Good morning everyone! I check this page every day but this is my first time posting. This is mainly for anybody that is on the fence about/or is considering taking some of the written exams early. It will benefit anyone that is trying to figure out how much time it really takes to get these tests done.
A little background on myself. I’m coming from the finance industry. I was a financial planner for a well known investment company. I have no family ties to aviation and started with zero prior knowledge. My dad worked on the ramp, loading and unloading planes for US Airways for 25 years. So, I guess I had some airline background but no flying. I was always around my dad and his friends and the culture of flying. Flying was always something that appealed to me and it was something I wanted to do since I was a kid. I was a good athlete and played sports in college but I opted for a major in Finance and Communications. So after college, settled in with a couple different investment companies and when COVID hit and we all had to work from home, it gave me a little glimpse of what the rest of my life could possibly look like and I hated it. I had no interest in sitting in my spare bedroom, on a computer, for 8-10 hours a day. Only to then move 50 feet to my living room to watch TV, until I went to sleep. It wasn’t the life I wanted. Being 34 years old, I knew that if I wanted to become a pilot, this was my opportunity to do it. So, I applied with Sallie Mae, they gave me the greenlight on my loan, I called up ATP, they set me up with a discovery flight, and a week later and I was hooked.
So, the first thing I needed to do was get my Medical Certificate. I can’t stress this enough. CALL YOUR AME BEFORE YOU FILL OUT THE FORM ON MEDEXPRESS. This is particularly in reference to question 18(w). I marked it “Yes” my AME told me I should have marked it “No.” Because of that, my application was automatically deferred initially and I had to wait over 2 months for an answer from the FAA. This meant I wasn’t able to schedule my start date until I had that certificate in hand. It was stressful and set me back 8-9 weeks. I got 3 tickets for drinking in public when I was between 19-20 years old. No DUI, no suspended license, nothing extremely serious but, it happened and I marked it on the form that it happened. I didn’t know this would cause and automatic deferral and should have been left off. The point I’m making, before you answer any of those questions, if you have a question, call the AME or an aviation lawyer.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about these tests. My last day at my job was the Friday before Thanksgiving 2022. My AME told me that in his opinion, I shouldn’t have any problem with the FAA. So, I trusted him and got to work. I wanted to take a week to recharge and enjoy time with my family before I really hit the books. During that week, I downloaded Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge through Audible. It’s about 22 hours of listening but I found it very helpful in at least establishing a baseline of knowledge before starting to study.
The first test you should take is the PAR. I only used the Sporty’s study buddy app to study for this. This was the test I had to study the hardest for. It took me about 5 weeks to study for this one (including xmas week). If I could go back and do it again, I would have ordered my iPad prior to studying so I had a larger surface to work on. An iPad is not included in your tuition so, I went to my cell phone carrier’s site and got an iPad shipped to me and I’m paying it off 15 dollars a month as a part of my cell phone plan. I literally did all of the studying for this test, using an app on my phone. As you can imagine, it was tough studying on my phone but I took that test on January 4th and got a 93%
Side note on this, you will need to get an endorsement to take this test. I stayed in touch with the Instructor that did my Discovery flight and kept them in the loop of where I was in the process. So, when it came time to take that test, I texted them and they were able to sign off for me. Normally, you would be able to call training support and have them send you an endorsement but since I was still waiting on my Medical, they wouldn’t sign off so I HAD to do it this way.
Now that I had my iPad, it was time to move on to the IRA, FII, and IGI. The IRA again, needs that endorsement but the FII and IGI do not. The IGI is optional but all 3 use almost an identical test bank and the IGI will help you get your Gold Seal later so, I just did all 3. For all of the tests after the PAR, you will use Sheppard Air. It’s a great platform and if you follow the study guide to the letter, you will pass every test, on the first try. The IRA and FII are literally the same bank of questions and I heard there was maybe an additional 20 new questions for the IGI in reference to helicopters. So, I only bought the IRA and IGI study guides. It’s a challenging topic because you are studying things out of context but you really do start to understand what you’re looking at. My opinion on these tests, the math is easier than it looks, in most cases. Anything that requires you to use your E6-B, just memorize the answers the best you can and move on. You will have plenty of knowledge by the time you finish to do much better than the required 70%. For those tests, I scored a 95% on the IRA, a 98% on the FII, and a 100% on the IGI. It just so happened that I didn’t need to use my E6-B on any of those tests and I probably would have got a 98% on the IGI had I not purchased the IGI test bank. I took all of those test on the same day, back to back to back.
Next was the CAX. This is your final endorsed test but it’s through Sheppard again. I studied for 1 week, followed the study guide to the letter, and got a 90%. This was a longer test (100 questions).
Next was the FIA which I studied less than a week for and got a 88% (again 100 questions). The questions on this one were a little tricky and some of them didn’t seem to match exactly like the previous tests. That being said, I probably should have spent another day or 2 studying this content and I would have done better but I was on a roll knowing that I was almost done.
The final test was the FOI which is completely different from the other tests. It’s more about the psychology of teaching than anything else. I found it interesting but easy. Studied for less than a week and got a 98%.
Phew! I know that was a long post but I thought it was important to share. I haven’t seen anyone take a deep dive on these tests for a while and I studied for probably 6-8 hours a day to get these done, over the last 2-2.5 months. I don’t start for almost a month but, without question, having all of these done is going to springboard me ahead of the game when it comes to getting the most out of this already accelerated program. If anyone has any questions about the tests, I’m going to continue to monitor this thread daily and I’m happy to help anyone that has any questions about anything.
Thanks for the time!