Real Answers from Real Pilots

So you want to knock out the written tests early? A Guide Vol. II

So, I know there is already a guide out there for those who want to complete the writtens early.

I would just like to chime in on my experience, as I just finished my last written a few mins ago. For Sheppard, I would recommend the iPad since it is more mobile and comfortable studying (You can ONLY activate it on either the PC or iPad, not both). You don’t want to ruin your posture and break your back sitting at the computer for hours on end studying 3,600 questions!

1) Private Pilot (PAR) - Endorsement Required
This one also took the longest for me to prepare. I used King School PPL course (which is already provided free to you after you pay your deposit at ATP).
The Method

  1. Kings Course. Just do it. Period. It works, and with John and Martha, you will learn a LOT. They make it so easy and so fun to learn. I watched their 15+hours of videos over the span of 3 weeks, with weekends off. What I did (which is maybe a bit of overkill) was use a pen and paper and write along what I thought was most important. By the end of the course, I had written 30 pages worth of material. This writing really helps out, because it makes the material “stapled” to your brain, in conjunction with the short questions they give after each mini-lesson… it really helps. Just write, and write, and write, and write!
  2. Gleim Private Pilot FAA Knowledge Test prep book. After you finish the whole Kings School course, buy this book, and dont worry about the material in it, because you’ve already learned it visually though Kings Schools. What you want to focus on are the questions in the end after every chapter. Starting with the first ever question page, just read each question and its ANSWER ONLY a few times, and keep going until you reach the end. I really vouch for this book, because there were some questions here that I did not see in Kings, and was on the written. This is really just a supplement for kings. Kings will teach you 80% of the questions, and Gleim will teach you the other 20%. Endorsement is provided by Kings school automatically once you complete the course and score 90%+ three times in their practice test.

Score: 95%
Question Bank: 700+

2) Instrument (IRA) - Endorsement Required
From here on out, you will just need to use Sheppard. Thats all. Nothing else. You only use Kings+Gleim book for the PAR, and every exam after that, it’s Sheppard. FOLLOW THE SHEPPARD STUDY STRATEGY TO THE T. WARNING: IF YOU DONT FOLLOW IT TO THE T, YOU ARE BOUND TO FAIL. JUST FOLLOW IT, IT WORKS This was the most brutal exam I’ve studied for. You really have to be full of motivation to get through this. It is (1,200?) questions to memorize. There is a 400+ question section to study which was just brutal. You need to take a mental break every 50 questions for like 30 mins, and I would recommend doing no more than 200 questions per day at the max. Don’t think you can blow though this in one day, unless you’re superman. It took me 8 days of studying 4-5 hours each day. Endorsement is given by Sheppard as a courtesy after scoring 90+ one time in their practice test, or by an ATP instructor after you have enrolled with them and score 90+ three times.
The Method

  1. Sheppard Air. The End. Heed my warning above. FOLLOW the strategy to the T, it is VERY important you do not mess this up, or you will fill your brain with all the wrong answers and memorize the wrong answers instead of the correct ones.

Score: 85% (I could have gotten 90+ on this one, but I realized my mistake at the end, after I had already submitted the exam. There were 3 questions there where I said “WAIT, now I remember it! it was in my Sheppard memory aid!!!” but then it was too late. Don’t do the same mistake as I did.
Question Bank: 1,200+

3) Flight Instructor Instrument (FII) - No Endorsement Required
You just studied for this. It is the SAME exact question bank as the IRA. Despite what Sheppard says (Buy our other course, because the IRA Sheppard Course will not prepare you for any other exam). The only reason they have another course for this, is because they narrow it down from 1200 potential question bank to like 700 potential question bank. But that dosn’t make sense because you should know every single question and answer already in the whole bank from the IRA.

Score: 90%
Question Bank: 1,200+ (Same exact question and answers as IRA)

4) Commercial Pilot (CAX) - Endorsement Required
It does tend to get a tiny bit more easier from here, but there are a lot of questions here that can confuse you, especially when it comes to numbers. Just study, study, study. You should know the Sheppard strategy by heart now. Endorsement is given by Sheppard as a courtesy after scoring 90+ one time in their practice test, or by an ATP instructor after you have enrolled with them and score 90+ three times.
The Method

  1. Sheppard Air.
    Score: 85%
    Question Bank: 950+

5) Flight Instructor Airplane (FIA) - No Endorsement Required
Say it with me, EASYYYYY. It’s just a bunch of vocabulary questions.
The Method

  1. Sheppard Air.
    Score: 97%
    Question Bank: 450+

6) Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI) - No Endorsement Required
Say it with me, EASIERRRRRR. The most easy of all exams. I studied everything with Sheppard in one day and took the exam the next.
The Method

  1. Sheppard Air.
    Score: 98%
    Question Bank: 298

7) Instrument Ground Instructor (IGI) - No Endorsement Required
This exam is not required as part of the ATP airline program, HOWEVER, if you want to be a gold seal CFI (just another fancy thing to put on your resume, and fancy thing to have on your license), you need to complete this exam.
The Method

  1. Sheppard Air. You studied for this. It is the SAME exact question bank as the IRA. Despite what Sheppard says (Buy our other course, because the IRA Sheppard Course will not prepare you for any other exam). The only reason they have another course for this, is because they narrow it down from 1200 potential question bank to like 700 potential question bank. But that dosn’t make sense because you should know every single question and answer already in the whole bank from the IRA.
    Score: 90%
    Question Bank: 1,200+

Great! You have finished all your required writtens. Now you are awarded with two benefits.

  1. Less stress in your trek in the ATP airline pilot journey. Now you just focus on flying, no need to worry about the writtens. This is the biggest benefit.

  2. You are awarded one free year of ForeFlight Basic ($100.00 value). Use This link to first get it for $80.00. Pay the 80 to get it. Then login your ATP Student ExtraNet and fill out the credit reimbursement form under the “Account” tab. Then ATP will give you back what you spent for ForeFlight basic.

In conclusion:

  1. Use Kings Online PPL Ground Course + Gleim Book for the PAR
  2. Use sheppard for every exam after that
  3. The IGI, IRA, & FII all have the same exact questions and answers. Take them all in one day if possible, so the asnwers dont fade from your brain.
  5. The FIA & FOI are the easiest of the bunch
  6. Good Luck! It took me maybe 2 months to get through all of these 7 exams; and now I will start ATP airline program next week!

If you have any questions for me, I will gladly answer.
Thanks! -M



Thank you for posting this detailed guide, I found it to be very informative.


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You are a life saver Moe! thank you!

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Hi Moe,

Where did you get the book of Gleim for private pilot? I wanna take my test but will follow your lead for the book. I filled an entire notebook with those Kings videos. Now they have 3 prep test. Should I read the book before I take the test?


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Hi there, I got it from ebay.

The cheapest price is currently on eBay for the 2020 version of the book, it’s 22 bucks:

You should complete all the questions in the book first, then do the three practice tests and get 90+ in all of them (which will be very easy now because you’ll know every single answer), then print your endorsement and schedule your exam asap. The book will CERTAINLY help out a ton. Remember, it gives you the remainder of questions not supplied in kings course. There is not a single question on the exam that I did not see in the gleim book.

Good luck!

Thank you so much. I found it on Amazon for similar price and ordered it.

Thank you. I will take the practice questions in book then do the 3 exams.


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Hi Moe,

Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

I am considering at start with ATP this October and I am thinking about how to build a study timeline to accomplish the written exams before my start date.

I am curious if you were also working (FT or PT) during the lead up to your start date or if were you solely focused on studying for the 2 months you referenced. I am working full time at the moment and am wondering how far from my start date I should end my current job.

If anyone else has thoughts, I’m here to learn! Thanks for everyone’s time.

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Hi Travis, it’s good you are looking to get them out of the way before you start atp in October. My first day at ATP was today and it was fun.

I did not work when I studied the exams. I’d imagine after you come home from work, you’d be too tired and not feel like studying. If you are REALLY motivated you could do it, but you’d burn out soon enough.

My recommendation is to be free of any job for a month or two to get the exams done and over with, and also when at atp. Atp is a full commitment and I heard having a job while attending atp is very difficult.

I can’t really comment on the job/atp thing since it dosnt apply to me, but I constantly hear jobs and atp don’t mix well.


I’m going to disagree with Moe on this one. While there’s no question it’s easier to study if you’re not working (pretty much everything is), it’s definitely not a must. I was a restaurant owner working 16hrs a day 6-7 days a week before I started with ATP and only stopped 2 weeks before starting. It was definitely challenging only being able to study on my occasional one day off and breaks but if you give yourself enough lead time it can be done.



I know it was a long time ago, but did you ever make a guide for how long it took you to study for each phase? Considering you worked full time.


I see no issue with you working while studying for the written exams. I was a full time college student when I took mine and did just fine on them.

I would plane about 2-3 weeks of studying per exam.


Keaton it was a very long time ago! Back then there were few forums, no blogs and few resources to help with these things but the short answer is no I never did (in fact I never even thought to).

With that in mind while guides are great to give a person an idea, the reality is everyone learns differently and at different paces. Some need days, some weeks, some months and some will never get it. Years before they changed the ATP requirements ATP Flight School had an incredibly successful 1 Day ATP Written prep course. I was instructing at the time and since we were close to McGuire AFB, JFK, EWR and LGA we literally had pilots coming in daily for the course. Same deal as the others tests, simply rote memorization. We had people ready in an hour and some stayed for 12 and wanted to return for more the next day. Point is until YOU start prepping you’ll never really know how much you can or cannot accomplish. Again more time is always safer but you may find you need much less than you figured. If not you’ll wish you started sooner than you did :wink:


Thank you both for the quick reply, may I ask, once you put a down payment down, do you have to put a start date immediately, or can you study for a short period of time to get a idea of how long it make take you to get the writtens done? And then call and schedule a start date.


Remember that completing the written tests before the program, while highly encouraged, is not required. There is plenty of time to study for the written tests while in the program.

I say this because, yes, you can discuss your options with Admissions. You do not HAVE to sign up for the next available slot, BUT why would you wait? You should try to get as many of the written tests done as you can, but you should also be thinking about this as an investment. Generally speaking, the sooner you get started the better.

So, if you want to adjust your start date to allow for enough time to complete the written tests, then by all means. If you want to sign up for the next available start date and knock out as many tests as you can with the time you have, that’s also a good decision.


Everything in the airlines goes by seniority, so yes you are exactly right. Thank you for the reply!

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I am going to second Tory here. If you have time to get any of the writ tends done, that is great, but I would not delay your start date for that reason. The program is designed for the writtens to be done during the program, we just like to see people get ahead if they have the time.


So, with Sheppard not being included in the courses anymore, from what I hear, are you buying all of their courses? I’m getting ready to liquidate some assets to enroll while I wait for a credit score update which should allow Sally may to fork over the dough. Did you just buy all the Sheppard courses? Are there courses included in the training? Or will we, as students, have to purchase the courses from the vendor of our choice?


ATP is still providing the King’s software for your Private and Instrument (which will also cover the FII). For the rest you’re free to choose whichever courseware you like. Personally I always liked Sheppard and Gleim (but I’m old school).



Thats correct, Sheppard is not included in the program. However, I did hear of people calling them and saying they are ATP students and getting a discount. Even then, Sheppard courses are extremely affordable.

In the program, when you pay the deposit, you get the kings ppl course right off the bat. After you start your first official day, you then get access to the instrument kings course as well… Although I wouldn’t recommend kings instrument for the written.

For the instrument written, use Sheppard to pass the exam, and kings to understand the material.

I find it rather frustrating that ATP basically removed what is an essential part of the study material, with little to no alternative offered. That was one is my larger reasons for selecting ATP, was all the testing material was provided. Now, not only do I need to dig a hole 100k deep, but also shell out the cash for things that WERE provided, are essential to training, and not having a suitable alternative offered.