lay the foundation for further study, and expose you to FAA handbooks and other helpful aviation reference materials. An online ground school can save you hundreds of dollars vs. having a CFI teach you the material one-on-one at an hourly rate.



Block your ground school and study time on your calendar and respect those sessions like you would an important meeting. Allow yourself at least 1-2 hours of distraction-free focus with occasional days off. Set a goal date for the exam, then work your study schedule based off your goal. 

When I studied for my Instrument Rating knowledge test, I was overwhelmed by the number of new subjects. It was like learning a new language! I committed to 3 hours a day, M-F, for 4 weeks. The first two weeks were spent doing an online ground school. The last two weeks were spent on deeper dives into my trouble areas and actual test preparation. Setting a very specific, non-negotiable timeline helped be break studying down into digestible pieces. I scheduled my exam for 30 days after starting the ground school.



Incorporate FAA handbooks and other aviation publications into your ground study and test prep. Always have them readily available during your scheduled study sessions. Tab, underline, highlight, and make notes in the margins as you work through the ground study subjects. When it comes time for your checkride, you’ll already be very familiar with these important books! Here are two examples:

  • Current ASA FAR/AIM: Tab and make notes of important regulations as you learn about them.
  • Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge: This is the biggest source of your ground school content. You don’t have to know it all, but this is the go-to for FAA knowledge and references.

  • As you work through the ground school content, stop to make any notes, and write down memory aids or acronyms that connect the dots for you. This helps you develop your customized “cheat sheet” that will be useful in your test and checkride preparation. Buy a package of index cards so you can make your own flash cards as well.

    A final resource that I have used for every knowledge exam is ASA’s Test Prep Workbook. It takes time to complete the entire workbook, but it’s well worth the effort. Complete a subject in your ground school, such as weather. Before moving on to the next subject, work through the weather section of the Test Prep Workbook. Then move on to the next subject in your ground school. ASA also makes the Prepware app that’s useful for flashcard-style quizzing by subject.



    Practice exams are invaluable for assessing your level of knowledge, identifying weak areas and familiarizing yourself with the testing format. As you complete more practice tests, it will ease your anxiety going into the real exam because you are more familiar with the types of questions you’ll see and how they are worded. 

    Many websites offer free practice tests: King’s, Sporty’s, the PSI website (where you’ll register for the exam), and there’s a code to access multiple practice tests on the inside over of every ASA Test Prep Workbook. Set yourself up for success by simulating the testing environment as best you can. Use a laptop or desktop computer, set a timer for the allotted time (this varies by exam), do the full test in one sitting with no distractions, and only use the allowable resources. These include a manual or approved electronic E6B, plotter, simple calculator, pencil, and a piece of blank paper. 

    When you take practice tests repeatedly, it will only reinforce the knowledge you’ve gained and help you recall key concepts. 



    This may be common sense, but life, work, school, and other activities easily get in the way of studying and taking the knowledge exam. Start your study process early in your flight training. It’s a matter of opinion whether it’s better to take your knowledge exam before beginning flight training or closer to your checkride. Most CFIs agree that a student should aim to pass the Private Pilot knowledge exam by the time you’ve flown your first solo cross country. CFIIs generally agree that taking the Instrument Rating knowledge exam is best taken before you begin flying with a CFII for IFR training. 

    After you’ve been taking multiple practice tests, you’ll know when you’re ready to schedule the actual exam. A good rule of thumb is when you’ve scored 90 or better on at least three practice tests, it’s time to schedule! Don’t put this off. You’re at a good place to go in and make a great score, so get it done soon.


    • The night before your exam: take care of yourself by putting away the books and resting your mind, eat healthy, stay hydrated, and get a good night’s sleep.
    • Don’t rush through the exam but work at a steady pace.
    • Before beginning, take a moment to write down any formulas, acronyms, or memory aids on the provided paper.
    • Don’t forget to breathe and take an occasional stretch break.
    • Read the questions and every answer very carefully. The FAA exams are notorious for mixing words around, and it can cause you to miss an easy question if you rush through it.
    • Answer the “easy” questions first, and mark/save the others for later. Save the questions with computations for the end.
    • Don’t leave anything blank. Make the most educated guess if you’re not sure.
    • Use the process of elimination. There’s typically one answer that’s an obvious distractor. 
    • Double check your work before submitting. Use the remaining available time to confirm every question is answered. Don’t change an answer unless you’re sure you marked it incorrectly. Usually, your first instinct is the correct one!

    The pressure to pass your FAA Knowledge Test is very real. It’s a requirement for the rating you’re seeking, and the amount of information can be overwhelming. However, with strategic preparation, a commitment to learning, and with repeated practice, you can not only pass the exam, but walk out with a score that will impress your CFI and your DPE.

    By Leslie Caubble, CFI/IGI

    Northstar Aviation References brings you the Pre-Tabbed ASA FAR/AIMDIY 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