Real Answers from Real Pilots

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

As of this morning I have completed all six of the required written tests prior to my start at ATP (0 hours). I just wanted to post my experience with each, how I prepared, and what the test was like in an effort to help anyone who may be looking to do the same. Once ready to take each test, I contacted the Training Support Specialist at my location to schedule (Thanks, Danyelle!).

This does not include the optional AGI/IGI tests for Gold Seal Instructor Status (and parking spot!). I will add those as I take them later in the program.

I have included my approximate study times and scores achieved on each, you may do better or worse with less or more time, but I thought it would be helpful to provide a ballpark.

1) Private Pilot (PAR) - Endorsement Required
This one took the longest to prepare for as I was coming in with basically no prior knowledge to the world of aviation. Your mileage may vary but I suspect this (or instrument) will be the most time consuming for most so if you are trying to schedule in advance, leave the most time for this. Compared with the rest of the tests (for reasons i’ll mention later) this one required the most computation and mental effort during the exam.
The Method

  1. Started with the King Schools Private Pilot Ground School & Test Prep Course (provided after deposit to ATP). This includes 3 required practice test at the end in order to receive your endorsement to take the PAR. Print this endorsement and take it with you when you go to test.
  2. Sporty’s Private Pilot Test Prep app. I believe this was $10 on iOS app store. Used this as additional practice after King. It’s great for when you are out and about or waiting for your car’s oil to be changed.
  3. Gleim Private Pilot FAA Knowledge Test prep book. Basically a workbook with questions identical or similar to what you’ll see on the test. Honestly didn’t need this but I would work through some before bed occasionally.
    Total Study Time: 25-30 hours
    Score: 98%

2) Instrument (IRA) - Endorsement Required
If you asked me which one was the hardest, I’d pick the IRA. It was grueling to study for. The question bank is huge (1150 ish questions) and the concepts are completely alien. HOWEVER, you now have access to the ultimate weapon for slaying these tests. SHEPPARD AIR (not available for PAR). Prepare to set aside one solid week to prepare for this (at 4 hours a day).
The Method

  1. I can tell you now, this section is going to start looking very similar because, well, Sheppard Air works. Call up Sheppard, tell them you are an ATP student that needs their test prep software for the IRA, and they will set you up. I recommend choosing your iPad as the device you use to study. You only get to activate the software on one device so if you choose your PC/Mac you are married to it if you want to study. The software includes all questions known to be currently showing up on FAA tests. When new questions pop up, or old ones are changed, Sheppard updates the software very quickly. Use the software exactly as prescribed in the directions and you will succeed. Complete three practice tests with scores above 90, take your results with you to the airport and an ATP instructor will endorse you.
    Total Study Time: 20 hours
    Score: 96%

3) Flight Instructor Instrument (FII) - No Endorsement Required
This one’s a piece of cake because you just studied for it! Take this one the same day as your IRA to maximize efficiency. The question bank is probably 95% the same despite what Sheppard Air says. No extra studying required. Seriously, just take it immediately after the IRA. You’ll even see many of the same questions.
Total Study Time: 0 hours
Score: 97%

4) Commercial Pilot (CAX) - Endorsement Required
Things started to get easier for me from here. Each test now seemed to simply build upon what I had already learned. The study times got shorter, and the scores got better. DO NOT TAKE THAT STATEMENT AS AN ENDORSEMENT TO SLACK OFF. You still have to put in the work on Sheppard. Acquire endorsement via same process as for the IRA.
The Method

  1. Sheppard Air.
    Total Study Time: 16 hours
    Score: 99%

5) Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI) - No Endorsement Required
Full disclosure: I left a career as a teacher to pursue the dream of being a pilot. This test and it’s material came very naturally to me, however, I do not think it would be very difficult for a complete layperson to pick up these concepts. I spent one solid day preparing.
The Method

  1. Sheppard Air
    Total Study Time: 6 hours
    Score: 100%

6) Flight Instructor Airplane (FIA) - No Endorsement Required
I call this one the “Greatest Hits” exam because that’s how it felt. You’ll see questions from every bank you’ve studied to this point. It has a decent sized question bank at around 650 questions so set aside 3-4 days to prepare. Many recommend taking this after the CAX (not immediately, but after studying through Sheppard) I would recommend that also. I took it last due to time constraints around a vacation before my start date necessitating I take the FOI first.
The Method

  1. I think you know.
    Total Study Time: 12 hours
    Score: 99%

That’s it. I hope it helps someone.


I wish I was that great at written tests😂 I

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You sir, are a saint!

Superb breakdown. Very well put together. Thanks!


THANK YOU for posting this! This information is invaluable to all those who haven’t taken their tests yet. We get asked all the time, “How long does it take to…?” Your documentation gives people a good baseline. Kudos on getting them all done!



Hey Luke,

This is GREAT information. I?m also a new student and my start day is Nov 18th, I hope to get as many tests done as posible before my start day. I just have one question, I know you mentioned that the questions from the Glem book were very similar
to the PAR test. Now, what about the questions from King Schools, were they similar to the actual test ?

Thank you so much.

Yes, the King Schools practice tests were very similar (often word for word) to the real thing.

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Thank you sir !

TL;DR: I had the same timeline. Tests are very accurate to FAA tests. Near identical.

Thank you again for posting this. I have had similar luck. I took the King Air private pilot test (PAR) after studying for about a month and received a 96%.

I just took my IFR test (I Purchased the king air out of pocket, and use Shepard Air to supplement) and got a 98% after studying approximately a month and a half. Like other posters have said, I felt like this was slightly harder than PAR, but also the most rewarding and the most interesting.

Keep in mind I am working 80 to 100 hour work weeks as I am trying to get as much overtime as possible to pay for flight school and retire from my current job.

Based upon the advice of other students I am taking the flight instructor instrument (FII) test tomorrow as I was told it’s almost the exact same test and to get it out-of-the-way. I was also given further advice to take the flight instructor ground (IGI) test and knock that out as well, so I have that this Friday.

If anybody disagrees with that received advice please let me know as I can still cancel. But so far it’s been pretty unanimous for both tests. I just don’t want to make a fool of myself.

I have requested the study material for Shepard air commercial, although I must admit I am purchasing the king air commercial as well. I have had good luck with it so far and I prefer to understand the concepts rather than just try to pass a test. I understand these concepts will be taught in depth when I enter school, but I would just rather understand it now and then have my skills further honed when it’s actually taught (maybe assist my fellow classmates as well).

I’ll get back to you and let you know how the other tests went. I anticipate taking the commercial test sometime in March. I start school April 6.

I would like to thank everyone for the information and time they take into posting their experiences and information. It’s helped me a lot.



Thank you for sharing your written test experiences, I am sure other will find it helpful as well.


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Nice timeline Michael!

Am I correct on assuming that you have taken these tests before the change that took place on Jan 13th? I just took one of my written tests yesterday morning and I this new PSI system was decent for scheduling but when it came to taking the test there were some issues and the proctor had to call support. Long story short, I was scheduled to take it at 9 am and I didn’t even start the test until 10:45. Since its a newly implemented thing, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

No, actually I was the very first one that psi location with the new testing procedure (IRA test) . I went in about an hour late due to technical problems. They have to scan several documents and the scanner didn’t like my op (car) license.

During yesterday‘s (FII) test they lost my test results temporarily, as well as the person next to me. They had to retrieve them on their master computer. So there is definitely growing pains and hiccups associated with this changeover.

The testIng software is better than the old one. I’m sure it’s just the administrators have to figure it out. I have another test tomorrow (IGI) … fingers crossed.


How is the new registration for testing, etc.? How did your IGI go today?


Everything went very smooth today. Psi registration was much faster… although they still gave me “the face” when I told them it was an FAA test. The test went well.

I would highly recommend anyone take all three tests (instrument ground instructor, instrument flight rating, and flight instructor instrument) within the same week…if not day.

Hello all,
Im very new to the aviation world!
Currently, I have obtained my first class medical and was recently approved for a loan to ATP, which I plan to enroll this spring at their Ogden location.

In the meantime, through advice of this forum and friends, Im studying for the PAR (Kings School) and beyond. Im about 75% through and have been taking excellent notes, although I would say Ive already spent close to 50+ hours.

Obviously everyone learns differently and retaining information is the most important part (the combination of the videos and note taking seems to be working great for me), but is there any benefit of having these detailed notes for the future?
I truly enjoy the note taking, but there are many sections that Im positive I could retain without notes. Is spending this much time on notes overkill?

How did you actually study for the writtens? Just watch the videos? Videos and notes? Flashcards? If you did take notes, are these beneficial in the future for any purpose?

Also, if you have any other tips for a zero time noob who is about to start flight school in a couple months, Im all ears and appreciate these conversations very much! Ive been an eager observer of these conversations, but finally feel validated to contribute now that this is going to be a real thing! Thanks


As you said everyone learns differently but most people I know who prep for the tests don’t take notes at all. The King course is excellent but at this stage you simply want to use the test prep section. As stated many times this is simply rote memorization when it comes to the FAA Knowledge exams and most of the other information will be way out of context until you actually start flying.

As for anything else honestly the more writtens you can complete the better. That will lighten your load during training considerably.



I used Sheppard Air’s test prep to study for the written. I percieve writtens to be the monkey on your back and getting them done as soon as possible is a good relief. As Adam has said, most of your learning will come when you start flying so its just a matter of memorizing the answers to the questions. But I wouldn’t throw away your notes because after the written comes the checkride later down the road and what you are currently doing supplemented with other methods will help you study for the checkride. Good luck


Thank you Adam, I appreciate the insight.


I personally would not spend all that time writing notes. I doubt that you will find any use for them down the road as the written exams do not necessarily correlate to the knowledge you will need. I would watch the vides, but more importantly, do the practice tests until you haver the correct answers memorized. I would try to spend less time per test, but get more of them completed.

Welcome to the forums. Please continue to check in as you go through the program.



I am 4/6 into the tests they recommend you start with. I must admit I take notes but I’m a bit old school. I think I will benefit from having my notes when I become a flight instructor to refer back to. I think it may help me better explain the stuff to new students one day, as I progress through these lessons, that’s always in the back of my head that I will one day have to explain this to someone.

Although to pass the tests I don’t think you NEED to take notes. I also know how I retain information and I usually need to write it down. I plan to have a large cumulative review of everything before I start actual training and it will be nice to refer back to notebooks.