Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Written Passed!

I finished my written exam last night in about 90 minutes (leaving 60 extra) and scored a 55 out of 60, or 92% -- well over the 70% needed to pass. I admit I think I got really lucky on a number of those guesses, but as Chris says: just pass the test. Thankfully it's now over and I can move on to flying. Now, let me detail exactly what it was like in case any future pilots want some heads-up...

I entered the test center at about 6:28pm (my exam was scheduled for 6:30pm). Raj, the proctor, had me come in and set up the computer for me. (Because I took a CATS exam it was on a computer.) He told me what I was allowed to use: pencil/pen, scrap paper, calculator, plotter and flight calculator/computer. I brought my scientific calculator, which he said was fine to use, but I ended up not needing the calculator at all anyway. I was also required to bring my logbook with the endorsement from my flight instructor saying that I was allowed to take the test, but Raj never asked to see it -- probably since he knows Chris and spoke to him about me coming. The final thing I was required to bring was the two forms of ID, at least one of which had to have a picture of me on it. I used three, to be safe: my work ID (name and photo, nothing else), my driver's license (name, photo, address, etc.) and my boating license (name, some basic info, no photo, no address).

Of course, knowing me I brought way too much stuff: extra writing tools (he supplied me with two pencils, and all I ever did was draw a picture of an airplane once), my study book (which I wasn't allowed to use, of course), a bottle of water (which I didn't open)... It was a bit much, but it was better that I erred on the side of caution; it would have sucked to have needed an extra pen and not had one.

Once the computer was set up time started ticking down. He showed me how to navigate the test (which I'll get to in a minute) and made sure everything was OK before he left the room. I was the only one in it. Strangely he didn't take my cell phone (which he told me had to be off) or my test prep book (though it was across the room). I was amazed at how trust-worthy the whole situation was. Raj did walk in at one point during the test (and scared the crap out of me, since I was focused on a question), but it wasn't a formal check-up, just getting something in the room...or so it seemed. One of the questions on the test even had the answer written on the wall: how should you position your wings while taxiing with a left-tail quarter-wind? I didn't even notice it until I answered that question (correctly, I might add), but I was amazed at the lack of security. It felt nice though, to not have someone staring at me while I worked. Just know that if you're taking the test, it's a very calm environment -- at least based off my experiences.

The test itself was mixed. Some of the questions were really easy, while others made me do double-takes. The test books I used and the websites I used had many of the EXACT QUESTIONS used on the test. I cannot stress this enough; the test questions are not secrets! Even if you don't know what a plane looks like, if you memorized just one of the test books, you could pass. I also found a website since my last post that gives the questions along with the answers:

I was thinking about detailing the questions I got and writing as many of them as I could remember, but I think that would be useless; the best thing you can do is memorize (and if you understand the "why" that's even better, but passing a test and knowing how to fly are two totally different things). If you're taking this test: memorize!

Now, the CATS test I took looked like the following:

[Click the image for full version.]

Pretty self-explanatory, but I'll review:
  • The Questions area on the left tells you which questions you've answered, which you've "marked" (by clicking the Mark button at the bottom of the screen), which you've marked and answered and which you've done neither to. There's a key below to remind you which symbol is which. You can also click any question to jump to it; they do not have to be done in any order. (Remember, there's 60 questions, so the scroll bar really was there.)
  • The question at the top of the main area with 3 radio buttons with possible answers below (in my picture, answer A is correct). When you click one it just checks that circle (my example shows no checked answer yet).
  • There are 5 buttons below the question. They are:
    1. Mark: marks the question so you can remind yourself to return to it or for whatever reason you may want. If you want to un-mark a question, simply click "Mark" again.
    2. Previous: takes you to the question before the one you're at. So if you're at question 10, it takes you to question 9.
    3. Next: takes you to the question after the one you're at. So if you're at question 10, it takes you to question 11.
    4. Calc: brings a pop-up calculator onto the screen. This basically eliminates the need for bringing your own calculator, as this one has the arithmetic functions and a few more (I think exponential and trig).
    5. Finish: click when you're finished with your exam. Don't worry if you accidentally click it -- it double-confirms that you're done before you exit.
  • MISSING FROM THE FIGURE: There's two things that I didn't put on the image: (1) a clock telling you how much time you have left (h:mm:ss) is located right above the Questions list on the left and (2) if the question says to refer to a figure, an image will be listed below the A/B/C choices that you can click on to see a pop-up of that figure/diagram/etc. Sometimes the image is of text which reads "YOU MUST REFER TO YOUR BOOK FOR THIS FIGURE". (The proctor will give you a book of these figures for your exam.)
  • Finally: I noticed an error when I took my test: whenever you try to move a pop-up (the calculator or a figure) it becomes transparent and you have to exit it (by clicking the X in the top-right) to exit. My advice: either don't move the pop-ups, or use the calculator you brought and the figures in the book (they're better than their simulated versions anyway).
Well, that about covers the exam. Sorry for the long, technical post. I just wanted to get this up ASAP and didn't spend much time worrying about grammar or logical flow, so accept my apologies for that.

My next lesson is for tomorrow night, assuming the weather stays fair before I leave town for the weekend. Until then!

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