How to PASS Your FAA Knowledge Exam With A Great Score and WHY It’s Important

I get a lot of students who don’t care what their written exam score is.

They’ll say something like: “Hey, I don’t care what I get, just as long as I pass.” They’re perfectly OK with just making the minimum passing score (70%). And for the life of me, I don’t understand that way of thinking at all.

As if that weren’t bad enough, I also get a few who are perfectly OK with taking the test three or four times until they pass!

I really hope that you aren’t one of those people, but If you are, there is something you need to understand.

[bctt tweet=”Your written test score can affect you on your checkride!”]

Why Is Making a Good Score Important?

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FAA Knowledge Test Report[/caption]

During the oral part of your practical exam (checkride), the FAA examiner will look at your Airman Knowledge Test Report (click the image at the right to make it larger).

From my experience with my own checkrides and with those of my students, I’ve noticed that many examiners tend to go a little easier on those with a good knowledge exam score. That’ isn’t a set rule by any means, just something I’ve noticed over the years.

Think about it; who is the examiner most likely going to drill more, someone who scored a 90+ on their first attempt, or someone who’s taken the exam two or three times and still barely passed with a score in the 70’s?

It Will Cost You More Money

Another thing to keep in mind is that taking the FAA knowledge exam isn’t cheap. A recent check (January, 2016) with one of the testing service providers, CATS, lists their price at $ 150.00 (or $ 140.00 with an AOPA membership) per exam.

Ouch. That gets pretty steep after taking it two or three times…

Add to that, every time you fail the exam, your CFI has to go over what you missed on the test and give you remedial training on those subjects before they can give you another endorsement to retake the test.

And guess what? Most CFIs don’t work for free. So that extra time needed to review your failed subject areas will cost you as well.

How to Score Well On Your Exam

Now you understand why getting a good test score is so important. However, wanting to make a good score is one thing, actually doing it is entirely another.

[box]The secret to making a good test score comes down to knowing how to properly prepare yourself by understanding which type of learner you are.[/box]

You may take a ground school course because your flight school offers one and recommends that you take it (more money for them), or maybe you might buy an online prep course simply because it worked great for your friend and he or she recommended it you.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the best way for YOU to learn the material.

Everyone is different. And what works for someone else, may not work for you.

So before deciding on a preparation method for the written exam, the first thing you have to do is figure out which type of learner you are. From there, it’s a lot easier to choose the best way to prepare.

Which Type of Leaner Are You?

There are four types of learners.

[box type=”info”] Like me, you may find that you fit into more than one group. If so, just combine those methods that work best for you.[/box]

[box] In my case, I fit into two of these categories. I’m a read/write learner, but I also fit into the visual learner category. I learn best by studying textbooks where I can see the material in front of me, but I also benefit from video and online courses which help to explain things that I may not have a firm understanding of. When I combine these two methods, it works the best for me. If I sit through a ground school or have someone in front of me rattling off the information, I won’t learn a thing because I just don’t learn well in group settings.[/box]

3 Ways to Study Effectively

Not everyone studies the same way. Some people are happy cramming everything in at the last

minute, while some need pages covered in highlighter to feel prepared.

But when it comes down to it, effective studying mostly comes down to being prepared and taking breaks. Here are three tips to make the most of your studying.

#1. Interval studying instead of cramming is one of your best bets.

  • Read this 2007 study from the University of South Florida and the University of California to get a better understanding of this concept.

# 2. Taking breaks is necessary and effective.

  • The brain is a muscle, and unsurprisingly, tires from constant stress. If you’re able to take breaks every hour or so, it will help increase the effectiveness of your study techniques and cognitive abilities.

# 3. Don’t just sit there reading the material over and over.

  • This might be the easiest way to study, but it isn’t the most effective.
  • A 2010 study from Washington University in St. Louis looked at the effectiveness of repeated testing over repeated studying and found that testing yourself is much more effective than just re-reading the material.
  • Using flash cards or even closing your eyes to recall information is also more effective than reading the material over and over.

7 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Making a Great Score

Regardless of your preparation method, YOU MUST UNDERSTAND AND FOLLOW these seven things if you expect to do well on your test.

# 1. You Need to Actually Learn the Material!

  • DO NOT try to memorize questions and answers.
  • The FAA doesn’t publish all of the actual questions, so you can’t memorize them all anyway.
  • Test questions and answers are often changed to make them harder to memorize.

[box type=”warning”] MOST people who fail written tests have tried to shortcut the process and just memorize questions and answers.[/box]

[box type=”bio”] TIP: Rote learning (memorization) may help you pass your test, but it will cause you problems during the oral exam or in actual flight because you will lack a true understanding.[/box]

# 2. Take Your Test Early.

  • I recommend taking the exam as soon as possible; preferably early in your training.
  • Getting it done and out-of-the-way early will allow you to focus on your actual flight training and not have to worry about it.
  • Test results are valid for 24 calendar months, so you have plenty of time to complete the requirements and finish your flight training.

[box type=”bio”] TIP: At a very minimum, take the test at least two weeks before your check ride, just in case you need to retest or have any problems.[/box]

# 3. Three Things About the Way FAA Questions Are Written.

  • If you leave a question blank it will always score as wrong, so at least guess!
  • The questions are literal; never try to read into the question for implied meaning.
  • Most questions include one possible answer that is very close to the correct answer but, wrong in some small detail.

[box type=”bio”] TIP: Take the test slowly. Read the question and all three possible answers SLOWLY before making your choice. When in doubt, try not to change an answer unless you are 100% sure. Your 1st instinct is usually the correct one![/box]

# 4. Study the Actual FAA Test Supplement.

[box type=”bio”] TIP: Practice measuring distances using the edge of a piece of paper. ⇒ Your plotter scale does not work on the supplement book![/box]

# 5. Take Lots of Practice Tests.

# 6. Only Take What Is Allowed To The Testing Center.

  • Only take your e6b (manual or electronic), your plotter, and a simple calculator to the testing center.
  • No phones, graphing calculators, or anything else is allowed in the room during testing.
  • Click here to see the list of allowed items you can bring with you.
  • Make sure you have the required ID, proof of address, and a complete legal endorsement before going to the testing center.

[box type=”bio”] TIP: The testing program has an electronic flight computer and calculator built-in to double-check your work, so use it![/box]

# 7. Don’t Even Think About Cheating!

Cheating, or anything that even looks like cheating during the test (there are cameras in the room) will result in the test being stopped and a report being sent to the FAA.

  • Don’t talk to anyone during the test.
  • Don’t take any paper in or out of the testing room.
  • Don’t dig through your pockets during the test.

[box type=”warning”] If the FAA thinks you were attempting to cheat, they can block any new certificates for 1 year and revoke any pilot certificates you already have! And yes, I’ve seen it happen! [/box]

Let’s Hear What You Think!

If you are having trouble figuring out which type of learner you are, or trouble deciding on the best program or course that’s best for you, send me an email and I’ll be happy to help you figure it out or give you my recommendation based on your situation. Click here to email me.

For more links to beneficial resources to help you in your flight training click here.

Do you have anything to add? Let’s hear it!