Private Pilot Knowledge Test (and Prep)

Private Pilot Knowledge Test (and Prep)

The Private Pilot Knowledge test might seem a little daunting, but it truly is your time to shine. It is your chance to show how much you have learned during your training and to try and get the highest score possible. I'm here to help you achieve that goal. Today we'll be discussing the Private Pilot knowledge test. I'm going to tell you what it involves, resources to help you prepare, and give you some tips on how to pass.

What Is the Private Pilot Knowledge Test?

The private pilot knowledge test is a mandatory examination specified by the United States Federal Aviation Authority.

It is designed to test your knowledge in practically every area surrounding the safe operation of your aircraft.

You will be tested in several areas. These include: -

  • Aerodynamics
  • Airspace and Weather Minimums
  • Flight Operations
  • Cross-Country Planning
  • Flight Instruments
  • Weather
  • Communication and Radar Services
  • Aircraft Performance
  • Sectional Charts
  • Electronic Navigation
  • FAA Regulations
  • Weight and Balance

That might seem like a lot of information to learn. So, you are going to need to know how to prepare…

How to Prepare for the Private Pilot Knowledge Test. Key Resources


The first place to start is by going online to take a look at what the FAA is all about. Go to, and you will discover that the FAA really is set up to help people learn to fly.

The site could seem intimidating at first because it serves new student pilots and private and commercial pilots, plus all those consumers who fly and travel on commercial airplanes. Spend some time poking around on-site, and you'll see that it has lots of useful information to offer.

What next?

Flying Groups and Organisations

Next, I recommend that you visit online sites set up by the various flying organization. The largest is the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), with extensive resources for new and experienced pilots. Another resource for vintage, experimental and light-sport aircraft is the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Membership in both groups is highly recommended.

Your Flight Instructor

You won't be expected to learn all of the rules and regulations on your own. Your flight instructor will play a big part in educating you in various aspects of your flight training.

A lot of the knowledge will be firmly remembered as you are going to learn by doing. Areas that you will most definitely practice include things like plotting a course, using a flight computer, the rules of the air, and interpreting meteorological data.

There might be something that you can't find in a book or online. So here's my advice.

Ask your instructor.

Practice the Theory Test at Home

The pilot's written test isn't actually 'written'. Nowadays, it is nearly always completed on a computer. So it makes sense to try and practice the test on a computer, right?

There are some excellent resources out there that will allow you to do exactly this. And for those less tech-savvy, there are plenty of other options too!

King Schools, the largest aviation school in the United States, offers a course of instruction specifically developed for the private pilot certificate. It's available on interactive DVD, CD, or video and includes printed material for supplementation and review.

 It goes beyond what you need to know for the test, covering things you should know to fly. John and Martha King have been training pilots for decades.

The courses, such as those just mentioned, can also be interactive, which will really aid your understanding.

The interactive courses work like this: You watch a video presentation and then answer questions very similar to those that will appear on your knowledge test. You're immediately graded on your answer and are told why the answer is correct or incorrect.

Finally, you can take one or more practice tests before going for the FAA knowledge test. Those who use this training method often get passing scores of 90 percent or more, and some get 100 percent!

How Hard Is the Private Pilot Knowledge Test?

The Private pilot knowledge test isn't particularly difficult provided that you put the work in.

The passing score for the knowledge test is 70 percent. However, the real test is actually flying, when you need to remember and apply what you've learned. So don't do the minimum — do the maximum. Study, restudy, review, take sample tests, and ensure you're absolutely ready for the knowledge test.

There are many areas of the test that you'll find you learn naturally as a result of your flying experience. Remember, you can't take the test until the instructor endorses it in your logbook, which probably means you'll have a fair amount of flying experience before taking the test.

Most people hit an average score of 84%. That's doesn't sound too difficult, right?

When you consider that according to figures released by the FAA, over 90% of people taking the test pass, it should be a walk in the park.

Private Pilot Knowledge Test FAQ

Theory and regulation are something that you will have to get used to if you want to be a pilot. There is a lot of information to take in, and I want to make it easy. Here are some common questions that are asked about the Private Pilot Knowledge test: -

How Old Do I Have to Be to Take the Private Pilot Written Test?

To take the private pilot's written test, according to the FAA, you have to be a minimum of 15 years of age. To prove this, you may be required to show identification proving your age

How Long Is the Private Pilot Knowledge Test?

In total, you will have two hours and thirty minutes to complete the test. That works out at around two and a half minutes per question.

Considering that you'll be able to answer several of the questions at a glance, that should give you plenty of time.

Is the Pilot Exam Hard?

The pilot exam is not particularly difficult if you study effectively (and you will need to study). The fact that over 90% of people pass it means that you should stand an excellent chance.

If you suffer from the jitters or pre-exam nerves, I've got an excellent guide detailing tips to pass the test, right here.

How Many Questions Are there on the Private Pilot Knowledge Test?

In total, there will be 60 questions on the test paper. Here is the breakdown of the questions and what you can expect to see:

  • Regulations: 3 – 9 questions
  • Accident Reporting: 3 - 6 questions
  • Performance Charts: 3 - 6 questions
  • Radio Communications: 3 - 6 questions
  • Weather: 3 - 6 questions
  • Flight Operations 3 - 9 questions
  • Aircraft Performance : 3 - 6 questions
  • Weight and Balance: 3 - 6 questions
  • Aerodynamics and Aircraft Systems: 3 - 6 questions
  • Stalling: 3 - 6 questions
  • Decision Making: 3 - 6 questions
  • Preflight Actions: 3 - 6 questions

What Happens if I Fail the Pilot Test?

Listen, it isn't the end of the world, and you will be able to retake the test. If you fail the test, you'll be given something called an 'airman test computer report'. This is a good thing as it will detail the areas in which you didn't do so well.

Why is it a good thing?

Because it shows you which areas you need to brush up on for next time


In summary, the private pilot knowledge test shouldn't be particularly challenging, provided you prepare adequately. You'll have plenty of time to complete the test and now should have a good general understanding of what is required.

Now all that is left to do is give it you are all. Once this essential test is passed, you'll be well on your way to achieving your license! Where are you going to fly first? Let me know in the comments!

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