Preparing for Your Airman Knowledge Test

Preparing for the Airman Knowledge Test (AKT) [also known as “writtens”] can be confusing at first, but this guide is planned to make your journey through taking your first written to last, easy. While attending ATP you will be expected to take six writtens:

  • Private Pilot Airplane (PAR),
  • Instrument Rating Airplane (IRA),
  • Commercial Pilot Airplane (CAX),
  • Fundamentals of Instructing (FOI),
  • Flight Instructor Airplane (FIA), and
  • Flight Instructor Instrument Airplane (FII).

Before you begin a career in the airlines, you will be required to complete the Airline Transport Pilot Multiengine Airplane (ATM). Every test that you take has a number of test questions, an age requirement, allotted time, and a passing score figure. As many have seen, the debate of just taking the exam and checking the box (aka rote memorization) versus learning the material is still in the air. You should know that there is plenty of time to fully learn the material. Ensuring that you get the best score on your written should be in your best interest and studying appropriately will provide that. We hope that this guide will help you achieve that best score.

Did you know: By completing the PAR, IRA and CAX before beginning the Airline Career Pilot Program you can get reimbursed for a 1-year subscription to ForeFlight Basic.

After conducting a simple Google search of “Studying for Airman Knowledge Test” on the day of writing this guide, there was a return of 1.11 million hits on Google. On ATP’s web page titled Preparing for Your Airline Career Pilot Program, ATP recommends for those studying for the Private Pilot Airplane written to use the Sporty’s Study Buddy app. For those that feel the need to supplement the test prep, once enrolled into the ACPP, ATP provides you access to the ATP Orientation modules which will give background information on the material you are studying.

Before taking a test, there are some prerequisites that must be met under the Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR 61). Things such as English language proficiency involving ability to read, write, speak and understand are required. You must receive a one-time endorsement from an authorized instructor stating that you are prepared to take the exam. Like the above paragraph stated, there are minimum age requirements; for example, you must be at least 15 years of age to take the PAR test. Every test has its own age requirement, it should be important to review the FAA Airman Knowledge Test Matrix for specifics of your exam.

The following tests that require an endorsement from an authorized instructor:

  • Private Pilot Airplane (PAR),
  • Instrument Rating Airplane (IRA), and
  • Commercial Pilot Airplane (CAX).

The following tests that do not require an endorsement:

  • Fundamentals of Instructing (FOI),
  • Flight Instructor Airplane (FIA), and
  • Flight Instructor Instrument Airplane (FII).

Each written test is broken down into knowledge areas in which you will be tested on. Below you can find a screenshot from the Private Pilot - Airplane ACS in which breaks down the percentage of questions that will be tested on. You should make sure that you have the appropriate ACS for your knowledge test and current version as it will be applicable to your upcoming exam.

Source: FAA PAR ACS, 2018

Figuring out the best way to study is based on your cognitive ability. You may not be a good “bookworm” and require videos and/or someone presenting material in-person. Maybe you need an audiobook to learn, whether you’re going for an evening walk or laying poolside, get a pair of headphones and listen. The best method in studying is only known to you. Make sure that the solution you choose is the best for your ability and will get you the best results at the end of the day. Come up with a game plan for studying and preparing for your written, some considerations for studying:

  • Determine how much time you have to study each day
  • How long will it take you to study for the test of your choice
  • Set a deadline date for the test that provides enough time
  • Be discipline in studying and use your time efficiently

Did you know: There were around 34,000 PAR tests taken in 2021, all Airman Knowledge Test results are recorded as a sample and published on the FAA website for a National Average.

After completing the PAR, ATP and Mentors recommend using Sheppard Air. Sheppard Air utilizes the memorization method. You will learn the material later in your study/training. Once you have acquired the Sheppard Air software, they have a specific study strategy that should be followed to achieve the best score.

We recommend completing the writtens in the following order. It is by no means necessary to complete any of the writtens before starting the program, but any that you can do will be a help to you. We recommend completing the tests in the following order.

  1. PAR
  2. IRA & FII,same day (if you feel adventurous, take the IGI as well - it will one day serve you to achieve your CFI Gold Seal)
  3. CAX
  4. FIA
  5. FOI

We hope this guide helps you in any way to break the confusion of how to study for your upcoming written tests. As always, we wish you the best of luck.


Nice write up Brady.

Thinking you earned yourself some Chick-fil-A with that one :wink:


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