The Knowledge Test (Test Taking Tips)

The Knowledge Test (Test Taking Tips)

While actually physically flying might have become second nature to you, there is another hurdle standing in your way. The FAA Private Pilot knowledge test. You will have to back up the practical with a little…OK, a lot of theory. The good news is that if you follow my guide, you'll be all set, with a positive mental attitude and ready to pass.

What is the Private Pilot Knowledge Test?

The Private Pilot knowledge test will normally be computer-based. The usual test format is a multi-choice test. You will be given 90 minutes to complete the test. To pass the test, you will be required to achieve a pass mark of 70% or greater.

Here is what you will be tested on: -

·         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 sounds like a lot, right?

The good news is, the private pilot knowledge test is a multiple-choice examination. That means that the correct answer will be right in front of you!

Provided you follow my test-taking tips below, you'll be in a great position to find the right answer.

How Can I Be Successful in Test Taking?

If anybody could just turn up and ace the private pilot knowledge test, the world would be full of pilots.

Do you know why it isn't?

Because the test requires dedication and hard work.

This is my first essential tip for test-taking. Work hard!

This is the key to passing any test. Whether it is your private pilot knowledge test, practical skills test, or another flying-related test, you must do your utmost to pass.

There are no shortcuts to passing tests, it's hard for a reason, and you'll need genuine knowledge to pass.

Take a look at my tips below to make sure you are ready for the day.

How Can I Improve My Test Taking Skills? 8 Tips to Help You Pass

Study, Study and More Study

Remember above how I said you'll need to work hard. For this, read 'study'. And study you shall.

How people study is a very personal choice. Some guys can sit and absorb information with a manual on their lap while watching TV. Still, for most, I'd suggest a calmer environment. Here are some pointers on studying effectively: -

·         Make studying a routine. And choose study times that fit with your schedule

·         Study someplace quiet where you won't be disturbed.

·         Organize your study area. Tidy desk, tidy mind

·         Work in 'chunks'. Half an hour of study, followed by a five-minute break.

·         Create a study plan, assign a set amount of time each week to a given subject

Deal with The Hard, Not the Easy

We all tend to stick to what we know and shy away from what we don't. No more so than when we study.


It is the things that you struggle with that will trip you up in the knowledge test. So, here's my advice.

Try your best to understand and work harder on the areas that you find challenging. The easy questions will be an 'open goal', so work on wringing those last few points from any tricky questions in the test.

Arrive Early and Prepared

There is no worse feeling than arriving at a test feeling rushed and not ready. Prepare everything you'll need for the test the night before and place them somewhere that you aren't going to forget.

For the test, you will need: -

·         A signed endorsement in your logbook from your instructor

·         Photo identification

·         A pen (and a spare)

·         An EB6 Flight computer

·         A chart plotter

Try and aim to arrive at least a few minutes before the test starts. That way, you can relax and focus on the task at hand.

Wing Tips

"If you don't yet have a flight instructor before you take your knowledge test, you can get your ground-school instructor to endorse your logbook. Some multimedia ground schools also will endorse you if you send them sample tests you have passed."

Read the Question

This is a vital tip! Read the question, stop and then read the question again. In many cases, people don't choose the wrong answer because they do not know, but because they have misunderstood the question!

Think about what the question is asking you. Is there any information that is crucial to getting the right answer? Take your time and understand what the question is asking you. Only then select an answer.

Think of an Answer First

Speaking of answers, here's a great tip for passing tests.

Multiple choice answers are sometimes designed to lead you astray on purpose. There may be an answer that is half-right or very similar to the actual correct answer.

Here's how to get around it.

Provided you have followed my advice and studied, there is a good chance that you will know the correct answer without looking at the multiple-choice answers. See if you can work out the answer first and then use the multiple-choice answers to back you up.

If the answer you came to is there, then there is a good chance that it is correct.

Be Aware of Time

You'll have 90 minutes to complete the private pilot knowledge test, which should be plenty of time. However, some questions take longer than others to reach a successful answer.

I am not advocating rushing (as that could lead to a mistake), but I would suggest that you keep a careful eye on the time.

It would be a terrible shame to receive negative marks for unanswered questions at the end of the paper that you would have got right if you'd managed your time effectively.

Leave Difficult Questions and Circle Back

Twinned with being time aware, this is a great test-taking tip.

Don't get hung up on difficult questions at the expense of the right answers further down the paper. The questions are all equally valuable. An easy correct answer will give you the same credit as a difficult answer.

If you reach a question that you are struggling with, or are unsure of, pass it by, move on to easier answers and come back to it once you've got the 'open goals' out of the way.

Eliminate Obviously Incorrect Answers

This is one of my favorite tips regarding multi-choice test papers.

Sometimes they allow you to choose the right answer, even if you aren't 100% sure that it is correct.


You can simply pick the least wrong answer. There will be some answers that will definitely be wrong. If you can identify them, you make your job easier.

The number of options goes from a 1-in-3 chance down to a 1-in-2 chance of getting it right. That's pretty good odds!

Practice Test Taking

When have you ever done anything for the first time and been absolutely amazing at it?

If you are anything like me, then the answer is 'never'.

The same logic applies to your private pilot knowledge test.

The key to gaining more knowledge and dealing with the pre-test nerves is to become so well-practiced in taking the test that it seems like another practice run.

There are numerous excellent ground schools and computerized courses to help you pass your knowledge test.

King Schools, in particular, have a free online test that is about as close to the real thing as you can get.

Managed to achieve over 70% the first time? What a confidence boost!

Be sure to review all study materials and take sample or practice tests just before your knowledge test appointment

Don't Be Tempted to Rush!

You'll receive your score immediately after completing the test. Some people rush because they want to find out if they have passed.

Don't fall into this trap. What difference are an extra 15 minutes going to make in the grand scheme of things?

Go With Your Gut

Remember that your first answer is usually the right one. There can be a temptation to second guess yourself and change your answer.

Here's my advice.

Unless you are certain that you've got a question wrong. Go with your gut. If you knew it immediately, you wouldn't have discovered anything new while sat taking the test. Pick the right answer and have confidence.

Use All of the information available to you

Read all notes and footnotes on any example figure in the test because they can hold clues to the answers to the question you're on or other questions later on.

There might be a map section with a little bit of extra information that is tested later, or it might allow you to recall something you'd thought you'd forgotten.

Remember, It Is Not the End of the World!

While at the moment it might feel like you have a lot riding on you passing the test, the reality is if you don't pass the first time, it really doesn't matter.

You can always take the test again if you don't get a passing score this time. And, when you return, you'll have an even greater chance of success.

You'll no doubt have gone away and really brushed up on your weak areas, making you a much better pilot.

My Final Tip. Study to Be a Better Pilot

There is often an inclination when certain people study to do so just to pass the test. In this case, I'd advise against it.

The private pilot knowledge test exists for a reason. That reason is to make you a better airman. The things you'll learn during the course of preparing for the test will be of genuine use to you when you are actually up in the air.

You might find question banks and 'cheat sheets' loaded with questions and answers. However, learning the 'correct answer' instead of understanding the knowledge itself will defeat the object of you taking the test in the first place.

Pay attention when learning the theory and use that information to make you a better pilot in the air.

Provided you stick to my test-taking tips, put the work in, and are willing to learn, you'll be in a great place to succeed with your private pilot knowledge test. What to expect during the test? I’ve got a great guide right here. How did you find it? Did you pass? Let me know in the comments below.