By Howard Deevers


We all know that we must take an FAA “Written” test for just about any rating that we seek. It is part of the regulations.  On your first day of learning to fly, your instructor will let you know that you will have to pass a “Written” at some time before the check ride. There are books, test prep online courses, and ground school programs to prepare new candidates for the “Written.”  We also know that a minimum passing grade is 70.

In addition to the “Written” you will also have to pass an “Oral” exam given by the Pilot Examiner. We didn't have that in grade school or high school. If you are planning to get a PhD in any subject, there will be an “oral” by a team of examiners.

If you do pass the “Written” with a score in the low 70's, the oral part of your check ride may be a bit longer than you expected. Just like in high school, or college, many of us “cram for the exam,” staying up late at night to read those history chapters that I didn't read during the semester. Sometimes I think they passed me just so they would not have to have me in the class another year!

2024 march knowledge tests

Some people are very good at taking written tests; others not so good, but we all get through. The point is to keep on learning even after school, or in this case, even after getting a Pilot Certificate!

Most of the testing we had in schools were at the end of the course. Some subjects had “pop” quizzes along the way to see how well we were doing, but to pass the subject course our final exam was a big deal.

In aviation, the “written” can be taken at any time. As a result, many pilots focus on getting the written out of the way, but there is a catch to this: when you pass the written, even if you pass with the minimum passing of 70, the clock starts ticking. You have 24 months in which to complete all training and be signed off to take the Check Ride by your instructor. For that reason, I don't recommend that my students take the “written” until they are very near the end of training. Don't take that position of “Let's get that written out of the way.”

In twenty-four months, a lot can happen in your life; you could be in an accident and take many months to recover, or some family emergency could distract you from flight training, or financial issues could arise. There are many things that could disrupt your plans to get your pilot certificate. I even had one student that lost the test results and had to do a lot of backtracking to get a copy of those results showing that he had passed, and it was close to the end of the twenty-four months. If that twenty-four month period expires, you will have to take the “written” again.

Waiting to near the end of your training to take the written will also benefit you because you will relate to the questions easier. There is no substitute for experience. Waiting until later in training does not guarantee you a better score on the test, but it won't hurt either. And remember that when you get your Pilot Certificate: it is your license to learn!

Come to a Safety Seminar by your ARIZONA PILOTS ASSOCIATION, and don't forget to Bring your Wingman.

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