Thursday, June 26, 2008

Coming Soon: My Written Exam

So far, almost all of my posting has been about the practical flying side of things (which makes sense, since that's what I'm learning to do), but there is another side: the theory. In other words: ground school.

In case you don't know much about it, let me explain: ground school is basically the same thing as driving school, minus the few hours of driving you actually do. It's all the small, technical rules everyone forgets just a year or two after getting their license because they're not really as important as the tests pretend they are. (For example: did you remember that you "must" park at LEAST 18 inches away from the curb?) For flying, this translates to things like "how many feet should you be above clouds when in class G airspace at night?" The "correct" answer may be 1000', but the practical answer is "far enough away that they aren't a hazard to me."

So anyway, like with driving there isn't just a practical test when you learn to fly. There's a theory portion too. The difference between the two (besides content of the tests, of course) is that the FLYING written exam can be taken many months (I believe up to 24) before you pass your practical exam. So even though I still clock in with only 30.8 hours of flight time -- meaning I have AT LEAST 9.2 hours left, and more likely twice that -- I can take the written and have it apply to my PPL (private pilot's license).

So the only things stopping me from taking my written are (1) studying enough for it that I feel ready to pass (70% is passing) and (2) scheduling the exam. Well, (2) is officially done: I'm taking my written next Tuesday (July 1st) from 6:30pm to 9:00pm (you're allowed 2.5 hours, but I highly doubt it will take that long) at Oxford. There's a flight school right next to Chris's that is certified to let me take it through them.

To anyone reading this now (I'm looking at you, Grandma) or in the future (if anyone is looking to learn to fly themselves), I thought I'd detail a bit about the test itself:

  • The test is 60 questions long, at 2 and a half hours. That's 2.5 minutes per question if you average it out, which is plenty of time.
  • You're allowed to bring a simple calculator, your flight calculator (used for measuring winds and fuel usage) and your ruler/protractor combo (which I forget the formal name of) used for measuring distances and angles.
  • The test can either be done through Laser Grades or CATS (computer-aided testing systems), the latter of which I am using.
  • You need a sign-off from your instructor to take the test, need to schedule it with a testing facility (the school next to my school) and need to register it through the official testing facility (in my case CATS testing).
  • The types of questions that can be found on the test are in several practice test books, including "Jeppesen Private Pilot FAA Airmen Knowledge Test Guide" and "Gleim's Ninth Edition Private Pilot and Recreational Pilot FAA Written Exam" books, both of which I use.
  • [Final bullet] If you want to take practice tests, which I highly recommend, I found two websites which offer them for free:
  1. Multiple tests for everything from VFR, IFR, Commercial, etc. All tests are 60 questions and generated each time (so taking test twice won't give the same 60 questions). Live timer, and emails you your results. Can pause mid-test. Sometimes asks about visuals that the website doesn't provide. Sorts by question categories and gives you percentages by category too. Requires an account (which is free) to take tests. Website is a little slow for me.
  2. You type in how many questions you want so you don't need to dedicate 40 minutes at a time to take the test. Much faster to load with the questions on a single page (instead of 1 question per page like MWE) and also timed, but doesn't show you a count-down until you submit it for grading. No login required, but no pausing either. Some required visuals not provided, but there's an option to not use those in generating the test.

Well, that about covers it. If you're interested in seeing what I've been studying, I suggest taking a glance at the website.

Now it's time I hit the books and get ready for Tuesday! Wish me luck!


MattG. said...

Good luck on your test! Let us know how you do and maybe a little insight on how difficult it is. =P

Bing said...


Sure thing! I'll have another post dedicated to it when I finish it, answering as many questions about it as I can.