As I’m sure you’re aware, your pilot certification is a multi-step process that will include a written testing component – similar to earning your driver’s license. The purpose of the written test is to establish that you’ve obtained a satisfactory base level of knowledge before you can embark on a practical exam (oral and flight exam) required for certification. Other purposes of the knowledge test are to identify deficient knowledge areas requiring additional training and so that the FAA has the opportunity to communicate what is most important via the test.
While the FAA appears to be taking much needed steps in correcting significant short-comings of the written test, an unfortunate development in written testing, due to substantial budget constraints (among other reasons), is a written test that, in many ways, is disconnected from how we fly and train.
Exaggerating the apparent disconnect is an inflexible written test delivery vehicle that only allows for one type of multiple choice question and the lack of a written testing standard. The sad reality being that you may very well be asked to answer questions on a written test that reference outdated or incorrect information or tests information in a confusing and/or illogical manner. Some questions may require you to regurgitate obscure or trivial knowledge. And some performance-based questions may require impractical interpolations. While we can hope that the future will bring a better correlation between airman testing and training, we’re not there yet. So right or wrong, you’ll need to be prepared – and proper preparation should include a dedicated written testing component.
While not recommended as a stand-alone resource, a quality, written-test preparation program, as you’ll find in Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course, has great educational value and helps round-out your training arsenal. It allows you to digest information from a multitude of sources down to what is most important for your certifying exam. Complete and accurate explanations to accompany written test questions are also a vital component that will help make for a powerful learning experience.
Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course, available on DVD, online or as a dedicated app for iPad/iPhone, features a robust, customizable test preparation tool with three Modes of operation. Learning Mode is used to select specific areas of study or to study a random mix of questions. Test Mode will provide a random mix of question to provide a simulated exam. Finally, Flashcard Mode will allow you to answer questions without seeing any answer choices in a self-graded environment.
First time users would be wise to utilize Learning Mode first which will allow you to study the knowledge test questions by topic and identify your weaker areas. Once a question is answered, it is graded immediately. The correct answer is noted in green and incorrect answers in red for a quick visual cue of your progress. Explanations are displayed with all answer choices and it’s imperative to read and understand each explanation to help reinforce important concepts. You can begin this study following the completion of your core video training or after completing specific training segments or volumes on related topics.
Once you’ve self-identified your weaker areas of knowledge, you can now build Learning Mode sessions to focus only on those areas for more efficient preparation. Your progress is continuously tracked with your number of correctly answered questions and a score relative to the number of answered questions. Once you’ve completed the study session, use the “Grade Session” feature for a score and the “Review Explanations” feature to review why questions were missed.
Flashcard Mode is similar to Learning Mode in that it allows you to study the knowledge test questions by topic and identify your weaker areas, but does not show answer choices to your questions. As with flashcards, the goal is to answer the question mentally and then display the answer to determine whether you’ve answered the question correctly. Depending on your learning style, you may choose to utilize Flashcard Mode as an alternative to Learning Mode and ONLY focus on correct responses or you may choose to graduate to Flashcard Mode to further test and correct weaker knowledge areas.
Regardless of your first experience with Flashcard Mode, it’s also beneficial as a cumulative check just prior to your actual FAA written exam by choosing a random mix of questions and focusing on correct responses. Just as in Learning Mode, your progress is continuously tracked. Once you have completed the study session, also grade your session and review explanations.
As you might expect, Test Mode functions just like a real exam. There is a time limit imposed that matches the actual FAA exam and you are given a random mix of questions for that also mimics the real exam. Once you have completed a test session, use the “Grade Test” button for a score and to “Review Explanations.” The Review Explanations option will return you to your same test session. Each test session is recorded in a separate Progress Reports tab so that you can always reference your progress or share your progress with an instructor.
As I hope is evident, a dedicated test preparation tool utilized correctly and responsibly has tremendous learning value and the more customization options, the better.