I recently took the FAA knowledge test for Instrument Ground Instructor (IGI) and Flight Instructor Instrument (FII), and it got me thinking about the process of studying for an FAA knowledge test. In this week’s blog, I am going to walk you through my experience and give some tips for success as you prepare for your tests.
In order to prepare for the exams, I used the Gleim Aviation FAA Knowledge Test Prep book and the FAA Test Prep Online for Instrument Pilot. These are excellent tools that provide all the information needed to pass in a way that is simple to understand. In all of the Gleim Knowledge Test Prep materials, the content is broken up into different study units that group similar topics together. Each study unit has two parts: the outline and the questions. The outlines explain all of the concepts you need to know in order to answer the questions on those topics correctly. The questions are either previously released FAA questions or new questions written in a way that mimics what you might see on the test. Each question provides a thorough answer explanation for the correct answer as well as explanations for why the other answers are incorrect.
I began with the first study unit and worked my way chronologically to the end. Before attempting to answer any of the questions, I focused on the outline to make sure I was familiar with all of the knowledge areas, then I moved on to the questions. There are two different ways you can practice answering the questions in Test Prep Online, study sessions or test sessions.
In a study session, you receive immediate feedback once you select an answer. You are told whether the answer you selected is right or wrong and are presented with the answer explanation. You can also click on the other two answers to read their answer explanations. In a test session, you will not receive any feedback until the session is complete; it is meant to feel like you are actually taking the exam. The test sessions even emulate the software that is used at FAA testing centers; that way, everything will look very familiar when you take your exam for real.
The majority of my time was spent in the study sessions. I was able to answer many of the questions quickly and easily based on my initial study of the outline. If I missed a question, I would be sure to read the answer explanations for both the incorrect and correct answers. If needed, I would go back to the outline for further clarification of a topic I missed. After I finished a study session, I would immediately create a new session, this time including only the questions I missed, and then repeat this process until I answered every question correctly. This really helped to reinforce the topics I was weaker on.
After I had gone through all the study units, I began using test sessions. I used the standard tests, although you can also create custom test sessions to target specific study units. The tests cover a wide variety of topics and do an excellent job of simulating the content of the actual exam. After I finished a test session, I created a new study session with all of the questions I missed to make sure I understood those concepts before moving on.
My favorite feature of Test Prep Online was the performance analysis tool, which allowed me to review previous sessions and view performance summaries and graphs. This was what I used to really tailor my studying. After taking three tests, I reviewed the performance analysis to see what my weak areas were. Using the graphs, it was easy to quickly notice trends, such as a study unit that I was consistently missing questions in. Then I created customized study sessions to cover the areas I was having trouble with. This really helped me to study efficiently and make sure I was spending my time reviewing the appropriate material.
When I began consistently scoring at least 90% on my practice tests and no trends were showing in the performance analysis, I knew I was ready to take the real thing. I scheduled to take my test early in the morning, because I know that time is when I work the best. On the day of the test, I didn’t feel nervous because I knew that I was well prepared.
The questions on the tests were very similar to the questions in Gleim’s study materials, many being nearly exact matches. Some questions I didn’t recognize, but I was easily able to determine the correct answer based on what I had learned while studying. There were surprisingly few questions covering flight planning or en route calculations. Some questions asked about hold entries. There were a few covering weather depiction charts and other weather services. Several questions asked about the requirements for instrument currency. Basically, there was a good mix of topics with hardly any emphasis placed in one area.
In the end, I was very pleased with the results. I ended up only missing three out of 100 questions between the two tests. I felt like the Gleim materials prepared me very well and made me feel confident I would pass.
Here are a few final pieces of advice as you prepare for your own exams. First, don’t wait to take your test. Instead, get it done early and try not to drag out the studying. It is best to take the exam within 30 days of beginning to study. You could even schedule your test several weeks in advance so that you have a date to motivate yourself to study towards.
Second, don’t simply memorize questions and answers. Although it can sometimes seem like it, the goal of the knowledge exam is not to test your rote memorization skills. It is to assure that you possess the required knowledge to operate safely as a pilot. It is better for you to take the time to study and understand the topics and ideas in the outlines. If you understand the concepts you will be able to apply your knowledge and come up with the correct answer even when a question looks unfamiliar. Most importantly, memorizing answers is not of any value to real world flying. Take the time to learn the material and it will pay off in the end.
Finally, remember that everyone studies and learns differently. The study methods I described above will work for some but not others. If you are in need of a more structured approach that helps walk you through preparing for the test, try out the Gleim Online Ground School. The Online Ground School also includes additional study guides that go beyond the basics needed to prepare for the knowledge test. Gleim is so confident that the Online Ground School course will allow you to ace your exam that they offer a refund if you don’t pass.
So what are you waiting for? Preparing for an FAA knowledge test takes hard work and dedication, but it is very achievable with the help of training products from Gleim Aviation. Take your next step today! If you have any questions about pilot training, the Gleim team of Aviation Training Consultants can help. Call 800-874-5346, ext. 471 or contact Gleim online.
Written by Karl Winters, Gleim Aviation Editor and Instructor
About Gleim Aviation
Since 1980, the Gleim Aviation team of pilots, instructors, writers, designers, and programmers has helped aviators pass millions of FAA knowledge and practical tests using the unique Gleim Knowledge Transfer System. Gleim is an environmentally-friendly company headquartered in Gainesville, FL.