Test preparation software and/or books exist for almost every test imaginable, including the required pilot knowledge tests for certificates and ratings. Their formula is simple: provide all of the known questions on the test and their answers. With this data provided, pilots can choose the “easy” way of preparing for the knowledge test or the “hard” way. What are we talking about, and which way is better?
How Test Preparation Books And Software Work
Publishers gather test questions from a combination of the original ones that had been released publicly in the past and questions reported as being seen by test-taking pilots. The possible answers are presented either in print format (much like my quizzes published on this site) or in a similar manner to how they are displayed in the official computer test-taking software.
In books, the answer may be highlighted or written below the options to give you a chance to think about it before being forced to see the answer. If a test supplement is required, typically the publisher will include a print copy with your purchase. But, digital copies are available for free on the FAA’s web site.
In software, you typically either have to click an answer to see if you are correct or not, or options may exist to display only the correct answer from the start. Some provide a test-taking mode where you are given a set of sample questions, answer them all, and then are graded at the end. Typically test supplement imagery is included in the software for on-screen viewing, rather than providing a physical book. This is a hazard we will discuss shortly.
Usually, both formats will provide an explanation for the answer, or at least a reference to the guiding FAA publication. Some even have step-by-step problem-solving guides to follow.
The Easy Way To Study
If you just keep reading the questions and the answers, eventually you’ll remember the answers to the questions and likely pass the knowledge test. This is called rote memorization. The FAA emphasizes four basic levels of learning: Rote, Understanding, Application, and Correlation (RUAC).1 Rote is merely the ability to repeat back something you learned. For instance, you know the max gross weight of an Airbus EC130B4 is 2427kg (5350lb) because I just told you and, if you read it enough, you’ll memorize it.
One big hazard with this method and computer-based test preparation software is that you may not be able to measure or plot on the screen to solve distance, course, or performance calculations due to the screen/image scale being incorrect. If you don’t get a print supplement, you are mostly forced to memorize the answers to these questions.
The Hard Way To Study
Granted, for subjects like regulations or terminology, you basically do have to memorize the answers. But there are subjects such as flight planning, weight and balance, weather, aerodynamics, and performance that require a process to be followed to answer the questions. If you simply memorize the answers to these questions found in the test preparation software/book, you may not really know how to solve the problem if a different question is asked in the test. If you take the time to learn how to answer the questions presented, you won’t even have to bother trying to memorize specific answers.
This represents the understanding and application levels of learning. For instance, you understand why the EC130B4 has a weight limit (the engine/airframe can’t handle much more than that specific weight), and then you can apply this knowledge to make a calculation to determine balance, fuel loading, and figure out the max weight of passengers you could handle for a particular operation—the application level of learning.
Don’t Short Yourself. Don’t Short Your Fellow Pilots.
I’ve taught/evaluated many pilots that used the “easy” way to pass their tests. They typically could not handle scenario-based oral questions well, and needed a lot more help and study time to truly be prepared for the practical exam by a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). Pilots that had spent time learning to the higher levels of at least understanding and application did much better, and could adapt to different scenarios. Plus, they typically continued to seek more knowledge, as the written tests DO NOT cover nearly enough information you need to operate safely outside of the learning environment.
Using our EC130B4 example, if one learned basic weight and balance in flight school, they should at least understand that the aircraft has limits. As they progress, they learn to balance fuel and passenger loading to keep the aircraft in these limits. For instance, tour companies may specify a default fuel load and set a max seat limit for all passengers, to ensure the aircraft is always within limits. If you move on to utility or Helicopter Air Ambulance (HAA) work, you’ll find that you need to be able to quickly determine weight and balance for varying loads that can’t be completely predictable, plus understand how fuel burn or crew changes affect the weight you can carry at any given time, combined with that effect on performance. And you may have to figure some of this out while flying, without the luxury of sitting in an office with time to spare.
It gets more and more complicated as you progress through your career. Why hinder yourself by “cheating” with the easy way? It doesn’t do you any good, it doesn’t do your fellow pilots any good, and it doesn’t do the customers any good either.
- Federal Aviation Administration. (2008). FAA-H-8083-9A: Aviation Instructor’s Handbook. Retrieved March 20, 2017 from https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/handbooks_manuals/aviation/aviation_instructors_handbook/media/FAA-H-8083-9A.pdf