Private pilot written?

Hi I’m looking to start at zero time with atp soon but would like to get started with the private pilot written exam. I’m a little worried about how fast paced everything us so id like to get as much done as I can alone. Can anyone recommend a studing website that actually teaches you? I’ve checked out sportys but it seems to be just tests and reviews. Dose anyone know what I can start reading to actually start taking practice tests? I’ve looked around and I don’t really know where to start.

Hello Michael,

All the FAA written exams are based on the FAA manuals. The Private in particular is base on the FAA Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge which is actually available free from the FAA at this link(
That said I think you’ll find the information is somewhat “dry” and isn’t always that relevant. This is why many people use the Sporty’s and other similar rote type courses to get the exams out of the way and will learn the material more thoroughly in ground school or while they’re actually in flight training.


Hi Adam, thanks for the reply. So if i essentially just study the PHAK I could pass the private pilot written?


Yes that is the study guide created by the FAA. To be certain you’re ready there are practice tests available online. However before you can take the written you need a sign off by an instructor. You don’t say what flight school you’ll be attending? ATP will have an instructor sign you off IF you’re already enrolled (and your deposit is paid). As proof that you’re ready they’ll want to see a few practice exams with scores of at least 90%. If you’ll be training elsewhere I’d contact them and ask their policy.


Sportys program is what I used as my main study source for my private. I had gotten it for free but think it’s worth the price. It is a complete ground school that uses videos and quizzes and tests. When you finish watching all the videos and score good enough on multiple practice tests they will give you the endorsement to take the written. Not 100% sure how that all works as I got my sign off from my actual instructor.

Sorry to revive an old post but Michael has the same issue that I have: I keep hearing about this Sporty’s Study Buddy which is supposedly a free online test prep, but I’ve visited the website and it’s not a test prep at all. There are no lessons and no readings. It’s just, as Michael said, a sampling of test questions.

So, my plan is to piece together information from other sources (PHAK, Airplane flying handbook, etc.) and then return to Sporty’s “free” study buddy for the practice tests. Is that the way to go? Or am I missing something?

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Sporty’s Study Buddy basically teaches you how to take the private pilot written exam. The concept of the practice tests are to study, study, study, until you’ve seen nearly every question in the bank. These questions will appear again on the actual exam, though they may not be verbatim. Technically, you do not need much conceptual background knowledge or true understanding of aviation to take the exam, as it is all memorization. That’s not to say you should go into it without utilizing the resources available to you for free online (PHAK & APH as you mentioned) to better your score.

If you are enrolled with ATP, the Intro to Private Pilot self-study modules will be a great help at building your foundation of aviation knowledge to better understand the content covered in the practice exams. If you are not yet enrolled with ATP, I would recommend purchasing a ground school course from Sporty’s or King Schools if you really want to understand the information rather than regurgitate it on the written exam.


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I see your point. That is a little misleading. Those “sample” questions ARE
the questions on the test. The real test may have questions you haven’t
seen before, but if you can pass the Sporty’s practice test two times in a
row with a 90% or better, you’ll do fine.

I was never a fan of this style of “test prep.” Like you, I want to
understand the reasons behind the answers, but all of written tests are
like this.


wait so for all tests we just have to study the questions on the practice test? I thought they made it very difficult to use that as a technique to passing your exams.


Yes, that is the fastest way to study for and pass the FAA written tests. I personally chose to purchase the King Schools courses for each as I wanted to really know the material. That being said, the majority of people just study the test questions and take the tests based off of that.



With all due respect you’re incorrect. While I hate debating semantics, Sporty’s Study Buddy is in fact NOTHING other than a Test Prep in it’s purest form. It is quite literally “prepping” you to take the test and NOTHING else. They make no claims to teach you anything. While I’ve never been a fan of rote, I’m equally not a fan of the FAA Writtens as they really don’t test your knowledge or more importantly you level of understanding but simply your ability to retain the rote information. Therefore the end justifies the means, kinda :slight_smile:


Not to beat a dead horse but… After passing a knowledge test there is still an oral and practical exam that will continue testing your knowledge - the knowledge test is just the beginning.

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The Private Pilot Written is all memorization using a study guide like Sporties. It isn’t testing if you understand any concept of flying.

I just passed my Private Checkride.
To pass the Checkride and Oral you will actually have to understand the concepts you memorized for the Written. You accomplish this best during grounds and while flying with instructors.

I think that’s the best way to look at it.

Just throwing my 2 cents in here haha!

I used ASA’s Private Pilot Test Prep book (Such as this one, The book explains the information and then gives you the questions after each section that you read to study. So basically you read a paragraph (the paragraphs are anywhere from 3 lines to a full page or more) and then you have the corresponding questions to study. I would highly recommend using this book, while it might not cover every single aspect possible, it gives you a solid base of information to answer the questions with.

Once I got within a week of taking the written I used Sporty’s Study Buddy app to take practice tests to make sure I was ready.


Make sure and get the right year, they update the book continuously. (E.X. I took my private written in the fall of 2015, so I used the 2015 book)

Save your money. Sporty’s Study Buddy does the job and does it well and it’s free. While the FAA does occasionally update the material (definitely not every year), Sporty’s being electronic will update as well.


Is the Sporty’s free online guide the one to use? I am using this at the the moment. I’m about 2/3rds of the way finished studying for the FAA PPL Written passing consistently in the 80’s. Is this form of study correct? The online version is shortened unless you purchase it through the website.

Yes, that is correct, but I would make sure that I was scoring 95% or better before taking the actual test.

How long have you been studying for if you don’t mind me asking.

Tough to say as I am doing this while I am at work. Between 2 and 3 weeks. So there is a delay. Everyday at work except Sunday.